Well its that time of year for reflection! According to my manic record-keeping on Peakbagger, I climbed 90ish named summits this year. Of course, I maintain a very loose definition of "summit", giving equal weight to serious mountains like Blanca Peak and indistinguishably hills in the Bay Area. As for how many "actual" mountains I climbed, that's as nebulous as some of the routes I took. But here we go with a review of 2019's superlatives in mountains.
Hardest: Middle Palisade, CA - 14,019'
Middle Palisade is a 14er in the California Sierra Nevada that's a serious mountaineering challenge which I originally didn't appreciate. On my summit day, perhaps 75% of the people that day didn't make the summit. There's loose, rotten rock and about a 1,000', exposed class III gully to the summit. Its one of the first times I've ever had an unintentional night out - thankfully I was prepared. But make no mistake about it - Middle Palisade is a wicked scramble.
Tallest: Blanca Peak, CO 14,345'
Blanca Peak is Colorado's 4th tallest summit and a great challenge climbing the Lake Como-Northwest Face. This one took me two days and went entirely as planned, thankfully. The massively snowy winter of 2019 made this feel more like a mid-spring ascent more than anything. Conditions were fairly good, however.
Favorite Route: Mt Conness, CA 12,590' East Ridge
I don't think I've ever read a bad trip report of Mt Conness; every route is outstanding. I took the easiest route in October known as the East Ridge. The rock quality was fantastic making for enjoyable scrambling. The final sinuous knife-edge to the summit was precipitous but equally enjoyable. I added a loop to include White Peak which was less enjoyable but would absolutely climb the east ridge again in the future.
"Easiest" - Mt Sunflower, KS 4,039'
In my silly quest to climb all state highpoints, there's a few that involve a drive to an imperceptible high point in a remote area (Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois ect.). My summer road trip brought me to the summits of Mt Sunflower in Kansas and Black Mesa in Oklahoma. The latter is an adventure but the former is a drive-up. Don't get me wrong, the high plains have a certain beauty to them but its not because of high mountains. The hardest part of getting to the highpoint of Kansas was avoiding cow pies near the summit.
Most Miserable (aka Sufferfest 2019): Mt Charleston, NV 11,916' - failed attempt
Twice I've been turned back on this mountain but its probably because of my incredibly poor timing. I've hiked mountains in January before but this year I tried Mt Charleston and ran into miserable conditions above 10,000'. Even a summer time hike in ideal conditions is actually quite difficult on Mt Charleston. But wintertime is nearly impossible if done in a single day. I was turned back about 500 vertical feet from the summit.
Most Remote: Mt Ellen, UT 11,522'
For years I wanted to make it to the Henry Mountains of Central Utah. Profoundly isolated and rarely traveled, they were the last mountains in the lower 48 to have been formally mapped. Little has changed in the past 100 years in these mountains. I'm glad my Subaru made it as far as it did up these logging roads and after a half day of climbing, I found incredible views as the top. Mt Ellen has incredible relief over the desert and most of the Southern Half of Utah was visible from the summit. Definitely want to hike that one again someday.
Longest Single Day Climb: Mt Peale 12,726′, Mt Tukuhnikivatz 12,482′, Mt Mellenthin 12,645', and Mt Laurel 12,271', UT
Mt Peale is one of Utah's tallest summits outside of the Unitas and is a great day hike from the South. Unfortunately the standard route was inaccessible due to snow melt and impassible roads early in the summer. I took the Gold Basin route which is typically done as a ski-mountaineering trip. I stuck with just mountaineering on this one and got way more than I bargained for: took nearly 18 hours to complete the whole thing. The descent down what remained of a past landslide was particularly difficult. What a day that was!
Most... unique?: Tecate Peak, CA 3,883'
Located smack dab on the US-MX international border, close to Mexico's most famous brewery, Tecate Peak is a modest summit with a unique hike. It parallels the border for most of the way, including the very ominous looking boundary near the port-of-entry. Its one of the few locations where there isn't a border fence but of course there's heavy border patrol presence. I'm quite certain I also stumbled across a few paths going to and from Mexico. What an unusual place...
Best Bushwhack: Signal Peak, CA 4,114'
When I lived in New England, bushwhacking peaks was fairly common. out in California, not so much but I got a taste for it in the far-flung summits of Humbolt County. Signal Peak is close to Cahto Peak and both are fairly prominent summits on the California North Coast. Cahto is an easy road walk to the summit while Signal Peak involves about a mile of bushwhacking and occasionally following long-overgrown logging roads. The views weren't great but the experience was memorable!
Favorite Bay Area Mountains of 2019: Mindego Hill 2,143' and Coyote Peak 1,155'
The Bay area is notoriously mountainous although most of them don't exceed 4,000' om altitude. This year, I hiked nearly every weekend I was in town and discovered a bunch of great, if not short, summits. The most memorable ones included Mindego Hill which wasn't more than a 4 mile hike to views of the Pacific. I hiked Coyote Peak just last week and there wasn't a soul in the park, plus I shot a cool photo of a full rainbow.
Can't wait to see where 2020 takes me!