Leaders: Dave Comerzan, Mars Bonfire
This was Mars Bonfire's 25th and LAST visit (including 5 leads) to Galena
Peak. Commemorating it with a UNIQUE hike in a SNOWY Winter Wonderland!
The hike began at 6:48 AM from the Vivian Creek parking lot (6,080'). The snow
was several inches deep; soft and easy to walk. Lucid sky, calm, good
visibility in the dim morning light as our cheerful group dropped into the
creek bed. The trek over rocks immersed in snow was comfortable and made for a
straighter line, meandering up the frosty creek.
Icy water flowed along our route in the surreal, wintry landscape. We stopped
to take photos of extravagant icicles of varying size, shape and pattern, which
froze while cascading off large boulders.
Gaining elevation in deeper snow, we approached the base of the headwall. As
Mars predicted, our timing was perfect and the snow suitable for the ascent. At
11:00 AM, the sun was not overhead, but shining warm on the headwall snow,
softening it, from between the jagged ridge high above.
Looking up the 400' ascent, it appeared angelic, inviting and benign; blanketed
in snow, like a lumpy soft pillow. Hidden underneath lurked boulders and rocks
which gravity could unleash without a moments notice... but not on this day!
Up we climbed the notorious headwall to the Mill Creek Jump Off. 2/3rd's up, as
the slant grew steeper, we traversed to the left, then straight up the 90
degree concave wall.
The dirt under the snow was damp, providing stable footing
for me who was not wearing a traction device - just my hiking boots, and not
using trekking poles. The rest of the group was properly equipped.
In dry conditions we would traverse the rim of the headwall (8,456') on a
narrow Bighorn Sheep trail. Today, the luscious snow drifts were deceiving, so
we pushed through the top of the brush instead.
From the saddle, going up the ridge to Galena Peak, Mars continued the
exhausting task of plunging steps in the deep snow for us to follow. As we
closed in on the summit, knee-deep snow slowed our progress. Just below the
summit was extremely slow going but the effort kept us warm since we were in
shade after we left the headwall.
Summiting Galena Peak (9,324') was sweetened with unbelievable scenic clarity
and spellbinding views. Blazing sunlight just when we needed it, keeping us
warm, offset by a cool breeze.
Leaving Galena Peak, I checked out for the return alone. It was fun and
effortless diving down into the deep post-holes we made on the way up. In no
time I was back at the saddle atop the headwall.
It was late afternoon when I descended the headwall. Silky snow slipped away
under my feet and I was sliding on wet dirt. Traction returned 1/2 way down and
I quickly maneuvered to the headwall base. For the next 3-1/2 miles and 1,800'
loss, I rushed to beat darkness following our morning tracks in the snow,
splashing down the stream, not caring if I got wet. Moving fast kept me
warm. There was no trace that anyone else had been in the creek bed all day, or
on our route, we had it all to ourselves.
The resplendent orange sunset marked the end of daylight, changing into an
eerie lavender glow over the snowy creek bed at dusk. At the end of the day, it
just kept getting better!
It was dark and COLD when I reached the parking lot at 5:15 PM. Ecstatic from
the day's adventure with a whiz-bang group of hikers, I floated home...
Thank you leaders for a flawless execution of this UNFORGETTABLE hike.
Congratulations to Suzy, who overcame her fear of the headwall - you did it
the adventurous way!
p.s. Suzy's petition to D-List Galena Peak went into the trash.
Leaders: Dave Comerzan, Mars Bonfire
Fellow hikers: George Christiansen, Suzy Hermann, Bob Stuard, Janice Boyd
Distance: 10 miles