Enchanting GALENA Peak
A SNOWY Winter Wonderland!

November 22, 2011

By: Janice Boyd

Photographs: George Christiansen


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.

Mill 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.

Hikers along Mill Creek

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.

Snowy Headwall

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!

Steep Snowy Headwall

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.

Hikers on Headwall

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.

Looking down at hikers on Headwall

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.

Continuing
upwards

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.

Almost there!

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
Gain: 3,000'


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