As a birthday celebration I needed a solo photo expedition so I headed up Kyes Pk. after looking over at it from Columbia a few weeks ago. It was another little peak in my backyard I hadn't made it up yet, so I could mark one off the tick list, and camp near the summit for sunset and sunrise photos. The route description sounded pretty straight forward, with no technical difficulties, so bringing overnight gear along with my SLR and tripod wouldn't be a problem. I'd read Tom's great TR and loved his shot in the calendar, so that was another incentive.
The drive over Jack's pass took longer than expected so I got a bit of a late start at 12:30, but since I was staying up there I didn't think it mattered much. The trail up to Virgin Lake is excellent. I hit continuous snow just below the lake. I couldn't find the blaze on a tree that is supposed to mark the start of the climber's trail up the ridge, but since there was so much snow I wouldn't be on it all that much anyway. Following the crest of the ridge to start is easiest, but then small cliffs force you right where the first steep sidehilling is encountered. It doesn't look like much of a slope from below, but the trees shade the snow, so it was quite hard and melted into moats around the trees and cliffs. In a couple spots I wished I had my crampons on (it would have been a pain to put them on and off again for the rocky dry sections), but lots of hard kicking and hooking my self-arrest grip into the snow got me up. I saw blue flagging marking the way periodically, but I'm not sure I followed the trail - I made use of many a veggy handhold to pull up and through steep trees. It all ended up taking much longer than I anticipated (esp. since I was solo I was careful and took my time). Sorry, but I don't have any pictures of this section since I had my SLR in my pack.
I found some recent cramponed footsteps that I followed down the ridge and across the first snowfield, but then they descended when the route climbed back up another ridge and I never saw them again. A last little rock scramble off the ridge got me onto the final snow slopes (which were the easiest part of the route) up through the gap between The Shark's Fin and the summit ridge.
I set up camp around 7:30, then decided to wait until the next day to tag the summit. While cooking dinner I got out my tripod and set up for a hopefully beautiful sunset, which didn't disappoint. I was hoping the forcasted clouds would cooperate to make for some nice color, and they put on a show for quite some time. I put on my telephoto to zoom in on the jagged peaks to the west that I had climbed, but never seen from this angle.
I'd chow down a few mouthfuls of beef stew, get up to shoot a few pictures, sit back down to relax, then the light would change and I'd have to shoot some more. As the sun sunk through the layers of clouds I was treated to two sunsets.
Finally it was over and I could get some sleep, but I set my camera up next to my bivy sack so I could snap some star pictures when I woke up to pee.
I set my alarm, but never heard it, luckily I woke up at dawn anyway and got up for coffee and a beautiful sunrise.
It was nice not having to get going on a climb and just hang out eating breakfast watching the show.
Finally it was time to tag the summit. The last rock scramble looked very steep from camp, but was just as easy as advertised (3rd class).
I had just gotten my camera out when I heard a roar below me on the Pride Glacier and I looked down to see a big avalanche calve off and fall down an open area that had obviously been active this summer. A couple minutes later it let loose even bigger!
Once the snow softened it was time to head down. Descending the tricky steep snow on the lower ridge was almost as slow as the climb, then the trail did a number on my thighs (skiing doesn't get those muscles ready for that!).
When I got to the car I was dismayed to find the battery dead. After waiting two hours I was lucky to get a jump from a couple of good Samaritans (mid week here I was thinking I might have to bivy and worry my wife). Turns out I'd bumped the parking light switch on the steering column when I reset my trip-ometer to check milage and didn't see they were on. Live and learn.
Kyes is a great little peak with fantastic views, but too much up and down traversing and scrappy climber's trail to qualify as a classic. Conditions right now are interesting, be prepared for steep hard snow down in the trees.
I'm probably way in the minority, in that I'm not much of a panorama appreciator, but West from Kyes and First sunset pano from Kyes are very nice. In fact I can't envisage them being any better as non-panoramas. Great shots and an awesome spot!
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