Absaroka-Beartooth Loop

Drove to Cooke City/Lady of the Lake trailhead one evening & slept in the back of Ryan’s Subaru with intentions of climbing Granite Peak. A 6’5″ man should probably not do this (I mean, sleep in the back of his Subaru). Another bit of advice: “The Bistro” in Cooke City might sound fancy, but I’m pretty sure they just microwaved some shrimp and spinach and charged me 20 bucks.

We went up the Aero Lakes route in the A-B Wilderness. Good idea to use Summitpost and a map for this piece since the trail is neither marked or obvious. First up “heartbreak hill.” Around the Lower Aero & Upper Aero lakes which was no small feat. Lots of boulder hopping off-trail hiking which is, of course, challenging with a heavy pack. I always imagine falling backwards like Julia Roberts in that scene from Runaway Bride (yes, I have actually seen it). Anyway. Hiked up another steep-ish pass & down to Skytop Lakes. We camped north of these lakes toward Granite Peak. We made camp at a reasonable hour & settled in early–like 7 pm early. It was slightly windy, but nothing extreme.

At 9:30 pm we woke up to the entire tent shaking like mad & a heavy downpour. We assumed the storm would pass, but it continued with power. We slept a couple more hours over night, always waking up to incredible vibrations of wind. The gusts swept up under the fly and into the tent. A lightening storm was brightening the entire new moon sky and our eyes opened wide. The wind was blowing so hard that it pushed the poles (on the top and sides of the tent) down low enough that it hit me & Ryan in the head! Meaning our tent is not very aerodynamic. It somehow did not tear to pieces, but early in the morning two of the tent stakes were pulled from the ground (and they were really pushed in…all the way to the bottom!) So. At over 10,000 ft. with night time temps, a tent is sort of important.

I certainly reached out to my “protector”–Grandma! asking her to protect us for the night. I bargained with her…saying that we would not climb the mountain if she kept us safe over night. We were warm & sheltered in our tent & it stayed put. We probably slept about 3 hours total & Ryan was afraid to leave the tent to pee–afraid the tent would blow away with only me in it! Serious, serious gusts. I’ve certainly experienced wind…but nothing quite like this while camping. I also decided I don’t like fear and this year has been too full of it. Thank you again, Grandma.

In the morning, it was difficult to pack up. Honestly, we would have climbed the mountain had it not been for the incredible wind. We figured that level of wind would be super dangerous on “the ramp” & on top. We did see some people climbing. We would have been fine if we could spare the time to wait a few hours…the weather turned nicer, still windy, but do-able. But we found some sheltered boulders for coffee & oatmeal and continued back on the Skytop Creek route (different route down & easier than the first). This route passes Rough & Lone Elk Lakes.

The A-B Wilderness is some sort of enchanting mix of Floral Park look-a-like landscapes and Lord of the Rings. Lion King rock included (see photo).

Granite Peak will be there for us next time.

Enjoy the images of this magical wilderness…