Monday, August 6, 2012

Avalanche Peak – Worth Every Step

I’ll admit it. I was a nervous wreck. I’d heard all sorts of stories about Avalanche Peak, mostly about how stupendously steep the trail is. It’s a short trail, my young hiking buddies all said. It’s only two miles long, they reassured me. We’ll go slowly. You can do it! 

IMG_3280 SoutheastFace AvalanchePeak
Southeast bowl, Avalanche Peak

 Yeah, but…, I replied. Don’t forget about that monumental 2100 feet vertical elevation gain in those two measly miles! My lungs will burst on the way up and my knees with disintegrate on the way down! I’ll bet there is a lot of old, crumbly rock sliding down those slippery slopes! I don’t want to misstep and plummet to my early demise! Plus, it’s a mountain with the word “avalanche” in its name! Whose idea was this, anyway? Wasn’t this hike Eric’s idea? 

Wait a minute. Eric isn’t even going!

But still the mountain beckoned, as did the rocks, and so I gladly answered the call of the Yellowstone high country. We would travel out of the geyser basins and into the crystal clear blue sky. Ultimately, the views were worth every step, the company of friends was sublime, and the scree slopes weren’t nearly as treacherous as I’d imagined them to be. 

IMG_3216 PausingForThe View_SachaLandisChristeal
Get out the binoculars - there's a deer frolicking in that snowbank!

Avalanche Peak is outside the Yellowstone caldera. It’s part of the Absarokas, a volcanic mountain range that defines the eastern edge of the Park. These volcanic mountains are a 50 million–year–old product of subduction, uplifted eons before the Yellowstone caldera–forming explosion occurred as a geologic blink in a cosmic eye. 

And so we climbed higher and higher, and rested, and climbed, and rested some more, eventually breaking out of the thick forest toward those dreaded scree slopes. My apprehension steadily disappeared and I became more grounded as the trail brought us gradually closer to the tree line. 

IMG_3282Trail ClimbsScreeSlope
We had to start climbing this scree slope sooner or later

IMG_3212ChristealAndLandisTakeA Break
Taking a break before our assault on the scree slopes!

IMG_3276 AvalanchePeak Trail
View into Absaroka Mountains

IMG_3218Sacha ChecksTheMap
Checking the map

Happy smiling hikers!

With Yellowstone Lake in view we knew we had practically reached the summit. When we recognized West Thumb, we knew we had definitely arrived. 

IMG_3220 YellowstoneLake
Yellowstone Lake with West Thumb in middle distance

IMG_3267Summit Trail
Nearly there!

IMG_3246Atop AvalanchePeak
We made it to the summit of Avalanche Peak!

At an elevation of 10,566 feet above sea level Avalanche Peak welcomed us with a brilliant blue sky and a view to forever. We toodled around on the summit for nearly an hour, posing yoga poses, arranging feet photos, and chasing chubby ground squirrels away from our packs…

IMG_3235 AvalanchePeak
Celebrating with some yoga poses

Hiking feet friends!

IMG_3241Sacha AndLandisEnjoy TheViews
These two are NOT the chubby ground squirrels we chased away

…but soon it was time to start the two mile, 2100 foot vertical descent back to our car. In the end we were not miserable that our adventure was finished but were oh–so joyful that it had ever happened! 

IMG_3272OnThe WayBackDown
On the way back down the mountain - What a great day!


  1. Wow! That looks like a very rewarding hike, and what a view! Yet another goal for the next time I visit Yellowstone. Thanks for sharing!

    1. You are welcome, Nate. This hike is surely one reason to return to Yellowstone!

  2. You are Awesome! What a view.

    1. Thanks, Gaelyn! It's really the mountain that is awesome for letting me hike it. We could not have asked for better weather, either. Smoke from recent fires was negligible and we could see all the way to the Tetons to the south.

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Nina, so I can relive our awesome hike!

    1. Too bad I didn't make an audio/video of our singing show tunes as we came down the mountain!