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The Trail to Tomyhoi

I’ve always found sidewalks to be challenging. When walking on them, I constantly find myself on the edge where I slip off and step into the street. I stumble and trip over the curbs and then there are the pesky sign posts and telephone poles, both unneeded by pedestrians, that are forced into the path to be bumped into. Sidewalks are hard.

Trails though, make sense. They follow the contour of the land and allow for the body to shift and meander with the weight of each step while still giving it a direction to be moved in. Trees and bushes are there to catch you, should you stray, and guide you back to the path. And where trails lead, is always rewarding.

The trail to the tarns under Yellow Aster Butte is only around three and a half miles and is traversed fairly quickly. The trail to the glacier below Tomyhoi Peak is a few more miles and is a bit more strenuous. I first made the trip to Yellow Aster Butte eight years ago, and it was then that the desire to climb Tomyhoi was born.

After arriving at the trailhead in the late morning, I attain a view of the tarns and descend into them at just after noon. I find a place among the scattered rocks and boulders to make camp and it doesn’t take me long before I’m in the water of one of the small lakes that dot the landscape. After the rinse, a quick lunch is made and consumed and leaving most of my gear at the tent, I make my way towards higher elevation.

Most of the gain in elevation is made via standard hiking along a trial that works it’s way up the side of a ridge before traversing the crest. A gully in the ridge after a little over a mile of hiking requires a little hand contact with the rock to steady myself as I climb out the opposite side, and about another mile down the ridge I loose sight of the trail at a second gully. I opt to double back and head down the slope of the ridge to where it levels off into a giant meadow of rocks and scattered snow patches before sloping up again to another ridge that appears to have a little friendlier approach to the summit.

Upon cresting that ridge I come in contact with the glacier I had read about when researching this mountain. I remember that I should move along the upper part of it until I find a suitable path to the summit. The tread on my shoes is close to nonexistent (a poor choice of footwear on my part), so walking on the glacier is out of the question. There’s a gap between the glacier and the wall of the mountain of about four to five feet in width and angling down about ten feet to were the glacier actually sits on the earth. I drop down into this space and with one hand and one foot pushed against the glacier and the other foot and hand pushed against the rock I slowly work my way forward until I find a rock chute that I decide, in my impatience to get to the summit, would be my path upwards.

Griping the more stable rock on the sides of the chute and placing my feet carefully in the loose gravel , I push upwards to a narrow ridge with massive pillars of rock to each side of my position. Knowing there would be a few of these pillars that I would have to navigate around, I choose a route that seems to have a decent amount of space to place my feet, is slanted upwards and seemed to loop around the pillar.

As I worked this route, the space to put my feet narrowed and I eventually found myself gripping the side of a cliff and crouched down on just a couple inches of what was questionably stable rock. Looking down, there was a good twenty foot drop to the glacier which slanted down rather steeply for several hundred feet before sloping off another cliff. The thought then occurred that this was no where I wanted to be, and so with great care, I made my way back down the chute to the glacier where I continued my opposition of forces between the ice and the mountains to move forward in search of a better route.

A couple more rock chutes along the way showed no signs of a promised route to the summit, but then finally a route was found and in what now seems a blur, the rock that is Mount Tomyhoi was ascended with a bit of a scramble to the summit.

Judging by the suns position, it was late in the afternoon now and not wanting to make the descent in the dark or dimming light I stay long enough to admire the view and catch my breath before making the trek back to camp. After a quick dinner I found a place to watch the sunset, feeling grateful to be in a place of trails and in awe of where they led.

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