Dreaming of summer


When the bell rings between classes, my colleagues and I stand out in the pod, the open areas between our classrooms, and make our presence known to the burgeoning swarms of seventh and eighth graders calling to each other, slamming lockers, giggling, tripping, carrying piles of binders and books to their next class. We chat with kids, and we chat with each other. One day, Tom, one of the science teachers, said, “Right around this time of year, when all of the gardeners start looking over all of their seed catalogs, I start figuring out which hikes I’m going to do next summer.”

I was gleeful about this topic. “My husband and I were just talking about which peaks we want to climb!” This is what Montanans do in February. We start dreaming early about our summers.

For the past few summers, usually after our anniversary in August, my husband and I climb a trail-less peak together. My in-laws watch our three kids, and we skip happily up a mountaintop. Last year, we climbed Otokomi Mountain. During the previous summer, we ascended Spot Mountain. Both peaks are on the east side of Glacier National Park, both involved some route-finding, and both times we ran into some issues. I did almost cry at one point while descending Otokomi when we got off route and were bushwhacking down the longest creek bed ever. On Spot Mountain, we started up a drainage that was running too hard for my liking due to all of the snow from the previous winter. We ended up hiking straight up and out of it and had to do some recalculating of our route. It seems that our ascents are never totally straightforward.

Our climb sans kids has been a slight bone of contention between my husband and I. We have differing views regarding which precious peak to climb each summer. I have clearly reminded Erick that I have a lot of stamina but a healthy fear of exposure. I can hike all day, but I don’t want to do much actual rock climbing. I don’t like shimmying against a cliff face staring down at a valley hundreds or thousands of feet below me. Meanwhile, Erick has total peak fever. He wants to climb everything, and he is not afraid of heights or exposure at all. And, he wants ME to not be afraid either so that we can climb some crazy things together. As a result, our peak-debates literally cliff out.

Erick’s latest suggestion for summer dream climbs was Calfrobe Mountain. We had just gotten Climb Glacier National Park, Blake Passmore climber’s guide. It is much more detailed that the classic J. Gordon Edwards tome-fully illustrated, with very specific directions. We need that! However, when I read the route description, it looked a little too hairball for my liking. It seemed to me that there was some dreaded exposure, and so I eliminated it from our list of peak possibilities.

As my colleague and I continued chatting-it was our free period, so we had a few minutes without students-I mentioned the Blake Passmore books, and it turns out that Tom is neighbors with Blake Passmore. He was on the climb up Calfrobe Mountain with Blake and was actually featured in some of the photographs-a tiny little dot on the flank of the mountain. Tom relieved any lingering doubts I had about exposure, reassuring me that Calfrobe is a walk-up. It was serendipitous timing.

Crisis averted! It sounds like this peak will satisfy both my husband and I in the true spirit of compromise. And with that, our peak for the summer has been decided.