I've been eyeing Red Mountain all year. It first caught my attention when, earlier this year, as I continued my exploration of the Big Holes, I began to string my smaller running loops together to make gradually bigger loops. Soon, I was in search of a larger expanse of the range to fufill my insatiable appetite for more of the beautiful, wild, rugged, desolate trails that criss-crossed the range, and this peak seemed like an obvious pick due to its distinction as the seemingly highest point on the western horizon from many locations in Teton Valley. However, for some inexplainable reason, I never was able to put a run together to reach the summit of this peak. So... in keeping with the Big Sunday tradition, I took advantage of the nice weather and set off for another duathlon style route to finally get up on top o that sucker.
I have to admit, I was feeling pretty fatigued from the previous day's cyclocross race. On top of that, I was feeling so excited to have been out on my cross bike that morning, that when I got home, I grabbed a bite to eat, then set out on my road bike for a nice mellow 2 1/2 hour ride up to Grand Targhee. I never even changed out of my chamois from the race! That's more chamois time than I'd had all month! So, that's why I was fatigued. Well... duh... It wasn't any surprise to me, but I still wanted to get up on Red so after spending the morning around the house and watching the Colts trounce the Panthers, I set off on my hardtail mtn bike at 3pm, Solomon pack full of various warm clothes and headlamp, knowing there was a good chance I would be finishing this one up in the dark.
It took about 20 minutes on the pavement to ride across the valley and reach the gravel road that leads up the Grove Creek drainage. After another 15 minutes, I stopped to hide the bike and change into running gear. From there, it was a steeper climb on slicker-than-snot mud laced with ice and snow. At 4:20 and 7,200ft, I reached the junction with the Big Hole Crest Trail. I took a right, heading northwest along the ridge to the east of Red Mountain. I didn't do much running. It was mostly all uphill and boy howdee! My legs were T-I-R-E-D.
Looking SE back along the ridge of the Big Hole Crest Trail
The snow got progressively deeper as I gained elevation and began wrapping around the north side of the mountain. Surprisingly, I was following a single set of somewhat fresh looking footprints. I tried to figure out if they were from the same day or maybe the day before. I couldn't tell, but who on earth would be up here and why?! A hunter probably. Or maybe another crazy late-season mountain runner? ; )
Looking west over the heart of the Big Holes. The two tallest peaks are in the frame here: Piney Peak (9,019ft) on the left and Garns Mountain (9,016ft) on the right.
From the summit looking SE over Victor. Taylor Mountain (10,352ft) is the tallest peak on the right. Teton Pass is just off the right side of this photo. Jackson Hole lies on the other side.
Le Trois Teton! Overlooking Teton Valley to the east. This photo turned out hazy, but you can see the snowy mountains on the left side of the photo where Grand Targhee is located as well as Static Peak on the far right (and Buck Mtn to its left)
I didn't stay long on the summit knowing I had limited daylight remaining, but I sure wanted to! It was stunning being up there in the waning light of the afternoon looking at the sky and all the surrounding mountains turning purple with alpenglow. It was 5:50pm. I reluctantly began my descent, plowed over one last 100 yard long snowfield before gaining the sun-dried south facing flank, then quickly skittered down 500, then 1,000 ft along the trail. Suddenly, I realized I was on the west side of the ridge. What??? How did I get here? I should be on the east side! But I'm still on the trail... I didn't see any other trail leading to the left... In fact, I didn't even recall there being a trail in this area on my map! (which has conveniently been downloaded into my brain from the hours and hours I have spent studying it and the hours and hours I have spent running the trails in the nearby area.) Well, with tired legs and light fading, backtracking back uphill 500ft to search for a trail that may or may not be marked (this is the Big Holes, remember) or that maybe is covered in a deep layer of snow was of no interest to me. I took a vote and sure enough, consensus was to hopefully follow as many game trails as possible down and to the left (SE) to wrap around the south side of Red Mountain through the aspen groves and over the scratchy sagebrush and end up at the bottom along the Red Creek Trail where I could then cross over to Corral Creek, then climb up to the Big Hole Crest Trail where Grove Creek begins on the other side and where my route out of the mountains was. Whew!
Heading down the SE ridge
The headlamp came out to play as I began my descent down Grove Creek. It was 7pm. Finding the place where I hid my bike in the dark wasn't as difficult as I thought. I pulled on both my light jackets, my leg warmers, and warm gloves expecting the ride back to be a chilly one. At least it would only take 20 minutes! Pretty soon, I rolled up to my place feeling great and wanting more; just not today! I was ready to get clean, get fed, and get the bed. One hot shower, one Buddy walk, and one-half, ham & pineapple Wildlife Pizza later, and I was pedalling and running trails in my dreams. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz...