Thompson Peak

Summit of Thompson Peak ( 10,751′ ), highest peak in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho.

I woke before the alarm, 3:45 AM. Eagerness and anticipation swelling through my dreams, interrupted sleep. Get up and go, don’t lay back down. I listened to my head, stood, showered and gathered my gear. Enough time to make six breakfast burritos, coffee, and protein packed fruit smoothies. On the road by 5:15 AM. The eerie darkness of early morning swelled the horizon; thick clouds roiling around the peaks of the Sawtooth Wilderness. The moon lay glazed above me, slowly, slowly etching its way across a star stained sky.

At 5:40 AM I was already on the trail, making my way through the dark with the beam of a headlamp. A dewy dawn. Cloaked wisps of fragrant mist streaming across my face only detectable with the refraction of light. Not a soul to be heard. A silent forest whose only words were the whispers of swaying branches. Walking on in silence for an hour and a half.

I paused when the sleepy sun finally poked its head above the White Clouds. Four miles in and finally enjoying a burrito. As I sat, a fawn lazily grazed nearby. I watched her as we both ate our breakfast in a peaceful tranquility. Parted ways at 7:15 and continued on our separate journey.

After the junction at Marshall the sun finally illuminated my path well enough to avoid the increasing tripping hazards. Up and up a narrow gauge path whose steep slopes evoked feelings of undesired loftiness. Trusting my feet to carry me safely along this seemingly endless voyage.

After about a mile the hill broke off into a luscious meadow. Trickling waterfalls stemming from multiple locations. In the path lie a stream-bed. I watched as the endless bubbles gurgled to the surface from every which way. Without a doubt, the freshest water to be found. Ice to the touch. Wildflowers in full bloom adorned the enchanted landscape. I found myself staring in awe; my mind stolen momentarily from the objective to simply observe with delight. And from here, when I finally looked up — there lies ahead the towering Thompson Peak. Still at least 2000’ ascension to the top. The top of the world in the Sawtooth Wilderness.

I reached the first patches of snow which blocked the route up to Profile Lake. Unsure how packed they may be I went around them and climbed the endless boulder fields. When the lake showed itself to me I felt an overwhelming sensation. A flood of love burst through me. This breathtaking Earth never fails to astonish my senses. So blue, turquoise. Lime green edges where clusters of rock grew algae. The deepest pale blue of ice melting into the lake. A natural dam with a small break allowing a waterfall to plummet down the valley into the basin of yet another little lake.

The craggy spires that loomed above and behind Profile Lake stole my breath away. So intense. So majestic. Held in the moment by an insanely beautiful view.

From the lake the trek continues on, and more challenging it becomes. Snowfields dot the landscape. In spots five feet deep or more. Will it ever melt? I hope not! But it did make my trek longer than expected. I went around the Saddle, sticking close and tight to Williams Peak. When I hit the wall, I wasn’t expecting a vertical climb. With 30 pounds on my back, it wasn’t easy to navigate. Vertigo started to creep its way into my veins. Push forward. Once I crested the saddle between Williams and Thompson I looked on at yet another incredibly large boulder field. It carried itself all the way around the the next saddle and up to the peak. The journey always gets harder before reaching the end. I trudged on, jumping from rock to rock and keeping in stride with my legs. My mind focused on the peak.

When I hit this next snow field I knew there was no way around without traversing through it. Steep slope, icy and packed. Digging my heels into the snow at 45 degree angles to get an edge. Halfway through I looked back, seeing the true scope of how steep it was. Keep going. The end is in sight.

The boulders never seized the entire way up to Thompson. Heart pounding, sweat dripping down my soaked spine. Burning flesh, clenched teeth. But alas, I found myself steps away from the top.

This view so magnificent it sent chills throughout my body. Without a doubt, the most beautiful Peak I have ever summited. No one else around, just the stillness of the landscape and myself to contemplate it. I stood up there for nearly an hour, gazing out at the incredibly vast landscape. On top of the world is how I felt. Complete elation intermixed with the stinging of fatigue. So beautiful, so free…. And to be free, is to be completely stripped of the world’s need to be clothed. I had to strip down to feel the wind touch my body!

On my way down the snowfields stole my footing and down, down I went! Picking up speed by the second. Trying to slow myself down by digging my heels into the snow. The first one sent me into some boulders, toppling over my own body. The second one I was able to control my steering a little better.

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At this point my knees began to ache tremendously and an unforgiving pain surged through my body. I paused at Profile Lake once more, and then trudged on to make it back down the mountain through the boulder fields. As the summer sun began to scorch down upon me I felt the sweet relief as I dipped back into the shade of the thick forest. Following the trail smoothly down and down until meeting up again with the Fishhook Creek Trail. At 1:40 PM I safely returned to where I began; an 8 hour trek : a total of 15 miles with 4000+’ ascension and back! Absolutely worth it!

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