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Pepe Lepew On January - 28 - 2010

Hyalite Peak

SAD is Seasonal Affective Disorder, something I don’t know that I have — but I think I do. I hate it when the sun doesn’t shine. I hate day after day of fog, of clouds, of overcast. It gets to me and wears me down.
What’s your trick to beat it??
Here’s mine. I plan. I spend all winter simply … planning. Poring over maps and climbing guides.
I plan my summer climbs. I make schedules, look for peaks I’ve yet to bag. It’s getting harder and harder, because I’ve bagged most of the non-technical mountains now in the Northern Rockies. The only ones left are the really, really hard ones, which I’m not all that interested in. I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone anymore.
Scouring maps and climbing guides this year, I discovered something … there are a lot of big (not huge, just big) mountains in the Northern Rockies that are quite doable, but I’ve yet to bag. I’ve had a tendency to try and go for really huge, hairy, scary-ass peaks, and the last two summers I’ve wasted a lot of time realizing these peaks were too freaky for me (Borah Peak in Idaho and Mount Rundle in Banff, Alta., are two that come to mind.)

Wright Mountain

Every year, I try to make a mountain-climbing goal. It helps keep me in shape; keeps me from getting too fat; keeps me from going batshit crazy in the winter. Two years ago, I made my most ambitious goal, and incredibly, I actually beat it — climbing 100,000 vertical feet during the summer. That damned near killed me, in fact, I got a mild case of HAPE on White Mountain Peak in California and it took me over a week to get over it. So, last year, my goals were much more modest … and they got even more modest as the summer wore on. Because of bad weather, a couple of injuries, and a major move in midsummer, I ended up only climbing one new mountain all year — Fairview Mountain in Banff.
One, just one.
This year, I’ve decided I want a whole bunch of new peaks — I’m gunning for six– Vimy Peak in Waterton National Park (9,000 feet), Painted Tepee Peak in Glacier National Park (7,700 feet), Wright Peak in the Bob Marshall Wilderness (8,850), Crow Mountain (9,415 feet), Sacagawea Peak (9,665 feet) and Hyalite Peak (10,299 feet).

Painted Tepee Peak

I also realize I can make another doable goal — 9 peaks higher than 9,000 feat — Crow Mountain, Sacagawea, Hyalite, Vimy, St. Mary Peak, Lolo Peak, Little St. Joe Peak, Trapper Peak (A true beast at 10,154 feet), and Ward Mountain, which has a sadistic 6,000-foot elevation gain in only five miles.
Years ago, I met Ed Viesturs when he was doing talks for his “Endeavour 8,000” project. His goal was to climb all 14 8,000-metre peaks in the world. He eventually did it. He’s one of only three or four people in the world to do all 14 without supplemental oxygen. Ed is actually a nice guy, but “Endeavour 8,000” was just such a hokey name for it, and so typical of mountain-climbers.
So, I jokingly called my goal this year, “Endeavour 9 X 9,000.” The name stuck. It’s my way of making fun of mountain-climbers. Not all mountain-climbers or “rock jocks” are the same, and I‘m sure some of them are very, very nice, but if you’ve known as many as I have, you know what I’m talking about. Unfortunately, a lot of them can be the most narcissistic, self-absorbed class of people you’ll ever cross paths with. Something about the mountain-climbing attracts that type of personality, I believe. A lot of them look down their nose at me as nothing more than a “peak bagger.” Peak bagger is a derisive term for someone who just looks for a lot of easy mountains to climb. It’s my hobby; it keeps me in shape and it keeps me motivated to stay in shape. What’s it to them?

Sacajawea Peak

I actually have 11 big peaks scheduled this summer (from mid-July to mid-September), but a couple of the new ones that I’ve never done before — Wright Peak and Painted Tepee Peak — are under 9,000 feet. Painted Tepee Peak has a Class 4 35-foot pitch right at the summit, though. It will probably be the only Class 4 I even try this year.
I actually tried to climb Hyalite Peak last year, but had to turn back less than 500 feet from the summit. It was horrible weather, and in the final pitch — you literally take a trail to the summit ridge, then just go up the ridge to the top — I came to realize I not only couldn’t see the peak, I couldn’t even see the way I had come. The visibility was only about 20 or 30 feet in dense, pea-soup fog. I had to turn back. It was simply too dangerous to keep going when I couldn’t see.

Vimy Peak

I’m pretty sure I’m physically capable — I did climb 100,000 vertical feet only two years ago. It’s going to come down to weather, forest fires and whether I roll an ankle or pull a hamstring — three wild cards I can’t control. Weather is the toughest wild card. You can’t climb in lightning, and as I found out last year, it’s not smart to climb in fog, either.
So, I’ve set two huge goals. Huge. Six new peaks. Nine peaks over 9,000 feet. If I do one or the other, it’s been a successful year. If I do both. It’s all gravy.
This is how I keep from going crazy in the winter. Thinking this stuff up.

Categories: Environment, Observations

97 Responses so far.

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  1. Emerald1943 says:

    Hi Pepe! Nice to see you after my long absence.

    Those photos were gorgeous! Is that your photography? I seem to remember that you had posted some equally great shots a month or so ago that were yours.

    Anyway, beautiful! I wish you luck with your rather ambitious trip schedule! I hope you make it in fine form!

    • PepeLepew says:

      No, those are stock photos.

      I’ve never climbed any of them, remember?

      Sorry if I gave people the impression these are actually my photos. 🙂 I do have some amazing mountain-climbing photos. Ask Scher.

  2. javaz says:

    Hey, Pepe, hopefully you have clear skies tonight to use that Christmas present!

    Tonight it will be about 14 percent wider and 30 percent brighter than lesser full Moons of the year, according to Spaceweather.com.

    As a bonus, Mars will be just to the left of the moon tonight. Look for the reddish, star-like object.


    Hey, maybe KQ’s music thread this evening will be songs relating to the moon!

  3. escribacat says:

    Pepe, Something interesting about your pix. Here in Colorado, timberline is between 11 and 12 thousand feet. But the peaks in your pictures are all mostly barren — what I would normally call above timberline. Yet, the summit is at 9 thousand feet or so. I don’t get it. Do you know why?

    • Khirad says:

      Completely unrelated, but I always thought it weird, especially in Nevada, how you could have the Colorado river running through, and no green. Forgive me, it just reminded me of another naturalistic thing which puzzled me.

    • PepeLepew says:

      The further north you go, the lower the treeline. Up in Glacier National Park, the treeline is only about 8,000 feet. Down in southern Montana, it’s about 9,000 feet.

  4. KQuark says:

    Pepe wonderful article. The biggest thing I miss is the great outdoors. I hope it does not sound too selfish and I don’t know if you climb with a camera but if you can show us some pick of your climbing adventures I would love to see them.

    Seasons absolutely affect people’s moods quite dramatically especially the further away from the equator you get. It could be that you have not been getting out as much as well because you sound like someone who has a little cabin fever. Maybe get out more is my only suggestion.

  5. PepeLepew says:

    I think we can all agree tonight that Kesmarn doesn’t understand mountain climbers! 😀

    • kesmarn says:

      Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion (sp?), the great Canadian hockey player had a hobby. It was knitting. Won’t you at least CONSIDER that, for your daughter’s sake!? 😆

  6. SueInCa says:

    Wow, we are pretty lucky in my Northern California area. In fact my husband and I were just heralding the warm weather soon to be upon us here. Spring will come early, prob late Feb and Fall stays until December. I am a capri lover and I can wear them from Feb through Dec. I hate long pants. So we basically get two cold months but our summers are really hot. We have long periods of above 100 degrees. We take it in stride and spend alot of time in the pool.

    I have never been much of a hiker. I like walks in the wilderness as long as it is pretty much flat ground. I have a bum hip so walking or climbing high trails just does not agree with me.

    Sounds like you are an avid hiker Pepe, good for you. I have always envied the ones who go out there and take the challenge.

  7. kesmarn says:

    My understanding, Pepe, is that the atmospheric pressure is lower at high altitudes, but the pressure inside your lungs is higher, in response to your body’s reaction to what it perceives (rightly) as an emergency. If you inhale a foreign body and it becomes lodged in your lung, all the capillaries “south” of the obstruction will constrict, to divert blood flow to better functioning areas, which makes sense. But in high altitudes your body can mistakenly produce this capillary response, which is just what you DON’T need at that time.
    This capillary constriction increases pressure and then the heart’s insistence on oxygen produces the “bursting” scenario. Which means you need rest, oxygen and descent ASAP!

    And poor you, God help ya, you got an R.N. going on a health topic!
    And you wrote this article seeking relief from SAD. Gosh. I’m sorry.

    • KQuark says:

      Our very own Clara Barton. I love it.

    • SueInCa says:

      Does that also produce heart attacks? I had a friend with no history of heart problems and he went to Tahoe. Been there many times, but he complained about shortness of breath and a few minutes later he had a massive heart attack and died. He was only 42.

      • kesmarn says:

        I wouldn’t be surprised if it were at least a contributing factor, Sue. Wow. Only 42. What a tragedy.

        • SueInCa says:

          It was. He was sitting up in the car and he just slumped over and was gone. My friend, his cousin, was with him. She was trying to talk him in to going to the emergency room up there but he thought it was just a fluke. I have had problems from time to time, but only when I move too fast or stand up to fast.

          • kesmarn says:

            Such a traumatic experience for your friend, too. To be right there when it happened. A lot of times people come to the ER with symptoms and it turns out they haven’t had a heart attack, and they’re so embarrassed. But we always say to never, ever feel that way. Best to get things checked out. The old adage “better safe than sorry” still holds.

    • PepeLepew says:


      Well, it smells nasty, but do you know it takes a long time to die from HAPE?

      HACE is what you *really* have to watch out for! But I don’t think that happens until 20,000 feet.

      • kesmarn says:

        “HAPE is a dangerous build-up of fluid in the lungs that prevents the air spaces from opening up and filling with fresh air with each breath. When this happens, the sufferer becomes progressively more short of oxygen, which in turn worsens the build-up of fluid in the lungs. In this way, HAPE can be fatal within hours.”

        Pepe, don’t make me come over there! 😀

    • bitohistory says:

      k’es, Yuo guys are making me ill with all this icky medical talk. 😆

      • kesmarn says:

        Ooops! I think I’d better issue a blanket apology to everyone, b’ito! Especially to everyone who’s eating right now! 😳

        • bitohistory says:

          I was kidding k’es. I was actually learning. my Docs get tired of all my questions sometimes, I think.

          • kesmarn says:

            I knew you were kidding, b’ito…but don’t let those Docs get away with rushing you through without answering all your questions… 😉
            Sometimes you just hafta grab ’em by their white coat tails and hang on till you get what you need! Believe me, I know!

            • bitohistory says:

              k’es, Oh, They don’t, I think they don’t always get many that want to know EVERYTHING.

            • kesmarn says:

              Knowing EVERYTHING is the only way to go, b’ito. And nobody knows your body the way you do. Any medical person who doesn’t view a patient as a partner in the whole process isn’t worth his/her salt. Uh-oh, I’m back on my soapbox again…

  8. BigDogMom says:

    Pepe, I don’t think I have SAD, but my husband definitely does, he sleeps, like a bear hibernating during the winter months. So far 16 hrs. in one day is his all time sleep record.

    But like you, I plan in the winter months when daylight is at a premium. There seems to be more time for me to sit down, (less of that need to be in the garden doing something), and get my thoughts together.

    In the winter I usually stand at the kitchen window and re-design my gardens, better to see the bones of it. Making notes on what should be moved, what should be divided and what’s going to be torn out…if you require too much work in my garden, your outta here and placed in my annual spring plant sale where someone else can fight with you!

    I make a list of all the things that need or I want to be done in the house, I go room by room, dreaming, wishing and drawing the changes I want made…I have told my carpenter that he has a job for life in this old house!

    So, I must be more of an all season kinda of Gal, I like them all, each one has it’s own beauty….

    • escribacat says:

      BDM, that sounds utterly delightful. I am planting my first raised vegetable patch this spring. I don’t really know what I’m doing — but I guess I’ll find out. I’m thinking I will start some of them early in those little moss pots…have to do some research soon!

    • kesmarn says:

      BDM, you sound like a young version of my mom. She loved it when the catalogs from the nurseries and seed companies would arrive in February. She’d spent hours looking through them and planning the Spring garden. The only thing she ever wanted for Mother’s Day was flats of flowers. She was a very early riser and loved being out in the yard all day long. On the other hand, cooking was a real chore for her. How she had a kid who loved to stay up until the wee hours and enjoys cooking is beyond me!

      • BigDogMom says:

        kes, the seed and plant catalogs started the day after Christmas and I think I get every one of them!

        Since I don’t have kids, every Mother’s Day I plant my sister’s, who do have kids, big pots with grasses and annuals as their gifts…my mother was an avid gardener and not so much into cooking too, I seem to be the only one, out of four daughters, that can do both. Sometimes I wonder what house my sister’s grew up in!

  9. kesmarn says:

    I thought I was the only person on the planet who looked forward to the first day of Fall! But I see j’avaz is in my corner.

    I know this sounds weird, but too much sunlight and long daylight hours make me feel anxious. March has always been a tough month for me because I can feel the days lengthening…all that sun! Argh! (I just realized: isn’t Transylvania part of modern day Hungary? No wonder I’m also one of those “Children of the Night”--said in best Bela Lugosi/Dracula voice…)

    I feel kinda debilitated by heat and sun. But when those first crisp Fall days come along and the leaves start to turn color, I get energized. One of the best days of my life was spent riding horseback through the Smoky Mountain trails in November, with golden leaves falling all around. Sigh. I wanna go back.

    The wind chill is anticipated to be minus 10 degrees here tonight. If I get called in to work, that’s what I’ll be walking out into.
    Now THAT makes me sad…or sadd…or sadddd…

    On the other hand, Pepe, your plans sound just wonderful…for a Pepe kind o’ guy! 😆

    • escribacat says:

      Autumn is my favorite time of year too, Kes. Summers here are just too damn hot. Neither my dogs nor I can stand to be out in the 90 degree heat. The month of July is generally a nightmare for me! When autumn comes with the cool breezes, it’s so wonderful! Unfortunately, they enact the leash laws during that period on my favorite hiking trails because the bears are out!

      • kesmarn says:

        I’m not alone!

        I have to confess, e’cat, I’m confused on how having a dog on a leash would be helpful if a bear attacked. Hate to sound like an airhead, but wouldn’t it be better if the dog were free to run if there would be a grumpy bear after him?

        • escribacat says:

          I hate to break it to you, but the concern is for the bears, not the dogs! They don’t want offleash dogs chasing the poor bears (slightly bigger than most dogs!)

          • bitohistory says:

            They use dogs to hunt/tree bears. The most common are Plotts Hounds!

            • escribacat says:

              Had to look that up, Bito. Nice looking dawgs. Found a site with a tree’d bear too!


            • bitohistory says:

              e’cat, They would drive from S.Carolina to the top of the UP to hunt the bears. we watched this one Mama bear and her 2 cubs for a couple of years. We saw them almost daily. The “boys” showed up. No Mama. 🙁

            • escribacat says:

              We don’t have bear hunting in Colorado. At least not that I know of!

            • BigDogMom says:

              Them boys are some real hillbillies…wonder where there stills are located?

              If I was a bear, I would run from the hunters not the dogs.

            • kesmarn says:

              Awwwww. Poor widdle bear. He looks skeered.

            • bitohistory says:

              e’cat, they have a bear season in the UP, and some of them (the dogs) would get lost .Somehow they could always find me. 🙂
              They are really nice looking and friendly. Still didn’t like the Bear hunters though.

            • kesmarn says:

              I would have lasted about 5 minutes in frontier times with what I know about mountaineering and wild critters, as you can see! 😀

          • kesmarn says:

            😆 Hoo-boy, do I feel silly. I guess I always assumed bears were pretty good at taking care of themselves! Who knew?

      • PepeLepew says:

        I’ve climbed in 90-plus. You just have to start at the crack of dawn and carry a buttload of water. The worst I ever did was that damned Trapper Peak — 4,000-foot elevation gain in 5 miles. It was supposed to be a 90-degree day, but it turned out to be 104 in nearby Darby. I collapsed 500 feet short of the summit from heat exhaustion. I barely made it back to my truck. That was the first of my two failures on Trapper.

        But, on the third try, I did it!

        • escribacat says:

          Wow, I could not do that. I can hardly function in the heat. I would much rather hike in the snow than in the heat. The one good thing about Colorado heat is that it’s usually much cooler up in the high country. I remember one year going up to do Grays and Torreys — two 14ers in the front range. It was 90 degrees in Denver. Up on the peak at about 12 to 13,000 feet, we got nailed by a blizzard and had to turn back. We returned the following weekend and bagged both peaks though.

        • kesmarn says:

          Pepe….remind me again of why this is fun… 😆 ?

          • BigDogMom says:

            That reminds me of the statement:

            “Are we having fun yet” 😀

          • PepeLepew says:

            Because it is!! 😛

            Ask me sometime about pink, frothy sputum! 😆

            • kesmarn says:

              Medically speaking, pink, frothy sputum is never--ever--a good thing! 😆

            • kesmarn says:

              Pepe, Pepe, Pepe…what are we gonna DO with you?! Remember, you have a daughter! 🙄


              Add on: I’ll take it to the top for the physiology. See new post!

            • PepeLepew says:

              Wait, I thought as you go higher in elevation, the pressures get lower, not higher.

              Oh, well, in any case kesmarn … pink, frothy sputum smells funky….

            • kesmarn says:

              Welllll, Pepe….you could say “leaking”….
              or: “The heart still pumps the same amount of blood through the lungs, but because all of the blood vessels are tightly constricted, the pressure needed to force blood through them is much greater. In fact the pressures get so high that some of the tiniest blood vessels break open, and this is thought to be part of the cause of HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema).”

            • PepeLepew says:

              Not bursting Kesmarn … leaking. Lack of air pressure makes the little capillaries in the lungs open up.

            • kesmarn says:

              Like bursting capillaries in lungs, maybe.

            • escribacat says:

              No, it doesn’t sound good at all. Like, internal bleeding maybe?

            • BigDogMom says:

              Gross! 😮

            • boomer1949 says:

              Double gross — eeww!

      • javaz says:

        90 degrees would be cool for July/August in Arizona!
        Heck, anything below 110 is considered cooler temps in the desert!
        Once it hits 110, it’s hard to discern higher temps because it’s just HOT.
        (and no, you cannot actually fry an egg on the pavement, but every year some reporter tries it!)

        • escribacat says:

          Javaz, I remember a visit to Las Vegas once when it was about 110 out. We pulled into a parking lot and I remember wondering if I’d be able to make it from the car into the air conditioned hotel before dropping dead. And this was Memorial Day. I can’t imagine how anyone lives there!!

        • kesmarn says:

          OMG, if the air conditioning failed they would find me, a dried up Crispy Critter, empty ice cube tray in one hand and Northern Canada travel brochure in the other, after about the first hour.

          • boomer1949 says:


            You don’t want to be a “Crispy Critter” — it’s my nickname for John Boehner.

            • escribacat says:

              He looked sauced last night.

            • PatsyT says:

              Yes, Barbecue Sauced !
              I think it’s Chris Mathews that says he looks like a guy that is taking a drag off a cigarette

            • boomer1949 says:

              He always looks sauced. I hate his ties, and I wonder if he wears blue contacts.

            • kesmarn says:

              Ah, but boomer, my crispiness--unlike Boehner’s--would be 100% natural.

            • kesmarn says:

              “a color not found in the natural world” as our dear Prez described the Boehner-tan. Obama cracked himself up on that one, and that doesn’t happen very often.

            • boomer1949 says:


              And less ORANGE I might add. 😆

              PS -- I’m from OH and thankfully I am not in his district.

            • BigDogMom says:

              boom, LOL! May I use that nickname for Bonehead when posting over on the other side?

            • boomer1949 says:


              I wouldn’t even be that kind. Drop the “head” and add an “R” after the “e.” heh, heh 😉

              And yes, you certainly can. I used it frequently when I was still over there.

        • bitohistory says:

          90 degrees in July/August? That’s a cold front! 🙂

  10. Chernynkaya says:

    Gee, Pepe, you are an ironman! I can’t even imagine attempting what you’ve got planned-- but neither would I want to; gravity is my enemy. Especially when it makes going up an incline so unpleasant! However, I DO love the wilderness and camping, and I envy your abilities.

    I think I suffer from SADD too. At least that’s how it felt when I lived in SF, and it was rarely sunny. I read a book about living in Alaska during the winter months-- being snowed in for months at a time, and the threat of cabin fever. ( And this without internet!!) It gave me the willies to even think about it. But like you, I imagined what I would do if I lived there. I would definitely keep busy. I would invent projects for myself and become pretty regimented, I think. And then, at some point, I’d probably murder my husband.

  11. javaz says:

    Beautiful photographs and quite the ambitious summer you have planned, Pepe.

    I’ve always been a winter person, even living in Michigan.
    Of course, I preferred staying inside and absolutely hated driving in snow and on ice, but I’ve always preferred winter.

    If anything, it’s the long Arizona summers with the oppressive heat that makes me long for the cold.
    We cope with the summer by traveling north to escape the heat for 3 to 4 weeks, and this year the goal is Glacier Nat’l Park.
    We would take off for long weekends to northern state parks, but Arizona has closed so many state parks that it will be nearly impossible to get a space at one of the few open parks this year.
    We pay the price of summer for gorgeous winters!

    • PepeLepew says:

      I remember that from when I lived in Fresno, Calif. Summers were absolutely brutal. I dreaded those San Joaquin Valley summers. I think that’s why I’ve either lived in the mountains or on the coast ever since.

  12. AdLib says:

    Why would I want to fight Students Against Drunk Driving?

    Seriously, very, very cool, Pepe!

    I have hiked a bit but not as adventurously as you have and do! Being out in the wilderness like that, really removed from one’s daily environment and surroundings, does bring a peace of mind and perspective that is hard to reach just by willing oneself to have it.

    And the exercise coupled with the simple, gentle sense of purpose, to reach that ridge or the top of that mountain, to total up 100,000 vertical feet, is so affirmative.

    I’m now looking forward even more to the Spring and tramp-tramp-tramping around the great outdoors! Thanks for your post!

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