September 15, 2011

Notch Peak

Now I'll be the first to admit that I'm a sucker for big views and big country.
I've lived and traveled in the west all my life, and if there's anywhere that I can think of where I can see one hell of a long ways, it's in the Basin and Range. Barry Lopez once said that the West is in true westerners like their DNA...and that they can't just remove themselves from it and think that everything will be alright. I was once divorced, due in part, to refusing to move to the East. (it was a bad deal anyway) Thank goodness I read that quote in time, or who knows what would've happened.
I don't remember the first time I saw Notch Peak in the House Range in Western Utah, but I do remember almost driving off the road, out into the sagebrush, from trying to look at it. Maybe because the dominating west face is the second highest vertical wall in the U.S., behind El Capitan. Anyway, it became one of those places that I had to visit, and couldn't guess why,...but the why never does seem to matter too much. That was several years ago, probably in 2001 on my way back from bagging Wheeler. Since then I've stumbled around out in the West Desert from time to time, but as the dusty trail would tell, I wasn't to arrive on the summit of Notch until this summer.

Lisa and I were planning to go bag Mt. Moriah in Nevada, which as it turned out, wasn't to happen because of some wild weather. We got a pretty late start leaving home, but planned on camping somewhere out in the desert west of Delta. My friend Ray suggested a dry playa that I'll leave un-named. We followed Rays directions until about mid-night when we arrived at a beautiful white playa, the surface of which was illuminated by a big huge desert moon. The long day of travel and logistics that always mark the beginning of our days off made us both sleep real good, despite the hard ground. In the morning we woke to the yawning expanse of Basin, with Notch Peak, and the House Range on the horizon.

We got all packed up after a leisurely morning of coffee in the sunshine, and breakfast, then headed for the trailhead in Sawtooth Canyon on the east side of the peak. I was amused by the way the WSA was signed by BLM.

The trail in the dry wash up Sawtooth Canyon fizzled out after a while, and the guide book description of the route was pretty annoying. It was obvious enough what needed to be done, so up we went, with the book stashed in the pack, not to be seen again. We pretty much just followed Sawtooth up until it ended at the saddle right under the summit. We were both feeling kinda wasted and unmotivated from staying up most of the night driving. Although there was nothing particularly difficult about the route the lack of motivation made it a bit of a slog until we reached the saddle where the scene was breath taking to say the least.

On the summit 20 minutes later was the feeling of elation that only a summit could give, with no hint of the days earlier lethargy.

Most popular summits have a register where people can sign in, much of the time leaving an inspirational quote. I find these summit registers to be entertaining to look through especially when I find the entry of someone I know. As I perused the beat up Notch Peak register book I found a quote from a friend that wrote "I'm not sure how I ended up here from N.Korea" signed -Arie Leeflang. Lisa and I both laughed and thought Arie must've been hi on the altitude. I tried for a bit to think of something wise-assed to say. I couldn't think of anything so I signed my own silliness.

It took less than than two hours to get back to the truck to a much anticipated icy cold beer, which we sat down to drink just as the first reports of an afternoon thunderstorm were heard up near the summit. By the time we got back out to the highway the sky wasn't looking friendly. As we commonly say to each other.... the wild nature took care of us again.

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