Mount Bradley (N#87), Center Peak (N#88), and Mount Keith (N#89)
Nathan Day 66
I awoke the next morning with a surprising burst of energy – I was ready for more, and as stoked as ever!
As I traveled up into Center Basin, I was pleased to find that the new snow had finally started to consolidate, making travel a bit easier. I started with Bradley, eager to get it over with: the climb was a loose, sandy, unpleasant gully.
I put my head down and ground up it, sliding one step down for every two steps up. I didn’t linger for long on the summit, as I was eager to get on with my day!
Fortunately, the sand and scree made for a fast and fun descent as I slid back down the mountain in leaping bounds. Next up was Center Peak, which provided a mellow climb and excellent boot skiing back down.
Now, I could get to the real crux of the day: lugging my heavy overnight pack up and over 13,000’ Junction Pass.
The climb up the basin started out mellow, but quickly steepened as I veered towards the pass. The high, north facing slope still held deep, soft snow, but was too steep and rocky to effectively use snowshoes. As a result, I ended up postholing my way up most of it, gingerly stepping between exposed bits of talus whenever possible, but mostly just slogging. It was a proper grind, certainly harder progress than most peaks. Of course, this meant that the satisfaction of finally cresting the pass after hours of trudging was just that much better.
Dropping my pack to scamper up the lovely east ridge of Kieth was an excellent reward. Despite its rugged appearance and steep exposure off both sides, the ridge provided wonderfully easy progress, and I skipped easily along its crest to the summit.
Moody afternoon skies cast dramatic shadows over the impossibly deep valley to the east and jagged peaks to the west.
An icy breeze and the quickly sinking sun sent me hurrying back down within minutes. I retrieved my pack and continued downward, hurrying to find a decent patch of dirt to crash on before darkness set in. Just as dusk fell, I stumbled out of the talus and onto a lovely, flat, sandy bench, where I quickly collapsed into my tent. I held myself awake just long enough to scarf down my dinner, then slipped into the deep sleep of exhaustion.
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