When the TNAB "Non-leaders" put together the schedule for the 2015 season I'm pretty sure they took into account time of day, likely weather, mileage, and elevation gain. Hikes in the beginning and at the end of the season are short because there isn't a lot of daylight in the evenings. The hardest, longest trips are scheduled around the Summer Solstice when it's light until 10pm.
Hence, Mt. Roosevelt.
The truth is that nobody from TNAB had yet climbed Roosevelt. It replaced Wright Mountain, which is long, but not particularly hard (except when there's snow). There's a maintained trail to Gem Lake, then a way trail to the summit. Instead for heading for Wright, to the north and 600 feet above the lake, we'd head for Roosevelt to the southwest with 1,000 feet of gain.
I was all in favor of this plan. I love seeing new places and I was excited for a different perspective on the area's peaks. I was so excited I arranged to PreNAB. I even recruited a non-TNAB hiker to meet me early. (Poor Micah didn't know what he was in for even though we'd gotten... misplaced on our last adventure together.)
It was 90F when we left the trailhead. I very consciously restrained my pace to try to avoid overheating. We stopped at every bit of water (what little is left) to dunk my head. Tons of people were coming out from a day spent at Snow Lake. It's a gorgeous lake and easy enough that even in the heat it was packed. Once we passed Snow Lake we saw only three people on the way to Gem Lake.
Gem is a typical alpine lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Rocks, a few trees, crazy blue water. We stopped and I filtered water for the final thousand feet up to Roosevelt.
To get to the peak from the lake we followed a sketchy trail that led from the southwest corner of the lake along a ridge to the base of Mt. Roosevelt. The trail was one that you'd follow for a couple hundred feet and then lose in a thicket of branches and downed logs. It took far longer than it should have to traverse the ridge, but next time will be quicker.
Roosevelt has several peaks, but we were shooting for the true high point. That meant climbing onto the shoulder below the north peak and then descending below the buttresses on the east side before climbing back up a gully for the last few hundred feet. The "trail" stopped below the north peak, but it was an open rock slope that was easy to cross.
At 8pm we looked up the gully and realized we didn't have time to climb it. It would take at least 30 minutes to get to the summit and as much time to get down. We wanted to be back on the maintained trail at Gem Lake by dark so we gave up the summit and ate at the bottom of the gully.
I've found I'm getting better at making these kinds of good decisions while adventuring. You'd think that as I get older I'd start worrying about running out of time, but instead I'm realizing that there's more to life that checking names off a list.
We turned for Gem and climbed back up the shoulder of the north peak (which would make a much better TNAB destination next year). I finally got my first pika sighting of the year and a lousy picture to submit to the ASC Pika Project. The little guys have been hard to find this year. Maybe because of the hot weather or the easy winter.
On the ridge we saw (at a distance) Larry, another TNAB hiker. He turned back when he saw us returning. Due to stops at the lake to filter water and his quick pace, we never saw him until we got to the parking lot.
That's right, there were only the three of us out for this trip. I've since heard one really good excuse and a couple of weak ones, but none really cut it.
We probably could have made the summit had we pushed for it. We not only got back to Gem before dark, but all the way up to the Snow Lake Divide before we had to dig out our headlamps.
The biggest problem with stopping just a few feet short of the summit is that there's little new to experience. Not that I won't be back. I'm far too stubborn to give up. It just might not be until next year. And probably only if it's on the TNAB schedule again.