Friday, October 6, 2006

Hiking toward the heavens

Valley residents take aim at Hyndman Peak

Express Staff Writer

The south ridge of Hyndman Peak cuts the azure sky like a knife. To the west, Hyndman Basin tumbles down toward the East Fork of the Salmon River. To the east, Wildhorse Creek cuts toward Copper Basin. Photo by Rebecca Meany

Alex McPherson took a last, careful step and peered over the ridge to a 2,000-foot drop.

Below, Wildhorse Canyon stretched out in perfect stillness.

Six-year old Kundra, a border collie-Chow mix, located a patch of snow and, laying herself in its coolness, rested from the six-mile hike.

The saddle between Hyndman and Old Hyndman peaks, at an elevation of 10,800 feet, offered a panoramic view of the Pioneer Mountains to a group of hikers on an Environmental Resource Center-led trek Friday, Sept. 29.

The Ketchum-based Environmental Resource Center leads hikes in the mountains around the Wood River Valley once a month every summer—in June, July, August and September.

"It's a way to get ... people out of the office, and remind us where we live, meet new people and develop community ties," said Program Director Colleen Teevin, Kundra's owner.

Friday wasn't McPherson's first time looking over the edge of Hyndman. Ten years ago, prompted by a burst of spontaneity, he and a friend soloed the north face of the mountain—with climbing shoes as their only gear.

"We were at the top of our game," he said. "I wouldn't do it now. It's all relative to what you're used to."

Hikes like Hyndman saddle are simple in comparison, but can involve boulder fields, steep inclines and snow-covered scree.

Each hike, like a climb, is mastered one movement at a time.

"You're really just dealing with the 10-foot radius around you," McPherson said. "If you can deal with that, you just go on to the next one."

Near the top of the 3,600-foot climb, a pair of mountain goats spotted the human interlopers and took off running.

At the saddle, the camouflaged ungulates were at home on the rocky, snow-white mountains.

A thousand feet below, they would have stood in stark contrast to the forested slopes and rolling meadows.

With a week of autumn come and gone, trees were flashing a spectrum of colors that appeared changed with the time of day.

Despite the predictable acts of the seasons, nature never ceases to impress.

"I got a reminder of the great wilderness and beauty right out our back door," said McPherson, who lives in Hailey. "It's a cliché, but you sometimes forget, living in the city."

Hike participants Mary Logullo and Barbara Julian, both of Hailey, were glad for the outing, and glad for the company.

"I only had one or two other hiking buddies," Logullo said, "and they weren't always available."

Logullo participated in all four ERC hikes this summer, plus many of her own.

"I like to try new places," she said. "There's so many options. Really, I haven't repeated any."

"I thought this was the prettiest," she added.

For Julian, the hike fit in with her summer activities.

"I go in spurts," she said. "This summer was a hiking summer."

She counted the colors and the "massiveness" of the peaks as the day's highlights.

Rewards, however, come with a cost.

"You do get pooped out," she said.

Still, "no matter how caught up you get in your work, you really need to come out," she said. "It's why we all live under the spell here."

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