Bold no more: Enough of one mountain
I’ve bivouacked on Bold’s summit twice, been stung be a bee on my right eyelid once while on top; heard deep-pitched humming sounds (comparable to what some call the “Taos Hum”), been buzzed by a raven right at the top and had to carry my dog most of the way back from the mountain because he gave out after summiting.
While most of my climbs were solo, friends accompanied me on a couple of climbs.
My son David climbed it when he was 14 years old with some friends and me. I’ve been up there on crystal clear days, rainy days, snowy days, and I can’t rightly say what drew me back so many times over the years. Perhaps it was because I knew it was a big mountain that I could climb safely.
It took me awhile to learn that the nearby glaciers control the weather around Bold Peak and that forecasts for Anchorage don’t have much validity. On clear summer days, I’ve found, a very early start (4 a.m.) is prudent because clouds often form around the peak by mid-day.
On numerous trips along Eklutna Lake, East Fork River and up Bold Peak, I’ve seen moose, bear, sheep, goats, coyotes and a lot of birds, including eagles, hawks, snow buntings and ptarmigan. I’ve come right up on Mountain goats in the narrowest part of Stivers Gully, and somehow they managed to maneuver onto the cliffs and get away from me. I always dreaded meeting a bear in the gully, but fortunately it never happened. I did hear of someone having that experience, however. I’m not exactly sure how it turned out — except they lived to tell the tale.
One thing that bothered me in recent years was that with the advent of digital phones, there is now no service high on Bold. I used to routinely call my wife with my hulky old gray analog cell phone from the 6,500-foot saddle that overlooks Eklutna Lake, and anywhere along that ridge all the way to the top. Not so any more. The signal just doesn’t reach that far. I’m not sure why the analog phone worked — perhaps it could still function with a weak or reflected signal.
“Going for Bold” has been a great pastime over the years, but all good things must come to an end. I’ve learned that my body will no longer tolerate the punishment this mountain delivers. I must be content to seek gentler terrain — and there are plenty of other destinations that appeal to me.
Those attempting the peak should be good mountain scramblers, have plenty of stamina, be prepared with proper footgear and clothing, and know how to pace themselves. Good balance is a must to negotiate all of the loose rock. There is plenty of water along the route. With care and preparation, Bold Peak can become a treasured sanctuary for you as it was for me for more than two decades.
Eagle River’s Pete Panarese and I summited Bold Peak June 17, 2013 at 9 p.m. under crystalline clear blue skies. The temperature was at least 65 degrees. We stayed on top for about an hour before heading down. This year the top was mostly covered in snow. On some years there are patches of green grass and even a few flowers. A huge cornice always lingers on the mountain’s top at its northernmost edge. Take care not to venture out onto it as the fall would be non-stop for thousands of feet.
I looked around the summit one last time. “Part of me, I thought, “will always remain up here.”
(From “Tracks,” by Frank E. Baker)
I climb to that granite loft
gulping thin rock air,
air rushing everywhere;
glacier to glacier,
valley to valley;
playing like an errant child
on a fenceless playground.
Scented updrafts ebb and flow;
eddying between cliffs and gullies;
fledgling winds collide with rocks
of another millennium,
on their upward dash.
But here, at the summit,
the winds tug my sleeve
before sighing into space,
joining the higher, voiceless winds
that push clouds to unknown
…winds that have nothing more
on earth to touch.
Frank Baker is a freelance writer and columnist from Eagle River. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org