| Laramie Peak, Wyoming
Laramie Peak, 10,272'
(Highest peak in the Laramie Mountains, just west of Wheatland, WY.)
Round-trip length (via Laramie Peak Trail, which is about a quarter mile from the Friend Park Campground): probably 9 or 10 miles
Total elevation gain: about 2,700'
Trail conditions on Saturday, June 14, 2008: There were some fallen trees across the trail but they were easy to hop (ATVing won't be possible until a few are cut). Snow was found on the trail above 9,000 feet. At about 9,200 feet, it was unavoidable, and postholing became an issue. Waterproof boots, gaiters and trekking poles are highly recommended at this time. Maybe even Yaktrax or Stabil-icers in the early morning.
As the sun set on June 13, we caught our first solid view of Laramie Peak just past Exit 47 on I-25 in Wyoming. While not massive in size, the mountain's silhouette loomed before us above the wide-open plains. The backlit sky was magenta.
While we cruised up the empty highway at 82 miles per hour, I realized that I never feel crowded when I'm in Wyoming – on the highway, in towns or while hiking. Each square mile only averages about five people (compared to the U.S. average of 80), which is probably why. I usually see more pronghorns than people.
That evening my wife and I checked into a cheap motel in Wheatland, drank a couple beers and crashed. Five days of work has a way of wearing you out.
In the morning, after eating a healthy BK breakfast (pretty much our only option), we headed north on I-25 to Glendo. After taking the only exit into town, we hung a left (taking a right leads you to Glendo State Park). I think there was a sign pointing to the left that said "To Esterbrook Road," but the road seems to have many names and it changes often. If you ever find yourself taking this route, don't pay attention to all the road's names (Horseshoe Creek Road, Ridge Road, Glendo Road, Esterbrook Road, Braae Road, Road 5 …), and don't look at the Wyoming DeLorme or you'll drive yourself insane. Luckily, there are not many forks or spurs to worry about. We just continued down the dirt road's main path, occasionally slowing for cows. Beyond the little town of Esterbrook, signage seemed to improve.
Speaking of cows, the fat bastards blocked the road on many occasions.
The route we took almost circled the entire mountain. It probably wasn't the quickest way to the trailhead, but we had some great views of the mountain's east, north and west sides.
More than an hour and a half after checking out of our hotel, we pulled into the Laramie Peak Trail parking area (about 7,700' in elevation), which isn't far from the Friend Campground. (BTW, the sign at the trailhead has some curious inaccuracies to further complicate things.)
At 9:10 a.m., we started off down the trail.
Right off the bat, we had to climb over some pretty large fallen trees, so we knew we wouldn't be seeing any ATVs (or horses) on the trail.
Out of nowhere, Bambi fearfully hopped by, all alone.
For the first half-mile or so, the trail descends a little over 100 feet down to the creek (7,600'). From there, it's an easy, gradual ascent all the way to the summit.
Things were looking pretty good – the weather was perfect, we were the only people on the trail and we were both feeling well and hiking at a good clip. I was steppin' large and laughing easy.
But then, at around 9,000 feet, we came across the first patch of snow on the trail. Even though it could be easily circumnavigated by hopping some nearby boulders, I had a feeling it was going to get worse the higher we went. Jen refused to believe this, though, as this was a "low" peak that had been baking in the sun all spring, and we hadn't seen any snow on the peak from our lower vantage points.
At around 9,200', the snowdrifts were completely unavoidable. Some sections were packed nicely and holding firm, but postholing became a regular nuisance.
Occasionally, we'd see some old human tracks, but it didn't look like anyone had been up there in a while. Oh, except for a bear. Now I'm not an expert in animal tracks, but these really looked like bear tracks, and it kind of spooked us.
The photos don't really show the details, but the size and pad marks looked about right. Plus, where the bear, I'm assuming, postholed, you could kind of see claw marks.
Some snowdrifts could be skipped via rocks/logs and the trail was never really lost, but there were still a lot of inevitable snow crossings.
After a lot of slipping and sliding, the summit was in our sights. All sorts of buildings, towers and equipment adorned the summit. Not sure what it's all about. I imagine it's for research, weather, etc.
Summit area / tower / building:
There's also an old wooden helicopter pad. You'd have to be one burly pilot to land here (especially on this day, as the winds were gusty):
Not satisfied, we had to push on to the actual summit, which requires a short rock chimney climb. Maybe 20 feet, give or take.
We had to walk around a building (careful not to touch any equipment or wires), over a white box and up the rock. There's a chain, but it isn't very helpful going up (coming down, it can be a nice assist).
The climb is rather awkward. Quite a bit of stemming … and then you exit out of a crack.
From there, you sort of just pop up onto the summit rock.
Winds were strong; temps were great; views were stellar.
Coupla' views from the top:
After gaining the summit, at about 11:45 a.m., we hung out for a while and snacked on bars and fruit leathers. At about noon, we started back down, reluctantly.
The warm sun had softened all that snow, and postholing was an even bigger issue on our descent. Unfortunately, my "waterproof" boots were completely soaked. And when I say soaked, I mean they were drenched to the core. Every time I took a step, I felt and heard a squish.
Below 9,000 feet, I changed into some fresh socks (so glad I brought them).
On our descent, we only came across three other souls.
Made it back to the car at 2:10 p.m.
Overall, it was a really nice climb, even though the snow was annoying. Good thing is, it seems to be melting fast.
Back at the car, we happily dined on Sour Patch Kids and Diet Mountain Dews.
Instead of driving back the way we came, we shot up to Douglas, which only took about an hour (one section of the Esterbrook Road – heading north – is currently closed because of a washed-out section, but there was an easy bypass).
Our next stop: South Dakota
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):