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Searching for the summit beyond the clouds

Two things I have to say:

One, it took me two attempts to make the summit; Diane made it on her first try.

Two, the summit of Tyler Peak is every bit as difficult to reach as is the summit of Mount Baldy.

Despite that, if I ever climb to either summit again, I will go via Tyler Peak. Why? Because Tyler Peak is many more times the magical high country that I am seeking.

Mount Baldy is a well-defined bump along the serrated edge of the Graywolf Range. Going from east to west, there's Maynard, Tyler, Baldy, The Needles and Mount Deception. They form the impressive backdrop to the

Sequim prairie. Baldy has a false north summit (6,600 feet) and a true summit (6,797 feet).

While Mount Baldy is well defined, Tyler Peak (6,364 feet) almost defies explanation. From downtown Sequim it appears to have two defined summits; from the ridge on which it sits, it seems to have an endless choice of summits. There is nothing neat and straightforward about Tyler Peak.

The draw of Tyler Peak and Mount Baldy is obvious: Many Sequim-area flatlanders look up at these two peaks and the smaller Maynard (5,054 feet) every clear day. They envision looking down on their homes from a very real summit. The mountains are not so far away and actually climbing them is possible.

There are two paths to Mount Baldy and both are discussed in most popular trail guides; the route to Tyler is via a way trail marked by old ax blazes. Still, if you ask enough folks, you can find the trail and it is used enough to follow.

There is one catch: Once you discover the bottom of the mountain, there is no single well-marked trail to the ridge. And, once you've found the bottom, you probably are halfway to the top.

I climbed to the summit of Baldy once ... almost. The truth is that once on the ridge, I collapsed into a bundle of aching bones and muscles and took a nap.

Tyler is difficult but not only because of the physical effort. Tyler is difficult because you do not really see it until you are there - there is no clear path, you have to depend on yourself and the folks who are with you ... and there are no hints along the way.

The summit of Tyler Peak does have rewards.

There is a greenish, concrete-looking rock that seems to have oozed from cracks in the mountain. There are bright red rocks, too, that we've all seen in creeks and streams but seldom just lying around underfoot. There are lots of signs of elk and even some pretty fresh bear poop. You really cannot escape the fact that you are in the wild.

On this day, the one missing thing was a clear view of anything. The fog flowed over and around us as we climbed through meadows and occasional trees. Even if there had been a clear path, we easily could have missed it.

We saw and felt the ridge, we were pleased by the coolness, but not one of us was able on this day to look down and see our home. Some of us certainly tried. There were, to be sure, wonderful views of towering, snow-capped mountains between strings of snaking clouds.

It might sound like this day was a bummer, but it was far from it. We climbed out of reality and into dreams on this day.

I faced some demons: I like to be in charge, I don't like a lack of details and I like to make conscious decisions based on hard data. I love maps.

It's a little difficult to follow someone who is just a blur in the fog across unknown terrain. That's what I did on this day. It's great to have friends you can trust.



Richard Olmer can be reached at columnists@sequimgazette.com.



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