GET OUT: Wimpy Triumph

By on February 2, 2016

Overcoming a questionable breakfast and a slick skin track to get to the top.

Left: Cresting the top of Wimpy’s offers spectacular views of Albright, well worth an icy tour. Right: A blanket of fog rises off of Phelps Lake. (Photo: elizabeth koutrelakos)

Left: Cresting the top of Wimpy’s offers spectacular views of Albright, well worth an icy tour. Right: A blanket of fog rises off of Phelps Lake. (Photo: elizabeth koutrelakos)

Jackson, WY – This weekend, I had a new ski date lined up. This was no Tinder or “Planet Loveland,” but simply an invite by a known comrade that I had never toured with before. Our friendship history assured me that I could hang out with her for more than three hours (the critical period of time where I start tiring of other people’s company). Plus, I wanted to take her somewhere beautiful yet slightly miserable.

Maybe Wimpy’s knob is a mellow stroll for those with the Jacksonite perspective, but with more than 3,000 feet of direct vertical terrain, it’s not bad. Originally named by a guy and his friends, the title describes how they felt on a high avalanche day when they chose not to go to the summit of Albright. I don’t remember the first time I went up there, most likely because I block unpleasant past thoughts from all memory stores. What I can provide is the story of my friend on her first time up, per my observation.

This friend shall not be named as she may or may not be a public figure in the steezy town of Jackson’s Hole. However, on one cold and foggy day, I invited her to join me on a tour. We planned to meet at the Death Canyon Trailhead post breakfast. She decided to indulge in the sweetness of Bubbas while I, living north, cooked my own breakfast. I texted her the words, “I’ll meet you at Death.” Looking back, it’s a bit strange to have a canyon and a trailhead by that name. The creepy name dates back to 1899 when an explorer supposedly disappeared somewhere up in those ethers. There’s a marked road around there now and I wasn’t planning on having the same fate.

The initial path felt chilly and the trees blocked those precious warm rays of sun from shining on my back. Just enough uphill to start to sweat but not enough to keep you warm if you shed a layer. After what my friend called an “infinitely long way”—three miles to be exact—we were at the base of Wimpy’s. This hill shoulders Albright Peak and is located just north of Death Canyon and south of Stewarts Draw. The spot also serves as a superhighway of Dynafitters. One minute you think you’re alone and the next moment, carousels of these creatures trot by, beads of sweat dancing off their steamy shoulders.

After letting some by in the flats, my poor friend underestimated the journey. “Oh cool, we’re almost there,” she said. Little did she know the icy and slippery skin track ahead of her would give way to a bit of an epic. The melt freeze on the east slopes made the skinning more like glorified edging with essential regard for the trapezoids and forearms. Every once in a while when you let your guard down and let those arm muscles relax, a prompt slide for life down the icy kickturn of doom sends you much further down than where you started.

I tried assuring my friend of the inherent benefit of this as it creates a better work out. But she had stopped listening at the halfway mark of the climb. Bubbas had caught up with her. Sometimes the Workingman’s Special just doesn’t do it for everyone. Maybe she blamed it on the restaurant or simply had too much coffee, but my friend was struggling hard in the unknown of this new and measly named tour. Luckily, her nausea eventually subsided as she clung to a few last pieces of hope.

The thing about this place is you never feel like you are anywhere until you’re almost at the top. You could literally struggle hard for an hour and the vertical gain looks exactly the same. Once the dead whitebarks begin appearing, it reminds me that I am getting somewhere closer to not being too far away. Per usual, I bribed my date with snacks to continue on and she obliged. Her face may have looked green once we reached the final bowl. A few more lightweight people did some laps on the bowl while we sat in the sun and snacked. Besides the occasional bustle of humans hurrying to ski down, the top had a crisp and mellow air about it.

We discussed the possibility of going up Albright or doing another lap. She said she’d contemplate it. And that’s about as far as I got before she ripped her skins off and glanced at me with pleading eyes. Scarfing down my Havarti dill cheese and corn chips, I assured her that I didn’t care if we skied another lap but I would prefer finishing my snacks. Even though we were “just skiing Wimpys,” a substantial amount of food is required to push one through this journey.

As we skied down, the once slumped shoulders of my partner perked up and the vague sound of uncontrollable laughing was audible. I skied up to her and, from the looks of her eyes, she had forgotten the slight misery and appeared all smiles in the powder. PJH

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