Hike Difficulty: difficult
Hike Length: 5.21 mi
Elevation Gain: 2175 ft
I’ve attempted Black Butte at least three times (like this one). It’s a terrible blow to my ego every time I fail to summit. Each time I’ve gone, it’s been at the extreme end of the transition seasons, so I usually have to deal with some snowdrifts. Last time I went, I went as far as I could, but had to turn back because I feared that I’d slide down to the bottom of hidden valley.
I took on Black Butte again today after I just did Little Castle and Heart Lakes. I sat in my car with the dog after lunch for about 10 minutes thinking to myself, “Do I do it or do I go home?” My biggest concern was the heat; I had enough water for me and the dog to get by, but I knew it’d be a scorcher of a hike with lots of exposure and climbing. Eventually, I decided that I would take Black Butte on again — this time, to finally reach the summit, regardless of the challenges.
I made sure to keep tabs on my dog’s condition at every moment. We traveled from shadow to shadow, getting hydration at each stop. Some of the stretches between shadows were pretty long, but the higher I got, the more the breeze cooled us. My watch says 92 degrees was the hottest we experienced.
The whole hike, especially the last half mile, was geologically interesting. I was fascinated by the blocky prominences surrounding the main part of the mountain. The different “peaks” created all sorts of mossy valleys that were fun to photograph.
The summit turned me into a nervous wreck because I wanted to get to the highest part, which appeared to be the foundation for an old fire lookout, but to do so, I had to cross a precarious rock bridge. In retrospect, it was probably less dangerous than it felt in the moment. However, Grace felt the anxiety of the moment and had some difficulty making it over the rock gap. And with the sun beating down on us, we didn’t stay long. Still, it was nice to finally conquer this mountain.