Trail running and soul searching on the ‘Scoville Route’ on Precarious Peak (13,380′)
Morning light illuminating the Elks Range from the summit of Precarious Peak (13,380′)
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut in our lives. It’s easy to slip into the known and the comfortable, no matter how ‘extreme’ we make ourselves out to be. Even the most motivated of us, still has room for daily ‘comfortable and easy’, because it’s too much work to break the mold and do something new.
The real work in doing NEW things, is less in the actual doing of them, and more in the vision, planning, and execution of something out of the ordinary. That takes real work….something a longtime guest of Crested Butte Mountain Guides, and recent ‘Honorary Guide’, Tom Scoville, knows a thing or two about.
Early morning rays illuminating Upper Rustlers Gulch
At 68 years young today, Tom has become a bit of a regular around the Crested Butte mountaineering & hiking community. Scaling all sorts of random and obscure peaks that he has the drive and motivation to seek out and attempt. Some guided, but many not, just with friends or even solo trips. Impressive in and of itself for the work involved, but made downright inspirational by the fact that Tom does all this after enduring 21+ surgeries to rebuild and treat certain joints caused by a genetic form of osteoarthritis. Knees…replaced. Hips…..replaced. Spine…..fused. Shoulders….yup, those too.
Tom Scoville in his element
So, you get the picture, and to be a bit understated….Tom is passionate about being in the mountains. Enough so that it is infectious, and can even rub off on us ‘been there, done that’ seasoned veterans and mountain guides as well. I came upon the good fortune to get to know Tom at Crested Butte Mountain Guides just 7 short years ago, when he was looking for help to complete a few of his last remaining climbs of Colorado’s famed 14ers….for the second time around !
Precarious Peak (13,380′), with SW Ridge in profile. Photo courtesy: Tom Scoville
So, this weekend, inspired by Tom and his vision to think outside the box and his current frustration at recent complications to a recent surgery (again), I would go and walk in his footsteps, so to speak, on something that is close to his heart….to show respect for someone that embodies motivation, determination, passion for the mountains, and has zero regard for being comfortable and easy in his life. I would repeat a route he studied, tried, tried again, and finally succeeded on, and one that possibly may have been overlooked by everyone until Tom’s vision prevailed.
The ‘Scoville – SW Face Direct Route’ ???
Precarious Peak is aptly named. It is a sheer and imposing 13,000′+ mountain, that seems to only be held together more by imagination then actual geologic structure. To be honest…it is a crumbling choss pile of talus and scree. Steep, remote, rugged, committing, and scary loose, it is arguably one of the hardest summits in Colorado’s Elk Mountains, a range famous for it’s towering but loose and dangerous mountains (think Maroon Bells). So of course, Tom Scoville, would have the drive and motivation to actually spend the time and energy potentially pioneering a new route up its SW Buttress that would allow him safer and quicker passage to the summit.
Up close and personal on the route
Was it an actual ‘first ascent’? Who really knows. There have been a lot of people climbing mountains in Colorado for a long time. But as far as I can tell in the local community around right now, no one else seems to recall seeing or hearing of anyone climbing this particular line, especially in summer. I certainly haven’t. So, off I went to repeat this route, and show him some respect for the inspiration and determination he has shown us younger generation of guides, mountaineers, and hikers in the Crested Butte area.
Looking back down from the ridgecrest….actually a pretty reasonable route
What I found was an awesome day alone, up high in the mountains that are my backyard. I watched the sunrise light up the mountains while on a morning trail run, stood on the summit of a semi-obscure, hard, and aesthetic peak in our local mountains, got a few great photos, and saw not another soul around, while having mostly perfect weather.
BUT…..what I really found, was a new perspective. The reminder that the hard work of having to think outside the box, and make yourself break the mold of comfortable and easy is always, always, worthwhile and rewarding. Even if the outcome doesn’t come to fruition. Fortunately, Tom’s eventually did.
Obligatory summit photo
So, on a rare day off in the summer guiding season, I left the rockclimbing gear for Taylor Canyon in the garage, let the mountain bike continue to gather dust, turned the cell phone off, grabbed my camera, some water, and running shoes, and followed the lead and inspiration of another. So thanks Tom, for helping me think outside the box, see our local mountains in a slightly different way, and at least follow in your footsteps….as lord knows I am definitely not tough or determined enough to literally walk in your shoes. This was a day when the teacher truly did become the student.
-Jayson Simons-Jones (CBMG Owner/Guide)