All last week I was psyching myself out about hiking Mailbox Peak. A friend warned me not to do it alone. Countless trip reports described the trail as hard to follow. A local blogger wrote an article about falling on the snowfield and sliding 250 feet down to the bottom. And to add to the uncertainty, on Friday night the weather report showed a storm rolling in that would bring cold temperatures and snow. Drats.

I woke up somewhat discouraged on Saturday morning, but hiking Mount Si and Mailbox in back-to-back weeks was a stubborn goal that was stuck in my mind and wasn’t going away without a fight. I made some breakfast, waited for sunrise, and made my way to the trailhead to do some scouting. Instant stoke. There had to have been two dozen cars there already – I wasn’t alone! With an improved demeanor and a heart full of hope, I laced up my mountaineering boots, threw my crampons and an ice tool on my pack, and hit the trail.

What. An. Ass kicker. The old trail to Mailbox Peak does not mess around. Switchbacks are few and far between and the trail doesn’t let up for a second. I found myself thinking, “Keep pushing until a mellow stretch and you’ll get a break then,” but that mellow stretch doesn’t come. It’s just difficult the whole way. Its only saving grace is that it’s only 2.6 miles to the top, so the suffering felt through the 4000 feet of elevation gain doesn’t last too long (I took about 2.5 hours to reach the top).

The reward at the end is well worth it, though. I had a blast trudging through the snowfield wielding my ice tool, which started a couple conversations as it’s a little out of place in an area where an ice axe is more commonplace (and more practical). After the snowfield, you hike through some trees and when you pop out the other side there is a gorgeous view of the ridge you are about to gain. A few minutes of excited ascent later and you’ve summited. What a feeling. I shared the summit with 3 other people for a few minutes, munched on some GORP, gulped some chilly water, and headed down. After so much uncertainty all week, making that summit was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in quite some time. It completely rekindled the fire inside me. Watch out.

Aside from the strenuous trail and thrilling summit, one of the best memories from this hike was the people I met. I talked to so many people along the way and  each of them left me with a huge grin on my face. I met an older gentleman who gave me a humorous message to relay to his friend when I caught up to him further up the trail, a group of Washington Hikers and Climbers members, and a woman that was super stoked on my ice tool and brought up Hyalite, ice fest, and climbing Genesis 1 when I told her I went to school in Bozeman for a few years. There were others, and each interaction makes a little impact on my soul that will be there forever. I love all my fellow outdoors lovers.