A few miles S of Pactola Reservoir, SPHP parked the G6 at the junction of Hwy 385 and USFS Road No. 710 (11:55 AM, 50°F). Lupe was early, a whole day early. The weather dictated her timing. It was 50°F out! Tomorrow would be 15°F cooler, and New Year’s Day colder yet. No sense waiting another day, only to suffer in the cold, when this afternoon was going to be so nice!
Lupe and SPHP set off following USFS Road No. 710. At least 6″ of snow was down here in the shadow of Peak 5800. The snowy road went W for nearly a mile up a long draw. Other than a few animal tracks, the snow was pristine. No one comes here this time of year. Lupe ran sniffing around in the forest.
New Year’s Eve Peak (6,046 ft.) was Lupe’s destination. The mountain’s name is a private one. Officially, no name is shown on the maps. Lupe was on her 4th trip to the mountain. She had first climbed it on the last day of 2012, which was how it got it’s name. Two years later, she returned on the last day of 2014. Since then, climbing New Year’s Eve Peak on or close to the last day of each year has become a Lupe tradition.
The scenic part of the journey starts as USFS Road No. 710 reaches the upper end of the long draw, and enters a thin forest of tall pines. The road starts to curve S here. Soon there are views of open country ahead.
In only a few minutes, Lupe was beyond the thin forest of tall pines. She followed No. 710 S for a little way into open country, then left the road to climb gradually up through a snowy field toward higher ground to the SW. She reached a minor ridge from which she had nice views of white hills and valleys toward the S and W.
The vast majority of the Black Hills is thickly forested with Ponderosa pines. One of the fun things about going to New Year’s Eve Peak is that Lupe gets to travel along quite a bit of high ground that burned in a forest fire years ago. Consequently, there are open views along the route, which is unusual for most Black Hills territory.
From the minor ridge, Lupe headed for Pistol Point, the highest ground she would reach in the open territory on her way to New Year’s Eve Peak. To get there, she skirted to the S of High Point 5917, crossed a saddle to the W, and made a steep double climb up to the end of the ridge that sweeps down to the S and then SE from New Year’s Eve Peak. The high point at the end of this ridge is Pistol Point.
From Pistol Point, Lupe lost a little elevation going W to the closest small hill, then turned N to follow the long ridge leading up to New Year’s Eve Peak. This ridge is fairly narrow, with rock outcroppings and various small prominences along the way. Lupe went over all of them, and started the final climb up New Year’s Eve Peak.
The first two times Lupe had been to New Year’s Eve Peak, on the last day of both 2012 and 2014, the top of the mountain had all been heavily forested. However, when she’d returned on New Year’s Day in 2016, there had been a big change. The upper S slope of the mountain had been heavily logged. Now there are good views toward the S.
After tagging the summit, Lupe went to take a look at Harney Peak (7,242 ft.), the highest mountain in South Dakota.
After a quick look at Harney Peak, it was time for a break. Lupe went over to the W edge of the summit area. Lupe and SPHP sat together for a while, contemplating the snowy view to the W.
The feeling wasn’t quite the same as when Lupe has been to New Year’s Eve Peak before. After all, there was still one more day to go in 2016. Somehow that one extra day still to come (due to 2016 being a Leap Year!) did seem to make a little difference. There wasn’t yet quite that same sense of finality, even though 2016 had less than 34 hours left before drawing to a close.
Even so, it was a time to reflect on 2016, the fast fading year gone by. Lupe’s 2016 had started right here on New Year’s Day. She’d gone on 38 great Black Hills expeditions during the year. She’d met mountaineer Jobe Wymore, and gone with him to the Wildcat Hills of Nebraska at the start of April. She’d made a trip to the Laramie Mountains in late spring, and climbed Cloud Peak, the highest mountain in the Bighorn Range in Wyoming in July.
Lupe had even spent a day at Kabekona Lake in northern Minnesota in October. And, of course, there had been her huge 41 day Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon and Alaska where she’d had so many excellent adventures.
Yes, Lupe had been one lucky Carolina Dog in 2016! Sadly, now it was all over and done.
A cool N breeze was blowing. The temperature had dropped considerably since Lupe had left the G6. Off to the NW, dark clouds were on the far horizon, but were on their way. Just like 2016, Lupe’s time on New Year’s Eve Peak was almost over. Lupe went to see the views to the S again.
Before leaving New Year’s Eve Peak, Lupe returned briefly to the summit.
By the time Lupe reached Pistol Point again, the clouds that had been far off to the NW were moving in. SPHP started to realize that Lupe might be treated to some fairly dramatic skies on the rest of the way back to the G6. With the sun already quite low in the SW, Lupe’s next to the last sunset of 2016 might be pretty sweet!
Lupe reached the minor ridge SE of High Point 5917. A colorful sunset seemed increasingly likely. Instead of going straight back across the field to USFS Road No. 710, where it would be hard to see much of the sunset, Lupe and SPHP traveled E along the minor ridge, trying to keep the view to the SW in sight.
Lupe was near the top of a small hill mid-way between High Point 5917 and Peak 5800 when the next to the last sunset of 2016 reached its peak of perfection. From this small hill, Lupe sends best wishes to all her fans for a very Happy New Year 2017 full of fun and exciting adventures of your own! (5:06 PM, 28°F)