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    Nipple Mountain….or more commonly known as Needle Peak (6857 feet and for our younger metric members 2090 m)

    Whatever happened to all the Wednesday B hikers? Well, it does not matter because our hike was probably more fun without everyone else showing up!

    This past Wednesday four NSH members drove out to the Coquihalla Highway on a traffic less morning to brace the challenges that Mother Nature could toss our way. We left late so we could return late and miss the traffic either way. I decided in the last minute a trip east could turn into a venture holiday too include the Skaha Bluffs in Penticton at the same time as doing my first summer climb on Nipple.

    Nipple means something special to me. After years of driving down the Coquihalla I always dreamed about what it would be like climbing and exploring the area. There is something about the trees and the rock contrast from the West Coast that has always captured my imagination. Then a year ago March, Mad Dog Mark had Needle Mt listed as a D Hike which I joined him and three others for a wonderful blowing snow day of snowshoeing. The wind had been blowing so hard that we never did get to see the views but we did make the summit and I was still taken back with what the area had to offer. Since then I have lead two other winter hikes on Nipple and it is one of those spots I just do not get tired of. Now my turn for a summer hike on what I think is the highest point along the Coq.

    It did not matter to me if nobody else showed up for the hike, which nearly happened. I just wanted to show a NSH member from New York what one of BC’s prettiest local hikes was like. I wanted to brag and show off something that feels close to me. As West Coasters sometimes us spoiled hikers start to take places like this for granted. I hear people say, “oh it is too far to drive” or “seen it done it” comments. For me I cannot get enough. I think it is the combination of geography of flat barren rock with jagged tops and smaller alpine trees that starts to meet the Coastal mountains with the interior high lands that catches my eye. In the past year I have been back to climb four other mountains in the area and look forward to more ventures summer or winter in this area. The great part of driving to the Coq in winter is the weather. It can easily be raining in Vancouver and be a winter wonderland out in the valley. It is great to be spoiled.

    The hike itself is pretty straight forward until you get past the meadows and need to ascend up and over some rocks. Although saying that I have to omit I was sucking O2 as best I could up the trail to the meadows. I don’t know what it is but over the last six weeks my energy and endurance is a shadow of itself. I was slogging uphill feeling the perspiration drip off my face and I was reminded of great moment in the movie Shawshank Redemption. Remember that movie? That was another of those neat moments in life for me when that movie came out. I remember walking into a video store back in 1994 or 1995 to pick up something to watch. I walked in past the Adult Section Only and asked this young kid what he had in stock that would jump out and surprise me. He quickly went to the rack and pulled off the box with the Shawshank title starring Tim Bobbins and Morgan Freeman. It was prison movie! I was hesitant but took the kid advice and watched it. He was right, it was brilliant. Both Robbins and Freemen did a fantastic job and of course Freeman narrating the story was so clear with almost one of those dreamy voices.

    So what has Shawshank Redemption have anything to do with hiking up the trail to Nipple Peak? Not much other than I thought of the line when Red (Morgan Freeman) says to Andy Dufense (Tim Robbins) “get busy, or get busy dying”. It just meant to me to stop feeling sorry for myself and feeling badly that I cannot keep up to Big Bird funky looking Alistair or Mad Dog Mark. They are just going to have to suck it up and break trail for themselves in the future while I sit back and enjoy the moment. That is it, sorry for the digression.

    Now the fun part of Needle, which has now unofficially become Nipple Mountain because that is what the summit looks like in the summer, is the rock scramble. If Paul Simon can figure out ‘fifty ways to leave your lover’ then Nipple Peak must have fifty one ways to scramble your way to the summit. Some of them safe and some of them not so safe. I might not have the strength and endurance I used to have but after a summer of learning how to rock climb there are other ways to make a hike interesting than out running everyone else. Just go straight up the rock!

    I always seem to screw up leading the first little rock scramble. Just ask Cam the Ram Man or the Horse Lady, Colette. This past March I lead them up Nipple on a section in the snow that had some questionable grade or for that matter any common sense. Adding to my Nipple experiences my first CD time had Lionel the Frenchman with the Italian name and myself trying to crawl our way to the summit from the west side of the top which is close to vertical you want to get when your above the abysses. Lucky we are still here!

    Back to our scramble. Good spirited Philippe the French Canadian Weather Man had joined our climb which is always a good sign that the weather is going to be good. His wet finger pointed in the air highly technical predicting methods did not disappoint. We had great weather and even better views when the wind picked up a blew the smoke haze away. Phillip appears to be a good solid hiker but I am sure he was wondering what his CD had taken him to when the slope kind of disappeared into something more like vertical headwall. Not to disappoint him my back up CD, Mr Bill, was there to back me up and move a few feet over to the east where he could take the escalator to the top which he gladly did.

    Mr Bill had done this hike before in the summer so he was a great reference to fall back on (no pun intended) every time I got side tracked and lead us over to another rock wall. On the other hand, our New York member was running around hanging from rocks and trees snapping pictures from every angle possible. Nothing went untouched no matter how simple the view might have been. If you view our pictures I think we have more butt shots than of anything else. Now some of this has to do with Lionel the Frenchman with the Italian name and the horse lady Colette. You see, back in March when I lead Nipple Peak for Mark the Mad Dog Lionel had my camera and his finger must have got stuck on the shutter. While Colette was backing down a crack my view finder happened to catch about 15 different butt shots of her thanks to Lionel. Marianna, our New York member, decided to find the same crack and out do Lionel with butt shots but this time they were summer butt shots instead of winter butt shots of only one butt. There is a lot of butt in this story it seems but it is my official CD report so I can focus on who’s butt I want.

    We had a great summit with Marianna the New Yorker trying to keep up to NSH Boss Lady by doing a head stand on top. Boss Lady would have done a cart wheel but might have been the last time we would have seen her if she had been there. Not much room to work with on top to complete the head stand. The finish probably would not look pretty, if you could get to the edge and look over quick enough to watch the finish!

    We took about an hour and had lunch and snapped more pictures. Trust me, if you view the shots we have about as many as Korean Michelle takes in a 15 minute coffee break.

    So we took our time and had a non event descend while I listen to one English speaking hiker try talking French while the Frenchmen spoke Spanish and the New Yorker talked trash. Hard to believe but it was one of those moments I was speechless.

    Great fun and thanks to everyone for a fun time.

    Did you know you can take the northern route to Penticton in about one hour 45 from Nipple Peak?

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