Summer of the Peak-Bagging Sisterhood

With the help of her closest friends, one woman finds herself achieving things she never imagined.

The “Peak-a-Week” theme came to Suzi, Kara, and me as we were hiking the M for the 7,346th time.

Okay, I’m exaggerating, but my friends and I have hiked it so many times over the years, I’ve lost count.

Due to the global shutdown, 2020 was the first summer that the three of us were not going in different directions. We explored what our local terrain had to offer and became devoted to the local mountain ranges. Not only did my strength and stamina build, but at the same time, my friendships also strengthened. We hiked the M and eventually moved higher—beyond the monument to the next lookout until we reached halfway up Baldy in late May. We hit Little Ellis at the base of the Gallatin Range for our first peak that year on June 7th. We made it up to Baldy on June 12th.

These hikes slowly became our sanity sessions.

As we approached the top of Baldy, one of us said, “Should we try for a peak a week?” Of course, it might have been me. In a moment of spontaneity mixed with some regret, I blurted it out loud. I knew my friends would go for the idea. It doesn’t matter who said it because we simultaneously exclaimed, “How fun would that be?”

“Geez, could we make that work?” Suzi wondered.

“I’m game.” I said. “A peak-a-week will be a ridiculous but fantastic challenge!”

Kara agreed, and she started scheming the plan.

Ridiculous outdoor challenges are our forte. We’d set the most challenging, painful goal and do our best to achieve it. Why not? Plus, this would provide me the proper training grounds to complete my plan of climbing the Grand Teton on August 9th.

Kara took the lead in planning our objectives. She studied her busy schedule, designed dates, times, and peaks, then texted Suzi and me. We committed to those days and times the best we could. We hiked together enough and knew what to expect with minimal planning.

We did Garnet, Emigrant, and Saddle from Middle Cottonwood. We ticked off Elephanthead, Divide, and Blackmore in Hyalite.

My running pack had a few essentials, such as sunscreen, snack bars, small first-aid kit, lightweight wind/rain jacket, two-liter water bladder, Kleenex, and a lighter for survival gear. Phone and bear spray sat at the helm in the front pockets. Typically, I wore running shorts, a t-shirt, and maybe a light, long-sleeve polypro layer. My shoes were, and still are, the La Sportiva Bushidos. All in all, the setup was fast and light, in and out. We prayed that there were no mishaps that kept us out overnight.

As the summer wore on, I realized this “training” was taking me farther than my original goal of grabbing the Grant Teton might. I progressively felt stronger. There were days when I did not want to get up and go, but that goal kept me pushing as I tried to stay on par with the Peak-a-Week theme as best I could. I learned that perseverance, diligence, and intention-setting was necessary. I managed my energy levels and was surprised at how much I could accomplish in one summer. It takes a glutinous rage to achieve something like this, something my hiking companions share. What became normal to me seemed outrageous to some of my friends, who shook their heads at my peak-bagging ambitions.

peak bagging, hiking, bozeman

Exploring the local mountain ranges as intimately as we did was a treat. We did Garnet, Emigrant, and Saddle from Middle Cottonwood. We ticked off Elephanthead, Divide, and Blackmore in Hyalite. Each peak and trail offered stellar views of flora and fauna, and other mountain ranges in the distance. The wildflowers changed as the summer progressed. First out were the glacier lilies, shooting stars, pasqueflowers, lupine, arrowleaf balsamroot, prairie smoke, Indian paintbrush, and arnica. The flowers slowly retreated up the mountain as the heat grew stronger.

We watched the weather like hawks and moved up the mountains swift and strong. Sagebrush smelled clean in the lower alpine. Lodgepole pines stood tall and proud, lining our paths through the forests. The wind whispered in our ears. The big blue sky was bright above until puffy clouds moved closer, adding character. Sounds of hawks, whistle pigs, and cranes bellowed in the distance. The babbling creeks sent our sorrows downstream, leaving only the sounds of nature and our breath.

My friends persevere in the mountains just as much as they do in their personal and professional lives. They have become successful leaders in their industries and inspire me to become a better human and athlete. Not to mention the mental and emotional support they give when times get tough. I couldn’t have asked for a better crew to train with than my dear friends. This goes beyond just Kara and Suzi. All of the ladies who hiked by my side, bagging peaks with me—I’ll keep you by my side no matter where I am in life. You are my mountain soul-sisters. Together we will continue to climb to new heights mentally, physically, and metaphorically. Outdoor recreation has brought us closer for many reasons. We lean on each other and trust that we have one another’s backs.

As life would have it, the three of us could not get all weeks in, but I did manage 20 peaks that summer. A lot of things played into the success for our Peak-a-Week project, but when I finally stood atop the Grand Teton, I realized that it was my mountain soul-sisters who provided the ladder to help me get there.

Diana Proemm still gets herself caught up in ridiculous shenanigans and challenges, continuously questioning her sanity during the pursuit. This article is dedicated to all of her mountain soul-sisters that she has skied, hiked, biked, and paddled with through the years.