Later in my ten-year climbing saga I began to learn how to climb Class 3 and 4 mountains.
That means using hands and feet on much steeper routes, some nearly vertical with lots of exposure to possible falls. Any drop from a Class 4 route is almost surely a dead drop.
As my climbing skills improved, we attempted some of the more difficult fourteeners in Colorado. I assumed that on those mountains there would be no animal along, pet or otherwise.
Early one morning on an attempt at the very challenging Pyramid Peak, we were in the dark just before the sun lit up the gully we were climbing. I caught movement and I looked up. There was a goat, perhaps amused at my greater difficulty, watching me move up. He then proceeded to climb with me–it almost felt like I had Emme by my side.
How Do They Climb?
When I got home, I had to research this incredible animal. They have a double coat that can withstand temperatures to -50 F and winds up to 100 mph. Their feet are designed for climbing steep, rocky slopes, sometimes with pitches of 60 degrees or more. Their cloven hooves can spread apart almost like fingers as needed, and their hooves have inner pads that provide traction. The tips of their feet have sharp dewclaws to keep them from slipping. Their balance is rock solid.
Throughout the year they usually stay at or above tree line. Mountain goats are herbivores and spend most of their time grazing. Their diet includes grasses, herbs, sedges, moss, twigs and leaves from the low-growing shrubs and conifers at tree line. It is not a member of all the other goat classes; it is a remarkable animal that is the only living species of its genus. While it is called the Rocky Mountain Goat, it is found throughout the mountain regions of Western North America all the way up to the Yukon.
My Friendly Climbing Companions
On that day on Pyramid, as I climbed onto much steeper almost vertical pitches, I saw what might have been the rest of his family. There was a female goat (a “doe”) and her kid literally on the side of the opposing wall. No fear, total confidence, no ropes –and the doe seemed to have no concern about her child on that same wall!
On another difficult climb up the deadly North Maroon Peak we were joined by another goat who climbed with us ALL THE WAY to the 14,012-foot summit.