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She Laughs Without Fear of the Future

I cannot believe how fast the time is flying by! I have already been home for three weeks! I bet you might be wondering how I am transitioning from waking up to majestic mountains to waking up in a home, surviving off rock hard jerky to indulging on an occasional steak, sleeping on a leaky air mattress to sleeping on a warm cozy bed, and most importantly, freedom from society to being completely engulfed by it. The answer? Incredibly well! To everyone who was holding their breath to see whether or not I would crash and burn, feel free to take a sigh of relief.

Since I have been home I have not used symptoms ONCE. Not once. Food continues to be nutrients instead of an enemy that makes me “fat”, and exercise continues to be a means to attain better performance on the courts instead of a means to attain a better body. I can’t explain it, but since being back, I feel like a victor instead of a victim. I feel so strong and not afraid of anything. A feeling too good to be true and as it leaves my lips it sounds like a cliche or something someone would say to hide their underlying fears, but I genuinely feel this way. I am changed-hopefully forever.

I cannot lie that the temptation hasn’t been there, because it has, but it’s usually a fleeting thought that I can easily distract myself from. Ed’s voice has never been so weak, almost laughable. It reminds me of Proverbs 31:25: She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. It nearly brings tears to my eyes to think how much power not long ago Ed had over my every thought and move. But I am finally stepping into who God created me to be; fearless. One who can laugh at the enemy and say as confidently as David, “My God is Greater”!

She laughs

Every time I hear that a friend has fallen back into the arms of Ed my heart cries, “But God has so much more than this for you!” I want nothing more than these words to resonate with them and I have to believe and trust God that in time, it will. I know people have prayed this prayer for me thousands of times, and finally, I am nearly out of the dark hole I felt was once inescapable. I was in their shoes not long ago; utterly hopeless and just trying to survive in this seemingly harsh world.

Since I have been home, I have been moving nonstop! I couldn’t tell you how many things I have checked off my list and how many more I have added. I do know that I have had a wonderful return by spending lots of time with friends and family and have somehow managed to swing right back into working part time with my PCA client, and signing up for my CNA (Certified Nurse Assistant) program with the Red Cross.

For the first time in the longest time, I feel normal. It’s as if a dark dreary cloud of self-doubt and victimization has been lifted. I get dressed in normal clothes without thinking about how “thin” or “fat” I look. I go to the gym on a regular basis without criticizing myself. Stressful situations arise, and I deal with it in a healthy way by either accepting or working through it. For the first time since my sophomore year in college, I have direction and am moving in a forward motion; Something I’ve prayed for years has finally become clear.

God spoke to me and opened so many doors for me while I was in Colorado. So much so that I knew that no matter what, I was going to finish climbing the mountains because it a part of my plan (Jeremiah 29:11). He continues to speak to me even still. While I was away, and further removed from society, it was easier to not partake in activities that weren’t beneficial for me. I was so focused and on a mission that there was no time for distractions. Now that I’m home, these activities present themselves again to me, and I am so tempted to participate. What I’m talking about in particular is the act of “going out”.

It’s permissible, but by no means beneficial. I absolutely know this, but I still love to dance and I still love to get all dolled up- especially since I was roughing it for so long over this summer. The problem with going out, is that it’s toxic and the people are intoxicated- myself, not exempt. I know these people are numbing and are bored, and I know most of these people are lost.

I have prayed to God to take away many of my sins, urges and to change my heart and He has always answered. Probably the biggest change within me has been my desire for what I want out of life. I had my own agenda in what I wanted to accomplish and I didn’t want to give that up for God. But I still prayed for it, because I knew it was right, and I knew His plan was supposed to better than anything I could ever come up with. It has taken some time, but the more I get to know God and His Goodness, the more I want to honor Him with my life. You could see how “going out” conflicts with this new found ambition.

In the first week that I was home, I went out three times! Each time I went out I drank a little more, each time I compromised myself a little more, and each time I felt sick, conflicted, and convicted. I knew God was speaking to me the night I went to the Zombie Pub Crawl. . Someone stole my phone and my passport that night which was my only means of allowing me to get into any bar. As soon as I realized they were gone, I knew it was God. I knew He was saying, “Knock it off!”. God disciplines the child He loves (Proverbs 3:12). Although I was angry with the person who stole my things, I was more concerned with where I was heading and my character.

It’s been a tough decision and I still struggle with it, but I know that if I keep this up, that I cannot promote the kingdom at the same time, nor will I be promoted while I try to advocate more. I must continue my life with the same determination, focus and purpose as I did while I was out in Colorado. I know that’s what my Abba wants for me.

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What Happens Now?

Now that I’m all done climbing the mountains, and have accomplished what I set out to do, what do I do now? How do you come down from such an extreme high and incredible journey? How will I adjust to going back home to a regular life? These are the thoughts that I’ve had, but are also the thoughts of my friends and family. They’re all concerned that I’ll crash and burn I suppose, biting their nails to see what happens. Well guess what, I’ve thought about this, a lot lately. Believe it or not I’m a planner and have thought everything through.

While I feel like I’m in a place where I have forgiven myself for my past, I still have more work to do on self-acceptance. It sounds like the same thing, but to me, it’s not. These are the things that I still struggle with: my body. This trip has been tremendous in helping me in this area. Yes, I did lose a little weight, but that’s not why I feel differently about myself. I haven’t had mirrors around me, I haven’t been body checking, and I haven’t been comparing myself to others while I’ve been out here and it’s brought me to a level of contentment. Yes, I see my photos of me on the mountains, and I might not love what I see, but I let it go quickly. As I go home, I know that this is going to be a much, much tougher situation to avoid. I will have to work really, really hard not to go back to doing those things and keep telling myself that I am blessed with this body. It is a strong, able body that I have a lot to thank for. That’s all I want to think about when I see or think about my body. I don’t want to think about it’s imperfections and how I don’t have model legs.

With all that being said, I know my journey with treatment is not over. I know that when I get back home I will have to go to Melrose Institute and see a dietitian and therapist regularly to keep me on track. I wish I could say that this journey was my ticket to being “cured” from my eating disorder, but if I did say it, I would be lying. I know that recovery is a journey in itself. For me, and for many others who struggle with an eating disorder. I have been eating more food than I typically would to stay active out here, and that’s going to change and I know I’ll need help with regulating my eating. The truth is I’m still scared to death of gaining back any weight I lost on this trip. Even two weeks on vacation in Montana I had a breakdown at the end because I thought I had gained back some weight from all the eating out. I have a battle ahead of me.

I will also start working again. I am so thankful that I get to work with my PCA client, Cassie again. Being a PCA has been the best job I have ever had. Not only does it pay decent, I have a blast every time I’m with her. We shop, take walks, visit coffee shops and see movies. I’ll have to find something else since it’s part time, but at least this won’t be a huge adjustment for me when I get back since it’s so fun!

As far as what to replace hiking and climbing with and the high it gives, I’ll start playing my love, volleyball again! It’s something that I’m constantly working on to get better at, and will give me the motivation to stay active and workout to gain power and a better vertical. If I get a gym membership, it will not be to do cardio machines just to burn caloriesThat is very dangerous territory. With my recovery, working out can never be about manipulating the shape of my body or burning a certain amount of calories. It destroys me quickly, but thankfully this is an area I have been the strongest with in my recovery.

To continue my spiritual growth, I’ll get involved with Substance Church once again, most likely as a greeter every other weekend. I owe much of where I am today because of Pastor Peter Haas and his church. He’s funny, passionate, intelligent, and always brings it home. The church itself has been the most accepting, connected church I’ve ever been to; “Come as you are” they say. I’ll also find a small group to stay grounded and connected to other believers. I think this is so important, almost more important than attending a church service because it’s a time when you can get real with people.

Last but not least, it’s important that I state that I will not go back to the life I was previously living. What do I mean by that? It means I won’t go back to living my life for someone else. I’m going to continue what this journey started for me and that is to live a life I imagined for myself. I must do what makes me happy because it allows me to be the best me; one that can love others better. So, what does that mean? It means I’ll be saving up every penny until mid winter so I can move to California. It’s always been a dream of mine, so I’m going to do it. Every winter I struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and it keeps me from finishing anything I start. While I love my family and friends dearly here in Minnesota, they must understand that this change could make me the happiest they’ve ever seen me- consistantly.

If you love someone, let them go free, right? The friends who love me and cherish me will continue to make an effort to see me, and the ones that don’t, well I’m grateful for the time we had together, but their season of friendship will end. I’ll get immediately connected into a church and start the process of developing new friendships all over again, which thankfully, has never intimidated me. I’ll be able to play outside year round! I’ll be more active than I’ve ever been in my entire life trying new sports and playing sand volleyball on the beach by the rolling waves of the ocean. I’m not saying it’s forever, but I am saying it’s what I need to try right now. I’ll start community college out there to gain the credits I need to be accepted into nursing school and I’ll be a nursing assistant until I graduate building experience.

I’ll also itch the scratch I’ve had my whole life and make time and resources to travel the world. I look at the world and I see it as a color crayon box filled with the most beautiful, vibrant colors. Staying in one place your whole life is like only using one color! God created this world for our enjoyment and it has beautiful and magnificent things for me and you to see. Being in the mountains was a taste of it, and I want more. Ever since I was little I used to say that I wanted to see the seven wonders of the world. I would say a lot of people have this passion, but it’s another to act on it, and I will be one of the few who do.

Lastly, I will continue to follow my calling which is to help others struggling with an eating disorder. I’ll get involved in an organization and help any way I can. I’ll do public speeches at high schools, treatment centers, churches, and conferences; whatever I can do, I’ll do. People have been encouraging me to write a book  and  it’s something I’m going to seriously look into. While being on the news was an amazing opportunity, they cut out anything I said about my faith- which was the foundation of my recovery process and it’s so important to me that others know that. Perhaps my path will inspire others to try God, or reconnect with God which would be the greatest accomplishment of my life. I can’t tell you how much I want to live my life for God!

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Mission Accomplished: What I Can’t Wait For!

Yes, it’s true! I finished climbing all 55 fourteeners that I set out to do as of October 4th, 2015 and I honestly don’t think it would have happened without the people supporting me and God. It was a struggle to get the last three between the weather, time, and emotional turmoil. I will most definitely fill you in on them when I get the chance, but currently I am enjoying the company of my mother and celebrating my accomplishment with all my favorite things such as; a massage (ooooh yeah), hotels (beds!), shopping, getting a white chocolate lavendar mocha from Brown Dog in Buena Vista, soaking in the hot springs at Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort, VIP cocktail and lemon cake from Del Friscos and ice cream from Bonnie Braes!

I have finally taken a moment to add up the amount of days it took from start to finish and the final number was 87! I started with Mount Bierstadt on June 24th, and ended with Crestone Peak on October 4th. I also had the family vacation which was two weeks long in July, so I didn’t count those.

When I put a number to it, it does feel like quite an accomplishment in a short amount of time, but I would have never expected to experience three seasons during my time out here. I started with the snow, and just today, enough snow fell to cover the top of Mount Yale.

While I get ready to go home, there are a number of things I can’t wait for. These are the things that I’m looking forward to the most:

  1. A BED!
  2. Consistent showers!
  3. Bathrooms!
  4. Seeing my baby nephew Logan for the first time.
  5. Playing with my beautiful niece Avery Belle.
  6. A lasting hug from my papa.
  7. Going out and celebrating with friends!
  8. Dressing up in clothes other than workout clothes.
  9. Getting my hair did and being able to fix it (I’m still a girly girl).
  10. A roof over my head.
  11. A refrigerator so I can have fruits, veggies, dairy and meat again!
  12. Normal meals!
  13. Going to church on a regular basis again.
  14. Playing volleyball with my crew!
  15. Doing fall activities with family and friends: Apple Orchard, carving pumpkins, etc.
  16. Having a place to call home.
  17. To start planning and working towards my future!

There’s probably more on my list, but these are the biggies that I can’t wait for and definitely have a new appreciation for! Being away from family and friends this time around has been different from the time I moved to Colorado back in 2010. I can only attribute it to my faith that has grown exponentially over the past five years, and being in a better spot in recovery. I want to treasure every day that I’m with them, and stop to thank God for those times, because each day is a gift. I know that is very cliche to say, but gratitude I have found, is the best way to receive peace and contentment in life.

I have so much to be grateful for on this journey! The fact that I wasn’t injured by an animal or a fall or struck by lightening. The fact that I was taken care of by so many wonderful new friends that I met through my blog and along my hikes. The fact that I was actually able to climb all 55! The fact that my body never gave out on me. I was never hungry and had a roof over my head. When I lacked things like warmth or a working car, it was provided and fixed by the kind acts of practically strangers. I had people who believed in me and who cheered me on when things got rough, and I found the inner strength to push past my fears and doubts. I know I’m going back to Minnesota stronger in so many ways. I’ll be even stronger in my faith, stronger against my eating disorder and stronger against the currents that life brings. I can’t wait to show the world what I can do!

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#49 North Maroon Peak: September 25th, 2015 (Replacement for Culebra)

North Maroon Peak

  • Height: 14,014 ft.
  • Range: Elk Range
  • Route: Northeast Ridge
  • Distance: 9.25 mi.
  • Elevation Gain: 4,500 ft.
  • Time started: 9:15am
  • End time: 5:40pm
  • Time to Summit: 4 hours and 45 minutes
  • Time to Descent: 3 hours
  • Overall Pace: 1.2 miles per hour
  • GEAR (to bring):
    • Microspikes, bear spray, helmet, GPS, extra socks, phone, SPOT Satellite Tracker, Map, Topo Map from 14ers.com, hiking boots with 2 pairs of socks on, long-sleeve, wind-guard/raincoat, light weight puffy coat, warm hat, lightweight gloves, day pack with water sack (100 oz or more), snacks.
  • Road Condition: Black top; You will also have to pay to get into the park (even if you come in before they open, they check later in the day at the parking lot to see if you self-paid.
  • Trail Condition: There is snow at from 13,300 feet on. It’s not deep, or that treacherous, but bring your microspikes just in case. Otherwise, from the start, it’s a beautiful walk through the forest. At the point where you would turn left to Crater Lake, you’ll turn right to head towards North Maroon. There is a junction at 10,800 marked by a cairn that will lead you down to the creek. From there, the real hiking begins. Hike up a series of boulder steps that turns into talus rock. Once around 11,500 feet, cross the boulder field to the upper break in the cliff side. The gullies are not typical gullies that I’ve been in. There isn’t much scree or loose rock, and there’s a fairly good trail leading the whole way in both “gullies”. Once at the notch at 13,200 feet, you’ll need to use more body strength to pull yourself up higher and higher, for the rest of the way. When you get to the chimney, you can go further to the left and climb up some other rocks to avoid the chimney. You’ll cross over two tall square shaped rocks. This whole area is kind of a blur honestly. It was exhausting. You will go through some snow, so have your microspikes.

After finishing up my blog entry for Pyramid, I checked my email and had one from the fundraiser page I had set up. Because I hadn’t heard anything, I thought I hadn’t raised anything or that I hadn’t set it up right. Once I confirmed the account, I was astonished at the amount people contributed to my cause! I immediately tried to call my mom to tell her the good news, but when I couldn’t get a hold of her, I went outside with tears of joy welling up in my eyes and dropped to my knees to a bench outside of the Starbucks in Aspen. I didn’t care if anyone saw, I had to thank God, and I had to pray for blessings for each person that gave. I’m relieved to say that I don’t have to worry about finances for the rest of the trip! That burden has been lifted off my shoulders and now I can eat good, warm meals and have gas to get me back home! God bless each of you!!

After my time in Aspen, I headed back to the Maroon Bells Park, and saw a sign that the campgrounds were completely full. I checked them out anyway, and to my luck, there was one campsite still awaiting its campers. I waited until 9pm, and when they still weren’t there, I made the risky decision to set up my tent there instead, fully ready to move ASAP if they had arrived. Once again to my luck, the campers never showed up. I had actually been lucky with this happening at this park two other occasions.

I left for my hike at 9:15am, and didn’t spend any time taking pictures at the beautiful lake as I had taken quite a few the previous day, including pictures at sunset. I wanted to climb North Maroon as quickly as possible so I could get to San Luis Peak that same night. I wasn’t 100% sure if I’d be able to climb the next day as my foot was usually very sore, but I was going to try anyways so I could join a reader from my blog.

I was making a really great pace and when everyone was turning to go to Crater Lake, I turned right up the far less popular trail to the treacherous North Maroon Peak instead. To my surprise, there was a gentleman waiting on the rock for his partner. His name was Rick and we talked for a while about the hike he was going to do, and about the fourteeners. Him and his wife were from Missouri and were telling me all about Telluride and how I must go visit there. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll have the time this trip. They wished me luck and safe passage and I carried on down to the stream that would mark the start of a much more taxing hike.

At first it was lovely boulder steps guiding me, but soon that gave way to smaller talus which I knew my ankles were going to hate on the way down. The area was alive with little critters and birds. Pikas were “meeping” with anger at the nearby marmots to leave their territory, but the marmots paid them no attention and continued to sun themselves on the rocks.

Once reaching the top of this field, I reached another boulder field. For a tip, head to the upper break in the cliff, not the lower. The picture from 14ers.com makes it difficult to tell. As I balanced boulder to boulder I couldn’t help but stop and be amazed by the green sparkles on rocks. I had been looking for the perfect turquoise rock to give Ginger, my mom’s friend who has been supporting me the trip. She was joking about me bringing her one home, but I found one! It’ll be a fun little surprise unless she ends up reading this entry!

These rocks were absolutely stunning.

These rocks were absolutely stunning.

The trail was very easy to follow despite 14ers.com warning that there would be a lot of route finding. I never checked my directions until I reached the upper notch at 13,200 feet. The views as I climbed higher and higher up the gullies grew increasingly beautiful. I was looking forward to seeing the painted valley and lakes from the opposite side of Pyramid.

Although the trail was easy to follow, it was exhausting. Constantly climbing, taking large steps and hoisting myself up boulders to get higher and higher. I must have not eaten enough the previous day because I kept getting lightheaded, felt weak, and was constantly hungry. Once I reached the notch at 13,200 feet, I thought I was in the home stretch. Boy, was I wrong.

The technical climbing was just beginning and was intense. It took much of my focus and strength- hence barely any pictures until I was right below the summit. Right when I thought I was nearing the summit, I realized it was still a small hump in the far off distance. Higher and higher I went pulling myself up and solving puzzles to get to the summit. I had never felt so physically exhausted.

When I previously came to Aspen I had to leave because it rained all night, two nights in a row. I decided to finish up the Sawatch Range instead because I didn’t feel comfortable climbing class 4 mountains when they were wet and most likely covered in snow. Even a week later, with perfect weather, the snow didn’t melt and I was now carefully navigating my way around it, careful not to slip. I was grateful to a reader of my blog for buying me micro-spikes and they came in handy.

It was a lovely sight to see little birds playing in the snow when I was feeling so crappy otherwise. Just below the summit I said to a bird thinking I was utterly alone, “I’m so tired lil’ birdy!” Then a head popped over the summit and said cheerfully, “Hello!” I fumbled my way to the summit and he gave me a high five upon my arrival. I collapsed on a nearby rock and we started a conversation. His name was David and he had just finished doing the class 5 traverse, and it was as sketchy as it sounded.

After about 5 minutes he started to make his way down the same way I came up, but I sat at the summit for a while to recover. That’s when I discovered I was out of water! I thought I had plenty of water left from Pyramid, but I was wrong. Thirsty from the trek up, I had finished all my PowerAde just moments before. I couldn’t believe I could make such a stupid mistake! How careless! I knew I would be physically fine, but I also knew I would be uncomfortably thirsty the whole way down.

Pushing those feelings aside, I pulled out a sign I had made. Yesterday morning, I had the bright idea to dedicate my last mountains. For my first, I would be dedicating of course, my mom and dad, family and friends. While most of my family didn’t support my choice to do this, they did love me anyways. Now that I’m getting closer to the finish, everyone is rooting me on! My friends, especially Laura and Tammy were all about it right from the start even though they were going to miss me. They have been a source of great comfort while I’ve been away and have really made the effort to keep me in the loop and to cheer me up when I was feeling blue. My parents, while they are parents and they may feel obligated to support me, didn’t have to, and paid for my broken phone, sent me food, helped pay for the family vacation in Montana and more. While they didn’t support me at the start, my mom especially has been my biggest pusher for finishing them all!

After all my pictures on the summit I started to make my way down and ran back into David. He had used ropes to get down a chimney and had to leave one of them there as an anchor. I asked if he wanted it back and threw it to him. I showed him the way I went without having to use any ropes at all. He laughed at not knowing that route was there as he had climbed this mountain a couple of times. At first we kept making our way down separately, but soon enough we were going down together having a great conversation.

As usual, he asked about me climbing the fourteeners, and how many I had done and that lead into my story. Eventually that lead into my faith and he stated, “I knew it. I knew there was a reason you were so easy to talk to!” Once again God opened up a door to hear each other’s testimonies and vulnerabilities. He said it was refreshing to talk about this verses bow hunting or fishing or other things guys usually talk about on their way down. I joked, “Yeah, I don’t stay in shallow waters for very long”!

Time flew as we made our way down. David was an avid trail runner competing in multiple 100 mile races! As it turned out, he was also a blogger and as I was using my journey as a platform and avenue for outreach, so was he. He had been doing it for a while and was now gaining sponsers and coaches to help him train for races. This past year he did four 100 miles races at the age of 46. I would have never guessed that he was that age.

He tries to set the example to others to find their “thing”, which is a great thought! Why, when I think of surfing, do I think that I’m getting too old!? Find your passion, and never stop growing! I don’t want to be restricted to only taking walks and riding a bicycle because I’m “50”. I hope I play volleyball, continue to hike, surf, climb; do all those things until God says I’ve had enough! If you’re not in “shape”, slowly work your way back- but don’t roll over to new exciting avenues of adventure!

I couldn’t believe that we were back at the parking lot after only 3 hours! It had taken me nearly 5 hours to go up North Maroon! I felt so much better coming down, and David was kind enough to give me a water bottle to quench my thirst. Unfortunately, while coming down, just as I predicted, my ankles didn’t like the talus rock, and I rolled my ankle hard. I love the idea of being a trail runner, and David encouraged me, but I just couldn’t see myself being that successful with my weak ankles. While they may get strengthened a little from a successful day on the rocks, usually the next day I end up rolling it and weakening it all over again.

I met David over at his van to recoop for a while and was amazed at his set up inside! He had a bed, and a desk with a TV! He was a contractor and was constantly moving around from state to state, so it only made sense. He loved the freedom it provided and I would have to agree! When I told David I couldn’t afford ice, he reached in the front of his car and gave me some money- again, the kindness of God overwhelms me. I thanked him for his company and kindness, exchanged information to stay up on each other’s blogs, and said goodbye. As I drove away I couldn’t help but feel so happy and accomplished for climbing all but Conundrum Peak in the Elk Mountains. People die all the time on these mountains, but somehow I had been allowed to successfully climb each of them, the first time around. To the Glory of God, Amen!

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#47 Tabeguache Peak: September 19th, 2015

Tabeguache Peak

  • Height: 14,115 ft.
  • Range: Sawatch Range
  • Route: West Ridge
  • Distance: 16 miles with sedan, 8 miles with the help of strangers or your own 4WD!
  • Elevation Gain: 4,000 ft. (8 miles)
  • Time started: 8:00am
  • End time: 4:00pm
  • Time to Summit: 4 hours
  • Time to Descent: 3 hours and 30 minutes
  • Overall Pace: .9 miles per hour
  • GEAR (to bring):
    • GPS, extra socks, phone, SPOT Satellite Tracker, Map, Topo Map from 14ers.com, hiking boots with 2 pairs of socks on, long-sleeve, wind-guard/raincoat, light weight puffy coat, warm hat, lightweight gloves, day pack with water sack (64 oz), snacks.
  • Road Condition: Once again, 14ers.com is accurate with their recommendations. A sedan or even a SUV or truck without 4WD will not make it far on the road after the Angel of Shavano Trailhead.
  • Trail Condition: You will have to do a lot of trail finding on this route. The route is considered “abandoned” so it is very rugged and trails will start and then disappear often making it a difficult class 2 mountain. The trail from what I hear is also consistently very windy. Be prepared for that. When you reach the hill also known as Point 13,936 go straight up it and look for a cairn at the base (made by Anne and yours truly.) You’ll weave straight up it. There are two more cairns along the way to look for to help you reach the top as easily as possible. Expect the entire ridge to be windy and jagged with rocks and barely there trails. On your return, make sure to watch for your turn back onto the long ridge leading back to Point 13,936. There is a misleading defined trail that got us off track, so I hope you avoid it.

I made my way to county road 240 that lead to the Tabeguache Peak Trailhead and I was amazed to find yet another campground closed for the season. It absolutely blows my mind how quickly time has gone by. It feels like I just started and there was still plenty of snow in the mountains, and all of the sudden I’m returning back into snowy conditions. Where did summer go? I have to say, this was the coldest summer I’ve ever experienced. Climbing and staying so high up in the elevation left me wearing long sleeves most days. It’s almost ironic how I chose an experience that would have me in the cold all the time when all I want to do is escape it in life!

I found a small grass field right off the road about .7 miles away from the Angel of Shavano Trailhead and set up my tent there and was asleep within minutes. The next morning, I quickly arose and headed towards the Angel of Shavano Trailhead where I would be meeting Anne, a reader of my blog, at 6:45am. While I waited I had warm breakfast of oatmeal and not soon after, Anne and her beautiful white SUV pulled up.

She was such a breath of fresh air right from the start! We talked for a short time while I finished my oatmeal and then hopped into her SUV both hopeful and yet skeptical that we could make it all the way up the now 4WD road that lead to the trailhead. But alas, almost immediately we ran into problems. The road was steep with a lot of loose rock and even after three attempts, we couldn’t make it up. “Crap, today’s going to have to be a 16 mile hike after all”.

Just around the corner we could hear a possible Jeep heading up the same road. Anne quickly ran down to meet them and boldly asked if we could have a ride to the trailhead. With some reluctance (only because they didn’t have a lot of room) they accepted. Their names were Dave and Brian and each had done more than a handful of fourteeners. They cleared a space the best they could and I squatted in the back while Anne sat on one of their duffle bags. We were squished to say the least but entirely grateful for them taking 3 miles off our hike.

We bounced all over the place and Anne squeamed with the thought of her SUV being on the road. Even though my car could make a 3 out of 6 rating for a road, a 4 was insane- even for a Jeep! The ride was surprisingly long despite only being 3 miles and the trailhead was so understated it would have been easy to miss if there weren’t other trucks already parked there. The trail we were taking, Jennings Creek is technically “abandoned”, but really, it’s just far less popular than the Shavano to Tabeguache route.

We thanked the two men who generously gave us a ride, and joked that we’d be waiting for them at the bottom hoping for another ride back down. They said sure, but that they really take their time with hiking. Normally, if I only did this a couple times a year, I’d take all day too! But being that it was my 47th hike this summer, I was more interested with keeping a good pace.

Right from the start the hike was breathtaking with vibrantly golden yellow aspen trees. Even with hiking two mountains in full swing of autumn, I was still just as in awe as Anne, who was experiencing it for the first time. I can’t explain the joy I get from hearing the now crispier leaves rustle in the gentle breeze. It’s one of my favorite sounds in the world along with crunching fall leaves beneath my feet. Needless to say, my senses were on an overload of ecstasy. The smell of freshly fallen leaves filled my lungs deeply and I was finally free from coughing (from my darn cold I got weeks ago) for the most part.

Anne and I despite being athletes and acclimated felt it harder to catch our breath that day. It hardly took any pace at all to get our lungs working hard, but we somehow kept the conversation going regardless. I wanted to know everything about her and she felt the same. She was originally from Iowa and moved to San Diego not too long after college. She made it there thirteen years, but often retreated to Colorado to be in the mountains. After a while, she felt she needed another change and she moved here not too long ago to a small town near Pikes Peak. She said it was hard to move and to leave her family and friends, but she needed it for her. It was as if we were the same person, but she had more guts to listen to herself earlier on in life. Some people never find the courage to do something big for themselves, especially when there’s risk and it’s uncomfortable. At least I was finally listening to myself at the age of thirty.

As we made it to the open meadow the wind really started to pick up. “Not again,” I whined to myself. I was and am so tired of the darn wind! “God” I thought, “I know you’re here! You have my attention, so calm the dang wind!” Or did He have my attention. I haven’t had the urge to read my Bible, to pray or to read books I knew would benefit me. Why? I’m not quite sure, but I think it’s because I’m tired- emotionally, mentally and physically. I realize in this moment just typing it I must do it anyways. I know I wouldn’t be feeling as down as I do right now if I were. I took the first step in calling friends and my mom, but this is another huge part of the equation to find deep, unshakeable joy. I’ve had that joy before and there wasn’t a circumstance I couldn’t deal with and it was amazing! But right now, I know I’m trying to finish this on my own strength.

My own strength… I couldn’t understand what people meant by saying that, but now I finally do. Last year when I was fresh out of partial treatment at Melrose Institute for my eating disorder, and just getting started in a new job again, I lived with a wonderful woman named Melody and her family. She’s like a sister to me and someone I go to for spiritual advice. She’s the very special woman who when I was four asked if I wanted “Jesus in my heart”.

While I was out one night, doing things I shouldn’t do, she had a dream and it scared her, but it was very clear. She told me, “God will not bless anything unless he’s at the center of it. You will fail at everything you do unless you rely on Him.” In that moment I was so scared, so hopeless. I thought, “Well duh, look at my adult life so far. Not a screaming success.” I was angry at God for this message. “Why me?” I complained, “Plenty of people have a successful life without your help God. Why are you making this so hard on me? Why do I have to rely on you for any success at all?” I complaints came from fear…I didn’t know what it meant to rely on Him completely. “How do I even do that?”

It’s something that I’m now starting to grasp, but still can’t seem to walk it out completely- which scares me. I pray and I feel like I never hear anything from Him. “How do I discern from someone I can’t hear from?” It’s a question I still have all the time. While I know I have been blessed, and that God has met my needs, I don’t hear from Him. I feel like I’m constantly wondering in the darkness fumbling for a door to open and once I find it, I’m not even sure if it’s even the right one. Trial and error. Trial and failure.

What makes me think that God even wanted me to do this trip… Did I hear it from Him? Nope. I just had a personal desire to do it, and God has blessed me along the way- opening doors instead of shutting them. That’s what I have to go off of. That’s it.

Now, back to the hike. The trail that we were following would come and it would go constantly. There was no consistent trail to follow which meant we were constantly discerning with one another whether or not it was the right trail. It was kind of annoying as those of you who have read my blog regularly might have realized I don’t like getting off track or lost or hiking more than I have to. Then Anne questioned, “Should we make a cairn for other people so they don’t have to go through this?” and I agreed. We made our first two cairns at an unspecified split in the trail and carried on with the satisfaction of knowing we made it easier on someone else.

Surprisingly, Anne had only climbed about 4 or 5 other fourteeners and so when we came to the steep gully to get to the ridge, she wasn’t sure what to think of the scree. Man, do I remember being there! With only a little struggle, we made it to the top where the wind proceeded to pick up more. So much so that we could barely hear each other. We were nearly blown over once we hit the top of the first hill and proceeded to walk over the saddle.

Our next endeavor was to climb up to Point 13,936 and looked like a huge task. We couldn’t see a trail and so with my best judgement I suggested to swing to the left side of the gigantic hill because it looked less rocky, less steep, and less windy. Unfortunately, no matter where we went the wind followed us. Again as we went up, trails would start and stop and we were constantly guessing where to go next. At some point, I say, forget the dumb “trail” and just head to where you ultimately have to go next- which was the top of the giant hill. Take the straight line and just go.

With many stops, we finally made it to the top of the hill and could now see Tabeguache Peak in the distance. The wind roared the entire time we were on the ridge, to the point where it was hard to keep balance and violently flapped my hood in my ear. I hated it, but was keeping it to myself and I was glad I did. Negativity is one of Anne’s pet-peeves I found out later- and it’s one of mine too- but this was ridiculous!

When we got near the summit, there was an option to drop down, or from what I could see, an option to stay higher on the ridge. I welcomed the chance to get some class 3 moves and tried to encourage Anne to join me, but being that she had only done a couple mountains, she wasn’t comfortable with it. It really wasn’t worth it as I had to drop down anyways because the ridges didn’t connect like I thought. There was a notch between them instead and I decided to take the next ridge to the summit while Anne followed the trail around the corner.

We finally reached the summit and it took us almost exactly four hours! Thank God, but it wasn’t as windy as we were expecting it to be at the summit. It’s funny how often that happens actually. You would think that’s where it would be the windiest as the wind has free range to roam, but for some reason, it’s not the case. We found a calm place to sit and enjoyed the delicious cookies Anne had made from scratch.

Nearly a half hour later, we started our descent and soon after ran into Brian and Dave who were also getting incredibly annoyed by the wind. We encouraged them that they were almost there and that we’d see them at the bottom. Along the way down, I didn’t navigate correctly, and passed the ridge that would lead us back to Point 13,936. Instead of re-climbing, we headed around the side of the mountain and found ourselves back on a path for a brief moment until that too disappeared. While on the ridge, we couldn’t decide whether we should gradually drop down, or stay up high. For those of you wanting to hike this route- stay up high! We had to climb back up to avoid the long wrap around the mountain that lead back to the “trail”. As tempting as it is, don’t head towards the saddle down below either- you’ll drop too far and you’ll have to climb back up.

Me walking on the ledge towards Point 13,936.

Me walking on the ledge towards Point 13,936.

Thankfully, it’s easier to spot trails from higher up and we could see a better way to get down the giant hill. There’s actually a trail almost the entire way, but it’s hard to spot. You’ll head straight back down the hill with a slight weave to the saddle. Don’t cut to the left on the way up like we did- just take the hill straight up/down. Along the way Anne and I stopped and made another cairn to mark the trail and then again made another, larger cairn. We were purposely trying to kill time as we knew Dave and Brian would be down much later than us. At the bottom of the large hill we made another even larger cairn, and an arrow at the start of the saddle. Even after all that, and another long stop to snack and hydrate, we still couldn’t see Dave or Brian even starting the descent of the large hill.

We carried on down the steep gully surfing on the scree and got lost in the meadow a time thinking that we had forgotten to cross over – but we didn’t. As we got closer to the forest, we couldn’t help but stop over a dozen times to take pictures of the glowing Aspen trees. It was now 3pm and the lighting was beautiful and there were these amazing dead, twisted trees. We felt like we were in an enchanted place; one you dream of being in as a child.

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As we made our way in the forest we realized how tired our bodies were getting. It had been nearly 8 hours of hiking at this point, and our feet were getting very achy. To my delight, my right foot was actually holding up great! Not quite soon enough we finally exited the forest and were finally back at the road. We sat there for a while resting our feet and looking at our photos, and decided that if a truck was coming down, we’d ask for another ride from someone else. We were getting huuungry!

To our luck, one came and we stopped and asked a couple in a white rental Jeep who had two empty seats. I think they were a little surprised, but with little reluctance agreed to give us a ride back down. Their names were Leon and Diane and had moved to Castle Rock not too long ago. They were such a lovely couple and so open to sharing their story with us. I got a kick out of their accents too as they had moved from Atlanta, Georgia and wouldn’t you know it, they got a kick out of mine too.

Soon we arrived back at Anne’s SUV, but the ride could have gone longer because we were enjoying each other’s company so much! Anne and I decided to grab dinner together in Salida, but first I had to stop and pack up my tent. As I approached the grassy small field, my stomach dropped- my tent was gone! Who would steal someone’s tent?! Anne pulled in behind me and we both drew into a panic. Then I remembered it was windy that day and that it could have blown into the ditch. I hadn’t been using my stakes because they had gotten so badly bent and my mallet was lost in the Chicago Basin somewhere.

Sure enough, it was in the ditch! I deflated my mattress, pulled the poles and with everything still inside, I balled it up and threw it in my car. I mean, what was the point of putting it away nicely. I was just going to set it back up again in a couple hours! Anne and I headed to Salida and decided to go to Rivers Edge which was an awesome restaurant. It had a giant welcoming patio with comfy couches and fire pits to keep us warm in the increasingly fall like weather. We both had a juicy burger with truffle fries and tons of water. We hugged and parted ways, promising to stay in touch and I knew I had a new friend and one that was willing to help me out any way she could. God is good, all the time He is good.

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#43 Pikes Peak: September 12th, 2015

Pikes Peak

  • Height: 14,110 ft.
  • Range: Front Range
  • Route: Northwest Slopes from Crags Campground
  • Distance: 14 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 4,300 ft.
  • Time started: 9:30am
  • End time: 5:00pm
  • Time to Summit: 3 hours and 30 minutes
  • Time to Descent: 3 hours
  • GEAR (to bring):
    • MONEY! (for a treat at the top), GPS, extra socks, phone, SPOT Satellite Tracker, Map, Topo Map from 14ers.com, hiking boots with 2 pairs of socks on, long-sleeve, wind-guard/raincoat, light weight puffy coat, lightweight gloves, day pack with water sack (64 oz or more), snacks.
  • Road Condition: The road is typical with small pot holes and some rocks, but overall it’s a very nice dirt road.
  • Trail Condition: The trail is in great condition overall. No snow and no wet spots. The trial is fairly well marked (watch for that first trail junction) and you shouldn’t worry about getting lost. Coming down, the dirt path on the last large hill before the forest is very slippery because of the pebbles on the hard dirt. I slipped and fell 5 times!

 

After a night at Alix’s house, I stayed the next night at a beautiful hotel with a wonderful hot breakfast thanks to a reader of this blog! I can’t express how blessed I feel and how grateful I am for everyone’s support! To have not only my family, but the support of my friend Alix to take part in my journey and for all the wonderful strangers who have sent me notes of encouragement- you made this possible! I have always been a person who does well with starting risky things, but it never comes to fruition unless I have someone who believes in me. I’m sad to say that hasn’t always been the case, so thank you.

That day, I had the most perfect off day possible. It started with shower and a hot breakfast. I then got to venture to The Garden of the Gods which I’ve been thinking about since I arrived in Colorado. I was only wishing Alix was there with me so we could scramble on the rocks together. Unlike the last time, there were people climbing the tall, skinny, orange rocks. I looked at them in awe as others did, dreaming about how someday that could be me. Someday, I will learn how to use ropes.

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After my mini adventure, I headed to Crags Campground and found a great place to camp for free. It was the first time I got to set up my tent with my three favorites: my blowup mattress, Therma Pad, and new warmer sleeping bag. It had been a long time since I had arrived to my destination with daylight to burn. I walked around nearby and gathered firewood and for the first time since climbing Capitol, I made a campfire. I couldn’t have asked for a better day, and I slept even better. It was so cold, that I needed my extra blanket in addition to everything else and so cold, that there was frost on my car windshield! My blanket and tent were soaked with condensation from the contrast of my body temperature and outside temperatures.

 

 Thank goodness Alix woke me up at 8:30am that morning and I’m not sure I would have climbed that day if it hadn’t been for her being there. I was just sleeping so hard and good that I didn’t want it to end. I wasn’t sure what time she was going to arrive, and apparently she didn’t get there until eleven when I was already fast asleep.

We started on the trail at a late 9:30am, but knew we had a perfect weather for hiking. I was feeling much better than I had felt on Crestone Needle, but I forgot to take my cold medicine, so I was coughing up a lung- often. Regardless, I was just happy that I was feeling stronger. I felt so incredibly weak when I hiked Crestone Needle, looking back, I can’t believe I kept going.

Pikes Peak was going to be better though. Alix and I just knew it was going to be a great experience, and we were right. We hadn’t hiked something this easy since Handies Peak weeks ago and while we were hiking fast, we took the time to take plenty of pictures and had fun with it. We were cracking jokes about the unnecessary cairns on the obvious trail, singing and even dancing a little.

 

Along our way, a man questioned, “Are you the blogger?” and I excitedly answered, “Yes!”  I think God crossed our paths because he had just climbed Longs Peak not that long ago. A fourteener that scared me because of the extreme winds and caused me to turn back when I tried to climb it when I lived in Colorado five years ago. He told me not to be afraid and that it was very temporary. I thanked Michael for his wisdom and we parted ways.

Once we reached the summit, we immediately headed towards the shop. It’s the only shop on top of a fourteener and is well known for its donuts. We grabbed a seat and with happy hearts both of us grabbed a famous doughnut and a french vanilla cappuccino. We looked around us and I said, “Look at all these hard working hikers!” and laughed. It was a great setting for people watching. There were old people, babies, kids, bikers and people of all shapes, sizes and abilities. It was neat to think that anyone could experience the joyous views a fourteener has to offer; but not everyone would experience the feeling of accomplishment that one experiences from climbing one.

We took a full hour eating and exploring the summit. On the other side of the summit, a red cog whistled for its passengers to board and people were cheering for hikers as they summitted. There was a race that day fundraising for brain injuries. I hiked along with a family the last 50 feet talking with them. All the sudden I was getting pictures taken of me and being offered a medal. “I didn’t do the race! I don’t deserve one of these!” I laughed. I then told them I climbed 43 different mountains and asked if that qualified for a medal, and they agreed… which leaves me with a thought, what will I leave with to commemorate this journey? A tattoo? All 55 patches? I don’t know… and how will I celebrate my 55th climb? I don’t know… but I do know a hot spring will be calling my name!

Alix and I listened to music the whole way down and as we reached the second large hill leading to the forest, I slipped and fell- five times! I looked at the soles of my boots and realized that somehow they were already getting very warn out. It was time for another new pair!?  I never did like my hiking boots, and I was thankful that I was a member at REI and could trade them for a different pair. If you’re not a member I strongly recommend it.

Once we reached our cars, I found a note from Michael on my car and it really blessed us, and I felt so humbled and honored to think that I was an inspiration to this man. Alix helped me pack up my tent and we said our sad goodbyes. While she was visiting Lake City last week, Lucky, the hostel owner offered Alix a job and she accepted! I was really excited for her, but sad that I was losing my hiking companion. I hope we can at least climb one more together… hopefully, my last one.

Pikes 30

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#40 Little Bear Peak: September 4th, 2015

Little Bear Peak

  • Little Bear Peak Height: 14,037 ft.
  • Range: Sangre de Cristo
  • Little Bear Peak Route: West Ridge and Southwest Face
  • Distance (Lake Como to Little Bear RT): 4 mi.
  • Distance (Lake Como to 8,000): 5.5 mi.
  • Elevation Gain (from Lake Como): 2,300 ft.
  • Time started (to Little Bear): 7:30am
  • End time (Lake Como): 2:00pm
  • Time started (@ Lake Como): 2:40pm
  • End time (8,000 ft.): 5:00pm
  • Time to Summit Little Bear Peak from Como Lake: 3 hours and 45 min.
  • Time to Descend Little Bear Peak to 8,000 feet: 5 hours and 5 minutes (minus time to take down tent)
  • Overall Pace: .6 miles per hour while on Little Bear; 2.3 miles per hour to 8,000 ft.
  • GEAR (to bring):
    • Bear spray, helmet, water purifier, first aid kit, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, headlamp, flashlight, toilet paper, GPS, extra batteries, extra socks, phone, SPOT Satellite Tracker, Map, Topo Map from 14ers.com, hiking boots with 2 pairs of socks on, extra change of clothes, wear a tank top, long-sleeve, wind-guard/raincoat, light weight puffy coat, lightweight gloves, overnight pack with water sack and extra water (160oz), food for two full days (large bag of jerky, large bag of trailsmix, 4 protein bars, and 4 granola bars).
  • Road Condition: The directions from 14ers.com is correct in that a sedan will only make it to 8,000 feet or slightly further. We saw one Jeep make it all the way to Como Lake- which was mind boggling.
  • Trail Condition: 8,000 to Como Lake: You’ll be on the road the entire time. The road mixes between dirt areas where it’s easier to walk, but mostly river rock and boulders. Eyes on the ground mostly to watch your step. Como Lake to Little Bear: You’re on a nice road for a short time, then upon exiting the forest, the trail for Little Bear is to your right. The first scree field is not fun, and you’ll slip and slide and it’s loooong. When returning, make sure you go far enough because there are other notches that look similar, but as I found out it had a huge cliff (wrong one). The trail is marked nicely with cairns, and follow it- even though you have to go back down. We tried to stay high on the ridge to avoid elevation regain, but had to go down anyways. Follow the directions as listed on 14ers.com. The “Hour Glass” is fine. Let one person go up in sections at a time to avoid getting clunked in the head. As of now, the ropes in my opinion were in great condition and I used them the whole way down. Once you get out of the “Hour Glass” you can go up left or right- either way will have scree and will be very steep with loose rock and will require pulling yourself up.

After a sound night of sleep, Alix and I woke up at 4:30am to start our hike for Little Bear Peak. I wanted to get an early start to beat everyone else so we wouldn’t have to worry about rocks hitting us on the head, killing us. It was a huge reason there were so many deaths on that mountain. But once we looked at the directions more, we decided it was best to wait for the sun to rise so we could see our surroundings perfectly. Luckily, we were the only ones climbing Little Bear that Friday which completely surprised me being a holiday weekend.

Alix and I headed out at 7:30am in the morning sun and started our way up the 600 foot gully. There was no easing into this hike. It was only 3 miles long, but there was a lot to be done during those three miles. I predicted it taking us four or five hours. It ended up taking us six and a half! The more technical, the slower the average pace. Little Bear would be my slowest moving mountain out of the forty I had now done this summer. The gully was like most gullies, extremely slippery, lots of sliding, and time consuming. Alix and I always climbed on opposite sides to limit the chance of rocks being kicked out on each other. I was still having stomach problems, so Alix was again always ahead of me.

The view on the other side of the gully.

The view on the other side of the gully.

Once reaching the top of the gully, we followed an easy path about 50-100 feet below the ridge line. The path continued to drop in elevation, and because I was still feeling weak and depleted, I stayed higher in the higher class moves to avoid having to regain elevation. Alix soon caught on and as the path dropped further, we decided from that point on to climb the ridge which turned into a rich, class 4 climb. I would have thought that my experience on Mount Eolus would have scared me, but it did just the opposite. It gave me more confidence to climb the highly exposed rock. It also helped tremendously to have Alix there and leading the way. Being her first class 4, I was surprised, impressed, and proud she was so willing to lead!

I was definitely doing my most dangerous climbing thus far, and I felt okay. Not great, but okay. Eventually we were getting close to the end of the ridge and approaching the actual mountain. As I stared at it, I couldn’t see a route for us to take. The rock was too smooth. As we read the directions, we figured out that we were 100 feet above and a ridge over from the infamous “Hour Glass”. We made the decision to drop down to the “Hour Glass” because we knew what to expect there, but not ahead of us. It could get to be too dangerous and would take a long time to backtrack.

It was slightly dangerous climbing our way down to the scree field below, but eventually we made our way to the Hour Glass and were a little surprised that people were so intimidated by it. There were ropes there to help, but Alix didn’t use it at all on the way up, and I only used it briefly. The ropes seemed to be in great condition; there were a couple of knots near the bottom, but overall, not bad at all. Alix and I divided it into two sections. She climbed the first section and would yell to me to start. She’d then wait until I had arrived and we did the same for the next section.

When we got to the top of the Hour Glass, I went left, and Alix went right. The directions said you could go either way, so to eliminate any chance of rockfall on each other we split. It wasn’t far to the summit, but there was a lot of loose rock to overcome. I then came to some smooth rock under a small cliff and as it intersected with another I did some difficult class 4 moves to overcome it. After that, it was easy to reach the summit. We couldn’t believe upon reflection that it had taken us 4 hours to climb up 1.82 miles! The views were beautiful and as we looked at the traverse to Blanca, we were thinking new thoughts, “We could totally do that”. What seemed impossible, seemed more attainable because we pushed ourselves to a new limit. Much like in life. I rested for a while hoping for some kind of revival. I still wasn’t feeling to great.

As we headed back down, we agreed that we would follow the route described by 14ers.com the whole way back. We were simply ready to get off the mountain because we knew we still had 7.5 miles left to hike to our cars. When we came back to the Hour Glass, I decided to have some fun with the ropes. I used them the entire way down and had a blast! I really, really want to learn how to belay and start doing outdoor climbing. I feel like I’m just getting started in opening up my sports repertoire! I still want to learn to boulder and kayak rivers, and Paddleboard more!

As we continued I was started to feel better and was feeling more like my bubbly self which made the time go by so much faster while we had to regain elevation to the initial gully. We thought we had finally arrived at the gully, and as I started down first, I realized it was the wrong one because I was met with a cliff below me. We went down another quarter of a mile and found another gully. This was the right gully. I would consider this part my area of expertise because once again, I flew down the gully. When I was at the bottom, Alix still had half way to go.

It only took us 40 minutes to take down our tent and repack our bags. Near our tent, we found Mark’s business card left behind and I was relieved that he had made it down safely from Blanca. While getting ready to go, a couple stopped over to talk with us. Their Jeep had made it the entire way which absolutely blew me and Alix’s minds. We were wishing for a ride back down. My shoulders now had horrible knots in them which gave me headaches and I was not looking forward to the journey back to our cars.

Somehow I could fit my sleeping bag in the main part of the pack which made a huge difference! As we headed down, we were passed by two men who Alix noticed smelt of weed. They also happened to be the men who were blowing a Viking’s horn the whole morning. Why? I have no idea. They weren’t very social- moooore paranoid than anything…

I still had a bad stomach ache so Alix put on music to distract me. Unfortunately, I was trying to go as fast as I could towards the end so I could lay down, but Alix’s pinky toes were hurting badly so she had to slow down. Eventually we both made our way to our car and behind us was a dark black cloud hovering the mountain we just came from. It looked so ominous and we were happy we were leaving and I was more than ready for a day off to hopefully regain some strength and get a hold of my stomach cramps.

 

#26 Capitol Peak: August 17th, 2015

Capitol Peak

  • Height: 14,130 ft.
  • Range: Elk Range
  • Route: Northeast Ridge from Capitol Lake
  • Distance: 20-21 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 5,300 ft.
  • Time started: 5:00am
  • End time: 5:45pm
  • Time to Summit: 7 hours and 20 minutes
  • Time to Descent: 5 hours and 25 minutes
  • Overall Pace: 1.5 miles per hour
  • GEAR (to bring):
    • Helmet, bear spray, GPS, extra socks, phone, SPOT Satellite Tracker, Map, Topo Map from 14ers.com, hiking boots with 2 pairs of socks on, long-sleeve, wind-guard/raincoat, light weight puffy coat (didn’t need), lightweight gloves (didn’t need), day pack with water sack, snacks.
  • Road Condition: The road is rough with typical pot holes and pointy rocks, but my sedan was able to make it all the way to the trailhead.
  • Trail Condition: The trail through the woods is great (minus all the poop)- until it rains, then it becomes really bad mud- not fun. Also, THERE ARE COWS ON THE TRAIL! Don’t confuse them for bears like I did. The trek through the meadows and all the way to the lake are straight forward. There is a confusing part about crossing Capitol Creek, but I outlined directions below with pictures. The backside of the mountain is all large boulders and some snow until you get to K2, then the real fun begins (class 3 and 4 climbing). Here, I did get scared (not frozen, just deeply focused).

The day climbing Maroon Peak was an emotional roller coaster. The high obviously being that I conquered Maroon Peak. The low being, well, too many things. I received a message that I would no longer be seeing or hiking with a certain someone who I grew to care about a lot in a short amount of time. When I got back from blogging that night in the town of Aspen, I came back to find a note on my tent to move immediately or they’d take everything. The park rangers were actually very kind that they didn’t take everything right then and there, but with the recent news, I just felt that much more horrible and poor. I didn’t even take everything apart. I just threw everything in my car and looked for a safe place I could sleep. I still wanted to do Pyramid the next day despite wanting to crawl in a hole, so I found a place near the trailhead in the park. I wasn’t supposed to be sleeping in my car, but I didn’t want to drive all the way back into town either. It was already very late. I slept absolutely terrible that night because my blanket and pillow were still stuffed in my tent. The next morning I felt absolutely drained and my knees and quads were screaming at me from the day before. I just wanted to get out of that area and to a place of solitude, where camping wherever, wouldn’t be an issue.

I decided I’d stay on track and do Capitol Peak, my first class 4 mountain. I was thrilled when I made it all the way to the trailhead. I didn’t think my car was going to make it, so originally, because of the distance I was going to split it into a two day hike. Now with it only being 17 miles, I decided I’d do it in one day, and set up my tent at the trailhead instead. There was a beautiful spot open with the best view of Capitol Peak, the only drawback was that it smelled like poop. It was a popular trail for horses to go on, and my campsite was a great place to stop to take in the view.

Capitol 6

I spent the entire afternoon foam rolling my aching muscles, catching up on writing about my recent hikes, and talking to a sweet older woman from Taiwan who was waiting for her family to return. It was a beautiful day with scattered thunderstorms and I was really enjoying my time in my tent. After realizing how many nights I had slept in my car, and realized how much joy it was sucking from my journey and made the effort to relax as much as I could including gathering firewood so I could have an entrancing campfire.

Late evening, it was apparent I was the only one who was going to be sleeping at the trailhead. Everyone else was doing different day hikes, or making Capitol Peak into an overnight hike. Around 7pm, a couple pulled in and I invited them to come join my fire once I had it going. Not having a phone, the news on Saturday, and seeing so many happy groups of people made me feel so lonely. Right as I was going to head in for the night, Justin walked up with firewood and Stephanie soon after. We had an amazing conversation about life, and all the adventures we were fortunate to have. They had been on so many trips together to exotic places right here in the US that had me drooling. They were inspiring, and it was pretty neat that they could think the same about me.

Capitol 36

I was hoping that I’d get started around 4am, but I didn’t take my first steps on the trail until 5am. It was still very dark outside which still blows my mind that it was only a month and a half ago that the sunrise would only just be on its way. I reached my first small meadow and out of the corner of my eye I saw eyes staring back at me. I froze. The eyes were too far apart, and the bodies were too large to be deer… “It has to be a bear!” I thought. With every flashlight I had, I tried to get a better look at what I was seeing without getting any closer. My heart was beating outside my chest, and I was holding my breath. I still couldn’t see what it was. I started to back away slowly, and when I turned my light to the other side of the trail I saw more eyes staring back at me. I thought, “Okay, bears don’t hang out like this on a regular basis…” so I got closer to the animals than the first time and saw large ears- they were cows! They scared the crap out of me!

 

I walked past them and into a forest only to enter another field of more cows. This was the first time I had ever been so close to them. I didn’t know how they would respond to me, so I kept my head down, talked calmly and they skittishly would run away from me. I was scared they were going to charge after me and the demon marked cow didn’t help my fears. I headed further up the trail and checked my directions. I was so caught up in watching the cows and sunrise that I thought I missed the elevation marker for making a turn down a different trail. Not again!! I ran all the way back to the first meadow, but never saw a junction. I was pissed. Once again, what was supposed to be the easiest part of the trail was giving me thoughts to turn around and go back to my tent.

Upon further dissection of the directions, I realized I ran back for nothing. I had never reached the point of the junction. Although I was at the right elevation, it was when I would hit that elevation a second time that I would find the junction. Dang it, dang it, dang it!! I added about two extra miles to what was already a 17 mile hike!!

Finally I reached the right junction that would meet up with the Capitol Creek Trail, which by the way, is somewhere between 4-5 miles into the hike. I really wish 14ers.com’s directions would be bullet points, and the elevation as well as what mile under the pictures. Can we make that happen?!

Just after the junction you’ll come to Capitol Creek and there is no easy way to cross it, but I’ll try to talk you through it with pictures. Follow the creek up just past the first group of pine trees. There will now be two streams to cross, and the first one is now skinny enough to hop over. Then you’ll see flimsy branches put across the wider portion of the creek. It’s short, but takes balance. I couldn’t believe with my ankles that I didn’t fall in.

Once past the creek, the scenery is beautiful! As I was walking through a forest, I noticed a very herby smell. As I looked around me, I discovered wild Parsley! It smelled so wonderful… I hope you find it too when you hike! The directions and trail are pretty straight forward until you get out of tree line and start heading towards the lake. You’ll see a sign for either the lake or following a trail- TAKE NEITHER! You actually just went too far. Turn around, go back about 50 feet, and you’ll see a large rock next to a bunch of junctions. Take the one that goes to the left. Hopefully my pictures help!

Near this giant rock by the sign pointing out campsites 5-8, go LEFT.

Near this giant rock by the sign pointing out campsites 5-8, go LEFT. The foothill to climb is also pictured to the left.

The flowers up the hillside were breathtaking and it wasn’t long before I was at the ridge. On the other side of the ridge, the landscape is really different! All scree, talus rocks and boulders with a pretty turquoise lake in the near distance. Almost right away, I was challenged by crossing a gully and had to use class 4 moves in order to avoid dropping and regaining elevation. From there, for a good couple hours you’ll boulder hop which I really like to do, but it would have been even more fun if my ankles were stronger. I could now tell I wasn’t going to need all the water I brought with me, so I put left my Gatorade by a cairn to lighten my load. Along the way I had to walk through the snow a couple times, but it was never long enough to need my yak tracks.

I ran into a place of shelter that was created by another hiker and took note of where it was just in case I would need it. Because I backtracked for close to an hour, and it because it took longer to get to the lake than anticipated, I knew I was in danger of encountering a storm. Just as I had reached the portion of the hike where I would be climbing over K2 (a 13er), I ran into four people coming back from climbing Capitol. I asked them how scary it was, and they shrugged it off as no big deal. Maroon turned out to not be a big deal, so I felt like it could be the same scenario for the infamous “Knife Edge”.

Climbing over K2 took mostly class 3 moves, and getting down on the other side was a interesting. Every step was chosen with care and I had to stretch my body as long as possible to reach the ground safely below me. I had my helmet on, and I was glad. From this point on, I was on the border between being thrilled and being scared. Unfortunately, I never found anyone along the way to climb this mountain with, and I knew I was taking a risk by continuing, but having my Spot Check gave me the confidence to continue.

The rest of the way all of my focus and energy went to testing rock, finding the way with the least exposure, and spotting cairns. In my eyes, there were actually two “Knife Edges”. The first was very short, but I straddled it across, never feeling safe enough to stand. I actually do have a slight fear of heights, and it was showing. Despite leaving water behind to lighten my pack, I still felt like it was heavy, getting in the way, and throwing me off balance.

Soon it came time to cross the longer “Knife Edge”. My breathing was irregular, and I could feel the nerves arising. Before I could give it much thought, I began my journey across and it was a mixture of scooting, and then switching to walk on a slightly lower edge. The rock thankfully is solid and you don’t have to worry about it breaking off. I was very happy to make it to the other side safely, and was now mentally prepared to do it again on the way back.

Not long after crossing the “Knife Edge” I decided to lose my pack, which meant I’d be without water. I figured it was only a couple of hours tops, and it could be the difference between me falling or not. I connected my Spot Check to the inside of my shirt, and headed off.

Thinking back on climbing the next part, makes my knees weak. In the moment, there’s no room for fear. You don’t allow yourself to think about the what-ifs. You just think about where your foot and hand needs to go next, and where the next cairn is. It was a mixture of thrill and fear and I could imagine myself being nauseous from thoughts of “I can’t believe I did that” and the adrenaline. I could see that there were three hikers on the summit, and I was hoping that they’d still be there so I could at least follow them down, but I never saw them again until I caught up with them at the lake.

Luckily my foot never slipped, and God guided every step to the summit. Although the men were no longer there to greet me, something else was, and I was petrified of it. A very ugly group of storm clouds were just a couple miles away from me. I wanted to cry, and thought, “this is the end”, but the fight in me overcame my fears and I quickly started making my way down far faster than the time it took me to go up the technical part. I was praying constantly for God to spare me and for Him to withhold the storm. This wasn’t a situation I could control by running down the side of the mountain. Any other way then what I came was death by fall. It was in His hands.

I couldn’t believe it, but the storm which was originally headed straight for me, diverted its way over Snowmass Mountain. I continued to make my way down as I watched heavy rain fall from the clouds and the thunder rumbled. I found my pack, and made my way back towards the “Knife Edge”. Nothing ever feels the same when you’re coming back down. I had to figure out a route across the jagged ridge once again, and soon found myself back at K2.

The directions said that going around the backside of K2 would be easier than climbing over it, so with their advice, I started my way to the back (where you can see Capitol Lake). My advice to you: CLIMB OVER K2. The backside is vertical climbing down, and slippery with scree, and then you have to regain the elevation on slippery scree. Instead of following the trail all the way down, about half way I cut across using class 4 moves on a skinny ledge, but found it easier than fumbling through the scree.

I was now back in the giant boulder hopping field and my ankles were already done for the day. I slipped many times and got a few bumps, bruises and gashes because of it. At least I was falling where there was no exposure, I guess. The sun was now out and it was warm and pleasant. I took a moment to lie down on the large boulders to soak in the warmth while fueling myself for the next couple hours. It was so peaceful. It was as if the threat of the storm had never happened.

Arriving at the gully near the ridge where you climb to the front side of the mountain was a fun area. Follow the cairns, and then go all the way up. Trying to go through the two gullies at midpoint leaves you exposed and stuck. The trail is actually obvious, but I didn’t remember it, so I didn’t trust it.

On the other side of the ridge back towards Capitol Lake, I was once again met with the sight of another dark ominous storm. This one, I knew was going to hit me. I zigzagged down the hillside as fast as I could again praying the whole way down. Fortunately, the tree line isn’t too far off once you’re off the hillside. Just as I made it into the first solid forest, and sat down to empty rocks out of my shoes, hail started to fall with the force of a meteor storm. They were small, but painful and I found shelter under a pine tree. Loud zaps and claps of thunder sounded all around me and soon the path was white with miniature snowballs.

The storm lasted about 10 minutes and at first the snow helped level the path and gave me some traction. However, very soon after, the hail started to melt and I was left to carry on in mud the whole way back. It was miserable. It slowed me down and I couldn’t trail run back to my tent like I intended. The cow poop that was everywhere was now mixed in the mud and unavoidable. At least the cows were entertaining and I was much more comfortable being around them. I wished I had been prepared to climb the mountain earlier in the year so I could see the calves at a baby stage.

I was now around 17 miles into my hike and still wasn’t back yet (because I thought I was lost). The cows were now roaming even through the aspen forest and one started to follow me for a while and freaked me out. I thought, “Sure I’m not going to die from falling, or getting struck by lightning, but by getting pummeled by a cow.” I yelled at it, and it looked at me confused and wandered back into the forest. Phew.

The last two miles were the longest… I thought I was almost back so many times, but Capitol Peak wasn’t shrinking fast enough. My hips and feet were now very sore, but I could now finally see parked cars through the woods. I had walked nearly 21 miles that day, and it took me 12 and a half hours. I was wishing I had split it up and couldn’t wait to climb into my tent to go to sleep.

Unfortunately when I got back, I found my campsite had been invaded by people and their horses. I couldn’t believe it. It was the rudest thing I had ever encountered! My car windows were smudged from a horses slobber, my tent had hoof marks all over it, my campfire pit was destroyed and worst of all, there was poop on all sides of my tent. It was as if they were mad at me for putting my tent up where they usually do their scenic overlook. Whoever you are, you disgust me. Too tired to take my tent down, I went to bed around 7pm that same night and slept hard even with the smell of poo.

 

#24 Missouri Mountain, August 13th, 2015

Missouri Mountain

  • Height: 14,067 ft.
  • Range: Sawatch Range
  • Route: Northwest Ridge from Missouri Gulch
  • Distance: 10.5 mi.
  • Elevation Gain: 4,500 ft.
  • Time started: 9:10am
  • End time: 3:15pm
  • Time to Summit: 3 hours and 20 minutes
  • Time to Descent: 2 hours and 45 minutes
  • Overall Pace: 1.7 miles per hour
  • GEAR (to bring):
    • GPS, extra socks, phone, SPOT Satellite Tracker, Map, Topo Map from 14ers.com, hiking boots with 2 pairs of socks on, long-sleeve, wind-guard/raincoat, light weight puffy coat (didn’t need), lightweight gloves (didn’t need), day pack with water sack, snacks.
  • Road Condition: Pretty standard dirt road with a fair share of potholes after you hit the ranch. A sedan should have no problem making it to the trailhead.
  • Trail Condition: The trail is easy to navigate through the forest. It gets wet and muddy near the first creek crossing, but it’s not bad. Don’t miss the first junction at the base of Mt. Belford. Make sure you go right. Everyone complains how bad the scree is once you’re on the mountain, but in my personal opinion, it’s not that bad at all. There’s a nasty part of the trail that is quite slippery on the backside of the ridge, near the summit. Make sure you have shoes with good grip, and stay close to the rocks for support.

The previous evening I had been up to 11pm climbing Princeton, so the next morning I didn’t get up until 8:30am. It was going to be a late start, but doing the math, I thought I could still make it up to the summit safely without dealing with storms. I promised myself that I wouldn’t push myself so hard on this hike, and I wouldn’t let myself get caught up in keeping a certain pace. When I arrived to the trailhead parking lot, I even allowed myself the time to make a coffee before I headed out.

This time I took the switchbacks through the forest very slowly and at much more comfortable pace. Even so, I still had to use my inhaler to make it all the way to the abandoned log cabin. It was a hot, sunny morning which I usually pray for on a regular basis, but when you’re hiking, a nice cool morning with clouds to offer shade is much more appreciated. I made my way into the meadow and could now identify Mt. Belford and Missouri Mountain even further in the distance.

I couldn’t see any hikers zigzagging up Belford like a human highway like before, and suddenly felt very alone. On Mount Princeton, for once I liked being the only one out on the mountain. But starting a late hike, and not seeing any other hikers is kind of eerie. Finally, I ran into a couple with their dog, but they were heading overnight further up the valley. Darn it. A little further up, a woman hiker by herself was heading back from the summit of Missouri. It was 11am at this point, and I had just about come to the next junction that would steeply climb up the side of the mountain. I asked her how long it would take to arrive at the summit and she estimated two and a half hours, but also dependent on my pace.

My goal was to reach the summit by noon of course taking the forming clouds into consideration. My legs were still burning pretty badly from the night before, and my throat was still sensitive. Slowly I made my way up through the boulders and thin paths of scree along the side of the mountain. Everyone warned me how bad it was, but seriously- until you’ve done Mount Columbia- everything else seems to be a piece of cake.

Despite my problems with Missouri in the past, I really like Missouri. It seems to be bad luck for storms, but the hike is very scenic and pretty. A lot of the wild flowers from a couple weeks ago unfortunately had already died off since it had been fairly dry and I missed seeing them. As I continued up the steep trail to the ridge of Missouri I spotted another climber. “Yes!” I thought, “I’m not alone!” The trail was fairly easy to follow and despite appearances, the ridge on the top is actually quite wide. I had done most of the elevation gain at that point and was trying to pick up speed because I could now see some puffy clouds that looked a little sketchy.

I came to a halt at a point along the ridge. I didn’t remember reading about this area in the 14ers.com directions, but it was a very slippery area with a steep decline that lead to a cliff. It was actually pretty dangerous and I second guessed 14ers.com’s classification of Missouri only being a class 2. I had worn my old hiking boots because they were more comfortable, but they also had no grip left. I was clinging to the rocks beside me, my heartrate raised, and slowly I made my way across and up to the summit. I quickly took a selfie, not wanting to waste time to set up my tripod, took my panoramic photos and started back down quickly. I didn’t like the clouds that were headed my way.

I couldn’t believe it, but there were three hikers coming up behind me a couple hundred feet back! When I crossed paths with them, I warned them to watch out for the clouds coming. They remarked they didn’t think they were going to do anything. I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to risk it and stick around. As I made my way along the ridge I could still see them hanging out on the summit! I said a quick prayer for them and I continued my way back down as quickly as possible.

It took me exactly two and a half hours to get down and back to where I had run into that woman previously. As I gazed up at the mountain walking, the puffy cloud had now turned into an ominous huge cloud and I could feel a couple sprinkles falling on my cheeks. As I gazed, I slipped off trail and POP. There went my ankle again. It hurt for a longer period of time this time, and I couldn’t help it, my eyes wallowed up with tears. Advice: Always look where you’re stepping.

Just as I made it back to the trees, CRACK went the thunder. It was as if God was with me, and had personally held up his hands to hold back the dangerous clouds until I had made it to safety. I was just praying that the people behind me were down and safe and that I wouldn’t be hearing about them in the news… a familiar story. I weaved my way back through the forest and started trail running until I had made it safely back to my car. I had done it- it took three attempts- but I had finally conquered Missouri Mountain.

The previous night, on my way back to my tent from Princeton, my car started making a very loud noise coming from my right, front tire. I got out to check it out, and my tire looked as bad as my other tire did when it popped on the top of Sherman. So after I climbed Missouri, I cleaned up my tent and darted for Buena Vista to get my two front tires changed. On my way there, about 8 miles away from town, whoop whoop whoop, clunk clunk clunk my tire popped.

I was also still without phone service to call AAA, so taking what I had learned from Mount Sherman, I started to change my own tire! At the point of taking off the bolts, I couldn’t make them budge. Not even my entire body weight could get them to move. Now I started to panic…”I need to flag someone down so I can make a phone call…” So embarrassing. Just as I thought that, an orange roadside assistance truck pulled up and two gentlemen hopped out and with a little muscle got the bolts to come off easy. God came through once again! I thanked them, and continued my way towards a tire store.

I arrived at “All Around Tires” at 4:45pm- 15 minutes before they closed. I told them the truth, that being, my car was my home. They didn’t even flinch. They had my tires changed and I was headed back to my tent within 20 minutes! I highly recommend them too! I have saved some miles on my legs pushing my car past its limit, but unless I want to fork over another $200, I really need to start backing off. The best advice I got that day, “Two things you should check: Check your oil and check your tires”.

Yes sir, I surely will be doing so! Thank you!

Miracle: The day I got my tires changed was the same day that my mom’s co-worker Judy, gave my mom $200 cash to give to me!! It was on her heart from God to give it to me- funny- it was just $3 more than the cost of my tires. GOD IS ALIVE AND PROVIDING! 

#21 Snowmass Mountain: August 6th, 2015

Snowmass Mountain

  • Height: 14,092 ft.
  • Range: Elk Range
  • Route: East Slopes
  • Distance: 23.25 mi.
  • Elevation Gain: 5,800 ft.
  • Time started: 3:10am
  • End time: 7:50pm
  • Time to Summit: 9 hours and 5 minutes
  • Time to Descent: 7 hours and 20 minutes
  • GEAR (to bring):
    • GPS, extra socks, phone, SPOT Satellite Tracker, Map, hiking boots with 2 pairs of socks on, long-sleeve, wind-guard/raincoat (didn’t need), light weight puffy coat (didn’t need), lightweight gloves (didn’t need), day pack with water sack, food, sunscreen, lip balm.
  • Road Condition: Easy and short dirt road to the main trailhead and there are some hidden campsites you can camp at as well.
  • Trail Condition: The trail is well marked for the most part. Once you get to Snowmass Lake, it’s easy to miss the proper trail.  I have taken pictures to help you along the way. Just stay near the water and in the willows. Once you’re above treeline, there’s also a dirt trail you can go up vs. bouldering straight through the large basin/gully. When you start nearing the steepest cliff like area, you’ll need to check each rock for your hands and feet as they are very loose.

I was originally going to climb the West Slopes because it was such a significantly shorter route, but upon reading the directions, I realized I’d be stuck on a road yet again for 13 miles and I’d only be saving 1 mile off my total distance. From where I was in Aspen, it was also only a 30 minute drive vs. having to drive another hour and a half to get to the other side of the mountain.

It was a nice easy ride to the trailhead. Not long after I pulled into my parking spot, a big black suburban pulled in next to me. As I started to pack and get ready for the next day, I started a conversation with the four men; Matt, Greg, Dave and his son Steven. They were from Kansas and had only been in for a day and were planning on re-hiking this mountain since last time, one of them had gotten hurt and couldn’t complete it. This gentleman, Dave, had climbed 52 of the 14ers and Snowmass would be number 53!

I asked them what time they were planning on leaving in the morning and they said 3am. I thought 4:30am was early as it was, but they reminded me of how long of a hike we were all headed in for. As I remarked on how I hate being in the dark that long, they offered to let me tag along with them. I didn’t want to intrude on their time, but at the same time, didn’t want to do this hike alone, so I set my alarm for 2:30am in the morning and slept the best I could for a few hours in my car.

We ended up leaving at 3:10am, and we were off to a really great pace! They really surprised me for only being in for a day! We were averaging 2.8 miles per hour. It was an extremely gradual climb to get to Snowmass Lake. It felt like we were in the dark forever, but Matt’s stories of all the other mountains they climbed made it entertaining. There was a great pond we had to cross over using a damn of old logs and soon we were following a lively creek up to the Snowmass Lake.

I had no idea what to expect when I arrived to Snowmass Lake. It took my breath away…It was massive, crystal clear and tropical aqua blue and the sun was hitting Snowmass Mountain perfectly. It was too bad that the water was so cold, it would have been nice to take a dip on the way down! We had gone 8 miles and stopped to eat and refill our water bottles and bags. These guys were really great about stopping often, rehydrating and refueling. Yes it probably made the hike a few hours longer than what I would have normally done, but it made it more enjoyable. They reminded me of a familiar quote, “It’s about the journey, not the destination”.

Matt had climbed the mountain before, and was only hiking with us to the lake. That left Greg, Dave and Steve and I to hike to the summit. It made me feel that much more comfortable and confident knowing they had climbed the mountain before. There were many paths just past the mouth of the lake and we took a route going higher into the mountains. Not too long after we headed that direction, we realized that we were going the wrong way. The 14ers.com directions had noted to stay close to the lake, but they didn’t specify exactly how close was close or which trail to take just past the lake. Once realizing our mistake we traveled off trail down the hillside and eventually found the right trail again.

Finally we had arrived at the base of Snowmass Mountain, and the real work would begin. We traveled up the boulder field following cairnes and climbing over boulders at first. Soon Steven realized that there was a dirt path leading up the far right side, near the creek. There was still some scree, but it took less of our energy. It was a long haul to the top. Nearing the top, you cross over and go into the dirt and grass. The trail is faint and fairly hard to keep track of through here. Climbing over the steepest part, we then made our way up a grassy open area where we could see the the actual summit of Snowmass Mountain.

The directions were pretty clear to follow and eventually we were now at the steepest part of our climb, up a short cliff side. There was a trail going up even through the cliff side, but we quickly realized it was going to be crucial to check our every step and hand grip because the rocks were loose. As I was climbing a lose rock the size of a basketball slipped down and trapped my foot. It hurt, and I couldn’t lift it off of me. Steven quickly came over and lifted it off with ease. Luckily I was fine and just had a tiny scratch on my leg.

The rest of the hike is what would classify the mountain as class 3. There was  more exposure, and as I mentioned, the rocks were loose. A couple of the guys had brought their helmets, but left them in the lower boulder field. It was dangerous, and a couple of times I got nervous, but it was doable. Especially with Steven and Dave leading the way as they had climbed it before. I wish I would have taken photos of this, but at this point my focus was on climbing and not falling.

Slowly and carefully we finally made it to the summit and it was a very small area, but the views were spectacular! It was a little chilly, and the guys were in a hurry to get off the summit. They knew we had a long way to go to get back to our cars. We had been climbing 9 hours at this point, but I was feeling fairly good. I was eating a lot more than I usually did going up, and I could tell it made a difference. I also think it helped my stomach ache go away. In the beginning of the hike I was taking swigs of my Pepto, but by the time we were heading back down, I was feeling much better.

It was a very complicated, slow decent from the ridge, and I was tired enough that I wanted to avoid any possibility of going down because we would have to regain it. Greg was leading me through, and as he took a turn around the corner and went down, I decided to follow another path that went up vs. down, and it lead me down a very steep gully. I thought Greg would be right on the other side, but I was completely separated. I didn’t feel comfortable going up, so I slowly made my way down the very steep gully clinging to the rocky wall. At the bottom, I poked my head around the corner and saw that I had magically caught up to Steven and Dave. I told them I got separated from Greg and after trying to yell for Greg multiple times, Steven ditched his pack and climbed back up the cliff to get him. I felt to bad! I should have never separated myself from him! Greg had gone back to look for me and was concerned that something had happened to me. I apologized profusely. I thought of the guy on Harvard who ditched his girlfriend. Greg hardly knew me and went back for me!

Snowmass 35

The way down was enjoyable and Greg and I got to know each other more. I shared with him why I was doing this trip, and how important God was to me and it opened up a beautiful conversation of honesty and depth. He assured me that I was everything I needed to be including beauty. I wish I could just see it myself… After slowly navigating the first long gully/basin, we were now taking the trail that closely followed the lake. We had missed it on the way to the summit, and I was almost happy we had. The whole way was lined with willows and whipped us and gashed Dave on the arm.

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We took another rest at the lake and refilled our water. I couldn’t believe how pure the water tasted. Dave decided to take off a little sooner than the rest of us anticipating that we would be faster than him, but Greg and I never saw Steven or Dave for the remainder of the hike. We tried to keep up a pace of 3 miles per hour, but our bodies were so sore and stiff at this point that even when we got a good pace going, Greg and I would have to stop to stretch.

My legs had never been so sore and tired and my feet hurt so bad. I could have jogged down the trail, but I felt bad leaving Greg alone, especially after he had helped me get to the top. Every mile than .1 mile I’d announce how much further we had to go to motivate us that we were making progress. Being in that much pain, I also knew that I’d be a focused on that if I were alone so I gladly stayed with Greg the whole way back to our vehicles! I laid in the parking lot massaging my feet while I borrowed my foam roller to Greg. I gave them my card to my blog, and wished them well on the rest of their weekend! They called me crazy, but wished me the best as well.

**Update: Dave and their other friend Dave successfully climbed Mount of the Holy Cross yesterday, making that their 54th peak! I tear up at the the emotion I’ll feel when I come to that moment in time. To the Glory and Will of God, it will be done!