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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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My Opportunity to Share My Story with 9News in Denver, CO

9News Story Link

My mom and I were concluding our wonderful time together celebrating my victory and were now getting ready to leave the next day, but I had this thought that kept circling in my head, “Should I call the news stations? Should I try to share my story??” The fear of rejection had kept me from calling since I had finished.. a fear that has held me back countless times in my life.

I decided I’d take the chance to prove to myself that I could work past my fears. After all, I had already done it so many times on this trip already. I knew it was better to keep rolling with my new found courage and “just try” as I had been doing and had said this entire trip.

As I nervously sat in the hotel lobby, I called the first news station and left a voicemail. My voice was undeniably shaky. I was so nervous about what to say…but by my third and fourth call my voice had found its strength and 9News on the spot asked if I could be featured as an exclusive on the largest news network in Colorado. I couldn’t believe it!! They actually cared!! They thought it was important! It just goes to show that God was once again by my side and even though I called multiple news stations, He opened the right doors for my story to be heard by as many people as possible in the state of Colorado!

Now I know it’s important to realize that even if I wasn’t contacted by a news station, that didn’t mean it wasn’t important, but I was floored that I was going to have the opportunity to share my story where it would be heard by thousands. All I wanted, more than anything was to inspire others and here was my chance.

I quickly walked down the hotel hall and burst open the door to tell my mom that I was actually going to be on the news!! Her play it safe reaction, surprised me. It was as if she and I both couldn’t let it sink in that this was actually going to happen.

We waited a couple hours for a reporter to call us and she arranged for us to meet Steve Staeger that very day! Now it was official- we had a place, a time and a date! Immediately we called my dad to tell him the news. He was also very even keeled about the appearance and was maybe a little disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to watch it since he was still in Minnesota.

I got ready the best I could with what little clothes I had and headed to Golden where we would be taping. Normally in an instance such as this I know in the past I would have drove myself absolutely mad to get as thin as possible for something as huge as this. I’d be completely consumed with looking “fat” and afraid of people’s judgments. I’d also make sure my nails were manicured, my makeup was perfect and my hair was freshly highlighted- but there was no time for any of this. But instead of shutting down or driving myself crazy, I simply accepted myself for what I was, and focused on the grand picture. “This isn’t even about me, this about being a light and hope to others! This is my moment to honor God! This is what today is about!”

As we pulled up around the corner I could see the 9News truck and the set. I couldn’t believe it was set up for little ol’ me! It was such a surreal moment in my life.

Steve Staeger came to greet me along with the camera man (who I regrettably cannot remember his name). They were so cheerful and kind. I took a seat in the director chair and they hooked me up with the mic. I was ready, and surprisingly not very nervous.

They asked me a series of questions and I did my best to be as concise as possible. Afterwards we talked more about how they were even inspired to climb the mountains! They assured me it would be on the 9 and 10pm news that night, wished me well and just like that, it was over.

That night my mom and I snuggled up in our beds hours before the newscast just to be sure we wouldn’t miss a second. As the last TV show ended, and the news came on, my face flashed across the screen and mom and I looked at each other in awe and broke into giggles. It was amazing!! Previous to this, my goal was to simply be in the background of a newscast- now I was a feature!!

We had no idea what to expect from my interview. Even though the interview was more than an hour long, we knew there was the possibility of it only being a minute long. But right before the newscast would break for a commercial, they would say something to the effect of, “Stayed tuned” and talk about my story! I was the hook of the whole news hour!

Finally the time came for my story to be shown. I was so happy with what they had done with it and couldn’t believe how long they made it to be! There were just two things that I wished were different:

  1. I struggled with bulimia. They left that out and instead said exercise bulimia. If that were the case- this journey would have been very adverse to recovery as it was an excessive amount of exercise at times. While it is true that my eating disorder morphed from exercise bulimia to full blown bulimia, exercise currently is an area that I have a lot of balance in and was an area I was in control over before I left for my trip. There were comments on the news page specifically talking about this and while it’s disappointing, I know that I just need to keep pressing forward and know that I’m becoming more free of this disease!
  2. They left out the spiritual aspect of my journey 😦 While I know that people will experience God through my blog, I wish they would have left in how important He was on my journey because I sincerely couldn’t have done this without Him and the doors He opened for me.

The very next day I heard from people back in Minnesota that my story was on Kare11 news! Then a week later I heard I was in the Denver Post! Overall, it was an incredible experience that has left me with an insatiable hunger to want to serve God and to serve others by being a voice of hope. Many of you have voiced that I should write a book and that’s what I plan to do! I am so excited for this next part of my journey but also know it will prove to be another test in my recovery as I’m sure the process could cause stress which I’m still learning to deal with in healthy ways. God bless you and thank you for your encouragement!

9News Link To Video

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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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#46 Mount Antero: September 18th, 2015

  • Height: 14,269 ft.
  • Range: Sawatch Range
  • Route: West Slopes
  • Distance: 16 miles (10 miles for me with the help of a kind stranger on an ATV)
  • Elevation Gain: 5,200 ft.
  • Time started: 12:45pm
  • End time: 6:45pm
  • Time to Summit: 4 hours
  • Time to Descent: 2 hours (my bet is 3.5 hours for the return without help of ATV)
  • Overall Pace: 1.9 miles per hour to summit
  • 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, lightweight gloves, day pack with water sack (64 oz), snacks.
  • Road Condition: 14ers.com is not kidding when they say that only 4WD can make it up jeep road #277. An SUV without 4WD, might be able to make it. There’s plenty of parking spots right at the start of #277 for all other vehicles.
  • Trail Condition: You’ll be on a road covered with river rocks for 90% of the time. Luckily the gorgeous autumn leaves made it entertaining and I didn’t mind the road at all. You can avoid all water and the peak is snow free. However, once again, it was cold and windy! Once you leave the road, the ridge is easy to follow. Once you reach the end of the ridge, expect small shale the whole way up which makes for a little annoyance as you have to really watch your step to avoid tripping or twisting an ankle.
  • Also, I have extra notes on how you can avoid some of the switchbacks on the way up/down to shorten the hike by a couple miles.

After climbing beautiful Mount Huron, I headed straight to Mount Antero’s trailhead. Somehow, I didn’t get there until after dark and decided to sleep in my car. I thought I’d sleep like a rock considering the emotional day and exertion, but I ended up sleeping like poop. I tossed and turned all night long and woke up the next morning to my alarm clock completely exhausted.

I was already really nervous about climbing Antero because my foot acted up so bad on a short six mile hike. I just couldn’t see it going well for a sixteen mile hike! I debated whether or not I would climb for a while, and then decided to text my mom for advice. Upon discussion, I decided it was best just to take the day off. I was still feeling pretty lonely and thought it would be a perfect day to get a hold of my dearest friends.

It was honestly just what I needed and my heart felt so filled after talking with them. I really needed to feel connected, and I really needed a pep talk. Of course, despite the current adversities, I was going to continue, but my mind is still wired to think negatively sometimes. All I could envision was physical pain and loneliness for the remaining time out here.

After a full day of phone calls and blogging, I made sure to leave early enough to set up my tent near the trailhead to avoid another sleepless night. There weren’t any campsites, so my only option was to set up my tent in a pull off area on the dirt road and I parked my car in front of my tent to shield me from any crazy drivers hitting me- yikes. I could only pray I wouldn’t be woken up in the middle of the night due to being told to move.

Since it was only 7:30pm, and I wasn’t tired, I headed back towards Buena Vista until I got a 4G network so I could relax further with an episode of “Breaking Bad”. Well, one episode turned into four and all of the sudden it was nearly 2am! That show is so addicting (probably as addicting as meth). I drove back to my tent, crawled inside and didn’t wake up until 11:30am the next day. I really wasn’t worried about my late start because once again, the weather forecast was perfection. I got ready regardless of my anxiety over my foot and knew I had to at least try. I couldn’t think about the “what if”. Thinking about “what if” scenarios had done nothing but cause paralysis in the past.

Right as I started up the trail, there was a beautiful, sunlit stream with bright green moss and immediately I found myself more relaxed and even eager, for the rest of my hike. Normally I hate walking up dirt roads (read Castle Peak), but I didn’t mind this one. The glowing yellow Aspen leaves had me entranced. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. They were so vibrant, and for a moment, I forgot about missing fall at home and enjoyed the fall for what it was here in Colorado.

Multiple Jeeps, ATVs and dirt bikes came roaring past me as I climbed higher and higher. For a split second I was hoping that someone would be coming up to shave off four extra miles, but then, I realized I wouldn’t ask for the ride even if they had come. I was enjoying it too much and I was prepared mentally for the hike to go all day.

Soon I reached treeline and was weaving my way up the windy, dirt road. The dirt road by the way, is not a fun one to walk. It is covered in river rock which means you are constantly stuck looking down so you don’t trip or sprain your ankle. I was also disappointed that I was having to climb yet another, windy peak. It seems they all have been so windy lately, and I was wishing I knew why. It really changes everything mentally but having my music going helped.

As I weaved my way up the large switchbacks, I noticed a consistent gully that cut right down to treeline. I was thinking it would probably shave off a couple miles taking it, and decided that I’d try it on the way back down. While I hiked, I only ran into two hikers. I talked briefly with the first, but with the second man it was so windy I could only manage to nod hello. The peaks are getting so much quieter now… peak climbing season has definitely passed, and I miss the interactions.

At last the road came to an end and it was time to climb a short ridge that linked to the last homestretch of Mount Antero. The ridge was easy and I was grateful for a temporary shield from the wind. Once on the other side of the ridge, the wind roared and pushed me off balance. I climbed up the loose shale rock struggling to balance while making my own way up as the trail was too faint to follow.

The end of the road and the start of the ridge that leads to the summit.

The end of the road and the start of the ridge that leads to the summit.

After about 20 minutes of fumbling, I arrived at the summit. The bright yellow Aspens were now only specks at the view of 14,000 feet. To the South, I could see Tabeguache Peak- my last fourteener in the Sawatch Range and I’d be climbing it the next day with company! Anne messaged me from my Facebook page asking if she could join me for a climb and this one finally worked out for both of us!

I tried to have a small snack while I was on the summit, but it was too cold to enjoy so I quickly got ready and started to head back down. In the distance I could see an ATV pulling up to the very top of the road. At this point, it had been a couple hours since I had seen a vehicle and with the wind ripping at me, I was praying for a possible ride back down- but I was so far away, I’d never catch him…

To my surprise, the driver hopped off and started to climb the ridge! He was going to summit Antero, which meant I’d cross paths with him and I could ask for a ride down! As he approached near me, I exclaimed, “You’re such a lucky ducky! You’re already almost there!” I couldn’t strike the courage to ask straight out for a ride. But then he answered, “Oh yeah, I know! If I see you on the way down, I’ll give you a ride!” I was floored! “Yes! Any number of miles taken off of this hike would be amazing!” I thanked him, and knew that there was only one way down and that we’d surely cross paths. God had heard my worries, and provided a way down for me!

I made it down over two miles and before he came I decided I’d try out one of the intimidating, steep, rocky gullies to see if it would be worthwhile to recommend to other hikers. I side stepped my way down, doing my best to avoid the prickly plants and personally, if you do have experience with scree, I recommend it! If not, you’re better off sticking to the road. Unfortunately because I got the ride, I can’t tell you how much distance you will shave off by taking the gully.

As I reached the bottom of the first gully, a speedy ATV approached me. It was the man near the summit and his name was Randy. He was originally from Texas, and had now been living in Colorado for nearly 20 years. He had never gone up in the mountains this late in the evening and wanted to see what it was like. Thank God it was on this particular day! Both of my feet were now increasing in pain.

I hopped on the back and held tightly around his rib cage. I couldn’t believe how smooth the ride down was! I was expecting to be bucked up out of my seat a couple of times, but the ATV took it like a champ. It was my first time on an ATV, and I could definitely see why people like them so much. He of course asked me the typical questions and I was happy to tell him about my journey thus far out here.

Most people ask how I could get the summer off and it opens up a perfect window of opportunity for a discussion around the topic of healthy living. Being a personal trainer in the past, people assume that I workout seven days a week and eat only “healthy” foods. It’s a discussion that fills with me passion to be able to preach the contrary and to voice the opinion of true “healthy living” which is truly, “Everything in moderation”. Each time the conversation happens I can only hope it plants a seed; that it can be “food for thought” for those who needed to hear it.

A quick 35 minutes later, we were back at my car. I again expressed my gratitude, and he offered to take me out for a beer, but I declined. I could tell that maybe he was interested in something more. I still had to take down my tent, drive an hour to my next place, set my tent back up, eat dinner and most likely go back to sleep so I’d be ready to hike the next day with Anne. I had two thoughts on that scenario: 1) Go have a beer even though it sets you back. You owe it to him for the kindness he has shown. 2) Don’t have a beer. Let him be satisfied with the kindness he has shown, and remember- you don’t “owe” him anything.

I chose option 2. It’s a long story, but to put it simply, I have done far too many things I knew weren’t good for me because I thought I “owed” them something. Is it not healthier to realize that not everything needs to be repaid?! Can gratitude be enough? It’s a new school of thought for myself and something that’s recently been put into practice. This thought also goes hand in hand with this thought: Do kind things because it makes you feel good- period.

As I drove away, there was the most magnificent sunset, and again I thought kindly of Randy for his ride. I would have missed it if it weren’t for his kindness! Nor do I think my feet would have been ready to hike the very next day. I admired the sunset for a time, silently thanked God for his mercy, for meeting my needs and allowing me to complete number 46; then set off to Tabeguache Peak to complete number 47.

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#44 Longs Peak: September 13th, 2015

Longs Peak

  • Height: 14,255 ft.
  • Range: Front Range
  • Route: Keyhole Route
  • Distance: 14.77 mi.
  • Elevation Gain: 5,100 ft.
  • Time started: 8:45am
  • End time: 5:15pm
  • Time to Summit: 4 hours and 30 minutes
  • Time to Descent: 3 hours (not including time spent on summit)
  • GEAR (to bring):
    • 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, lightweight gloves, day pack with water sack (64 oz or more), snacks.
  • Road Condition: Blacktop.
  • Trail Condition: Dry and all snow/ice is 100% avoidable. The trail to the summit is extremely well marked with signs and bulls-eyes painted (once on the back side of the Keyhole). The trail through the forest is nice and easy. Once out of the trees, the wind started to pick up right away. Still an easy trail to follow with well marked junctions. The Keyhole was extremely windy BUT- it only lasts for a moment until you get onto the other side. On the backside of the keyhole, there is very little loose rock BUT, the rock is so smooth it becomes somewhat slippery. If it rained the night before, and the weather looks good all day, wait to leave until the sun is out to let the ice melt (early fall). It’s also not as steep as what I expected it to be. I never felt overly exposed on the route.

The same day that Alix and I finished Pikes Peak, I drove all the way to the Longs Peak trailhead. I was hoping to set up my tent somewhere nearby, but by the time I got there it was late, and I was tired. I ended up sleeping in my car in the parking lot- which is a no-no. I slept terrible and was constantly woken up by the headlamps of people getting an early start. A car that pulled up next to me started hiking at 1:30am! Knowing that the weather was going to be good, and as exhausted as I was, I decided that I’d sleep in and try to get started around 7am. However, I didn’t wake up until 8am. I sat in my car debating whether I should climb at all… “Am I starting too late? Am I being too risky?? The wind picks up as the time goes on…” My fear of the wind was holding me back.

Ten minutes later I saw more people heading up the trail, “If they’re just starting, I can too, right?” I decided to stop the racing thoughts running through my mind, and to just start getting ready as if my mind were made up. Before I knew it, my music was on, and I was starting up the trail. I had an energy drink in hand hoping it would give me an extra helping of energy, motivation and confidence.

The trail through the forest was warm and calm, but as soon I broke treeline, the wind started to pick up. Soon I could see views of Longs Peak and it brought back memories of the time I climbed before. “Is the wind going to turn me back again?” The wind was growing stronger with each step I took.

I didn’t waste any time while I was at Chasm Lake. I figured out my next move to get to the Boulderfield and trudged on. At this point I had my hood up to shield myself somewhat from the wind. There were gusts that were blowing me over and I was wondering why they had us looping so far away from the summit. I grunted at the wind out of frustration, but tried to stay focused on my music.

Longs 3

Thank God, once I reached the Boulderfield, the wind died down. I could see the dreaded Keyhole up ahead, and my nerves escalated with each step. Along the entire hike thus far, there were numerous signs warning people of the dangers ahead. Nearing the top I headed towards the hut to take a pep talk break. There were about eight others already inside. There was a mixture of people who were on their way back down and of people who were nervously heading up. I thought, “If they did it, I can do it”. They explained to me that I had nothing to fear with all the experience I now had, but I couldn’t shake the fear of the wind. Regardless, I put on my helmet, and headed back out to conquer my fear.

It sounded as if a rushing waterfall were bursting through and the sound terrified me. I took my first step over the ridge and I wasn’t going to allow myself to turn back. The wind was blowing so hard, but I felt grounded. Within a minute I was through the worst of it, and the wind started to calm down. Michael, who I had met the previous day on Pikes Peak was right. It was temporary. The realization that I had just conquered a major fear had my eyes filling with tears.

The other side of the Keyhole.

The other side of the Keyhole.

My attention then went to the painted bulls-eyes on the rocks that lead the way to the summit. Looking at the pictures the night before, I was terrified of the ledges to come because of the possibility of the wind blowing me off the edge. Thankfully, it wasn’t as exposed as it looked from the pictures, and the wind wasn’t blowing nearly as bad as I imagined. I felt, safe. Around the next bend came the large gully. There must have been twenty people coming down it. Although most of the rock was solid, I was happy to have my helmet on. Not to say I’m an expert, but there are a lot of amateurs that climb Longs Peak. Two guys that I talked to said it was their first fourteener! Gutsy… or simply naive? I don’t know…

After climbing the gully, and another steep ledge, I came to what they call the “Homestretch”. It’s a steep area of smooth, somewhat slippery rock leading to the summit. There were plenty of people climbing down this area and if I would have waited, I would have never made it to the summit. Being more comfortable with the terrain than some, I went around them.  During the climb I ran into Micah, a gentleman from Idaho who came out to climb fourteeners for three weeks at a time every year (so I think he said). He asked if it was my first, and I was proud to answer back, “No, this will be my 44th.” He was astounded! After a quick chat, I continued my way to the summit.

Finally, I was at the summit and there wasn’t many people left. I think I was one of the last ones to start that day, but happened to pass some people. While I was up there snapping photos, I noticed a large group of people silently standing as another sprinkled ashes in the air. It was such a moving moment to witness, but I felt like I was intruding. Tears and hugs were shared and in that moment I was reminded how precious and impactful a life can be.

 

After spending a half hour at the summit enjoying the stunning views of Long Peak’s rockface, Chasm Lake and the expansive Boulderfield down below, I started my way back down. I must have gotten my second wind, because I was definitely on my game. I flew down the “Homestretch” and the gully, passing the majority of the people I saw while I was going up it. It came time to go through the Keyhole and my fear of the wind had evaporated. I hopped down the rocks in the Boulderfield and was half jogging around the large hill that lead back to Chasm Lake.

I was making awesome time. At the rate I was going, I was going to be back down in two and a half hours. As I reentered the forest, I ran back into Micah. He had also been moving fast and had passed a lot of people. He had also just gotten in the previous day, and as he climbed back down altitude sickness started to kick in. He had a headache, and his nose was starting to bleed- not a good sign. We spent the last couple miles walking together, talking about our previous mountains we had climbed and the scares we encountered. We also talked about how our bodies were really taking a beating. My right foot was giving me a lot of problems, and my knees were consistently aching on the way down from my summits. Having his company made the rest of the hike go by fast and before we knew it, we were back at the parking lot by 5:15pm- an hour and a half earlier than I predicted!

Being close by Boulder, I contacted a friend who had recently moved there. Him and I met playing volleyball, and had a brief romance. Unfortunately, even though I had developed strong feelings for him, I had to break it off because him and I were on different pages with our faith. God is everything to me, and he is the Good when all else is bad. My friend on the other hand, like many others, experienced something tragic and it turned him away from God. He says he no longer believes, but I think he’s just angry with God. This brings up a subject worthy of its own blog entry, but all in all, this is what I believe: God created free will. Don’t let the actions of a person deter you from the love God has for you. People will always fail you because of our human condition. But God is consistent. His love is consistent and He blesses us everyday in ways we may not always recognize.

We spent the night catching up and watching football with his roommate and I was grateful to spend time with him and have a nice cushy couch to sleep on that night. The next morning we had breakfast together and I expressed my happiness for him and my gratitude for the place to stay and with some sadness, we parted ways.

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#42 Crestone Needle: September 9th, 2015

Crestone Needle

  • Height: 14,197 ft.
  • Range: Sangre de Cristo
  • Route: South Face
  • Distance from/to Upper Colony Lake: 4.9 mi. (Round Trip)
  • Distance to Upper Trailhead from Upper Colony Lake: 4.3 mi. (one way)
  • Total Elevation Gain from Upper Colony Lake: 2,200 ft.
  • Time started (from Upper Colony Lake): 7:30am
  • End time (back to Upper Colony Lake): 3:30pm
  • Time to Summit from Upper Colony Lake: 3 hours and 45 minutes
  • Time to Descend to Upper Colony Lake: 3 hours and 45 minutes
  • Overall Pace: .65 miles per hour
  • GEAR (to bring): FOR 2 NIGHTS & 2.5 DAYS if trying to bag all three mountains (Crestone Needle, Crestone Peak & Humboldt.
    • 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, winter hat, overnight pack with water sack and extra water (160oz), food for 3 full days (large bag of jerky, large bag of trailsmix, 6 protein bars, and 6 granola bars or more).
  • Road Condition: My sedan made it all the way to the upper trailhead! I did scrape the underside of my car a couple times, but nothing serious. It will take guts, but it can be done!
  • Trail Condition: Easy to follow, but muddy in some spots on trail that leads to Humboldt Peak. Since we camped at the Upper Colony Lake, we walked back down just past the Lower Colony Lake. Once we could see the much smaller lake just north, we headed down into the willows and crossed a small stream and came back up to the “Crestone Needle” sign.

    This is where Alix and I headed down to cross to the other side to get on the Crestones trail. Cross between the Lower Colony Lake and the much smaller lake just north of it.

    This is where Alix and I headed down to cross to the other side to get on the Crestones trail. Cross between the Lower Colony Lake and the much smaller lake just north of it. Around 11,600-11,700 feet.

  • This is the MOST DIRECT way to get onto the other path that leads to the Crestones if you camp near the Lower Colony Lake and did Humboldt first. It will save you a lot of miles cutting across vs. hiking all the way back to this junction (pictured below). I have NO idea why they don’t have an official connector point.
    You'll save yourself a ton of miles by avoiding going all the way back to this junction. Just cut across by the north end of the Lower Colony Lake.

    You’ll save yourself a ton of miles by avoiding going all the way back to this junction. Just cut across by the north end of the Lower Colony Lake.

    Where I have pointed to "camp" is the common connector spot to ALL THREE MOUNTAINS! But you will have to leave the Humboldt trail, cross through willows, and a small stream to reach the Crestone trail. The spot where I crossed let me right to the "Crestone Needle" sign.

    Where I have pointed to “camp” is the common connector spot to ALL THREE MOUNTAINS! But you will have to leave the Humboldt trail, cross through willows, and a small stream to reach the Crestone trail (.2 miles?). The spot where I crossed led me right to the “Crestone Needle Standard Route” sign.

  • Broken Hand Pass is just switchbacks and large steps until you get further up. Then you’ll have to do some difficult class 2 moves to pull yourself up into the short slippery gully which brings you to the saddle. The trail get’s easier here a short time until you get to the “East Gully”. If you take the Class 3 route MAKE SURE YOU TAKE MENTAL NOTES OR LITERAL PICTURES OF THE TERRAIN AROUND YOU. Alix and I got lost, and a man is still lost on the mountain. MAKE ANOTHER NOTE OF HOW HIGH YOU ARE WHEN YOU GO INTO THE “WEST GULLY”. Currently there’s tape and a bandanna marking the spot. The elevation at the start of the “West Gully” is 13,690 feet. The gullies are overall nice and easy to go up, not too much loose rock, some class 3 moves, exposure and a helmet is recommended if going in groups.

That night after climbing Humboldt I slept horribly again. Not because I was coughing constantly, no. I couldn’t sleep because my ribs and hips felt bruised from the rocks we were sleeping on. For some reason I could tolerate them the previous night, but not for two nights. I laid there awake most of the night just praying for daylight to come as quickly as possible like I did in Chicago Basin. I was never going to skip out on my Therma Pad ever again. The extra pound was worth the weight!

With Alix’s advice, we waited again for the sun to come up to hike to keep my cold from getting any worse. The sky was clear, chipper and blue, but our legs were lethargic and grudgingly carried us back down towards the Lower Colony Lake where we needed to cross in order to get to the Crestone Needle trailhead. As we got to the north end of it, we could see hikers just on the other side. I was expecting some kind of junction (which I knew better, morning brain I guess), but we both realized that we were starting to walk to far away from the lake. We sat down and stared at the pictures and directions but couldn’t come to an agreement on what to do next.

Out of frustration I ran down the trail to 100 feet below where they said a junction would be, and there wasn’t anything there, so I walked as fast as I could bare back to her. I just didn’t have the patience for anything to go wrong. I told Alix I wasn’t mad at her, but just frustrated with hiking in general right now, and my cold and weakness wasn’t helping anything. Every and any incline shot my heart rate up and made my head throb and my lungs burn.

Suddenly I remembered the original plan was to make our own path anyway, so I trudged back up 200 feet to the point where I could see the north end of the Lower Colony Lake and it’s smaller lake just north of it. I clearly wasn’t the first person to cut across through there as there was a rugged trail leading through the willows. We came to a small stream that didn’t offer very good passage, but with our waterproof shoes we managed to cross anyways. Upon reaching the other side, we were greeted by the “Crestone Needle” sign and finally had some peace that we were on the right track.

We weaved back and forth up switchbacks at first making our way into the Broken Hand Pass, but even switchbacks were hard work for my legs and lungs. As we took a rest, two guys approached us, asked for sunscreen and continued on. They had tried to climb Crestone Needle the day before, but went up the wrong gully and climbed the wrong mountain. At least they seemed in good spirits- I would have been pissed.

Slowly we made our way up the gully of Broken Hand Pass and behind us we could see great shots of both the Upper and Lower Colony Lakes and Humboldt Peak. I was once again captivated by the rocks and couldn’t help but stop every few feet to capture the conglomerate masterpieces. At the saddle, we took another break and even though I had read the directions two times through, I was confused. It was at this point that I could tell that neither Alix or I were in a very good mood.

We figured out that we were indeed on the right track, and continued to slowly gain elevation on the backside of Crestone Needle. By the time we got to the “East Gully”, I told her that I’d be breaking every 100 feet or so. Little did I realize that I’d actually need to stop every 30 feet. The east gully on any other day would have been an easy gully to climb. Although it was steep, it was mostly solid rock, but my congested lungs and weak legs could barely stand it. The day before, Alix and I were almost sure that we’d try the class 4 approach option, but once we got there, we both didn’t have the energy to try. It was here we climbed our first, very steep exposed rock which further heightened my emotions (the negative ones). Trying my best to just keep up, I didn’t take note of my surroundings at this point- which was a big mistake. With heaviness, we just kept moving right on through, eyes on the ground, grabbing the next rock in front of us, just trying to make it over to the next gully.

Backside of Needle Crestone. View of Cottonwood Lake down below.

Backside of Needle Crestone. View of Cottonwood Lake down below.

At the start of the “West Gully” someone had marked the entrance and exit with their bandanna and bright orange tape. We were now at 13,700 feet, and I could barely imagine getting to the top. Every large step or pull took everything out of me and I was constantly having to sit down to catch my breath and with each stop my cough would flair up. I felt so crummy and so weak. The only thing keeping me going was the thought of capturing #42, and not letting another mountain defeat me. Finally, little by little, I made the summit.

There were four guys up there including the two that passed us earlier and when I said, “I feel like sh*t”, they laughed- but I was serious. It had taken us nearly 4 hours to climb 3 miles. I expected it to take that long for the entire mountain! I had barely eaten anything that day, and had to force myself to eat one of my nasty protein/peanut butter burritos. At the time I was pretty unimpressed with the summit, but that might have been my mood too. I told God to not listen to anything I had said that day. None of it was pleasing and definitely not honoring to Him.

I looked over at Crestone Peak, and had nothing to say but how tired I was and how I couldn’t even think about climbing that mountain today. Soon multiple scenarios were flying around in my head along with my wild and crazy emotions. If I climbed it today, it would only be 5 miles- but it would be the most miserable hike of a lifetime. I couldn’t stay another day because I was almost out of food, and I didn’t want to deal with my hips and ribs again; so that option was out the window. If I didn’t do it today, I ‘d have a long 20 mile hike to get it done another day, or I’d have to make the Kit-Carson/Challenger hike another overnight by adding Crestone Peak, but not have 14ers.com to guide me. I hate overnights, and that’s all Sangre de Cristo is- overnights. For 20 minutes I debated on what to do next, trying to look up different routes online at the windy, cold summit.

Finally, I decided, “Screw it, I’m going to do it today!” Right as we began to descend, I noticed a rock wall that I remember climbing as I came to the summit. I said, “I think we need to climb back over that…” I could tell Alix was growing more impatient with me so I shut my mouth and I started to beeline it down the gully in hopes to lighten the mood. While in the gully, I passed the two guys and made sure to watch my GPS for 13,600 feet for the point to cut over. My GPS couldn’t keep up with the level I was dropping apparently and all the sudden I was going down unfamiliar ledges in the gully. I checked my GPS, but it still said 13,800 feet, so I kept going.

All the sudden, after stopping for a moment, knowing that this way couldn’t possibly be right any longer, my GPS dropped to under 13,500 feet. I yelled back to Alix if she thought this was right, but she couldn’t tell. Apparently my rushed exit down the gully annoyed her more and she proclaimed, “I’m not doing the peak. This feels rushed and it’s not fun. You gotta do what’s right for you, but I gotta do what’s right for me.” “Fun?” I thought… “I’m not doing this for fun right now. I wouldn’t be hiking at all because I’m sick. I’m simply trying to push myself through a tough circumstance. Sometimes life calls for you to do that.” It’s been a while since I had fun on a hike. Little Bear and the ropes was fun, and it was challenging, but overall? Not fun…

What would be fun? To slow down and enjoy the towns I’m in on my days off; build more relationships; sleep comfortably with my blow up mattress; have a campfire; not be sick; have time slow down. That would be fun…

That was all the time I had to think about that and then we had to get back to finding the right place to exit the gully. Both of us were near tears at the notion that we had to re-climb elevation. We climbed back up 400+ feet just to find a place to cut over. Everywhere we climbed to, lead to a cliff. We knew we weren’t lost per se, but we knew we were definitely off trail and that meant danger. Slowly with each dead end our anxiety climbed.

Finally, somewhere around 13,900, we found a way down into the next gully…. but that didn’t look like the right gully either. I couldn’t recall anything from going up. I was far too tired and only thinking about my pain and what rock was in front of me. Alix and I decided to climb the next ridge to see what was on the other side, and she knew it still wasn’t the right gully. We were now going into our 3rd gully over from the start! “There’s no way the trail is another gully over…” I thought in panic. Yet again, we climbed up another ridge and Alix couldn’t see anything familiar. To be a second pair of eyes I went to a slightly lower edge and down below I could finally see the bandanna!! We were finally in the original “East Gully”. Somehow we had gotten to be four whole gullies off.

The elevation you need to look for when crossing the west gully to the east gully and vise-versa. Don't pay attention to mileage.

The elevation you need to look for when crossing the west gully to the east gully and vise-versa. Don’t pay attention to mileage.

Our problem was right at the start of the summit. Remember how we didnt’ climb over that small rock wall? That led to the right gully. We just went down the immediate gully in sight instead. So the lesson is: MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE RIGHT GULLY GOING DOWN FROM THE SUMMIT! Immediately our moods changed. We went from angry, scared, impatient. distant, to goofy and open. We joked how we were both ready to cry if we had to re-climb any distance and could only but laugh when we slipped on our butt on scree. It was all just so ridiculous. We referred to Crestone Needle and it’s gullies as “Nature’s Fun House” because it was so easy to get lost on with dead ends everywhere. It’s funny, but not funny. There’s a man currently still lost on this mountain, so send your prayers to him and his family. We were lucky to find our way back.

Once we made it back down into the Broken Hand Pass, Alix and I decided to make a short cut back to our tent at the Upper Colony Lake. Before we had gotten lost, I was still contemplating on climbing Crestone Peak that day even if it was without Alix, but after that whole ordeal, I was just as ready as she was to get the heck out of there.

About half way down, and staying as close to the rock face as possible, we cut to the left and up to make our way to the lake. By doing this, we avoided descending the rest of Broken Hand Pass, having to cross the stream and willows to get back on Humboldt’s trailhead, and the distance from the lower lake to the upper lake. I definitely recommend camping at the north end of the lower lake even though it’s not as pretty, and if you do end up at the upper lake, cut across near the rock face to get to Broken Hand Pass and you’ll save extra mileage. Overall on this trip, Alix and I saved 16 miles by grouping the two mountains together in one trip and making necessary short cuts.

By the time we got to our tent, we were much more relaxed and relieved that we were heading out. I had to be okay with the fact that I’d have to do another overnight and I had to be okay with taking a couple days off to heal. If I didn’t I could risk getting sick badly enough that I’d have to end my journey all together.

On our way out, Alix and I ran into the two guys at the upper lake and lower lake junction. I was relieved to see that they got off okay because they got lost like we did. They ended up re-summitting the mountain, and still got lost on their way down. They never found the bandanna and had to make their own way off the mountain. The last four miles out my entire body was starting to shut down, but thankfully we both had a place to stay that night so my body could begin to heal. We were staying at Alix’s house in Fountain with her mom. It was so nice to be in a home again, and to get to know the roots of my newly made friend and of course… to have a nice, warm comfortable bed.

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Failed Attempt on Mount Lindsey & #41 Humboldt Peak: Sept. 8th, 2015

Humboldt Peak

  • Humboldt Peak Height: 14,064 ft.
  • Range: Sangre de Cristo
  • Route: West Ridge
  • Distance (Upper Parking Lot to Upper Colony Lake): 4.3 mi. (one way)
  • Distance (from Upper Colony Lake): 3 miles (Round trip)
  • Total Elevation Gain from Upper Colony Lake: 2,000 ft.
  • Time started (from Upper Colony Lake): 7:30am
  • End time (back to Upper Colony Lake : 10:55am
  • Time to Summit Humboldt Peak from Upper Colony Lake: 2 hours
  • Time to Descend Humboldt Peak to Upper Colony Lake: 1 hour and 10 minutes
  • GEAR (to bring): FOR 2 NIGHTS & 2.5 DAYS if trying to bag all three mountains (Crestone Needle, Crestone Peak & Humboldt.
    • Bear spray, 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, winter hat, overnight pack with water sack and extra water (160oz), food for 3 full days (large bag of jerky, large bag of trailsmix, 6 protein bars, and 6 granola bars or more).
  • Road Condition: My sedan made it all the way to the upper trailhead! I did scrape the underside of my car a couple times, but nothing serious. It will take guts, but it can be done!
  • Trail Condition: Easy to follow, but muddy in some spots. From the final junction to Humboldt’s peak, the trail is dry, easy stone steps at first, then you’ll be climbing boulders and some harder class 2 moves will arise. There is a false summit, but getting to the real summit is easy. There’s little elevation gain. Also- it’s cold and windy.

After the victory of Little Bear, Alix and I returned to Alamosa and took our day off to work on our blogs. As the day progressed, my voice slowly dropped and started to crack, and I started to feel crummy. I didn’t expect to get a cold, and yet, it was coming. It didn’t stress me out because my colds have never gotten serious. However it didn’t add to my excitement to climb Mount Lindsey. While climbing Little Bear, Alix informed me that Mount Lindsey’s trailhead had a giant landslide and the while it was still open, it was now going to be a 16 mile hike instead of an easy 8.25 mile hike. I was still feeling mentally burnt out since my day was spent blogging for 10 hours and now it would seem my body was also burning out. I needed time for enjoyment and time to turn off my brain!

Trying to stay on schedule regardless of my feelings and body aches, Alix and I split at 10:30pm that night. She was heading back to Lake City and I was going to make my way to Mount Lindsey. I saw the road closure, but was curious to see if I could find somewhere to park further up. 1.4 miles up from the road closure, there was a closed gate and “No Parking” signs everywhere.

Realizing how tired I was, and that I was only getting more sick, I decided I’d make the hard decision and break the hike into two days. I slept in and hiked in 4.5 miles with my heavy pack, carrying my tent in my arms. I didn’t know it at the time, but the landslide was right around the corner from my tent. It ticked me off SO BADLY, that they would make everyone hike 9 extra miles when the road was perfectly fine until then. More ticked they were making it that much harder for me to accomplish my goal this summer and that they’d do this to a sick woman. SERIOUSLY, a petition needs to be made to move the gate much, much further up. There’s just no reason for it to be the way it is!

I basically laid in my tent dozing off and on trying to help my body recover. Unfortunately I set my tent up on a pretty good hill, and I was sliding around all night and once again at night, was having all kinds of nightmares of bears coming to my tent. The wind also picked up during the night and was freaking me out (remember, I don’t like the wind) and I was also concerned it would be too windy to climb the next day. Despite being majorly discouraged, sleeping poorly, being burnt out, sick, and scared of the wind, I went for it the next morning.

The landslide was as significant as they stated it was. It was a couple hundred feet long, and a hundred feet wide or more. I climbed over it, found a 4WD road that belonged to a ranch and it lead me back onto road 580. When I added up all the mileage of what 14ers.com had said, and took into account how much the landslide added, it wasn’t going to be 16 miles, it was going to be 18… but then I kept walking, and walking, and walking…. the damn road wouldn’t end like 14ers.com said it would!!! I was now 7 miles in, making the hike 22+ miles long. At that moment I lost it. I just bawled. I couldn’t help it. I was so, extremely frustrated; so frustrated, I was having a tantrum at age 30. I couldn’t go up any further because I just knew the hike would be too long. I decided to start heading back down the road looking for any sign of the Lily Lake trailhead but couldn’t find one, “Where the F*ck is it?!?” I screamed in my scratchy sick-ridden voice. I had never wanted to give up and go home as badly as I did in that moment. For a long moment it was a real thought.

I picked up my tent, and walked back to my car with tears in my eyes because I had just wasted 2 days and walked 14 miles for no reason. As soon as I got service I contacted Alix to see if she was still up for the Crestones and Humboldt. I needed to keep going, and I needed redemption. She met me that night and we packed up our packs for our next overnight adventure. It was so nice to have someone to vent to. We had a beautiful sunset to wish us well, and we set off in my car 2.7 miles up the 4WD road to the upper trailhead.

Alix wasn’t sure that I should go, but I assured her I was going to be fine. I had cold and flu medicine- “Let’s go”. We listened to music the whole time we hiked that night to warn off bears and ran into people just getting back from their hikes in the pitch black night. One couple told us that trying to get both the Crestones done in a day was overly ambitious, but we had done so many things people said we wouldn’t do in the past; why would this be any different? The directions were easy to follow, but we couldn’t see the first lake during the night and ended up passing the first lake and camping at the Upper Colony Lake instead.

That night I felt so badly for Alix because I was coughing so much. So much that I didn’t sleep much, and I was cold. I didn’t bring my Therma Pad thinking my new sleeping bag would keep me warm enough on it’s own, but I was wrong.

The next morning we woke up at 4am but decided to sleep until 7am when the sun would be out and would warm the air a bit for my lungs. I was grateful, because the hike up Humboldt Peak was cold and windy. The view coming out of our tent was stunning. The mountains were so gigantic, close and beautiful. The lake was a turquoise ocean blue. It was probably the most shockingly beautiful settings I’d been in thus far!

We found the trail junction easily and started up the switchbacks. My legs were burning badly, and I had to walk so slowly up the stone steps. I foolishly thought the peak was to the left when we reached the saddle, but it was the much larger one to the right. In the shade it was freezing and the wind was powerful. When I looked up at the mountain, all I could see was shade and I thought, I can’t do this. “I feel like crap and this cold wind is not helping anything.” I ditched Alix for a moment to warm myself in the sun, give myself a pep talk, and to put on my warmer gear.

Luckily the path eventually took us to the sunnier, warmer side of the mountain. Alix felt so far away… She was pretty far up ahead of me, which I told her to go ahead, but it was somehow demoralizing. I needed her to be next to me, but I couldn’t help but feel bad the whole time that I was holding her back. With much struggle, I pulled myself up each boulder, happy to see the distance to the summit shrink. That was until I realized it wasn’t the summit. Thankfully, although the true summit seemed far away, it didn’t require much more vertical gain. Finally, some time after Alix had already been at the summit, I joined her. It was 9:30am and clouds were starting to form. It was looking like a typical afternoon thunderstorm kind of day.

We made it back down to our tent around 11am and Alix went to look at the weather forecast. My phone had said no rain all day. Hers was saying rain in the afternoon. Just rain, not thunderstorms, but I could tell she was reluctant to try to get another peak in that same day. After sitting there a while, I became so sleepy I didn’t care to convince her otherwise. I had a feeling the weather would be fine, and I didn’t want to leave so much mileage for the next day, but I also knew it was possible for it to be done.

We ended up sleeping on and off almost the entire day and unfortunately the weather managed to hold off and the thought of we “should have” entered my mind. Instead of dwelling on it, we took a brief moment to enjoy the lake and I refilled our waters for the next day, and just that activity made me feel horrible. I was becoming extremely congested and my head felt like it was going to explode. Thankfully Excedrin did the trick, but also woke me up. I kept Alix awake with me asking her silly questions like, “what would you do differently on this trip?” She answered, “Nothing”. I on the other hand had plenty to say. But the biggest thing I would have changed would have been putting a number on the amount of mountains to climb. This trip has sent me through many trials, and has caused me a lot of stress actually. It’s taught me to cope on the positive side, but I don’t feel more at peace like Alix does. I wish I could enjoy the towns more instead of using my off day as a a travel/blog in a coffee shopall day. I wish I could rest more, period. But unfortunately I did put a number on this journey, and for once, I want to see it through.

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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.

 

#38 Ellingwood Point & #39 Blanca Peak: September 3rd, 2015

Ellingwood Point & Blanca Peak:

  • Ellingwood Point Height: 14,042 ft.
  • Blanca Peak Height: 14,345 ft.
  • Range: Sangre De Cristo
  • Route: Northwest Ridge from Blanca Peak, then Combo
  • Distance: 12.46 mi.
  • Elevation Gain (from parking at 8,000 ft.): 6,800 ft.
  • Time started: 6:10am
  • End time: 4:10pm
  • Time to Summit Ellingwood Point from 8,000 feet: 5 hours and 10 minutes
  • Time to Summit Blanca Peak from summit of Ellingwood Point: 1 hour and 30 minutes
  • Time to Descend Blanca Peak to Como Lake: 2 hours
  • Overall Pace: 1.3 miles per hour
  • 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 Ellingwood Point: You’re still going to be on a road until 12,000 ft. elevation. Easy slow gain to this point. Trail is in great condition and easy to follow with the cairns. We took the higher route on Ellingwood (class 3) and it’s more than fine- nothing too scary at all (coming from a person who has a slight fear of heights). Ellingwood Point to Blanca Peak: Trail at the divide between the two and on to Blanca is a difficult class two. You’ll have to pull yourself up in some areas. Otherwise, just weave your way up watching for cairns until the summit. Some loose rock, but not bad.

After a lovely night in the Hampton Inn, I left late that afternoon to meet back up with Alix! We decided we would do Ellingwood Point, Blanca Peak, and Little Bear Peak which would require backpacking overnight to Lake Como. We met up at a coffee shop in Alamosa and exchanged stories of our week apart. I told her of the six amazing people from the train and their blessings and about the five mountains I climbed. Alix had managed to hike three mountains: San Luis Peak, Kit Carson, and Challenger. She escaped to Lake City to get better when I went to Rico and stayed at the hostel there. The owner, Lucky invited her to join himself and his friend “Mad Dog” to climb Kit Carson and Challenger using ropes. It was such a great experience for her and gave her so much more confidence to climb a class 4. Something she wasn’t willing to try before.

The road was covered in river rock which made it just rough enough that our cars couldn’t make it any further than the 8,000 mark. Arriving at the trailhead pretty late, we slept in our car and set out at 6am the next morning. As we made our way up the open road, a gorgeous sunrise greeted us. It was the most spectacular one I had seen yet. It was also spread out over new terrain I hadn’t seen in a long time: a flat land with farmland. It was neat to look across it from the foothills. It’s a view that’s almost impossible to get in Minnesota.

We weaved our way through the foothills on the 4WD road until we were finally breaking into the back country. There we met Mark from Minnesota. He was hoping to climb all three peaks that day, but Alix and I had our doubts. He had only been in Colorado for a day, had only climbed one previous 14er, and he was very casual with his time. Exactly 5.5 miles in we arrived to the clear, green Lake Como and set up our tent, unloaded what weight we could, and headed back on the trail towards Ellingwood and Blanca. We passed through a short forest, where Mark pointed out Little Bear’s trailhead. I was glad he did because I’m sure it would have been a repeat of Maroon Peak.

From there we picked up speed and made our way to the waterfall at 12,000. At the top was another beautiful couple of green lakes. I was really struggling with stomach issues while we were climbing so unfortunately I couldn’t enjoy it to the full extent. Weaving up past those two lakes we came to Crater Lake that looked as if it had an ocean grotto beneath its watery surface. Once we passed that lake we switchbacked our way through boulders to reach the saddle between Ellingwood Point and Blanca Peak. A couple times along the way I had to stop to massage my stomach. I felt bad I was slowing down Alix and it was zapping my moral. By the time we reached the saddle I was feeling weak.

The clouds were also really rolling in as we arrived at the saddle. They were forming in the basin, and blowing up over the saddle. It made it so we couldn’t see very far ahead of us and reminded me of my hike on Quandary. We decided to do the lower class 2 traverse to the Ellingwood Point summit. It was mostly scrambing and climbing boulders and made an easy summit. It was surprisingly calmer and warmer on the summit. I collapsed there for a bit before taking pictures- mostly of just Alix and I because we couldn’t see anything else around us.

On the way back, we took the upper class 3 traverse which we both liked a lot better. There were more skinny ridges and climbing to do, and views of thousand foot cliffs. By the time we had made it back to the saddle, the clouds were already starting to blow out of the basin and we could once again see the brightly colored lakes down below.

Next we made our way towards Blanca Peak. This was a difficult class two and was mostly just climbing up large boulders until we made summit. Once there, we could see Mark down below just making the saddle. It was already 1pm, and he hadn’t even made it to one summit. I felt bad for the guy. We rested on the slightly chilly summit and ate a snack while enjoying the views of Little Bear. A guy had taken the long traverse from Blanca to Little Bear which was class 5. We thought then, how crazy that would be?

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As we headed down we crossed paths with Mark. He was surprised how much the hike was taking out of him. I said, “That’s the altitude”. He remarked, “Isn’t it conditioning too?” I said it’s a combination of the two, but I could strongly relate to him as my first hike of this trip, Mount Bierstadt, had taken a lot out of me. I was also naive on how different a hike up a mountain would differ from a walk the same distance. It’s much harder and much, much longer.

As we made our way back down, I took some time to take pictures of the emerald green lakes. I was only wishing it were more sunny to capture their true beauty. As we approached our last mile, we could hear thunder in the distance and were hoping that Mark was making his way down safely. We were sure that he was only going to make one peak today despite his valiant efforts. Thankfully for me, and my level of fatigue, my legs slowly recovered as we made it back to Lake Como.

Once we were inside our tent and set up, we laid down to take a nap. It had just started to rain, and the evening cool was already arriving. I snuggled up in my new sleeping bag and was overcome with joy at how warm and toasty I was for the first time. Once again, what was supposed to be a 20 minute nap, turned into a 12 hours of sleep! Thank you again for all your blessings Andi, Rich, Carolyn, Tom, Keith and Annette! I will think of you every time I’m in my warm, comfy sleeping bag!

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