| Betrayed by Best Friend - Mount Evans (West Ridge from Summit Lake)
It's so rare that my wife have a day off from work these days and on top of that, she wants to do something with me. So the night before, both exhausted after putting the kids to bed, I mention that we can go check out Mount Evans and try to summit it being a pretty easy one. She's like, "sure." I am too tired to be excited, but I am. It was this time last year that I started doing 14ers, this will be the my lucky #13 and a dozen for Maximus, my husky-sherpard mix.
I figure since one can drive all the way up to Evans, I did not do much preparation the night before. After getting up, I check out "canuckcowboy" report, and looks pretty. I print out the West Ridge route starting from Summit Lake, figure it's only 5-6 miles roundtrip, which = 3-4 hours. Got some water, snack and Max eagerly jumps in the back of the Outback. We leave Monument ~ 830am after the nanny takes over the kids' care at 8am. I know, I know... it is a late start, especially when the weather report says 70% of thunderstorm AFTERnoon. Better hurry!
There's no traffic going through Denver.. on the road to the trail head, just had to be careful of not hitting any cyclists. Echo Lake looked pretty and a good place for a family picnic.
The drive was beautiful up to Summit Lake. My wife was not enjoying much as slight fear of height had gotten hold of her. We start our hike after 10am. There were signs everywhere saying "DOGS MUST BE LEASHED AT ALL TIMES." Thank God my wife had brought a leash for Max, because rangers were also everywhere. Don't worry buddy, soon as we are in the trails, you will be set free, I told Max as we started our hike. BTW, it's $10 per car to access the roads beyond Echo Lake.
It was a sublime day, low 60s, partially cloudy and almost no wind. I was glad to be soon away from the tourists in the parking lot trying to get a signal on their cell phone.
Quickly the trail turns into a class 2. Max always takes point.
While the wife takes the rear.
A mountain goat momentarily checks out Max from above, Max was oblivious or he might have investigated the goat may not end well for him as he's more likely to be hurt by the goat's horn.
We come across a chasm of some sort and the view looks awesome, I ask my wife to take a picture, which she does but then freaks out because of the dizzying drop-off.
Few more minutes, the class 2 becomes slightly complicated with some scrambling, the wife asks me how long would it take me to reach the summit. I'm like, oh oh... "probably 1.5 hours, but no worries we can go slow... " she says, "why don't you go ahead and I am gonna head back because I am so tired and I still have to do a PT test tomorrow and I don't want to screw up my knee..." There's not need to convince her anymore, once her mind is made up... well, I know there's no point in convincing her the otherwise. Besides it's already 1020am, time is wasting! We agreed that no matter what, we'll rendezvous at the summit which she will drive up in the Outback and greet us there. At least, I thought, I don't have to hike down... my poor knees are stil recovering from the Tough Mudder just over 1 week ago.
Max leaps forward thinking he's a mountain goat.
Soon we reach our first clearing, the view towards north was awesome.
The trail some times can be obscured by boulders and rocks, but Max was able to follow along the carins after some redirectioning.
The summit looks not too far away, but far enough. I was glad I didn't have to start below the tree line. I hate getting lost in the woods.
Max finds a patch of snow and falls in love.
Sometimes, I can become very superstitious on these hikes, especially when I am the only one on the trail today... This is the unlucky #13, and now it's around 11am and looking towards Grays and Torreys, I can't shake off the uneasy feeling of dark clouds rolling in. Better hurry but these newer Teva boots are starting to bother my heel more and more.
We reach the saddle and the sky gets even darker, and chill sets in. Then few drops start falling from the sky, almost as a warning calling for my retreat. I am glad the wife has turned back earlier, because she would turn here anyways.
Dark clouds and rain do not bother Max as he investigates a chirping marmot hoping for a playmate (revised from: "give chase to a chirping marmot" due to forum readers who thinks a husky is a natural born hunter that terrorizes wildlives.) He still acts like a little puppy sometimes even though he's 6 years old and weighs 50 lbs always wants to play.
By now, I have been fighting my right heel's blister for almost an hour and am pretty sure it has ulcerated already... it becomes annoying with each step especially going uphill. Of course, having underestimated this particular hike, I left my medical tape at home, so just have to suck it up and keep going. I am thinking that I am at least 1/2 way there.
I briefly go off the trail, which happens a lot when I am taking photos, almost scrambling up Mt. Spalding instead of following the cairns along the west ridge. After retracing my steps, I see Mt. Bierstadt getting plummeted with a dark veil of angry wetness. Have been there and done that. Last year, which was our 1st 14er and Max did not go. The plan then was to summit Mt. Bierstadt first, then traverse via Sawtooth to Evans. But after getting soaked by good sized hail and getting lost in the mist on Bierstadt, we decided to call quits and said yes to life. Anyways, I feel rain and hail pounding on my flesh now. I have no choice but to take my jacket out of the daypack. At least I brought a jacket, right?
We reach some difficult class 2 here, made harder by the wetness causing slipping havoc on while scrambling. I notice that Max was no longer taking the lead and trailing behind me. That's never a good sign. Animals have a good six sense. I figure it was the difficult big rocks which he always have difficulty jumping up... let's face it he's a husky and they are not built for leaping but for endurance. I turned back again to find he's now 20 yards below me. Then it happened! He gives me a mischievous grin and starts running the other direction! I should have named him "BOLT." I yell, whistle, throw rocks & cuss! But it was no use especially competing against the powerful crescendoing thunder roar. Now, Max always gets freaked out by sound of thunder even at home, so I realize out here it was no different. He's running back towards the parking lot to see mommy, well at least in his mind. And come to think of it, we have never encountered a thunderstorm on our 14er summit attempts... except the blizzard up on Sherman few months ago, but then again there were no thunder! Also, we were usually on the trail before sunrise and off the summit before 'noon. But it's only 1130am, and the weather man's wrong again, because the precipitation is 30 minutes to soon...I am not ready for it yet! I realize that I am at a point of no return. I know that we are almost at the summit, probably just few more switchbacks, and backtracking to Summit Lake would actually be a longer hike and perhaps a more dangerous one with the added slipping factor when going down hill. And not to mention, logistically my wife will be at the summit waiting for us, and I had no way of getting hold of her. So I chase after Max fast as I could and finally catches up to him after his several more attempts to outrun me in the wrong direction. I thank the heavens after I catching up to Max otherwise I would be posting on 14ers.com to see if someone had spotted my wolflike dog. We loose a good 30 minutes in this hide and seek pursuit. I am so glad that my wife had brought the leash, which I now secure to Max's thick neck and we go on a forced march. Several times he almost pulls me off the mountain trying to go the opposite way. Damn husky!
We reach the touristy summit parking lot at 1220pm. My wife is already there, she is happy to see us. We are glad to see her. She took a good nap in the car and her mood is now better. Hail has now reached its peak furry now, and a dozen bikers shiver underneath a shelter and most tourists are in their car. I force Max to take a picture with me as I place the camera on 10 sec auto-shoot mode, because no one is walking around like an idiot in this pounding hail at 14,000 feet to take any foto for us.
It gets cold quickly at 14,000 feet, freezing my ungloved hands. Usually, I always pack a neoprene glove for these summits, but who knew? However, there's still remains the summit to reach from the parking lot. My wife kindly refuses to accompany me to the summit as she swears seeing lightening earlier as Max lays comfortably in the hatch smelling like a wet goat. So I go solo.
At the summit, beyond the east ridge you can see Mt Bierstadt, Torreys and Grays in the distance (left to right respectively). The dark angry sky adds a nice 3D texture to the photos.
Conclusion: I am used to being abandoned by my wife on these 14ers hikes, some times as the height, rolling thunder, or fatigue that spooks her out. But I was appalled when my best 4legged friend, my trusted companion also bailed out on me today! What a traitor! But now I appreciate the sign ""DOGS MUST BE LEASHED AT ALL TIMES" because sometimes they can act like a cat and do its own thing! All in all it was a fantastic day and no matter how hard or easy each 14er is, they always teach me an invaluable lesson, and today's was: sometimes an act of betrayal maybe a sense of loyalty.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):