| Dog Rescue on Lost Rat Couloir
MOUNTAIN: Grays Peak (14,270 feet)
ROUTE: Lost Rat Couloir, then standard East Slopes
DEPART TH: 4:30 a.m.
RETURN TH: 1:30 p.m. (9 hours)
CLIMBERS: SurfNTurf (Jeff), awknox (Andrew) + 13 others.
The plan was to take a big group of my friends up their first 14er(s): Grays, and possibly Torreys. Wanting to make things a little more personally interesting, I hatched a scheme to start a few hours earlier and climb Lost Rat Couloir, then walk down the trail a bit and lounge in the sun near The Rascal until my friends arrived. I got in touch with Andrew in the middle of the week and he agreed to join. But as they say, even the best laid plans...
Here's the story. When we arrived at the TH on Friday night, members of the Alpine Rescue Team were already there. We didn't talk with anyone directly, but it was obvious they were searching for something and the buzz was a lost dog. We were sad to hear that, but honestly didn't think too long about it. We hit the sack at about 11 p.m. after carb-loading with a few microbrews. About half of my friends were camping -- a group of eight -- so we spread out over two sites. The rest were driving up early in the morning.
Andrew and I woke up at 4 a.m. and hit the trail 30 minutes later. We turned off at the trail sign and almost immediately lost the "road," so we more or less just made a straight line to the base of Lost Rat. We donned our gear and started up the apron right as the sun crested the mountains to the east.
Alpenglow at the base of Lost Rat Couloir
Andrew leading the way up the apron
Me, unaware of the little surprise awaiting us...
This climb almost didn't happen. From photos taken by other 14ers.com members, it was obvious the top of Lost Rat was already melted out as of 7/10. I spent most of the week soliciting beta, and waffled back and forth quite a bit. If Andrew hadn't come along, I probably would have just strolled up the standard route with my friends. We were the only party I noticed on the route all day, so I'm sure glad we went ahead with the plan.
Looking up the couloir
Andrew continuing to install a ladder for me
Looking back at Kelso Mountain
Andrew (who can also be called Kick-Stepper 3000) led most of the way, kicking steps in good snow. Lost Rat is fading fast, though. We had to pick our way around patches of rock and most of the snow was very shallow. We made excellent time, reaching the fork before even really getting warmed up. Continuing our ascent, we saw something a little...unexpected.
Our first sighting of Loki
Was it a fox? A bobcat? What the heck would those animals be doing at 13,000 feet on 40-degree snow? Then Andrew saw it: the creature was wearing a collar. It was a dog. I can't speak for Andrew, but it took me a few minutes to remember the SAR story from the night before and I didn't immediately make the connection. We were very close to the standard trail at this point -- we could hear whole conversations just on the other side of the rocks. I thought maybe the dog belonged to someone nearby on the trail and had just found a way down into the couloir.
Apparently, what happened was the owner had been hiking the standard trail on Grays on Friday morning and the dog had fallen down a cliff in the area of the couloir. She searched for hours, as did the Alpine Rescue Team (a big party of SAR members stayed out looking until almost dark, arriving back at the TH using headlamps). But the dog was nowhere to be found, until we stumbled across her nearly 24 hours after she went missing.
It's a dog!
Loki's perch...I wonder how long she'd been in the same spot?
Loki woofing down my turkey sandwich in about three bites
The dog looked to be in good shape, considering what she'd been through. She was trembling and shied away when we approached, but she was standing and circling around and wasn't whimpering. The only thing we had to feed a dog was my turkey sandwich, so we threw it to her and she let us get close. She was wearing tags: Loki, from Denver.
We were nearer to the top of Lost Rat than the bottom, so we decided to complete the ascent then take Loki down the standard trail. I use a sling as an ice axe leash, so I untied it and we clipped it to her collar. The only problem was Loki wasn't exactly keen on walking. She'd take a few tentative steps, then lay down. Andrew decided to just carry her, while I went in front and kicked the widest, deepest steps I could for him. I vote to rename the route Lost Dog Couloir.
The mother of all Hero Shots
Loki managed to walk a short distance to top out on Lost Rat
Once off the snow and into the melted out section of the couloir, Loki did walk for a while. Andrew actually had to pick her up by the scruff of her neck on some particularly troublesome areas where he couldn't carry her and she wouldn't go on her own. We finally topped out and used a gaiter to get Loki some water. Andrew has Verizon and had four bars of service, so he wasted no time calling the owner (Loki's tags had the number). She answered and even though I wasn't on the phone, I could hear the relief in her voice. It was really touching.
Gaiters are a multi-purpose tool
Exit on Lost Rat
Me, lounging with Loki
At this point, Loki was completely done with walking. She didn't appear to have any broken bones, but the pads of her feet were in bad shape and she was bleeding from her rear end. We realized we'd have to carry her the whole way. Andrew shouldered most of the load, with me spelling him when his arms got tired. The people on the trail, once aware of the situation, were AWESOME. Thank you so much. We couldn't pass a group without them offering food or water or help.
Andrew beginning the long haul out
Carrying her out
Andrew with Loki
We ran into my group of friends near the turnoff for Kelso Ridge and took a bit of an extended break. Andrew was going strong and had driven up in his own car, so he gave me the go-ahead to turn around and ascend with my friends. He'd finish the carry out and drive Loki back to Denver. So really, most of the credit has to go to him. Awesome job man! He went straight back to town and delivered the pup, and I can't imagine what that scene must have been like.
Loki in Andrew's car for the ride home
Lost Rat Couloir...the "X" is approximately where we found Loki
In other news, every single one of my friends managed to summit Grays (though some needed a fair amount of coaxing, haha). It was either 13 or 14 in total, including a guy who flew in from Boston on Thursday night just for this trip. Speth and his wife had come along as well and were waiting on the summit in full costume: he as a Mexican cowboy complete with a sombrero, her as a nurse with high-heels. Even better, he'd brought up a stove and greeted each newcomer with a hot quesadilla. Muuuuuch appreciated.
Only a few people completed the traverse over to Torreys, as most were content with just getting their first 14er summit.
Long story short: I climbed snow in mid-July, helped rescue a lost dog, and saw more than a dozen of my closest friends stand on their first high summit. I can't imagine a better Saturday.
(Most of) my group on the summit!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):