| Changing plans
This is a report on two trips, mostly because I didn’t have time to post last year on my trip and because they have a similar theme: major plan changes.
I make it my goal to get to Colorado in the last week of June every year for backpacking and just enjoying the mountains. Living at 1400 feet makes my annual trip to 14000 feet something I look forward to for months. Last year, I decided to finally do more than just one 14er during my trip for the first time, so I got a group of salty hikers together to aim for 7 in 7 days and finish it off with some rafting on day 8. The plan was as follows:
Day 1: Hike to South Colony Lakes
Day 2: Humboldt
Day 3: Blanca and Ellingwood
Day 4: Hike to Willow Lakes
Day 5: Challenger and Kit Carson
Day 6: Hike out from Willow Lakes
Day 7: Shavano and Tabegauche
Day 8: Rafting
Five of us left Arkansas in the afternoon of June 22, 2012 and drove all night to the west side of Lake Pueblo where we picked up my father-in-law, who road all the way there on his bicycle. We then drove to the South Colony Lake Trailhead and hiked up to the lakes to camp out. The hike up was just fine with everyone making good time. We set up camp and my homemade tent did extremely well.
I should note that I have never suffered from altitude sickness, but was aware that the others probably would. As far as that goes, they suffered from two days of headaches of varying severity, but nothing that couldn’t be overcome.
On Day 2, we woke up and charged up Humboldt, which looked a little more daunting than I remembered it when I climbed the Crestones in college. Here is Glen (51) and Josh (18) surveying their first 14er.
My father-in-law, Stevil (61), made quick work of all of the peaks and stayed well ahead of us. He is the speck on the ridge. He summited first and came back down.
Jeremy (37) did not make it all the way to the peak. He sprained his knee about 200 vertical feet before the summit and sat down to rest while we hit the peak. The rest of us made it to the peak in good time. I (31) am the heavily bearded one and the other guy is my brother, Nathan (33).
On the way down, Nathan would sprain his ankle bad enough to necessitate a change in plans. After resting a few hours at camp, I came up with a new plan. Our previous plan relied heavily on the ability to carry packs into camp. With two injuries, I knew we were not going to make it very far with packs. It took a little convincing as all six of us are seasoned hikers who have toughed out injuries in the backcountry before, but we came to the right decision. The new plan was as follows:
Day 3: Democrat, Cameron (we voted and we decided to count it because we live at 1400 feet), Lincoln, and Bross
Day 4: Travel to Grays and Torreys and rest
Day 5: Grays and Torreys
Day 6: Travel to Antero and rest
Day 7: Antero
Day 8: Rafting
So after convincing the guys, we hiked out to the cars and loaded up to head for pizza in Salida at Amicas and then on to set up camp at Kite Lake in the dark. I was impressed with the facilities at Kite Lake, the toilet was very well maintained and that is saying a lot for a pit toilet.
Day 3 went smoothly. Nathan and Jeremy nursed their injured legs up Democrat and then back down to the campsite to make dinner. Here is Jeremy on the summit of his first 14er.
Stevil went way ahead and finished all 4 before Nathan and Jeremy got back down from Democrat. Josh, Glen, and I went on to Cameron and passed it so quickly we forgot to stop for a picture. We also met a gentleman up there celebrating the 1 year anniversary of being diagnosed with cancer as a preparation for celebrating his 1 year anniversary of being cured with a marathon. He and his little dog hiked with us the rest of the way. Lincoln was a quick jaunt from Cameron and we spent a little time there enjoying the view. Yes, that is a forest fire faintly starting in the background. They had it put out before we got to Bross.
After Lincoln, we made quick work of getting to Bross. We summited the legal public end of the mountain, but took our picture before the sign. By this point, Josh is wondering why he didn’t wear sunscreen this day.
The descent down was something none of us were prepared for. I had studied up and knew it was somewhat challenging of a scree slope, but it was more like ball bearings on hardpan than a scree slope. We ran out of water (I spilled our extra bladder of water trying to transfer it to Josh) with about three quarters of a mile left and drug into camp with the smell of my famous dehydrated chicken noodle soup and stuffing meal almost ready (really just dehydrated cooked ground chicken, chicken noodle soup mix, curry powder, and finish it off by adding stove top stuffing mix).
Day 4 was simple and the road up Steven’s Gulch was excellent. I was impressed with the number and quality of campsites at the trailhead, but the bathroom was horrible. Only men would go in the women’s and the men’s had been locked. No big deal though, since we had the shovel method.
Day 5 started out very well. I would say the valley there is one of the most beautiful high mountain valleys I have ever seen. The wildflowers were amazing, and the photos don’t even remotely do it justice.
Both Grays and Torreys were accomplished by all six of us (Stevil took on Kelso on the way down). We even decided to have a hand stand contest on top of Torreys. What do you expect with 3 ex-gymnasts and a former gymnastics gym owner on a trip!
With Grays and Torreys behind us and 4 of us having hit seven 14ers (including Cameron), we moved on to Antero for more rest for our injured hikers and a final bonus summit. We stopped in Buena Vista at Punky’s to refuel on The Big Mike, an excellent barbeque sandwich with cole slaw on top. We all ate it in honor of our good friend Michael Pearce (aka Big Mike) who a couple of weeks before survive 7 heart attacks in a week only to return to the softball fields by fall season.
The road up Antero was rough, but we were able to bring both the Jeep and the 4Runner up the road. This was the 4Runner’s first off road trip (Glen’s wife Angela was not too happy about the picture below), but it made it the entire way.
My brother would kill me if I didn’t include the Jeep in the report, so here is the gratuitous picture of the Jeep and the trailer he built for it.
Day 7 went smoothly, sort of. Glen, Steve, Josh, and I hiked up Antero from the creek where we had camped. Nathan and Jeremy took the Jeep up to the top. We met at the parking lot at the top and summited all together. Unfortunately, my camera died just before the group picture, so all I have is a picture of my brother celebrating his fifth 14er of the week.
Josh blew out his knee on the way up and ended up having surgery a couple months later (the injury was an old injury that finally gave way), so he road down in the Jeep. Stevil went on in the pending thunderstorm to summit Cronin Peak and ended up sharing a marmot hole with a ptarmigan while the lightening and hail went by. Glen and I hike down to join the others. While waiting on Stevil, we met up with a gentleman who was waiting on his grandsons to get back to the creek to pick them up. He and Glen knew each other from a mutual friend who introduced both of them to hiking years back. He recommended Coyote Cantina in Buena Vista for good Mexican food. It was better than he described it. The chile rellenos were the best I have ever had. They are so good that even though it was 56 miles one way out of our way, we went there for chile rellenos this week too, and I don’t usually like chile rellenos.
We packed up camp and drove down to set up near the rafting place (Noah’s Ark, I have rafted with them now seven times and recommend them highly). Our rafting also went well. Overall, the trip was a success. Four of us made eight 14ers, one made five, and one made four. We all stayed within our physical limits and no one was too badly injured. The moral is: be flexible and put safety first and you can still accomplish your goals.
Fast forward exactly 1 year. After making it up all those peaks, I decided to take my family out to the mountains for my annual trip this year. It had been five years since my wife and oldest son had been to the mountains, so it was about time. Five years and two more kids that is. So we loaded up the minivan and grabbed a 21 year old cousin (read Sherpa), and headed out. The plan was to camp at Cheyenne Mountain State Park, then Mueller State Park, then Golden Gate Canyon State Park, and finally Kite Lake. Planned activities for the kids in the Colorado Springs area (Cave of the Winds, the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine, Pikes Peak Train, Garden of the Gods, Florissant Fossil Beds) went extremely well. On Wednesday, we began the 14er part of the trip with a summit of Mt. Evans, with Grays and Torreys scheduled for Thursday, and Democrat scheduled for Saturday.
I should say that my boys are Joe (5 and half), Sammy (3), and Eli (20 months), so summiting a 14er with them looks a little different. But here we go, from Summit Lake to the top of Evans. We had to stop to play in the snow several times, as we didn’t get snow back home this year.
At some point, Tyler missed a switch back in the trail and we ended up on the wrong face of the mountain. We finished the ascent to the upper parking lot via the road. Here is Joe and Loni (my wife) making a push up the mountain.
And a picture of P-Scrammy taking a much needed rest. He trooped it out and only needed to use his Piggyback Rider for about a quarter of a mile at the top.
The others stopped at the top parking lot to rest while I descended to the van to bring it up to the top. Somehow, I didn’t manage to get a photo of either Eli or Tyler during the entire trip up. Tyler was suffering some mild altitude sickness, so he stayed at the van with Sammy, Loni, and Eli while Joe and I assaulted the peak.
Here is Joe on top of his first 14er.
We left Mt. Evans with everyone excited about Grays and Torreys the next day. Off to Golden Gate Canyon State Park for camping and resting up. I said this was themed with changes in plans, so here is the point at which our plans changed. After summiting a 14er, Princess She-Who-Trips-On-Dust (my wife’s Cherokee name), broke her ankle in the parking lot at the campsite carrying sleeping bags (her version is that she was rescuing one of the kids from the jaws of a bear riding a mountain lion). A trip to one of Denver’s fine ERs later, and then we headed back to Arkansas. Maybe next year we will start with Grays and Torreys!
Either way, we had fun both times and the information on 14ers.com provided me with the ability to quickly change plans and lots of studying and preparation allowed me to make the decisions quickly to rescue the first trip and to end the second trip. We will be back June 21, 2014 for more fun as both the wife and kids have caught the climbing fever.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):