A group of seven of us departed Kearney, Nebraska (~1100' elevation) Friday morning. 6 of us were first timers, ranging in age from 17-56. The elader of our group had 17 summits under his boots and somehow he conviced us to go on this trip with him. We arrived at the trailhead around 4pm and made our way up Half Moon Pass. It became immediatley clear that the altitude was going to be a problem for us as we were huffing and puffing while making this ascent. Steadily we made it up, taking frequent breaks. Upon decending, our lungs got to relax and we decended relatively fast.
On the descent from Half Moon Pass
The crew admiring the view into the valley
About the camping area...We got in pretty late on a friday and all the spots were taken (denoted by a stone on top of the posts), we eventually made our own campsite, but we were quite a ways away from the water. Looking back, and as a heads up to those who will take this trip in the future, camp as close to the water as you can. Campsites 1-4 are fairly close and even if they have a rock on them (designating them as occupied), there is generally enough room to set up 5-8 tents in some of these spots.
On Saturday morning we made our way up the trail. We left at 7:30 and despite frequent catch our breath stops, we made decent progress. We discovered that we could all catch our breath within 2 minutes, so our breaks were limited to that timeframe. However as we accending the breaks got somewhat longer, but not too much. We found that if we just sit down to long, our motivation drops quickly, so it was best to keep moving.
Once we broke the treeline, we saw some awesome CFI guys and girls adding steps to the trail (between the treeline and the first cairn). At this point, everyone in our group couldnt explain how we made it up to the summit. I guess the best way to explain it is that once we broke out of the treeline, we saw a cairn at the top of slope and aimed for it. Once we were there, we saw the ridge and aimed for that. Then we got to the end of the ridge and got to the base of the summit. Essentially we all set a goal in the distance and achieved these small goals until we were a the base of the final ascent.
Trying to catch my breath during a break on the way to to the ridge
At this point, the trail ended and we started bouldering. We were exhausted, but pure adrenaline was kicking in and we wanted the summit. Personally, this climb was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. The atmosphere on the summit was pretty euphoric as everyone there was thrilled to have made the climb and succeeded!
We got there at 11:45 for a total ascent time from the camp of 4 hours and 15 minutes. On the summit we got pelted by pea size hail for a minute before it stopped. We had a quick lunch and bible devotional and made our way down. We were trying to hurry because it looked like it was going to rain at any point and bouldering on slippery rocks wasn't something we wanted to do. We made it back to camp by 3:30 or so.
Some things of note. We all carried 2 liters of water in daypacks and most of us were empty by the time we summited. Ideally we should have all had 3 liters. There is no place to filter water once you leave the campsite.
Also, we recorded quite a bit of our trip from start to finish. Once we get it compiled into a video, I'll upload it to youtube and share the link with you guys. This was an amazing experience and I don't think I'd ever be able to forget it!