| Mummy Mania Attempt...a Change of Plans
Chapin Pass TH
Mount Chapin - 12,454
Mount Chiquita - 13,069
Ypsilon Mountain - 13, 514
Fairchild Mountain - 13,502
Lawn Lake TH
Dist: ~16 mi
So, it DOES matter what part of your body you land on when you fall....
My favorite Finns sent me a text invitation earlier in the week to join them on their Mummy Mania attempt. I hesitated. Wasn't worried about the mileage or elevation gain, but was more concerned that we had a 37 mi weekend planned for the next weekend and that my legs wouldn't be as fresh as they could be. But after 1 or 2 taunting texts of, "Come on, you know you want to..." I was in. I am weak.
I studied the route, read TRs, and came up with a reasonable estimate for my pace. I took into account the varying terrains, elevation gains/losses, and the fact that we'd be hiking for almost 4 hrs in the dark. I'm always slower in the dark...negotiating rocks, second guessing, "is this still right?", etc. My main concerns were the ascent up Fairchild and Hagues, more from a time standpoint. It looked tedious and time consuming, with the potential for some fun here and there.
I met up with Bob and Kate at their beautiful house Friday night, great views by the way. As they were packing up their car, I asked if they were taking helmets. They said no, didn't feel they were needed and didn't want the extra weight. They were probably right, but I opted to take mine anyway. We then left for the Lawn Lake TH, arriving at ~9:30p or so.
With a 55% chance of thunderstorms by noon, it was decided that a 2a start (from the Chapin Pass TH) would behoove our little trio. I set my alarm for 1a...3.5 hrs of sleep, awesome!
1a came and surprisingly, I had no problem getting up and going. We left my car at the Lawn Lake TH and then rode in the Finn-mobile to the Chapin Pass TH, where there was already another vehicle. After grabbing gear and taking care of business, we were headed up the nice, Chapin Pass Trail at ~2:15a.
Taking pictures in the dark is interesting...especially when you don't know how to use a camera. A look back on the trail to Chapin Pass
As we neared treeline, Bob spotted some glowing eyes laying in the grass watching us. Bob threw a rock near it and it was pretty obvious, once it stood up that it was a bull elk. It stood staring at us like, "What is WRONG with you people?" Relieved it was not something carnivorous or omnivorous, we apologized and continued on our way.
Before long we left the trail and headed up the gentle tundra and talus slope to Mount Chapin and soon were at the summit cairn.
Bob and Kate on the summit of Mt. Chapin
The stay on Chapin was short and soon we were heading towards Chiquita. We found the trail up Chiquita and it wasn't long before we were on Chiquita's summit as well. We were making great time and I was going significantly faster than I'd expected.
Bob and Kate on the summit of Chiquita - my flash was bright...sorry guys
While descending Chiquita, we saw some headlamps, to the west of the ridge. I assumed they were the headlamps of the people from the other car at the pass, but was not sure why they were so far west. Oh well, maybe we'll see them on the summit and find out their story, I forged on. We headed up the arching ridge and I soon found a trail! It wasn't ideal, but it was indeed a trail and made it easier to negotiate the rocky ascent in the dark. I looked back periodically, as I was fascinated by the pinpoint lights, and saw that they were headed our way. As we progressed up Ypsilon, twilight was approaching and one could make out the features of the dramatic east side of Ypsilon...impressive!
Twilight - Photo by BobbyFinn
The hike to the summit went rather quickly, and I arrived to find Bob and Kate well settled in at the wind shelter, trying to catch a few Zs. The wind shelter on the summit butts right up to the drop off the east face. Wish it were lighter out to thoroughly enjoy the experience from Ypsilon.
Bob and Kate try to nap on Ypsilon
Happy Valerie on Ypsilon's summit! Photo by BobbyFinn
I was already over an hour ahead of my time estimates so, it looked like we'd be on Mummy in time to beat the storms. Cool.
After summiting Ypsilon, I knew that our day was about to get much harder. The ascent up Fairchild has been touted in a couple of TRs as being the most grueling part of the day (with Hagues at a close 2nd). It's ~1000' drop off Ypsilon and ~1000'+ ascent up Fairchild, much of it on wobbly rock and boulders. To be more efficient, we decided to drop off the ridge to the right side and ascend the south face (Class 2+/3 on loose rock and boulders per 13ers.com). I donned my helmet, perhaps prematurely, but I thought, "why not, I've got it."
Heading over to Fairchild
Looking back at Ypsilon's east face
Kate negotiating the boulders with style
After getting to the low point near the ridge, I took on the "this will suck, just get it done" attitude and started making my way up.
Bob and Kate starting the ascent up Fairchild's south face
We fanned out a little to avoid kicking rocks on one another. Bob and Kate were to the left and I was to climber's right. With 1/4 mi to go to the gentle summit ridge, I found myself thinking, "this really isn't that bad". The rock was far more stable than I was expecting and my legs were feeling great, but I also reminded myself that I wasn't at the top yet.
With less than 0.2 mi to go to the summit ridge, I was on a refrigerator sized boulder when it shifted or tipped. I lost my balance, toppled off the rock, and somehow ended up face planting on another lovely rock. Teeth hit hard. GOSH DANGIT! HOW could I let myself fall like that! I yelled, "help" and Bob yelled back that they were on their way. I sat on the rock with blood dripping onto my clothes and the rock...stupid rock. Felt some small, hard, items in my mouth and spit them into my hand, along with some blood. I was relieved to see that they were bits of rock and not teeth. I felt my teeth, they were there, but knocked in. Without thinking, I pulled my front tooth forward (I learned later, that, that was what you're supposed to do).
Bob arrived first and gave me a cloth to wipe my face so he could assess the damage. On queue, Bob said, "You can keep that."
Kate soon arrived and both, Bob and Kate were perfect at not reacting while they cleaned, assessed, and bandaged me up. My injuries were fairly benign, but the face does like to bleed and there seemed to be a substantial amount of blood. I could feel that my lip was split in 2 places really bad with my tongue, the teeth were out of place, had a deep gash below my nose, and other cuts and scrapes on my chin, nose, arms, legs, and hip.
"Not so happy" Valerie - Photo by BobbyFinn
Bob and Kate added levity to the situation and we joked about a few things, like Bob's first aid skills and how he did "stay at a Holiday Inn Express once".
Other than being pissed off, I felt surprisingly good. No dizziness, essentially no pain, other than my lip stinging (if I didn't hold it together). Not a bad deal, considering. Thank God that I am paranoid about rockfall and wore a helmet.
We sat there for awhile, then decided it was time to get going. They offered to carry my backpack for me, but as I said, I really felt pretty darned good. We decided that the path of least resistance (although longer), was to summit Fairchild and to hike down the gentler side to the Black Canyon Trail and back to my car at the Lawn Lake TH (~10 mi from where we were).
Kate led the way to the summit, testing each rock for me, while Bob made sure I didn't pass out.
Bob and Kate on the summit of Fairchild
Needless to say, we didn't stay long on the summit and started down the gentler tundra and rock towards the saddle and class 1 trail. Again, Bob and Kate kept a vigilante eye on me and pointed out any loose rock or other obstacles that might cause me to face plant again.
Bob escorting me to the "Saddle" - photo by KatieFinn
Hagues looked so close and gentle, it was tempting to go for it. But I knew it was an illusion. Hagues was still aways off and the final 250' involves class 3 and possibly class 4 scrambling. Difficult to do while holding my lip together and I was anxious to have my teeth looked at and my lip stitched up. I offered to let Bob and Kate finish the ridge run while I proceeded down the trail and we'd meet up at the trail junction, but they more or less told me I was stupid and to keep heading down.
Soon after getting on the Black Canyon trail, I see a peppy, cute, little number bouncing up the trail carrying a clipboard. I thought, "that CAN'T be Susan, can it?" Sure enough, it was Susan Joy Paul. We chatted briefly, she offered to assist as well, but I was fine and she headed on her way up to Hagues.
The rest of the hike was gorgeous, uneventful, but loooong (~9 mi from the saddle). Passed lots of couples and families. At first I said hello, but then opted to ignore them...and maybe they would ignore me and not notice the bloody clothes or bloody cloth I held to my mouth. One couple flagged us down to look at a doe and her twin, spotted, fawns. The wife, who was watching the deer family intently seemed mildly irritated that we were not appreciating this great find and snapping pictures. The husband noticed me and asked, "Are you ok?" I said yes, but that I needed to get to the ER for some stitches, and we headed off.
Walking down the Black Canyon Trail, gorgeous! - photo by KatieFinn
Mummy Mountain - Photo by KatieFinn
Approaching treeline - Photo by KatieFinn
Longs peak looking stunning as ever....
After a few rain showers, we finally arrived at the TH and the Fab Finns drove me to the Estes Park ER (making jokes along the way, some rude, of course! ) then they took my car to get their car from Chapin Pass and then came back to the ER and waited...and waited...for quite awhile.
Although thankful (very thankful) that my injuries were minor, one thought kept popping into my head, "What body part you land on matters." Had I dinged up any other part of my body (as I often do), we would have loaded me up with bandages, Ibuprofen, and continued on...but falling on the face adds another level of complexity that I hadn't considered. Not only was I worried about the status of my teeth and getting my lip back in one piece, but hydrating was difficult with the loose teeth and the split lip. And eating was almost out of the question as my bite was off and I could not chew. The Fincutters gave me gummy bears to suck on to sustain me for the hike out. Mmm, gummy bears....
End result, 9 stitches, "repositioned" and wired teeth, and I get to eat most of my meals through a straw or cut up my food into tiny little bites. May lose 2 of my teeth, and have some scarring on the face, but as I said, "not a bad deal, considering."
Before I go, I want to thank Bob and Kate for being so incredibly awesome! I can't express enough gratitude for all that they did for me: remaining so calm when they weren't sure how bad my injuries were, cleaning me up, bandaging my wounds, watching over me diligently, escorting me up and down the mountain, painstakingly pointing out loose rocks and pitfalls, driving me to the ER, and for adding humor to the situation...oh yeah, and the gummy bears! Mmm gummy bears.... If I had to fall on my face during a hike, I'm glad it was with you two....
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