Peak(s):  Humboldt Peak  -  14,064 feet
Post Date:  05/09/2007
Modified:  05/06/2014
Date Climbed:   05/05/2007
Posted By:  USAKeller
Additional Members:   TalusMonkey

 Humboldt Peak (To David)- East Ridge from South Colony Lakes TH   

A Tribute to David - Our Last Climb Together

Date: Saturday, May 5, 2007
Group: USAKeller and TalusMonkey
Route: East Ridge from South Colony Lakes TH
Total elevation gain: ~4,365ft.

This trip report will sound atypical of my standard reports with stats; rather, it's a story of my last day with David. Please live vicariously through our climb of Humboldt Peak.

For quite some time now, two things I have always wanted to do on a 14er were to camp overnight on the summit and watch the sunrise from the summit. With these same desires, David wanted very much to be the one to satisfy my interests and be there with me for this experience. Humboldt Peak it was. We found little information on the East Ridge, but used Dawson's book as the primary resource for our climb.

I met David in Lakewood at 8:00am so we could divide up the tent and make one last gear check. On the road at 8:50am, we arrived at our parking area at 9,700ft. on the South Colony Lakes road at noon. The road conditions were completely dry at the lower 2WD parking area. At around 9,200ft. smaller snow drifts began to show and gradually covered more of the road, but it was no problem for my Durango. The photo below shows the area where we parked. You can also see how snow drifts cover much of the road but by having one side of the vehicle on the mud allowed for sufficient traction to drive through the drifts. David was surprised how far we got up this road.

The turn-around area where we parked (taken from 9,700ft.). A drift (not shown) prevented us from driving any farther:

We started up the road at 12:45pm- I was planning on attempting a summit ski descent so this was my first time climbing in AT boots. For at least a mile up the road, we didn't have any need for flotation. At the first major stream crossing (around 10,000ft.), I slipped on a log and fell in the stream, and, after ringing out my boot liner, I climbed up the mountain with a wet foot! (*EDIT: I did have a fresh pair of socks I put on, but it was the boot liner that was a little wet).

**It's not my intention to add many photos of myself, but David always loved to take action shots of me. He was eager to write this trip report (actually, I was too- we playfully argued who was going to write it!), so some of the following photos are photos I recovered from his camera that I presume he would put in this report.**

Crossing the stream right before I fell in!

We put on skis/snowshoes somewhere near 11,400ft. There is no defined trail on this route- Dawson suggests leaving the road at 10,800ft. and bushwacking straight up through the trees to hit the broad ridge. We left the road after 2 miles and it was a steep climb up in skis- too steep because I kept sliding backwards and falling into the trees- David got an absolute kick out of this! But I had to take them off to climb any farther, mostly because of the steepness, but also because it was hard to travel through this terrain with them on.

Here I am skinning through the trees. The snow was falling lightly at this point and we could hear the wind whistling up high:

David also told me right after he took this photo that he wanted
to put it in the trip report and get it framed. It made me smile:


The East Ridge route is short and steep- generally not a place where you would climb with 20lb.+ overnight backpacks. At this point, my body was getting extremely fatigued and I had to make a decision whether I wanted to stash the skis with David's snowshoes or continue up with them for my first ski descent. At the rate I was going, we both left our flotation just shy of treeline (around 11,800ft.).

Hiking up the ridge- the wind from here until morning never dropped below a sustained 30mph:

I was really getting fatigued. Every time I would catch up to David, he would tell me he couldn't believe how unusually slow I was climbing and how much I wobbled from the wind. I'm blaming most of this on the unfamiliarity of hiking in those boots. He felt really strong that day though. The ridge was just a relatively steep grind up to the summit.

Looking at our route up the ridge (red), our descent route (blue), and the rest of my solo descent (green) (taken from 11,225ft.). The summit is not seen from here:

Above 13,000ft., I stopped more frequently. I was in a bad mood and had David said he didn't want to continue on because of the conditions, I felt at that time I would have been ok turning back. On our drive down there, I played a song by Shaggy called "Hope"- it's about never giving up when times are tough. He told me: "Caroline, remember that song you played for me in the car about never giving up? I brought you here to challenge you- don't give up; we will get to the summit." I climbed on. I found it easier to stay on the snowy areas and kicking steps in whereas David, being the TalusMonkey, climbed up the talus. As we gained more elevation, I got more frustrated from lack of energy. One of my expedition mitts took off with the wind when I stopped to get my headlamp and all I had was a fleece liner glove. The thought of getting in a warm sleeping bag and quickly falling asleep prevailed.

David reached the summit well before me and scouted a place to set up the tent. He would frequently flash his light my way so I could see where he was. I summited about 30min. after him at 9:15pm (when would you ever be able to do this during the summer?!). I fell to my knees and cried because I was so happy to be up there. David fell to his knees too, facing me. He grabbed my shoulders and said, "Do you remember our first climb up Handies Peak together? I know I didn't know you at all, but when we were on the summit, I told you that there was nobody else I would rather be here with than you. That's exactly how I feel right now." I smiled again.

Now, setting up the tent was a huge ordeal in itself to do this in the dark with 35mph+ winds howling across us. I would kneel on the footprint to keep it from blowing away while he attempted to put the steaks in the snow. We found that, combined with the wind, the snow was too soft to hold them in place. But, we unloaded some gear into the tent to keep it in place. However, neither of us realized that a tent pole completely blew off the summit! He looked for it but was unsuccessful, so we were forced to sleep in an un-erected tent. I was starting to feel my extremities freeze, and he ordered me to get into my bag to warm up. David came back and told me he decided he wanted to move the tent to the wind shelter where it was less windy laying on the ground. We moved it and I got in; David following shortly after. I spent most of the night awake- I'm not sure if that had to do with sleeping at altitude or not. David said he got about 3 hours.

Throughout the night, the winds progressively died down to where they were non-existent when we woke up (relatively speaking!) in the morning. We were able to watch the sunrise on a clear, windless, and quiet morning in the Crestones. It was a beautiful moment. We didn't want it to end.

The sun beginning to rise:

First light on the Crestones:

A photo at our "camp" on the summit with Crestone Needle (left) and Crestone Peak (right):

And, perhaps the most important, memorable, and personal favorite photo- USAKeller and TalusMonkey on the summit of Humboldt Peak:

We broke down and packed up camp. We decided to avoid going back down the rocky ridge and take one of the couloirs on the south face where we would be able to heel-step down.

David descending Humboldt Peak:

For obvious and appropriate reasons, I will stop there.

David, I was thrilled to climb with you again. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for fulfilling a dream I had of camping and watching a sunrise from the summit of one of Colorado's Fourteeners. I couldn't have imagined any better of a place to do this than in the Crestones with anyone else other than you. It will be an experience I will never forget. I hope you enjoy my trip report.

*Ski descent information: you can definitely ski from the summit. There are a few rocky areas near the top, but both of the couloirs (especially the one we began our descent in) looked like a great ski.

Tribute page:

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions
Nathan Hale

Incredible     02/05/2011 00:22
Those are some incredible pictures, and a very touching trip report.

I don't know what more to say, but I hope you're in a good place.


Great.     05/10/2007 02:32
A truly inspiring trip report. Thank you for sharing. It brought tears to my eyes.


Thank you.     05/10/2007 02:38
Thank you, USAKeller, for having the courage and generosity to share your trip report with us - many of us strangers, or nearly so - under these difficult circumstances. I feel honored.


Well Done     05/10/2007 03:32

Thank you for posting this trip report. I know it must have been difficult. I can only imagine how great it was for David to be up there with you. I know he will love this TR!



---     05/10/2007 03:34
Thank you, Caroline.


Speechless     05/10/2007 03:35
Bless you!


A Great Tribute     11/30/2010 17:28
Thanks for sharing. Never before has a trip report meant so much to so many. While most of us never had the chance to meet TM in person, we all feel like we lost a brother up there. Stay strong. We'll see you on the mountains.


No words...     11/30/2010 17:28
I don't know how to express my admiration for you. Posting that not only took us all there, but also gave us valuable insight into David and also you. Courage and strength of character. You must excel in both.
God bless you.

Aspen Summit

The Last Look     11/30/2010 17:28
Thanks for that one last look and one great story of companionship! I will re-read it whenever I think of that "crazy" Monkey

David, you've made me cry, dude! I'm going to throw snowballs at you when we meet in the Next Life! G'bye for now, brother!



Amazing.     11/30/2010 17:28
What an awesome looking climb and adventure! I'm so sorry it turned out the way it did. Caroline, I admire your strength and courage. Now knowing how cold you were and how little sleep you got, and you still found the strength to help David and get down the mountain and get him help. Thank you for posting this. I never met him, but I miss him, and he has been on my mind for two days now. God bless you and his family.
We'll miss you, TalusMonkey.



Beautiful     11/30/2010 17:28
Caroline, that was beautiful. I know how much he cared for you and enjoyed your company. Like others have said and like TM had said, I am glad he was with you. You seem like a beautiful person. I can't help but think that if he could pick have chosen who he would spend his last days with, it would have been you. You made him very happy and at the same time I know that you made some of his dreams come true as well.


Touching     11/30/2010 17:28
I don't know what to say. Your report and pictures made me cry. You're truly a strong person. God be with you.


Thank-you for sharing...     11/30/2010 17:28
Caroline - I've never met you or David, but is apparent you guys had a wonderful connection rare in this world. My thoughts and prayers are with you and David's family. Thanks for sharing a difficult story and know that your extended 14ers family is with you always.


A fitting tribute     05/10/2007 18:15
Beautiful pictures. Thank you; this must have been difficult for you to do, and you are to be commended. Blessed be.


Superb     11/30/2010 17:28
That was wonderful. I've never had the pleasure of meeting you or David, but I share your love for the mountains. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. May God Bless You And Keep You.


Great Report     05/10/2007 20:29
This was a great trip report. I commend you for being able to take the time and effort to do this. You are a hero to us all.

Dan England

Tough emotions     11/30/2010 17:28
Two thoughts went through my head as I was reading this.
One, of course, is admiration for your courage in sharing your heartfelt tribute to a lost friend. The report is honest and open and leaves you open for criticism in what is usually a harsh mountaineering society. I'm glad to see you get the support you deserve from these reports.

But I also thought of the times that I should have turned around during a trip, when it just didn't feel right, and I went on and got away with it.
This trip seemed doomed after a while, and your instincts were telling you to turn around. And yet you didn't. And while this will imply that you made a mistake in not doing so, I'm not really suggesting that.
In fact, what I wonder instead is what is that line between pushing ourselves past those thoughts and overcoming them or simply ignoring our instincts and climbing into a dangerous situation?
I have no idea, and it chills me to say I just don't know.
I can think of many times during my 200 ascents up the peaks, or even just on my quest of climbing all the 14ers (I finished September 2005), when I maybe should have turned around but didn't. Instead of suffering consequences, I summmited and felt great about pushing myself beyond what I thought was possible. That's what we all do, right? That's a big part of what we do as mountaineers.
And yet I can also look at the few times I've been hurt on a peak, and every time, it was on trips that just didn't feel right, like the one you took with David.
The thing that bothers me the most is these trips either turn into great stories over beers with other mountaineers or they turn into horrible tragedies that haunt you the rest of your life.

I”m probably freaking out a bit. I have a 2 year old now and my wife is expecting twins at any moment. I'm wonderng if I have much of a mountaineering career left in me beyond guiding easy 14ers now. This incident and USAKeller's brave willingness to let us all get so close to it has shaken me. I truly hope no one here thinks I'm judging anyone. If anything I'm trying to take a hard look at what I've done in my mountaineering past and what I'll do in the future.

What, then, is the answer to this. And is there one? I would like to see us tackle this question because I would like us to learn something from this, if there is anything to be learned, and though I did not know TalusMonkey, I can't help but think he might want the same thing.


Rest in Peace     05/10/2007 21:05
Rest in Peace TalusMonkey!


Vicariously     11/30/2010 17:28
Being from Kansas I do live vicariously through trip reports and the forum. Thank you for having the strength and courage to post this report.
Several weeks ago I started to plan my one trip a year and because of TM's moonlight tr on Humboldt this is the area I am coming to in early July.
I never met David but like many others I felt like I knew him through this site. I'm sure his spirit will be in the mountains for many years to come and when I visit I will say hi.


:)     11/30/2010 17:28
USAKeller thanks for the TR! It's crazy to see how much more the road melted just a week after gb and I were there. Did you ever find a summit register? We were never able to do so.

Thanks for sharing your Humboldt story with us. It's a great tribute to you and to Talus Monkey.

There were two guys leaving from South Colony Lakes that Sunday and they had been there since we were there the weekend before to ski Humboldt. They said conditions were miserable that weekend, so I can only imagine how it was to camp on the summit!

You will have to go back and ski Humboldt sometime for a real ski descent Oh, and for crossing creeks... I'll give you a tip... I don't stay high on the logs. Instead I walk a bit lower on rocks that are bigger, and might go under water a 1/2 an inch or so. I jump between them quickly, and my AT boots never get wet! See if that works next time!


Thank You     11/30/2010 17:28
For you to submit this now really helps all of us, and it's hard to believe that you have it in you to do this. I for one really do thank you for having the courage to do this report, and I know that I will read this report and the posts on the forum many times over because it really shows how much we all really care for each other and need each other, even when we've never met!


Thank You     11/30/2010 17:28
Caroline, thank you for the TR. I'm sure TM would have wrote it the same way. Though I never met him except through the forums, he will be missed.


Thanks so much!     11/30/2010 17:28
Thanks USAKeller for sharing the trip report. I havent logged on since last climbing season, and it was a shock to see who the climber is that I had heard about on the news. I had some contact with David in the past few years on email and postings and this grieves my heart.

See you when it's my time buddy! Watch out for us up there!

Tim McMarmot

Thank you.     11/30/2010 17:28
I can't imagine how hard it was to write this. God bless you.

Phill the Thrill

God be with you.     11/30/2010 17:28

I have not been on this website in a few months, and had not heard of the tragic accident till I read the Denver Post article yesterday. I am so sorry and I and my entire hiking family grieve with you and all of David's loved ones. We pray that the God of all comfort will give you peace.

The Ericksons

”Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)


I am sorry!     11/30/2010 17:28
Caroline, I am so sorry. I am completely out of the loop. I haven't been on the site, nor did I hear the news. My family and I were in Moab when this happened and I missed everything about this. My friend just told me today the story and when I logged on today to my heart dropped to find out it was TM, not to mention complete shock. I am very sorry. I don't know what more to say.
Thank you for sharing this story and for the insight into what happened, it must have taken a load of courage to write this. Please know my thoughts are with you and that time will heal. Please stay in touch and I will see you out there.

Red Rover

Thanks     06/19/2007 22:21
There are very few posts that so grab my attention that I read completely. Thanks for this shared memory of a special trip and a special person. There is a quote I love that hung on the office wall of Alex Lowe. ”Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” Helen Keller



wow     06/07/2008 20:55
i am new to the site. i read all about Talusmonkey. and i truly feel the loss. i know it is nothing like those of you who knew him, but his spirit is why the God above us made mountains in our beautiful earth.

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