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 Peak(s):  Huron Peak  -  14,003 feet
 Post Date:  06/22/2009 Modified: 07/30/2013
 Date Climbed:   06/20/2009
 Posted By:  kimo

 Our rusty axes sing Wagner (a wild adventure on Huron Peak)   

Bzzz. Bzzz. The hum reminds me of a bumble bee.

Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz.

I see vibrant flowers and hear birds sing. The sun shines on us from a blue sky. For a moment I believe we are someplace else.

The reality? It's noon and we are on top of Huron Peak. Mindy has a mountaineering axe strapped to her pack. It is humming. Thirty million volts of electricity are charged and ready to release.

We look at each other in calm disbelief. I think a minute passes. It's really only seconds. We drop our packs to the ground.

Now what?

Do we kiss? Do we kiss goodbye?

Five unknown hikers share the summit with us. One man moves toward the summit register. I yell to him, "Hey our axes our humming." He continues toward the register.

Four hikers rest about twenty feet from us. I say it louder, "Hey, our axes our humming."

I look at Mindy. The calm sea in her eyes becomes panic. Her hair is rising. The word "F-CK" was made for a moment like this.

A cool wind licks our skin like a puppy dog. Graupel falls softly as clouds swirl around us - dance around us. The world is a beautiful. Life is beautiful. A few moments ago, I said to Mindy, "it's just like Christmas." Now it was our Apocalypse Now.

Flash CRACKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK. The lightning strikes with fury.

-------

Never in my life have I seen a group of people move so quickly toward the same goal.

We shoulder our packs with super-human speed. I am at the front of the group. Mindy is behind me. The group crouches and runs like in war. The first shot has been taken. Everyone is alright.

We all move at once towards the only safe passage we know - the path we followed up the mountain. The safety of treeline is a long way down.

Flash CRACKKKKKKKKKKKK.

The group erupts onto the north slope like a dam that's been breached. I yell behind me, "space out!" The declaration is passed back up the line.

Silently I hope someone in this group knows CPR.

-------

The next five minutes is best described as a controlled fall. Bodies scramble, stumble, tumble - flail - from the upper slope of Huron Peak.

I put my right foot between a rock and a hard place. I fall to my side. Pain takes hold of my ankle like a Pitbull. Adrenaline picks me back up.

On my next step I fall to the left. And then the right. And then the left. It's a posthole nightmare.

Flash CRACKKKKKKKKK.

We are crossing the steep upper snow field. I plunge step and posthole. Mindy glissades. We have nearly crossed the snow field when snow traps Mindy's left foot. "Pull out," I yell. My words make no difference - she needs help.

I claw my way through thigh-high snow. I cannot describe the urgency - it was a matter of life and death. I use my axe to dig her free.

Graupel continues to fall as clouds swirl around us. Five minutes have passed. The heavens have been silent.

I urge Mindy to reach treeline as I nurse my ankle by walking slowly. I share some laughter with fellow hikers. Eventually I reach the trees.

Mindy waits for me. We smile and hold each other tighter. We are alive. We are alive like never before.

-------

The hike was 7.6 miles from our campsite to the summit and back. We gained 3,700 feet of elevation. The NOAA point forecast for Huron Peak was 50% chance of rain and thunder, mainly after noon. The thunder arrived like clockwork.

This is the GPS track of our ascent.


This is the ascent profile.


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Captions on top of photos.

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We start up the trail at 7:15 AM - not exactly an alpine start. We discuss our concern about the mostly cloudy sky.


We decide to hike up the trail while promising each other that we would turn back when prudent.


The wild flowers are starting to bloom.


A creek crosses the lower section of trail.


The views from the trail are fantastic.


We gain altitude quickly.


Mindy climbs well-crafted stone steps.


Huron Peak emerges from the trees.


Pretty blue flowers.


The Three Apostles dominate the view to the south.


The first snow field is low angle and easy to cross.


Wild flowers bloom in the upper basin of Huron Peak.



The CFI-built trail is a work of beauty.


The view to the west is spectacular.


The sky above Huron Peak thickens with dark clouds. Doubt fills my thoughts.


We get closer to the summit. Many hikers are returning. Not so many are ascending.


The view is sublime but the weather is harrowing. My head tells me to turn back - my heart says to go on. Brown's Peak rises behind Mindy.


We continue hiking up the narrow and exposed trail.


I don't like this. We ask each other a few questions but decide to continue on.


The north ridge hides an ugly cornice near the summit.


We traverse the west slope of the ridge.


Thick clouds fill the basin behind us.


We arrive on top of Huron Peak. Yea!


The Huron Peak summit register.


Mindy celebrates her seventh fourteener summit.


Huron Peak is my fifth fourteener summit.


We enjoy a few minutes on the summit. The clouds close in around us. I suspect this might hurt.


Our axes start to hum. I put the camera away. I don't take another photo until I get to treeline.


Mindy waits at treeline. We share some laughter, a warm smile, and a big hug.


Our clothing and gear are soaking wet. I take a few photos using a wet lens. The delirious focus effects are the perfect end to our crazy adventure.




-------

We are fortunate. We are unharmed. We are smarter than before. This harrowing experience was invaluable. I had never heard an ice axe hum. I thought the stories were exaggeration, make-believe. Now I know. Now I know.

I hold more respect for alpine starts, NOAA forecasts, and Mother Nature. I saw the weather build around the peak until it was swallowed by cloud. This was good for us. Next time we start early and listen to that voice in our heads.

 

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