| A cold and cloudy day on the atlantic
When I woke up sick early Wednesday morning, I was worried that I might not be able to hit the hills this weekend. When I went to the doctor that morning and had to have an IV to get fluids, I was really worried there would be no mountain trips that coming weekend, but sitting at home all day Thursday got the wheels in my head turning. If I got feeling well enough, what would I want to do?
I settled on at least a couple of 13ers, and maybe a 14er or 2 all in one shot… if you are dreaming, why not dream big right? So, I figured, why not start at Loveland Pass, climb Grizzly, then Torrey's, the Gray's, then Edwards and have a car shuttle ready at Steven's gulch. Yeah… so on Friday, I ran the idea by Kelly as "if I am feeling better" and she thought it sounded good but as the weather forecast became less favorable for a trip that extensive along a ridge line the entire time, I became more willing to hear other ideas.
Sen, mentioned he was going to shoot for Atlantic, Pacific and Crystal, so we all agreed upon that. By Saturday, I felt as close to 100% as I could given how sick I was 2 days before, so I packed up my gear for the next day. We would be taking full winter packs, and Kelly and I had decided to wear our double boots. While overkill, we needed to start taking every opportunity to train with them on for our trip to Ecuador in December so it would be worth it in the long run.
We met at the Stegosaurus lot early Sunday morning, piled all of our gear into the Xterra and headed to Mayflower Gulch. We made it up the road to the upper trailhead, and got ready to head out. There was very little snow until we reached treeline, but from the clouds hanging low above us, we were sure that was going to change.
getting ready to exit the trees
It was at this point that I realized I had forgotten my trekking poles, a staple for me. I love the stability they provide on loose rock, and the speed they can add to a decent, but I was just going to have to deal without them. Aside from that, I was feeling myself starting to drag behind Kelly and Sen already.
Kelly with Sen above making their way up the large shoulder, its steeper then it looks
As we came to the broad shoulder at the base of the Atlantic Ridge, we took a quick break, and I told myself that this time, I was going to get this mountain. The last time I was here was the December before. I had worn leather boots, and got frostbite on my left toe. Adding insult to injury, we had been forced to turn 400ft from the summit due to the need to cross a loaded avalanche slope that looked ready to slide. This time, I was going to get it. If you are interested in reading about that trip the report is here: http://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=7584&parmpeak=Atlantic+Pk&cpgm=tripmain&ski=Include
We started up the loose, snow covered rock making decent time to the top of the shoulder, and the wind found us in earnest. We stopped to add layers, and noticed the clouds were going to clear at least enough to give us a view of the area around us. Encouraged, we pushed on… but I was really starting to feel it. I knew I had Atlantic in me, but was starting to worry about getting all 3.
at 12,500 the clouds cleared for a while and gave us some blue skies to nudge us onwards, this was our first view of the ridge ahead
Kelly as we headed up the last section of super crap just above 12,500, we knew we would be seeing the rest of the route now soon...
Kelly and Sen as we came to the fun part of the ridge
Kelly and Sen working their way across the ridge in our sucker hole
looking across to Pacific as the clouds briefly clear...
As we made our way higher, I fell further and further off my A game. By the time we reached 13,600ft, I knew there was no way I was going further then Atlantic, my muscles were cramping, and I had hit a wall in a big way. The clouds had socked us in again at 13,400ft, and I was ecstatic every time we would have a patch of boot deep snow to walk through for 5 feet to get us of the now very slick and icy rock.
Kelly shortly after the clouds socked us back in
Kelly took this shot as I made my way up the ridge
This is one of Kelly's photos she took of Sen as he neared the end of the long ridge
We made it to the summit in a little more then 3 hours, but I felt like someone had hit my body with a baseball bat. I kept telling myself, that given the circumstances, and the fact I was in the doctors office sick to the point of having an iv in my arm 3 and a half days before, and had not really gotten well until a day and a half before, I should be happy with my performance. But it never feels that way.
The 3 of stood on the windy summit for about a minute before dropping off to find a wind shelter to take a short break. We ate some food and headed down. Even though we couldn't see more then 10 feet on the summit, we were all happy to be there.
I have to be honest, the trip down that rock was worse then on the way up. In a month, the snow will hopefully fill in the rock enough to make it more stable, but there were a number of slips, and a couple of falls that were luckily ones we could all laugh about but with 20-30 feet of visibility all the way until we dropped to 12,500ft hiking into the winds carrying grauple… it was a tough trip down that definitely kept my muscles working more then the typical decent.
Kelly and Sen back down to about 13,000ft... there wasnt much to see
as we approached 12800 we could finally see the valley below us again. It was a somewhat liberating feeling
All that being said, I am really glad we went. I pushed myself on a mountain that would normally be pretty straightforward and had partners that never once got irritated with my uncharacteristically slow pace. Winter conditions are definitely stating to find their way into our playgrounds, and I cant wait for them to fill in a tiny bit more!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):