| 1st 14er! Mt. Yale Labor Day 2010
Sorry for the late trip report. Been kinda busy since Labor Day.
First of all a little about myself. I will be turning 40 on November 16th. I've lived in lower Alabama and Florida my entire life. The only "real" time I ever spent in high altitude country was in 2006 when I spent 3 months in Northern Utah followed by a 3 and 1/2 month stay in Castle Rock, just south of Denver. I fell in love with that part of the country after that. The landscape, the scenery, the climate all just won my heart over. I still have my home in Florida, but I'm currently in Tulsa, OK for work.
My buddy Dan and I "planned" on 3 days of hiking in the collegiates over Labor Day weekend. We got to Dan's house in Divide, Co around midnight Wednesday. We spent the next day gathering last minute supplies and packing our backpacks and resting. The plan was to hike up to Hartenstein Lake on Friday, get in some fly fishing, relax by the camp fire and get a good night's sleep. Get up early Saturday morning and tackle Yale's summit, then return to camp for more fishing and relaxing. Then we were to get up Sunday morning and make the hike back down the mountain. Well, that didn't exactly go "quite" as planned.
We made it to the Denny Creek trailhead around 8am on Friday morning. We readied ourselves, filled our water conatainers, threw on our packs and headed up the trail. This being my first 14er, I was a little surprised to see the steepness of the trail right off the bat. (Boy if I had only known then what was to come later....)
Both of our packs turned out to be "MUCH" heavier than either of us had anticipated at first. If I had to guess, my pack weighed in at around 45-50 lbs. Dan's was pretty close to the same weight. So as you can imagine, we were stopping more often than usual to rest and give our shoulders and back a break, which in turn, added time to our hike.
We made it to the "Y" in the trail where you go left, up to Hartenstein Lake, or go right up to Yale, and we were both excited at the fact that we were nearly half way to our first day's goal. That excitement didn't last long though once we headed up the Hartenstein trail with our heavy packs. For a 1st timer, let me just say......from the trail head to the lake is BRUTAL heaving a nearly 50 pound pack the whole way up. We began to wonder if we were EVER going to get to the lake, or if it even existed at all!! And, about that same time, we rounded a bend, climbed another hill and there it was. I honestly don't think I have ever been more happy to see a body of water in my life!!
The lake, as a lot of you already know, is really pretty, with many nice spots to camp around it's banks. As you can imagine, we grabbed the first one we came to, and as luck would have it, it turned out to be a really nice spot. We pitched our tents, built a nice fire and relaxed and ate some dinner. We were both pooped so we opted not to try to fish that evening. And to make matters worse, Dan was having real problems with the altitude. Dizziness, headaches, and nausea accompanied his obvious exhaustion. I thanked GOD I wasn't having altitude problems as I'm prone to migraines. That was also a little surprising to both of us seeing as I'm more of a "flatlander" than he is.
After a "somewhat" decent night's sleep, we awoke to a beautiful, crisp morning. The temp was around 32 degrees at 6am. I was up, dressed and feeling pretty good. Dan wansn't so fortunate. He informed me that he had had a real restless night and was still feeling the effects of his altitude sickness and wasn't going to attempt the summit with me, but for me to carry one with my plans. After an hour or two of eating breakfast and Dan re-assuring me he would be fine at camp, I struck out down the trail from the lake, heading back to the D.C. trail for my appt with Mt. Yale.
Descending the trail from the lake back to the D.C. trail was a beautiful and plesant hike. I reached the "Y" after about an hour and turned and headed up towards the summit. It wasn't long before the trail began to get really steep again, and my legs began to remind me of what I had put them through just the day before. Luckily for me, I met up with another hiker along the way that was going up by himself as well and we hooked up for the trip to the top. I really think that made a world of difference, as there were a couple of times to come when I would wonder if I was going to even make it to the summit at all.
The trail up Mt. Yale is brutally steep and relentless, as anyone who's climbed it knows. I remember wondering to myself at least 3 different times if I had pushed myself too far for my first time. But each time I pondered that thought, my hiking buddy would say something to lift my spirits or just talk to me to take my mind off of my exhaustion a little. Truth be known, if I had not spent the 7-8 weeks prior training and preparing myself for the climb, I really don't think I could have made it. I've always kept myself in decent shape, weight lifting and such. But this type of goal presented a different challenge all together. I'm REALLy glad now that I took it seriously!!
As we cleared timberline, I said to myself, "Ok, it can't get worse than that....surely". Well, I was wrong again. We reached the switch backs, fully exposed, and I found out first hand what hell must surely be like. It was also here that we ran into the trail crew working hard on the trail. I gained a newfound respect for those guys and gals when they informed me they volunteer to go up and down that trail every day to ensure we all have a pleasant and safe hike up and down the mountain. You guys ROCK!!!
So we reach the saddle and it was then I realized I was really going to do it. As tired as I was, I still managed to enjoy the boulder field all the way to the top. A little hairy a couple of times, but fun at the same time. We spent about an hour or more at the top, snacking, talking with other hikers, taking pictures and just enjoying being up there. The aknowledgement of what I had just accomplished was almost overwhelming. I couldn't help but get a little emotional and teary eyed while talking to my wife on my phone. Words could NOT express what I was feeling at that moment and I think she could sense that 1500 miles away at our home in Florida.
The trip back down was a lot more demanding than I thought it would be. I figured "Hey, going down hill will be a cinch compared to the trip up...right???" Again....WRONG!!! It's amazing how taxing on the body hiking downhill can be. Then, to have the hike back up to the lake was killer. I spent a LOT of time resting here, resting there, photo taking here, taking in the scenery there. I got back to camp around 5:00pm!!! My buddy Dan was wondering if he'd have to start down the mountain looking for me. He was able to put his sickness aside and had spent the day fishing and enjoying Hartenstein and everything is has to offer. You have no idea how elated I was to get back to camp to find he had a hot meal, which included fresh cutthroat trout cooked over the camp fire waiting for me. To this day I don't think I've ever eaten a better fish!!!
After an evening of sitting by the fire, telling him of my experience and listening to the cyotes howling in the near distance, we crawled into our sleeping bags and retired for the night. We awoke the next morning having gotten a better night's sleep and ready for the hike back down. That was until I put my heavy pack on again and realized just how sore my shoulders were.....OUCH!!!! The hike back to the trail head went pretty quick, but man was it painfull!! I know now what to focus on more during training for the next climb.
So, all in all, the experience of my 1st 14er, and actually my first "real" mountain climb of any kind was one I'll never forget. It was an incredible challenge physically and mentally, but one I thoroughly enjoyed. It left me exhausted, yet looking forward to my next 14er. I only wish my buddy Dan hadn't fell victim to altitude sickness so he could have done the summit with me. Hauling a heavy pack up to Hartenstein Lake increased the difficulty level quite a bit, but it was worth it. I remember as a kid wanting one day to be able to say "I climbed a mountain". Now I can say that, and it feels great!! That feeling is like no other I've ever experienced and I can't wait to feel that again!!!
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