Peak(s):  Adams A, Mt  -  13,931 feet
Date Posted:  10/17/2015
Modified:  06/27/2017
Date Climbed:   10/15/2015
Author:  Jon Frohlich
 Finding myself on Mount Adams   

~14 miles, 4800 feet
Start: 5:45am
Adams Summit: 10:45am
End: 2:45pm
Partner: Maya

(Warning: this isn't an entirely standard trip report, I had a lot on my mind during this hike)

More photos at the Flickr album below.
Flickr Album

About a month ago I got laid off from my job of 15 1/2 years. I had an idea it was coming a few weeks in advance but it was still a bit of a shock when my boss called me into a conference room to actually do it. I hadn't been happy there for a few years. Work had been slow and my projects were drying up because my group wasn't a priority for the company. I had stuck around because I'd earned 6 weeks of vacation and I'd used it to travel all over the world. When I walked out the door I felt happy and relieved that I could do something else and have some time off. I'd had an image in my mind of what my layoff would be like. Freedom to travel, do some things I'd always wanted to do, and relax. I'd earned a good severance package so my SO and I weren't worried about money. Unfortunately reality has a way of not living up to expectations. The day after I got laid off one of our dogs had ACL surgery. He needed medication every few hours and he couldn't be left alone for long. That took care of travel plans. Almost immediately I started getting hit up for jobs by recruiters and other contacts. A nice problem to have but it took time and ate up part of almost every day. Then my mom came out to visit for a week. Then some interviews. By the time a month rolled around I'd done all of one big hike and barely gotten far from the house.

Then I got depressed. I started getting frustrated that my time had gotten eaten up by life. Then the crying started. I've had depression on and off for years. I hinted at it a long time ago in my 14er finisher report. It's why I started climbing in the first place. Depression is an insidious and nasty thing. It doesn't care about logic. Life isn't that bad. It could be a lot worse. My health is fine, my SO is fine, and we aren't worried about money. Depression doesn't care about that. You're going to end up in tears and that's just the way it goes. Your life has undergone a seismic shift and your brain doesn't know how to handle it yet. 38 years old is prime for a midlife crisis. It's a cliche because it happens. What do I do next? What do I want to do? You get overwhelmed by all of it and sit on the couch unable to move. Worse, the thing that always has brought me back to center (hiking) doesn't seem to be working lately or I don't have time to do it. Just before I got laid off I had attempted Thunder Pyramid. That ended up in a day where we turned around. It's a longer story but regardless it made me question the idea of even continuing with the centennials. Did I even want to do this anymore?

So this is the story of how I came to be driving down to the Sangres on Wednesday night. My emotional state got to a bad enough place that it was time for me to go to the mountains regardless of what else was going on. I packed up the car on Wednesday and Maya and I started our drive down to Westcliffe and the Horn Creek TH. I didn't know at that point whether this trip was a good idea or a bad one. Maybe it didn't matter that much. I was at least going somewhere. We pulled up to the Horn Creek trailhead in the dark and there were no other cars in sight. We were on our own it appeared.

At 5:00am the next morning Maya and I got ready to head out. It was still dark and cold and the TH was still empty. After getting packed we started up the trail at 5:45am. Previous trip reports made the necessary turns at the trail junctions clear (right, then left). We signed in at the register after getting on the Horn Creek trail. I was the first signature in a few days. I had a feeling we weren't going to have company today. The trail up Horn Creek is long and not very exciting. Not a whole lot to see until you almost reach the lake. We got there in about 2.5 hours and I looked up at the steep slope to Adams. Mentally on the way up I'd just been concentrating on breathing and keeping a decent pace. My mind had gone relatively peaceful for the time being.

Nearing Horn Lake

We started up the slope and it turned out I should gone a little farther past the lake before heading up. I traversed around below some cliffs before hitting a great stretch of tundra that led to the ridge. It felt like forever to reach the ridge but finally we made it up. At 13,200 or so I looked up at the remaining route. I feel like I need to take a minute to talk about Maya for a second. Previous trip reports of mine should make it clear Maya is a pretty awesome mountain dog. She can do a lot of things I wouldn't take most dogs on. I would never advise doing what I do with Maya unless you know your dog and their capabilities very well. She's earned my trust and I know what she can handle.

Maya nears the ridge

Steep slope

Crestones across the way

On our way up we didn't really have any issues. We stayed on the ridge as much as possible. Maya took a few low routes while I stayed on the ridge. For the most part it was Class 2 with some occasional Class 3. We wound up out on the south face towards the top and just traversed some ledges towards the summit. The views were staggering and the weather was perfect. I couldn't believe we were doing this in these conditions in mid-October.

One of the interesting sectionns. I highlighted Maya for scale.

North Crestone Lake

Looking back down the ridge

About 100 feet below the top I poked around to find the easiest way up to the summit. We did a shallow gully (can't even barely call it that) and found ourselves on top at 10:45am. I looked around and I'm pretty sure we were the only ones on a peak in the area. No one seemed to be on Kit Carson. I couldn't tell for sure if anyone was on the Crestones. It was very quiet. It felt kind of lonely but beautiful. Maybe this was some sort of redemption for the way I'd been feeling. I'd started thinking a lot recently about climbing mountains feeling pointless. We climb up. We climb down. What do we get on the way? Is the time and effort worth it? I'd proved my point to myself in the mountains long ago. I knew I could climb whatever I wanted for the most part. I could take my past experiences in the mountains to think I could get through any difficulty in life. Unfortunately it had all started to seem repetitive. After nearly 140 mountains over 13k where was my motivation coming from? Today it was worth it and it didn't matter. I just let that thought go for another day and enjoyed the view with my dog.

Maya summits first as usual

Sangres looking north

Terrain near the summit

Back down the ridge

Horn Lake

Eventually we started heading down. Maya had a few moments on the way down where I had to talk her through. I think we might have gone a slightly different way than on the way up that caused the difficulties. Regardless we made it past the harder parts and started down to the lake.

It's one impressive mountain

We found a nice spot near the lake to have lunch and relax. After our nice lunch break we started the long hike down. The emotions and feelings of the last month weren't kept entirely at bay and there were a few tears on the way down. I was alone and there was no one to care. My dog doesn't care. She'll keep going along with me regardless. Then my feet started hurting from the mileage. One way to keep the emotions in check I suppose. Pain is great for focus. At 2:45pm we made it back to the car and both collapsed. I drank a beer. Maya crawled under the car to take a nap. My GPS said we'd done over 14 miles. It hurt. I'm still sore today.

Adams from the lake

Horn Lake

Headed down

One of the things that came up over the last month is that I'm not always good at opening up to how I'm feeling. I feel embarrassed and ashamed to let my raw emotions out. Depression is a bitch. I think because of a lot of things I dealt with growing up I feel a lot of pressure to be right. Or 'good'. However you want to put it. I hate being wrong. I hate not knowing the right answer. With all this change in my life I don't know the right answers right now. Sometimes we can't be right or good. Sometimes we are just going to have a bad time. I want to say that I didn't write this trip report for sympathy. We all have problems. I guess the thought came to me while I was hiking that we aren't always up there because we're happy. We don't always talk about that. I climb because climbing fills a need for me. If that's dumb then fine. This day it worked and I felt better. Or tired as hell. Same thing maybe.

I think this says it all for the day

Comments or Questions
nice pics
10/17/2015 16:07
Great photos, beautiful dog.


I can relate
10/17/2015 16:44
Always enjoy your trip reports with Maya–thanks for the personal thoughts and insights in this one. I was up in Herman Gulch that same day (that day was really a gift!), planning on climbing the 13er Pettingell. I’ve been dealing with those big "questions of life" too–I’ve got a decade on you– and beating myself up lately about not living up to my potential, hating my job, blah, blah, blah. Coupled with the fact that I also have dealt with depression on and off. No matter what the problem has been, from a death in the family to work hassles, I’ve been able to run to the mountains and find solace there. Thursday I basked in the beauty until faced with the mountain and suddenly it seemed too much. Never felt like that before. I sat in the shadow of that peak for about two hours, alternating between taking comfort in being in the presence of the giants who welcomed me whether I climbed them or not and facing down my demons. I guess the Front Range was watered with salty tears that day as was the Sangres! As I began to beat myself up on the way down for not summiting and not even attempting to, I realized that this once it was OK not to have notched that accomplishment. Going to the mountains for me is more than just bagging a summit––the mountains give comfort and peace. I got that Thursday in a new way. I gained some insights. And it gets me through the day to remember that these places are always waiting.
Good luck in your journey and again, thanks for the honesty! Look forward to more adventures with Maya!


Enjoyed your Journey
10/18/2015 15:46
Yes, not just your typical TR, but agree with ctlee, appreciate your honesty and courage in revealing yourself and I can identify with you also in some ways. I think most people become depressed for various reasons, and some reasons may not seem "logical" to anyone but yourself. And sometimes, not even to yourself. I try to be thankful for every blessing I’ve been generously bestowed and appreciate what I have and have experienced. The mountains have almost always been therapeutic for me and I can find solace in most situations –– even the "bad" days in the mountains. I’ve never been a "list" person so every climb is a new and wonderful experience, even on my 2nd, 3rd, or 4th time on the same mountain.

Thanks for sharing! Stay on the journey!

PS. Some stunning views/perspectives of the Crestone! Great shots!


I hear ya.
10/19/2015 08:14
Climbing fills a need for all of us so there’s nothing dumb about that. I hate not having the right answers as well and what makes that frustrating is that we as men like fix things both tangible objects, relationships and ourselves. To your point we all go through stuff on this long roller coaster ride. Hope this trip gave you some focus. Maya looks like a pretty cool dog!


10/19/2015 14:27
Your pictures are fantastic and your writing is excellent. Thanks for the effort to put this up.


Great photos
10/21/2015 09:14
Looks like you had a great day for it. The wide angle shot south across KC/Challenger to the Crestones is great. The colors are fantastic. I’ll have to remember this one...

Great Photos and Nice Report
09/12/2018 15:51
Wow! Beautiful photos, and discussion. I've wondered about some of the same things you mention, while climbing (What the hell am I doing here, and why?!) . The views, experience, and photos to re-live make it all worth it, however.

Thanks for this report!

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