Missouri Mountain - 14,067 feet
Huron Peak - 14,003 feet
Mt. Elbert - 14,433 feet
Missouri Mountain - 14,067 feet
Huron Peak - 14,003 feet
Mt. Elbert - 14,433 feet
|The Storm after the Drought|
The Storm after the Drought
All the trip reports I am writing for the summer is simply a byproduct of my thoughts, reactions, and experiences from my summer mountaineering project of climbing the 58 CO 14ers before I head back to CU in August. I hope that these trip reports help me to learn from mistakes, to document my experiences, and to help me to think and become a better person and mountaineer. Thank you for reading and for your support!
16/58 in 2020
^^Above: looking over towards Mt Harvard from Huron Peak (I'm pretty sure, but not 100%. Correct me if I'm wrong and you recognize this).^^
On Wednesday, May 27, I climbed Pikes Peak. I found this 14-mile hike to be extremely easy and even ran the last 3-4 miles of it. When I got back home, I knew that it be a good 4-5 days until I was back up in the mountains climbing again. Being the workaholic I am, I went for a cool 8 mile run on Friday. While I felt tired and exercised, I felt that I hadn't even really pushed myself that hard. In fact, I had gone a rather slow pace, and could probably have still run at least 5 more miles. Overall, though, everything in my body felt strong and healthy
Strangely enough, the next evening, my right foot was killing me. It felt swollen inside the ankle joint and didn't seem to be caused by any single event. I didn't recall rolling my ankle or anything of that nature. I sort of just appeared, and it gave me hell. One of our family friends was in town who happened to be an occupational therapist. I asked her if it looked swollen compared to my left foot (which felt completely fine) and she said that it didn't. It hurt to put weight on the foot, and I could barely walk across the kitchen when it was hurting it's worst.
I was still planning on another week full of hiking (really a whole summer of hiking), so this injury didn't bode well at all for my goals. I had a pretty tough schedule I needed to stick to, and even without the 2 weeks of wasted time that this injury would cause me, I would still have to be grinding out 14er's nearly every week until I head back to school August 24. I was pretty upset, and although I knew in my head that I should have just taken the time over the next week to let it heal, I still chose to give Antero an attempt the next Monday.
I drove up and camped at the lower trailhead the night before. I was gonna be soloing Mt Antero, and I was starting from the lower trailhead at Baldwin Gulch. It was a 16-mile round trip hike. Looking back, there were a few things that should have stopped me from even attempting this hike. But the thing is, I was hoping that the foot pain was random and not consistent and would be gone by Monday. The fact that it was there on Saturday and Sunday after not doing anything at all those 2 days should have been enough to warn me. Even if the hike I was attempting was like a 6-mile round trip, it still wouldn't have been a good idea because doing anything on it at all was gonna exacerbate the problem, which I still had no clue what that was.
In the end, I woke up and began hiking around 6:30 AM, and I was feeling good. I hiked about 3 miles in the first hour and came to the massive creek crossing. This thing must've been about 50 feet wide at the time. I ended up having to take my shoes off to do the crossing. So far, my foot hadn't been hurting much at all, but when I got near the crossing is when it began to slightly ache. I was hoping that the fresh snow-melt water would be enough to stop the foot from hurting.
It wasn't enough. About half a mile past the crossing, my foot was in so much pain that I decided to turn around. I was deeply bummed out. It was a beautiful day, and besides my foot, I was feeling amazing. It was disappointing to have to turn back.
I drove home and asked our family friend if she could examine my foot. She loves doing this type of stuff, so of course, she said yes. She worked her magic, feeling all over my foot, calf, thigh, and back, and determined that it wasn't plantar fasciitis and that I was probably just super tight and had worked my body really hard. She told me some things to do to help heal myself, gave me some videos to watch about rolling and stretching, and told me to take a week or so off. I didn't like that, but I agreed because she knew better and I agreed with her about the tightness and overworking.
I took a good 5 days off but didn't do much to aggressively heal the injury. I should've taken it more seriously.
On Saturday, my Dad and I went out to attempt Harvard-Columbia. Same story as Antero, except that we also turned back because of weather. We didn't even make it to treeline and decided it wasn't safe to continue because since we woke up at 5, it had been raining, and the higher up we got the stronger the downpour became, and the forecast called for lightning later that afternoon. The rain had started much earlier than was forecast, but we probably still wouldn't have been able to get back to the safety of the trees before the rain would've started if it had followed the forecast. Overall, while we made good decisions out in the mountains, these last 2 attempts were the result of bad planning and ignoring my instincts and thoughts. Whenever I am trying to plan a hike, I find that I have a bazillion thoughts running through my head trying to calculate and estimate every little aspect of the trip, from the driving, to the food, to the hike itself and what it would encompass. Usually, I know about right away whether a hike is doable or not just from the gut feeling that washes over me when I read the conditions reports, and ignoring this feeling can be both dangerous and can cause me to waste a ton of time.
When I got home this time, I decided to aggressively attack this injury with everything I have in my arsenal. I iced my foot in an ice bath at least 3 times a day, I kept myself on ibuprofen most of the time, I stretched at least once per day (which should have been like 3 times a day at least but it's hard to do that) and I ate a lot of fruit, especially blueberries, that were naturally anti-inflammatory.
After a full week of this healing regiment, I decided to test it out. Thus, a small drizzle happened on Sunday before the hurricane that would be Wednesday.
My friend Ian and I went and hiked South Boulder and Bear Peak in Boulder on Sunday. It's a good 9.5-mile hike with about 3200 ft of gain. I didn't take any ibuprofen before the hike. The first 2 or so miles, my foot was hurting a little bit but not so much that I had to stop. After a little while, it stopped hurting, and my felt relieved to be able to hike without pain. After 2 weeks of not really hiking very much, combined with the unfortunate mistake of eating a lot of unhealthy food the day before, I felt rather nauseous at times on this small hike that I've done plenty of times in the past.
I got through it, though, and scheduled a 14er for the next day. I hit up someone I had met on 14ers.com, CaptCO, who is also trying to finish up the 14er's this summer. He is nearly there at 42/58 as of that Sunday. We both still needed Missouri Mountain, so we agreed to attempt it on that Monday.
Sunday was just the beginning of the Storm.
Sunday night, I drove up and camped near the Missouri Gulch Trailhead. On the drive, I realized I had forgotten my cooking stove. Luckily I had a big bag of shelled pistachios and some cashews, so that's what I ate for dinner. I had a feeling that I wouldn't stay again the next night for another 14er the next day because of this, though.
When I woke up the next morning, it was pretty cold. I went to my car to get my pants (I had driven up in shorts the day before) and I realized that my backpack with all my clothes wasn't in my car. I had left my clothes at home! I was missing my pants, my thin gloves, and my long hiking socks. This made me know for sure that I would have to go home after today's hike. I could suffer through a little bit of cold in the morning, but it was forecast to be warm that day, so I still felt ok with hiking in shorts. The gloves and the socks were important, though, for preventing cold fingers and blisters on my feet and ankles.
We started hiking at 6. Alec (CaptCO) and I seemed to march at about the same pace, and this made it nice to hike with each other. Whenever people hike at totally different speeds, both the fast and slow hikers can get frustrated, not to mention separated and dangerous situations could ensue. I always try to hike together as a group, which is why nearly all of my 14er's haven't been solo.
^^Left and right: looking up the basin at Missouri Mountain.^^
^^Left: viewing back down the valley. Right: Looking up the basin before Missouri Mountain comes into view.^^
We reached the turnoff to OxBel and Missouri and began the steepest part of the climb. I had originally been hoping to do both Missouri and OxBel in one day, but a couple things held me back from this. I was just coming off a foot injury so I shouldn't push it, and I also forgot to bring my special Oxford hoodie from home, so I obviously couldn't climb Oxford without it. I'll be back this summer with it!
^^Left: the only snowfield you have to cross on the whole route, We chose to go around it. Right: Elkhead Basin from the summit.^^
^^Left: Looking over at Belford. Right: Summit Picture! Lucky it wasn't very cold on the summit besides the wind chill.^^
We had both brought our ice axe's with us, and the North Face couloirs were still filled in. A quick glissade was worth it!
^^Left and right: looking up at the North Face Couloirs.^^
^^Left: Looking up to the hidden summit and at the North Face Couloirs. Right: ton of avalanche debris and general carnage from wind storms all over the place.^^
We were back at the car after like 5-6 hours of hiking. I think it's pretty neat that I met somebody else on 14ers.com and hiked with them. Alec and I would go on to climb a few more peaks together in the coming weeks...
Given that I had forgotten a bunch of stuff like an idiot, I decided to drive home. I was glad to have finally summited another one after 2 weeks of nothing, great to be back on that grind.
I took Tuesday off, but had plans for Wednesday.
I was going to meet up with Ian for Huron Peak Wednesday morning, and we were gonna camp the night before. We drove up separately because I was again planning on staying out in the mountains for at least 2 days this time, with hopes of doing Elbert or Massive quickly by myself on Thursday. I arrived at the part of the road where it begins to get rough and parked and pitched camp. Ian showed up a little later. I made dinner and shared some with him because I made a little too much. We went to sleep around 9:30, 10:00, and I set the alarm for 5:00 the next morning.
We got up and out of our tent to discover that a dog had found us. It had a collar. It's name was Sparrow. Ian said he had heard people shouting for the dog last night at like 2 or 3. It was an extremely curious dog, though this meant that it might also not be scared to snatch some of our food. I knew that it needed to go back to it's owner because it wouldn't leave us alone. I ended up walking around for a good 40 minutes to a bunch of the other people camped out around the area. I slowly became more and more annoyed at the owners for their carelessness and lack of responsibility. We were in bear country, Alec had told me that he saw a mountain lion and 2 cubs the year before when he climbed OxBel (which is right near Huron), not to mention the dog could get into a conflict with other dogs and such. The dog got lucky that nothing happened to it in the night.
I decided to head back and just get ready to hike. On the way back, I found the owners. They were like 100 yards down the road from our camp. As I was walking by, they were just getting out of their van. I smelled the weed they were smoking. The big lecture I was going over in my head the whole time I suddenly realized would not do anything for these guys. They weren't gonna learn, so all I said was to keep their dog on a leash next time and be more responsible. I'm not sure they got the full message. I just hope the dog doesn't end up getting loose again because it only takes once for it to get killed by something else. People, please keep your dog on a leash and be responsible. Even in the plains of Colorado, there are coyotes that can take down big dogs when they hunt in packs. Dogs sometimes attack other dogs or people, and I know you may think your dog is the best dog out there, you can't know what trouble it may cause other people (like causing me to wander around at sunrise for 45 minutes trying to get a dog back to it's owner.)
Anyways, we drove up the road to the actual trailhead. It was a pretty rough road, but by car made it fine. We began hiking at 6:30. Sun was up, there weren't very many clouds in the sky at all, and we were excited to get to the summit. It was gonna be a gorgeous day!
^^Left: a Bluebird morning! Right: hiking through the woods.^^
^^Left: the upper trailhead. Right: not sure what peak this is, but it's pretty.^^
^^Left: Huron Peak, in all its glory. Right: the route follows up the the face over these small cliffs in the center of the photo.^^
^^Left: hardly any snow on the route. What little snow there was was simple enough to traverse or avoid. Right: Looking east at Harvard, Missouri, etc from the summit.^^
^^Left: this would be a great couloir to ski I think, just underneath the summit. Right: my eyes are closed, but who cares! Summit Picture!^^
We made it to the top and back to the car in about 4.5 hours. It had been a super easy hike (for me.). For his 2nd 14er, Ian did extremely well. He struggled a bit of La Plata Peak for a number of reasons, but persevered. He had learned, though, that he just mainly needed to get in better shape. He moved back from Pennsylvania to Boulder a few weeks before this hike, and had been doing hikes nearly everyday around the flatirons and such for those weeks. He had been putting in the work, and it was worth it. He breezed up this 14er, which is impressive for a person who's only been back in CO for a few weeks (not enough time to fully acclimatize to Boulder elevation.). I'm proud of him.
We were back at the car at like 10:30, 11. I didn't know what to do with the rest of my day. I felt completely fine, not tired at all. It was only a 7 mile hike and 3500 ft of gain, and at this point I guess I'm in good enough shape where it takes quite a bit more than that for me to start hurting. When I got back into reception, I checked the weather. It looked like there wouldn't be anything rolling in until the following day. There was still a good 8-9 hours of sunlight left. I had been considering doing Elbert later this day the whole time on Huron. There was nothing to stop me, so I pulled the trigger and made the decision. I was gonna do Elbert after doing Huron.
I got to the North Elbert Trailhead about 1 and began hiking at 1:30. I was doing the Northeast Ridge Route, which is the standard way up Elbert. I had done Elbert before (although I'm not sure which route I did the first time) and knew it was a slog with a few false summits. 4700 ft more and 9.5 miles rt was what I had to look forward to. It would end up being an 8200 ft day for me.
Even after doing Huron, I ended up pulling a 3 mph pace up to treeline. I passed a ton of people who were descending already, as well as a good amount of people who had begun climbing around the same time as me. I knew how popular Mt Elbert was because it is hailed as the highest peak in Colorado as well as had an easy route up it. However, I was still shocked to find how many people were up there that had never climbed a 14er before. At the time I was getting near the top, I passed probably 30 people spread across a bunch of different hiking groups who were completely gassed and gasping for a breath. The false summits weren't helping. I knew they were probably safe, weather-wise, but that wasn't the only risk they would have to deal with. Nightfall was only a couple hours away, and while I would be able to get back down quickly and safely, I wasn't sure how a lot of the others would do. It was very concerning.
Not long after I had gotten above treeline, I passed this old guy downclimbing, wearing an American flag shirt and carrying this strange wooden staff with a bunch of symbols carved into it and a flag stapled to the top. He told me to be careful and told me of a bunch of reasons why I should maybe turn back, but they were all wrong. I had brought a headlight (I always do), extra food and water, a rainjacket, 2 pairs of gloves and a puffy for the cold, not to mention I was moving quick enough that I could avoid nightfall anyways. I also had a small first-aid kit and paracord with me for any sort of emergency. He told me that he had started hiking at 5 that morning, and had only made it to the summit by 1. I told him I started hiking at 1 and was already halfway up the mountain by 2:30, so I wasn't worried about me. I understand his concern, but he made a lot of assumptions (it's quite hard not to make assumptions though. I made plenty I'm sure about the people I saw way up top.)
Between the main false summit and the actual false summit, I began to feel the gain that I had done that day. I was nearing 8000 ft of gain for the day, and my legs were starting to hurt. I slowed down and tried to keep a good easy pace that I could maintain through the soreness in my muscles. My breathing was completely fine, as I was moving slow and was pretty well acclimated. I had to stop and rest a lot despite my strategy. I was ready to be at the top, though, where I could sit, eat, drink, and relax a little. I grinded out the last little section and arrived at the summit!
I talked to a number of people that were also at the summit. There was one guy with his son who were from the midwest. We talked, and he told me that it was his 50th birthday that day as well as his first 14er. What a cool way to celebrate such a big day!
Along the hike up, I saw like 6 or 7 empty plastic water bottles, plus lots of other litter along the way. I was pretty furious about this. I asked a few groups of people nicely to pick up one piece of trash on the descent. I picked up a few pieces of trash and carried them out with me. I don't understand how people think it's ok to litter such a beautiful and unique environment like alpine tundra. It baffles me to think that people could be so disrespectful, but I guess that's just how it is.
It was a successful solo!
I had summited by 4 and was back at the car by 6:45-7.
Unfortunately I didn't get many pictures on this hike because I was moving pretty fast.
^^Left: the main false summit peeking up. Right: I'll hopefully be back here this next winter to ski those chutes there.^^
^^Left: summit picture! Right: cool picture I got on the descent.^^
Risk is for managing, not for chance.
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