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Blown Away on Democrat
Trip Report

Blown Away on Democrat

 

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: Colorado, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 39.33970°N / 106.1394°W

Object Title: Blown Away on Democrat

Date Climbed/Hiked: Dec 30, 2002

 

Page By: WalksWithBlackflies

Created/Edited: Dec 21, 2005 /

Object ID: 170708

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Page Score: 0%  - 0 Votes 

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Although the weather started out nice, I couldn't have picked a worse day to go hiking. Felt like I was going to puke when I woke up, but managed to force down a banana and some water. My wife dropped me off at the winter trailhead, and although windy and cold, I made it to the Kite Lake campground at about 8:00 am. Setting up camp went relatively smoothly despite the gusty conditions. A beautiful sunrise greeted me at about 9:00. By 9:30 I was on my way up the mountain. It appeared that there was only about 6" of snow, so I left my snowshoes behind. About 15 feet from camp, I sunk waist deep into the snow... so back I went to get my snowshoes. About once every minute, I had to stop because the wind was blowing so hard. I couldn't make progress against it, so I'd rest whenever it gusted. About 1/4 mile from camp, I was exhausted, and that was over the relatively flat terrain. I took a nice break at an abandoned mine shack about 1/2 mile from camp, and the wind started dying down.

Now the climbing really began. My snowshoes kept breaking through the thin 1" slab of ice, and due to the angle of slope, kept slipping on the powder beneath. I was getting nowhere fast, so I traded my snowshoes for my crampons. What a difference... felt like I was running up the mountain. Took a little break about 5 minutes later. To my horror, it appeared that I had only traveled about 30 feet from the shack. Damn depth perception!

The higher up I got, the less snow there was. In another 5 minutes, I was rock hopping. It seemed that one of every five rocks was loose, and I had to do a lot of balance checks. Another 5 minutes and I was exhausted. Every time I tried to take a bite something, I felt like I was going to vomit... so I obviously hadn't eaten much, and my energy level was plummeting. I decided to push onto the ridge ahead and decide my fate there. Unfortunately, about 100 yards from the ridge the most unholy of things happened. Diarrhea at 13,000' on an icy slope with below-zero wind chills is not fun at all… no matter what anyone tells you. The only redeeming value was that I had remembered to pack my toilet paper. Nauseous, tired, and now weighing about 5 pounds less I decided to give up on summiting. I found a nice ledge out of the wind and hung out for about 1/2 hour. Some really dark clouds were now forming over the summits of the adjacent range, so I figured an expedited descent was in order.

I was able to glissade down half the mountain, so before I knew it, I was at the mine shack with camp in sight. Made it back to camp at around 3:00 to discover that my tent was all twisted about 100 feet from where I had set it up (although I had put rocks in it to weigh it down). Thankfully there were no tears in the tent fabric. At 3:30, I had camp set up again (with much larger rocks anchoring the tent), but the sun went behind the mountains, and it started getting windy again. At least the dark clouds seemed to be stuck to the adjacent range. I collapsed in my tent and tried to eat, but I still felt sick. Water was the only thing I could keep down... not like it mattered, because my white gas tank was frozen solid from being exposed to the elements when the tent "blew away". The wind got stronger, and Stronger, and STRONGER... and soon it was blowing at hurricane force. Small rocks were rolling around the campsite. When the metal door of the outhouse was ripped off its hinges (actually bent and sheared one hinge), I decided it was time to abandon camp. I put on 3-4 layers of clothes, put my hydration pack inside my coat, and started walking down the trail... leaving all my other equipment behind. I was actually moving at a pretty good pace, but being pushed by an 80 mph wind helps with that I guess. About 4 miles down the road, I was able to get my wife on the cell phone. I had made it down about 5 miles before my wife came to pick me up.

After spending the night in the most haunted hotel in Colorado (they never mentioned that in the brochure), we woke up the next morning to get my equipment. It was really artic-type weather on the way back up to camp. A constant 30 to 40 mph wind was in our faces at all time. Everything was OK when we reached camp, and I was able to pack up in about 20 minutes. Of course, by the time we reached the car the wind had almost stopped.

Other than that day (and 5 of my next 6 meals) things were great in Colorado. Among other things, I learned how to downhill ski (went from the bunny hill to a black diamond trail my first day!), XC skied through some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen, and got to eat buffalo and kangaroo (both excellent).


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Buz GroshongTrip Report Comment

Buz Groshong

Hasn't voted

Great report! I did Democrat in the summer under much better conditions, but it took me what seemed like forever to get to that mine shack because it was my first time at that kind of altitude.
Posted Dec 27, 2005 9:17 am

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