Turned Around Here
MOUNT ELBERT, COLORADO (27-28 AUG 07)
It was long past due to hit the road ....so I did. I had to have a point to aim at so I chose Mount Elbert in Colorado. At 14,433 it is the second highest point in the "Lower 48" and would be my first real mountain to climb in many years.
First stop was at Black Mesa in Oklahoma, the highest point of that state. I was surprised by the area, very remote(Oklahoma?), nice scenery(Oklahoma?)and a not too difficult high point to reach. I stumbled up the side of the mesa preferring the short cut instead of the long round-about hike down old ranch road ,etc. The view was very nice on top, late afternoon and great lighting and clouds made it worth the trip. Stayed at a State Park near by... was the only person there. It was rather remote. But on to Elbert.
Got to the trail head parking lot and repacked my pack. As I left the parking area it was drizzling and did so on and off the next 2.5 hours as I reached 12,000 feet and made camp. Breathing was already hard for someone living the past six years at near sea level so I hoped I might get adjusted a bit more by staying over night at 12,000 feet.
Rain came and went over night until near 5 a.m I stepped from my tent to clear skies and beautiful stars. OK Lets go!! As I heated water for coffee and packed by pack the rain came down again, this was to be the weather pattern the rest of the day.
With headlamp on I cleared the tree line in 15 minutes and saw snow flurries blowing across the ridge I was on. I called my wife on my cell phone (Ain't technology great!!) She was just getting to the Center in Mississippi and I asked her to go on- line and look at the radar image for where I was and call me back . She did and told me what I guessed, these were localized storms and I hoped they would move on with the stiff wind blowing them down the valley as I was seeing from where I was. The good news from her was this was not some big front moving in.
My overnight at 12,000 feet had greatly helped. I could breathe much better than the day before.... but it wasn't easy. Maybe I'm gettin too old for this S.....
As I moved up the mountain side the weather did a 100 different things and kept me guessing what it's intentions were. I reached a knob the trail traversed around and I knew the up side of the knob would lead me to the final ramp to the summit. The summit. All morning long it would disappear in the clouds making me wonder what was happing up there. I reached the ridge and was at about 14,000 feet now. It was a white out, not being able to see more than about 15 feet and it was colder and the wind was really blowing now. I moved like someone from South Mississippi. I was alone on the Mountain and feeling a bit sick from the altitude. I forced myself on. A gain of 30 feet in altitude was now a struggle for me. I pushed on as now I had no more than 300-350 feet in elevation to gain the summit. The clouds swirled around me. But that was it. You got to get back you know and I wasn't sure
I had energy and that my body would go along with that. Things were fine for 5 maybe 10 minutes then I would feel like I wanted to puke.I saw a line of rocks I hoped would be the summit. It took nearly a half hour to get there and it wasn't the summit. I could see another ridge in the clouds, the ridge was ABOVE me. Sorry friends but this is where it ends.
I turned and headed down hill. I guessed I was about 200 feet below the summit. I called my wife and let her know. The altitude and breathing had dried my throat and I sounded terrible."Are you all right"? she asked. “I'm OK, I'm headed down”. It wasn't a big disappointment, fact it was fine. I spent a couple of days on the mountain which I totally enjoyed ...well almost totally enjoyed. I hobbled back to the car and at that point was glad I hadn't pushed that extra 200 feet elevation. The whole time a song I had been listen to on my way to Colorado kept playing in my head as I climbed, "Dreams" by the Allman Bros Band
"Pull myself outta bed
Put on my walken shoes
Went up on the mountain
See what I could see
The whole world was fallen right down in front of me......
Climb down off the hilltop Babe
Get back in the race......
That was August 28 and the 29th I headed for home. That was the two year Katrina anniversary and that too was on my mind. It was a busy week all around and on the 29th we also had a new nephew, we wont be forgetting his birthday, that's for sure!