2nd time is a charmLast year Craig and I went to Colorado to hike up Mt. Elbert but neither one of us reached the summit. I had my first experience with altitude sickness before I ever hit the trail and Craig didn't have the time and strength to wade through waist deep snow without snowshoes. This trip was about picking up where we left off and lifting our pride! Brent came along at the suggestion of whitewater rafting & fishing being added to the plan although he wasn't looking forward to the mountain. Clayton jumped onboard for all the right reasons. Without doubt I was in the best shape I have been in for some time & I was really looking forwarded to this trip. Since we would be at higher elevation for a few days before climbing I figured that would help me acclimatize.
TreelineWe left Beuna Vista a little after 9am to head to the Halfmoon Creek trailhead. The plan was head gear up at the trailhead, head to the treeline for camp, wake up the next day at about 3am to make the summit by sunrise. We geared up at Emerald Lake so Brent could get a little more fishing in - evidently every second counts!
After a few pictures we hit the trail at 3:30pm hoping to reach the treeline in 2-3 hours. I was having a much harder time than I expected. My physical condition was the best it has been in a long time but I just couldn't breathe in the altitude.
My lagging behind made the trip take longer than excepted but we finally got to a clearing just before the actual treeline at 6:30pm. We found a nice sheltered area and made camp before dark. Everyone else was doing well but I felt a little altitude sickness coming on. So I just popped a few ibuprofens and hit the sack.
SummitThe alarm rang at 3am but we were already awake due to the 30-50mph winds outside! Literally it sounded like a hurricane. Not wanting to blow off the mountain we took a few extra hours of sleep. At 5am the winds were calm and it was already light outside but very cold - about 35° probably! We hit the trail about 6am and aimed to reach the summit within 2-3hours. I felt much better this morning but I was still breathing like I was running a marathon. Craig and Clayton trekked ahead like a pro while Brent and I lagged behind. Brent wasn't really feeling the whole mountain climbing thing anyway, combined with a hurt ankle and lack water didn't help either. After a while Craig and Clayton pushed on without us - well they waited at times…we were just too slow! Several people from a group of geologists passed us on our way up. When I found out they started from the trailhead at 7am that morning I kindly made the point that they were really making us look real bad. As Brent and I were on our way up the 1st false summit he finally threw in the towel, but just as a couple was passing us. Brent decided to push forward again after a girl called him out. This girl was beautiful I might add - why I can't I find one like that that is as adventurous as me. Oh well thats neither here nor there - she only gave Brent about 15 more minutes before he quit! I left him on the trail about 10:30am. It was all me now and I told myself that nothing was going to keep me from reaching the summit. Panting like a fat kid taking the stairs I sucked it up slowly trekking forward – with frequent rests of course. After I reached the 1st false summit I looked up in shock of how much more I had to climb. So back to my system….several steps, deep breathes, short rest, repeat. Right before I cleared the 2nd false summit I met with Craig and Clayton as they were on their way down. Clayton kept going to meet up with Brent and Craig coached me to the summit. After I cleared the 2nd false summit I saw the true summit – still about another 300 yds to go! Craig helped by giving small 30yd goals before resting. Just something that simple helps a lot and I finally reached the summit at 11:45. A storm was coming in fast so I didn't get to stay long. I took some pictures (most of which didn't come out!) signed the register and we both scurried to the treeline.
DecentGoing down was almost harder since you have to worry about slipping on loose rocks or ice. We found a slope still full of snow for about 500 yrds and Craig wanted to glissade down it. Honestly I did too but the thought of having to climb back up a hill to the trail did not appeal to me so I just recorded him. I should have gone for it anyway since he beat me to the trail. I was already out of water and took the Powerade from his pack – bad idea! I didn't learn my lesson from last year that my dehydrating body does not like Powerade. 2 minutes after a nice swig of fruit punch and I was on my knees spitting it up. Just Powerade – little food since I hadn't eaten much. I felt a little better so I moved quickly to the treeline. It was snowing a little and I decided not to worry about the trail – I just did small zigzags downward to meet up with Craig. Once I got down there I rested, took another drink of my Powerade and we moved to our camp. And just a few seconds after moving the Powerade came up again – I finally clued in to what was causing the problem.
We met up with Clayton & Brent at camp, packed up and headed to my truck. The unfortunate part was we were all out of water! We just put snow in our bottles and waited for it to melt…which took a while. We were making excellent time getting down but I had to stop a couple of times to rest and get some water – I was definitely feeling the effects of dehydration. Luckily it only took a little more than 2 hours to clear the trail and a nice jug of water was waiting for us at the bottom. I wore my heart rate monitor on the hike but it lost signal before I reached the 1st false summit. Up to that point it said I burned 3937 calories! I assume I burned another 2000 to the summit and back down – not a bad cardio workout I'd say! We decided a nice Subway sandwich would hit the spot after such an exhausting hike – and it definitely did.