Nail-biting Flight from the Big Island of Hawai'i
I took 17 days off work to celebrate my mother’s retirement in the Big Island of Hawai’i with my brother. It was still the height of the tourist season yet there were few tourists other than Japanese and German visitors; we figured the economy must be in a really bad shape nationwide. We spent little, but still had fun exploring the island. On our way back to the mainland, a television set slipped out of its bay from atop the plane’s ceiling and dangled on a single screw. The flight attendants couldn’t fix the problem and the flight had to be redirected to Honolulu for repairs. For a brief moment, we sat quietly with nervous jitter. We eventually made it back to San Francisco after a 1 ½ hour delay. It was a good thing because I had a connection flight to Denver that Wednesday, August 13th.
Sun Worshipper, Big Island of Hawai'i.
9:55AM - Late Start
I picked up a car rental and headed for Home in Vail; I slept well, but was indecisive when morning came. I couldn’t decide whether I should finish climbing the Decalibrons Cluster or re-tackle the elusive Mt. Oxford through the Belford summit. I even thought about calling it a day to work on the house transfer paper since our new permanent residence will now be in the Berkeley Hill. I decided to get some fresh air on the porch munching on a bowl of sliced banana and berries for breakfast. The sky looked threatening as the minutes ticked away and I didn’t want to be disappointed again by the Oxford-Belford group so I drove to Kite Lake -- 6 miles from downtown Alma, Colorado. I had no intention of climbing the cluster; I just wanted to snap some photos in the area, but seeing the blue sky from the trailhead, I couldn't resist...I had to make the attempt. I started the climb up towards the Democrat-Cameron ridge at 9:55 am. It was late and I was the last climber to leave the fee-based parking facility. It's $3 for day use and I believe $8 for overnight camping.
Kite Lake as see from the Standard Trail
High Wind & Heavy Rocks
Before I reached the Saddle, several people had started their descent. They warned that the wind was extremely high up there – in excess of 30 mph! I’m only 5’3” and my weight on that morning was 118 lbs. Concerned that I might be blown off an exposure point, I paused and began stuffing my backpack with about 20 lbs. of rocks. It was heavy but I took it slow and steady. Near the Democrat-Cameron Saddle, a strong gust of wind blew with the force of an angry storm. One bearded hiker on his way up Mount Cameron (14,238 ft.) shook his head in disbelief and decided to descend. He nearly tipped over as he stepped aside to let me pass by; I had hoped he would continue his climb so I wouldn’t feel alone up there in the thin mountain air. Before continuing to press forward, I looked up toward the summit of Mount Democrat (14,148 ft.) and saw 5 climbers lingering near the clouds and recalled last year’s climb up that peak with my friend, Alex...and wishing he and my other friend, Nick of 3xFast.com, were with me. Nick is such a conservative climber, he'd most probably make me turn back. Hahaha!! The quixotic battle cry, "Adelante, Siempre Adelante!", pushed me forward against the onslaught of the Decalibrons wind.
The high wind came and went and with it the periodic hail storms. They moved too quickly to affect my decision to continue on with the climb. Before I became tired, I stood atop Mount Cameron and snapped a picture of myself with the summit of Mount Lincoln in the background.
The Democrat-Cameron Saddle as seen from the Cameron-Bross ridge.
Atop the Decalibrons Cluster
It didn’t take long for me to reach Mount Lincoln (14,286 ft.). The trail was well defined and unobstructed. I sat on the summit having lunch at 12:25 pm. I signed the registrar and took some more photos. Looking back at Mount Cameron, I was happy to see that two climbers had followed me, but they did not come to Lincoln. I could almost read their thoughts from afar as one of them pointed to the approaching mass of gray clouds. They soon turned and got off the gentle summit.
Two hesitant climbers atop Mt. Cameron.
I went back to enjoying the scenery. I witnessed storm clouds pounding the other peaks with rain, hail, and snow. A few hail pellets streaked across my temple, but I remained still basking in what little sun rays there were. My turkey sandwitch never tasted so good. Mmmmmm-M'mmmm!
On Mt. Lincoln, the apex of the Decalibrons Cluster.
I felt distracted atop Lincoln. From the high vantage point, I could see a parked SUV nearly midway between the Bross-Cameron ridge. Its presence made it look as if someone in the vehicle was spying on me with binoculars. Someone had violated my environment and peace of mind by leaving this man-made machine in the most unlikely place. It sat there like a sphinx guarding the trail to reinforce the posted sign with the message: “No Public Access To Mount Bross. Trail Closed.” At 12:43 pm, I left the summit and approached the mechanical beast with mental annoyance. There was no one inside; still, its presence infected my idyllic view of the Tenmile-Mosquito Range.
An unsightly mechanical beast.
Crossing the Legal Threshold
With new found energy from deep within, I marched myself up to the top of Mount Bross – violating the posted sign in the same fashion that the SUV had violated my peace of mind. I did not allow myself to feel guilty. A badly placed machine had trespassed into the realm of my Sanity. I had to return the favor. I stuck to the trail and ascended up Mount Bross; this cost me the much needed time to be able to outrun the approaching storm. By the time I began my descent down the scree-infested angular slope, the storm arrived. Hail pounded me from above and the side, but there had been few rain drops. Less than 10 minutes later, the storm clouds dissipated as if nothing had happened.
A rare view from the summit of Mt. Bross.
I regained the peace of mind I sought by coming here. I saw the tiered waterfalls, the colorful flowers, the flowing stream, and – above me – the bluing of the sky. A Teddy Roosevelt quote came to mind, "The scenery [in Colorado] bankrupts the English language!" I thought about dinner: a bison and an elk burger! Mmmmmmm yummy!!
The most beautiful flower in the world.
Tiered waterfalls in the Open Sky Country.
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