The Perfect Storm
I finally convinced a buddy of mine to go with me on a trial run up Colbert Ridge Trail to Potato hill on a weekend journey to scout out the best route up a class 4 route along the old slide from Potato hill. Well as luck would have it the weather channel is forecasting rain and 40 degrees, well generally around here that means 28 degrees and snow...I checked a more "reliable" weather forecast and yep sure enough mountain tops are in for half a foot of snow 60+mph winds and high temperatures only reaching 20 by the end of the weekend...
My eyes lit up like Christmas, this was the perfect trip to test out some new gear. I knew every little detail would have to be planned and thought of because any mistake in a snowstorm on the Blacks would most likely be fatal. I brief'd my buddy on our situation and the dangers, he was raring to go.. I inspected everything... We were ready.
Upon reaching the trailhead we were already running behind two hours, I knew it would be a race to the summit before it got dark...the pressure was on. Friday, the day of departure was a beautiful day, perfect blue skies, you could see for miles.. As we started up Colbert Ridge I knew I had put on too many warming layers for the ascent.. It was in the low 40's but we were facing enough vertical incline that had us down to shorts and t-shirts in no time. Just as I thought i had everything worked out my buddy stopped.. Constantly adjusting his shoulder straps and waste belt... I knew what the problem was.. His waste belt wasnt even tight at all around his waste at all, even pulled as tight as it would go.. He Obviously didnt try on his pack when he bought it.
Well up up up and up we went occasionally stopping to readjust his belt and my patience. Around 4500 feet the trail became full contact in some places requiring the use of hands and feet. It was rewarding though with 270 degree views of the surrounding terrain.
We must push on.
5200 feet we began entering a mostly coniferous type forest, with high pines dominating the terrain.
On up and up, colder and colder, I kept reassuring my partner it got flatter on up ahead, only knowing it was just false motivation. 5:18 PM Sunset-
It was one of the most beautiful sunsets i have ever seen, too bad we didnt have a view from the top..
As we push on and finally pull out the flashlight when my eyes could'nt see any more, there it was, a glimpse of light coming through the forest floor. A sign that we were near the top of the ridge.. We made it to the top, as my friend rested I quickly set up the tent and the tarp that I brought along to throw over it and stake down as a wind shield. Camp was set up, it was time for some chow..
While entering the tent I happened to look at the thermometer on my backpack and it was 25 degrees.. far too cold to be sweaty and in shorts.. we quickly changed over and got into our sleeping bags. The night went suprisingly well...
If it could happen it did..
Well I was sound asleep when I was awoke by my friend sitting up not saying a word... He had somehow gotten sick and was dizzy and sick on his stomache at the same time... there wasnt much I could do.. I gave him some water and told him to try to get some sleep... Finally somehow someway I made it back to sleep in the midst of a bear outside our tent..which I didnt care about but had my buddy a little nervous...
I woke up to find him outside trying to enjoy the beautiful red sky in the morning (sailors warning) despite the fact that he could barely walk.
I knew I wouldnt be making the true summit at this point... my mind focused into survival mode... I didnt really feel good either but maybe that was just my mind playing tricks on me... I knew if we both got as sick as he was we would be in some serious trouble with the weather moving in, but on the other hand I didnt know if he had the energy to make it back down before the storm hit and there is very little if no places to set up camp for most of the way down.
So without worrying him, I had to make a decision...stay..wait it out hope to God I dont get sick, OR attempt to almost literally carry him back down below the mountain... Neither seemed good but I knew the lower I could get the greater possibility of a fourwheeler getting to us from a local bear hunter..
So I packed up camp warmed him up some soup, took some of his load, which was ALOT considering the temps we were preparing for, and we slowly headed back down just as the mountain disappeared in the clouds...
Every 50 yards or so he had to stop and take his pack off, i knew it wasnt good, I just gave all the possible positive reenforcements I could give while giving myself silent reenforcements to calm myself. Thank god the weather held out as we slowly trickled down the ridge.. It was getting alot colder.. But soon we would be back at the truck. After a whole day of walking we made it back, slightly damp, but thankful that the snow hadnt hit yet... I got home, he went to sleep, I began inspecting my gear and somehow our flashlight had been left on and the battery was drained...whew im glad we came back now.
Now as I sit typing this, its snowing on the blacks, Its been a long day thats for sure, but i figured id get the story off my chest while its fresh....I wish I was up there right now enjoying the storm.. I guess its just wasnt my time to summit potato hill in the snow... luckily I can see it from my house...
To my good buddy, feel better. To others- Be Prepared for anything! To the Black Mountain Range- Your Days Are numbered!