After looking through some pictures I again found myself wondering
about the misconceptions people have. Not in a argumentative way
but in a
curiosity sense. Being a native of the enchantment of the New England
countryside the allure of "the bigger" mountains of Colorado, The High
Sierras and Tetons always gripped my curiosity. However much to my
disappointment I realized the difference to be miniscule in the grand
scheme of things.
How is it that these montains always made those of New England pale
in comparison? After traveling and climbing in all these areas mentioned
is it the opinion of the non-climber that had created the mirage that is
The Western Peaks? Im NOT saying they're small but the starting points
are much higher as well. The sea level variations and height of land
starts don't allow for the true appreciation of these higher peaks.
One thing the higher elevations remind me of is lifeless masses of
rock, snow and ice -spare a stray marmot alerting others of my presence or
a nearby rockslide. Its an interesting parallel to the peril of mountain
climbing. Above 11K there is very little to remind me of the life I leave
behind every time I venture to such places. Except after technical
struggle do I learn to appreciate these higher places. Its only after
looking down do I realize my accomplishments and a finer appreciation for
life in general.
The antithesis to such places are the 4k peaks of New Hampshire of
which only four remain for me to experience. Aside of the 5's and The 6,
being above treeline is a rarity. The alpine zone is one of my favorite
places on earth. To see the vegetation and ecology, the struggle for
survival reminds me of certain aspects of my life and hardships. Yet being
so far away from those places physically, mentally and in time, I realize
the pettiness of my struggles in comparison to that of those less
fortunate. Something about hiking with tons of creatures great and small
all around reminds me incessantly of my love of, and for-LIFE.
The western summits and their technicality of ascent, their lack of
oxygen are in and of theirselves desolate places. The summits of eastern
peaks crackle with life. Yet the allure for me is to climb higher
mountains. Why? Is life to me a struggle that I am trying to overcome?
Or is it the lack of humility that make me want to defy death?
These questions may never be answered but one thing is for sure. I
feel a draw, like metal to magnet that calls me forth. The need for
challenge, for accomplishment and the high spiritual energy will forever be
To Torrey's via Kelso Ridge
SP member tdogge on the Kelso Ridge Route to Torrey's Peak
After doing a little acclimitization up at Sniktau the day before we set out to climb my first Colorado Fourteener. It was time to see how my training regimine back in New England prepared me for Colorado. We woke up at about 5:30am and looked outside to see clouds breaking up in the direction of Torrey's Peak.
Clouds break over Torreys
The weather was forcasted to be good however we could see the overnight had brought snow to elevations above 12.5k. This snow and ice was enough to add a little concern to the hike but not to deter us. We hike up the valley to where the trail split at Kelso ridge to are right. We looked up along the rugged knife ridge and a sense of excitment grew within us. The route finding is fairly obvious except there are some areas where obvious turns into the wrong way! We stayed left along the lower portion of the ridge and there was alot of loose dirt and rocks to negotiate. There were some areas that had pretty good drop offs but we managed fine. Above this area we rejoined the trail and it was wierd to feel so in shape yet lightheaded from the altitude.
Resting before the push to The Knife Edge
We moved slowly but systematically one step at a time and I noticed that whenever I stopped my heart was pounding in order to move O2 in the thin air to my working muscles. Then we got to the knife edge and to make it interesting the ice I had mentioned earlier, coated what would be the proverbial 'blade'. My partner shimmied across and took up a perch on the opposite side and snapped a few pics as I crossed.
traversing the Knife Edge
Looking down to my left the valley floor could be seen what seemed like a thousand feet below. To the right more of the same however the drop didn't give nearly the 'exposed' feel. Safely across to the other side I looked back to check out the view. Its funny, right after a little adrenalin pump the view always is appreciated a little more. We soaked it up and moved up to the area known as The Shark's Fin. Its just a different type of rock, all white with red splotches in the shape of, well, you know. This area created a little mental dilema because we didn't know if we were supposed to go over it or around it. Guess it doesn't really matter, but because of the ice coating we opted for the safer route around to the right. The wind really picked up here and there were gusts of 40+ mph and the clouds thickened and started dropping hail and freezing rain. We zipped up and stayed low on the off wind side of the ridge to the summit.
tdogge and eric b on the summmit Summit of Torrey's lookin towards Dillon, CO
Arriving here I felt a great sense of accomplishment. Ive climbed routes far more technically challenging but never had I climbed to such in altitude and given the wind, snow, hail and freezing rain it added to the feeling of accomplishment. It felt good to make it up a more challenging route especially with the way the weather tested our nerves. We signed the summit log in the tube and descended Torreys peak via the saddle between Grays Peak.
Descent of Torrey's
So having made it to the summit of a Colorado 14er I did a mental comparison to a climb of New England. For example the far more challenging Pinnacle Gully on Mt Washington. Granted one is mountaineering the other is hiking with scambling. The one thing I'm left to wonder about is: While I'm climbing and I'm on a route that tests my physical endurance or mental fortitude, I ask myself if I'm crazy to be doing this. Yet when I get back down safely to the ground, I can't wait to do it again. WHY IS THIS?