This trip report was written by my 14 year old son CJ for a school project.
“There is no way I am going to do this. Just no way! I had never gotten sick before. Why now?” That is exactly what I had been thinking during this climb, the hardest climb I have ever encountered yet: Mt. Massive.
Don’t let the name fool you too much. Though the most heavily massed fourteener above tree line, and the second tallest in Colorado, the actual climb isn’t all that bad. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still tough, a 13.6 mile hike all together, just not as tough as some others I’ve climbed. The reason it was so hard for me is because I got sick. For the first time ever, I had gotten altitude sickness.......
It wasn’t a very good day to climb. It was drizzling. But today had to be the day, because there was no other day to make the attempt. I was ready to go, and all packed up, waiting for everyone else. Our hiking group consisted of me, my dad, and or the first time ever, my mom, as well as my older cousins Sean, Kristin, and Matt. Sean and Kristin brought their fiancés Jordan and Barry. All stuffed into my backpack were some snacks, some other supplies, and my sleeping bag. Wow! A sleeping bag. This was my first overnight fourteener trip. Everyone was in the middle of some kind of delay. I was just standing there freezing my tail off in the rain.
When everyone was finally ready, we started off. The plan was to hike to a camping area below the mountain near Willow Creek, set up, wait there for the rest of the day, spend the night, then wake up around 3:00AM and climb to the peak (leaving all the stuff we didn’t need to take to the top), hike back down to camp, pack up, and leave. The hike to the camping spot wasn’t that bad. The only thing that made it hard was the unusual amount of weight. It’s pretty amazing how much weight a sleeping bag, foam pad to sleep on and a little extra food can add to your backpack. When we finally got up to the “campground”, we all looked for a good place to set up our tents. My dad found a flat, perfectly sized space to set up our tent, but it was full of pine cones and needles. I grabbed a branch with lots of twigs and started raking it off. It worked really well, which made it a big hit. Everyone else found their spots, raked them off, set up their tents and supplies, and we were ready to spend the night. Since it was raining that whole first day, all we pretty much did was eat and sleep in the tents. Before you hike a fourteener it’s a good idea to try to have a bowel movement. Weird, but it’s just the truth. My mom and I had trouble going for some reason, but especially me. I just couldn’t get it out without a toilet. Just in case you’re thinking, “Why is he writing about this? This is disgusting!” Well, I’m putting it there because I have to come back to it later in the story, so calm down.
The next morning was gruesome. I haven’t experienced an overnight fourteener trip morning since then that wasn’t, though. It’s wet, sometimes you can’t find something, everyone is trying to do something, there’s barely any room to change, sometimes you’re keeping the others waiting, it’s always dark accept for your little flashlight and/or headlight beam(s), and worst of all, you’re really tired so it’s hard to take everything in and function properly. After we were all ready, we started off for the peak with high hopes. At first, the hike was pretty freaky. The limited light source made the bushes look eerie, and at one point, I could have sworn I heard something following us off to our left, but it was probably my imagination, or the wind or something. As it got lighter, though, everything, especially the views, were beautiful.
As we gained altitude, my cousin Kristin, my dad, and I started getting sick. Poor Kristin has a small history of getting altitude sickness around 14,000 feet. She felt dizzy, which is definitely not good because you can take a wrong step and twist your ankle or something. My dad felt sick to his stomach and had a headache, and I also felt sick to my stomach, and was uncomfortable in the bladder area.
Now comes the climax of my story. The part that makes me lean back and sigh in remembrance, and think, “Wow!” I will be able to think about this, and have this feeling that you only get if you have had some kind of adventure like this one. All my life I will be able to remember the time I climbed Mt. Massive, and tell my kids about it. All of this probably sounds really corny, but you would be surprised with the unexplainable feeling that an experience like this will leave you.
So, my dad, Kristin, and I were all sick, and I was actually starting to doubt our success. Kristin couldn’t go on. She took a seat on a rock, and Barry, her fiancé, sat with her. My dad was doing great. He definitely wasn’t going to fail. At least not any time soon. The peak was totally calling to him. Jordan, Sean’s fiancé, kind of dubbed herself as the leader of the group. She was doing a very good job of picking the way through the rocks to the peak for her and the other capable people: Sean and Matt. I was totally beat. I just collapsed on a rock for a rest. As for my mom, well, she stayed with me. That really helped. So here’s our set up: Kristin and Barry were way behind us because Kristin couldn’t continue. Then came me, resting, with a tough decision to keep going, or turn back (I’ll get back to you in a second on that), and my mom with me. Next came my dad, practically sprinting up the trail, considering he was really, really sick. And moving at a fast pace way ahead of all of us was Sean and Matt, as well as Jordan leading the way.
Now, I was faced with a very tough decision: go back, or keep going. I had to choose immediately because we were running out of time. You see, when climbing a fourteener, you have to get up to the peak and back under tree level before the noon storm. My mom was trying to talk me into going back. She thought that it was the better idea. Besides, she didn’t care weather she made it or not, so I didn’t have to worry about her not making it. But I did not want to fail for the first time ever. This mountain would not overcome me! Without a word I got up and kept going. It was hard. I kept having to stop for small rests. My hurting stomach was killing me. My mom tried to talk me into going back again. NO! I would not turn back. Again I got up, and without a word and kept going. I really hoped that the next peak would be the summit. Every time I came to something that I had to climb over or something like that, I stopped in the middle. Sometimes this really frustrated my mom because she was right behind me and when I stopped she would have to too, and most of the time it would be in a patch of snow, or a very uncomfortable position. I looked up at Matt, Sean, and Jordan. They passed over the peak that I thought was the top! I would have to go even further? This is where I really thought I couldn’t make it. I started crying. My mom, again, started trying to get me to go back, but it actually boosted my confidence. She made me think about going back, failing for the first time. That would be terrible. I would NOT be conquered by this mountain! I kept going. I WOULD make it. When I got to the false summit, I could see Sean, Matt, Jordan, and even my dad on the true summit. That made me even more determined than I already was. I kept going. I WOULD make it. I WOULD make it. I WOULD make it. I WOULD make it. I WOULD make it. I WOULD make it. I WOULD make it. I WOULD make it. I WOULD make it. It felt like eternity, and I practically died, but, I MADE IT!! Once I made it I collapsed. Everyone was proud of me. So was I. My stomach was still really bad. We had to get back down. The quicker we got rid of altitude, the faster my dad and I would feel better. After what felt like a twenty minute rest (I couldn’t tell how long it actually was), we started back down.
After a while, when we were pretty far down, I was still sick. My dad felt better, but I felt no improvement. So my dad gave me a TUMS, and after about 5 minutes I felt better. I could even go to the bathroom. I think all of us learned a very important lesson: try TUMS or something when you feel sick. It might just be indigestion, like what I had.
So, I finally did it. The toughest climb I have ever experienced yet. I hadn’t failed yet, though, not too long after this experience, I would, but that is for a different memoir.
CJ Van Moorleghem
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