first off i did not summit and i will try to make this short as there was nothing super exciting for the experienced climber to read here...only the inexperienced climber might find some useful information.
oh and i refer to going uphill as climbing and man did i go uphill on this route. i feel like hiking is something done on flatland... but for discrepancy sake i will use hiking in this TR.
after a successful solo hike of mt. sniktau and and UN 13er on friday august 31st i was feeling pumped to get another one in today saturday september 1st before hiking wheeler mountain a class 3 13er on monday. i thoroughly enjoyed hiking alone and trying to build my experience and endurance thought that mt.helen would be a nice choice for my second solo hike as the accounts and information about it, made it seem easy and easy to get to. well it was easy to get to but easy to get up....
could i have summited? yes, i could have i was only about 300' shy of the summit when i turned around.
the directions were very easy to follow up until you leave the wheeler trail to the left and have to climb and locate a very steep gully. there was no trail, at all, not even a faint trace of human beings. the beginning of the trail was dense woods and i was just aiming west (or hoping that i was). well i was because i found the steep gully, which was very very steep and i hiked up it.
after that it was just pretty much a very steep more grassy than rocky slope up to the summit, which could not be seen at any point. again, no trail. i did have some very good maps and i did have an idea of where i was but...
there was so much wildlife in this area, chipmunks, marmots, deer of all sorts, birds etc. etc. but i felt like i was being watched by a much larger creature...mountain lion? bear? i didn't know i just felt it, even walking up the spruce creek 4WD road at the beginning of the morning. regardless i pressed on. this was supposed to be a decently easy hike but for some reason i was feeling so tired, maybe from climbing the day before? maybe because the terrain all looked pretty much the same? maybe because i would hike and hike and hike and then just reach another point where i had to climb up this loose dirt grass even more?
it was about 8:15 a.m. at this point and i had started at 6:38 a.m. the winds were whipping and the clouds were not giving way to sunny skies, it was only getting darker. i decided because i was alone and knew that my boyfriend would not appreciate having to come find me and i was tired i would throw in the towel and head down. i could come back and summit this anytime i wanted to.
going down was way more difficult and i was scared because now i was seeing very fresh large animal droppings...to big to be a deer, right where i had just been hiking up. i felt like i was being watched and not by a person...i had seen no one, not a soul. i finally got back to the steep gully that was kind of the passage way from the dense wooded area to the clearing almost at tree line. this gully took everything i had to get down. and then it happened, out of the corner of my eye i saw something slink by me in the woods nearby. it wasn't a deer, i had seen deer earlier and they frolic, not slither. i wanted to run as fast as i could, but i obviously couldn't...i would have rolled down about 200 feet. i stood on a rock, put my arms up in the air and made as much noise as i possibly could. i mean a lot of noise, for about 5 minutes. i've heard this is what you do if you encounter a bear, so i thought maybe it would work. i have never been so scared in my entire life. i stopped after 5 minutes and waited and listened and then continued down a little bit and made noise again. i did this down for a while until i entered the very dense woods where i kind of booked it back to wheeler trail. i made it to my car by about 9:30 a.m. and had never been so happy to see other people and civilization.
with a partner, this would have been no problem. i was very scared alone and not much scares me..there were moments i felt totally helpless. however, i am proud of myself for experiencing this and forging through.
in hindsight....i have a great deal of respect for colorado back country and i over stepped my boundaries today ...experience wise, i wasn't there yet. i kind of had an idea i wasn't ready but i figured the only way to find out was to go for it and learn from my mistakes if i made any. i also had prepared the absolute best i could..i even drove to the TH friday night and checked out what i'd be doing today. however, this isn't like snowboarding...it's not like 'trying to 180'...the consequences are much greater. even though i could see breckenridge from the eastern slopes of mt. helen i was far from nearby help and the only person that knew where i was, was my boyfriend who was in boulder and not planning on talking to me until after dinner tonight.
what i learned...i need more experience before i start attempting more difficult solo hikes especially if they have no trail what-so-ever. i cannot even believe i am saying this because it is SO obvious...but i need to have a compass on me at all times. and i need some kind of noise maker because giant cats that want to eat you a.k.a mountain lions do tend to live in the mountains...and i am just hanging in there home for a bit.
mount wheeler on monday...with a partner!
oh and i have plenty of pictures...i will post them once i download them.
i also am excited to say that this would do for some great back country snowboarding and i will definitely be trying this mountain again this winter, with other people of course.
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