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That Peak over there (CO)
- [first draft 2002-12-25]
- [modified 2003/01/10]
It was a beautiful Saturday morning at
11,500 feet. It was just after 8am when we started on a short morning hike, to
the nearby peak. Martin, Barb and I had our heads down, gasping for oxygen, as
we slowly made our way up the hill. I was the first to notice the two animals
ahed. It was a female elk with her young. "Look at that....." We stopped
in our tracks. The two animals were standing in the shade of the trees. We were
within 50 feet of them. Within a few seconds the mother decided to leave, moving
slowly but firmly... and the kid followed. We reached the top of the mountain
and enjoyed the views. I was attracted to a peak with still snow on it. "That
peak over there", I told Barb, "we'll go up there today".
"We" meant the Body-Body-Body
team -- me, my brother Peter (23, from Canada), and cousin Martin (18, from Slovakia).
The three of us have been travelling for two weeks
( 2001-07_California Coast
). I wasn't counting on the addition
to our team - Kyle the kid.
Kyle was a tough little guy. His short
blond hair was always a mess, and his sneakers rarely tied. He had high spirits
and insisted on bringing a rifle with him. A rifle for 8-year olds that is. Equipped
with sandwiches, fruit, and water, we had enough to survive the day. Our expedition
started at the crack of noon. Just like the morning, the day was beautiful as
well. The mighty sun was shining, but the breeze, the mountain breeze was with
us throughout the trip. The navigation was easy in theory, very visual - toward's
that snowy peak over there. First we hiked uphill, along the edge of the woods.
The downhilll part that followed was more difficult, but after some sliding and
minor bushwacking we got down to the river. We rested at the river. That was already
stop number three. I sent Kyle to find a way across the river - he didn't think
much of the rest stops. Thick bushes covered both sides of the river, and there
was no visible way through.
We made it across, no-one stepped into
the river. Half way up the next hill we started feeling the altitude. We stopped
to rest several times. Almost at the top of the hill, we rested. Kyle remained
standing, he didn't care for the rest stops. They sure make 'em tough in Denver!
I had an idea (plenty more where that came from). "Kyle, why don't you go
to that little tree down there, and come back?" I suggested. He did it. He
ran down, then came up. Not a big deal for him to do, but he was out of breath.
He was quiet for the rest of the break.
The top of the hill came, and then we
discovered that we're not as close as i thought. There was another downhill part,
then open area, then........yes, that's it..... rocky way towards the snowy peak.
I knew we couldn't make it back before sundown if we went up. However, we could
see the road from up here. The road that we could follow to get home. As long
as we could get back down to the river, we could follow the road home.
We went downhill for the last time during
our ascent. We jumped over the stream, along the side of the woods and then began
our final ascent. The slope was raising gently, but Peter was showing signs of
struggle. He had to rest more often, and eventually let us go - maybe he'll come
up, maybe he'll just get close. He began slowly dropping further and further behind.
Our group split up too. I was with Kyle, but Martin took a different route to
avoid the stream, and he was now ahead of us. We reached the rocks. The last part
before the summit was just rocks - rocks big and small. It was still walkable
-- it wasn't steep. We could see the two snowbanks. One, below the summit -- unreachable
to us. It was just below the summit, and on a steep, steep slope. It must have
been the snow i saw in the morning. The other snowbank was lower, safe to access.
The three of us met there. It was a 30 feet by 30 feet field of snow, protected
from the sun by a tall mountain.
We played in the snow, and then headed
for the summit. We couldn't see Peter, maybe he's resting somewhere. More and
more of the mountain was getting covered by the shade. The evening wasw approaching.
I was with Kyle again -- Martin took a different route up. It was rocks, rocks
everywhere. Then it started to get steeper. I was walking on all fours, Kyle was
too. Doing good. Falling would be bad. Very bad.
We made it. We reached the summit. Wow.
12,500 feet. That's why my heart is beating so fast. After 6 hours of hiking we
finally reached the top. The "summit" was a platform that went on to
the left and right and forward. It wasn't clear where it ended - but better walk
slowly, don't want to fall off. We could see Peter coming up, and then half hour
later he made it up too. Cool. We took a picture of all of us. With Martin's camera
set on delay. That was the best picture of the whole trip.I wandered off in search
of views, and i saw another mountain, another snow bank, and......... deer and
elk in the snow and around it. There must have been at least 50 of them there.
But they were far, far, maybe a mile away, and below me.
We could feel the sun going down. It was
5:30 in the afternoon when we reached the top. We spent close to an hour at the
peak To get there we hiked a total of 1840 feet uphill and 760 feet downhill.
That's what my altimeter said. The time came to go down. We walked at an angle
to the mountain, zig-zagging downhill. It was definately harder than going up.
And you don't want to slip. We picked a different route when we entered the first
valley, we took a longer but less steep route. After we reached the peak of the
hill, and started walking downhill, it was already dark. It was dark, but we could
see the landmark we were aiming for -- the patch of bare land among the trees.
That's where the trail is. The trail to home.
Our last rest-stop was totally in the
dark. We had no flashlights. Very unlikely for me - I always bring my headlamp
with me. Because I always return at night from hikes. We were in two groups now,
me and Kyle walking faster, and Peter and Martin dragging behind at a comfortable
pace. Kyle and I were 50 yards below when they yelled. Peter lost his sunglasses
at our last rest-stop. Hmmmmmmmmm... looking for sunglasses at night. On the mountain.
At night. In the meantime Kyle was getting cold. He was fine when we walked, when
we were moving. But now we were waiting. He had a T-shirt and shorts on. He had
no other clothes with him, and i had no spares. I gave him my rain-coat -- a multi-purpose
tool really. It kept his upper body warm, but his bare legs were still cold. I
tied my bandana around one, and my scarf around the other (yes, i had a winter
hat with me too). Finally the two amigos reached us. No luck. The mountain won.
$100 sunglasses gone.
We reached the bottom of the hill. Just
a river to cross and then we'll find the road home easily. It was easier during
the day. We reached the bushes before the river. I went first. Kyle right behind
me. The bushes got thick and tall, and i had to push my way through. The bushes
were over Kyle's head. But he bravely followed me. Good thing he had the raincoat
to protect him. He fell down at times, but he picked himself up without a word.
I yelled out when the terrain changed, like holes or water.... But we still stepped
into wet spots. The river was not a problem when we crossed it. Just the bushes.
We made it to the dirt road. Ahhh, we're
safe now. Just follow the road straight home. Kyle and I started at a fast "Swiss-hiker"
pace, him perhaps because of the night and being 8 years old, and me because i
felt the responsilibity. For bringing him home. As soon as possible. I had gotten
lost in the dark many times before, with or without company...... but this was
different. Peter and Martin were slow. They couldn't keep up. We were low on water.
If they pushed they would dehydrate. Eventually we split up. Kyle was walking
without a word, we kept a fast pace. Only about 10 more minutes to go now. The
slope got a little steeper. We were walking along, and suddenly Kyle dropped down.
Slipped. Few minutes later, again. Alright. After the third time i grabbed his
hand and prevented another 3 falls. Tired little tough guy.
Barb was very happy to see us, the two
of us. I wasn't yelled at, at least not initially. I decided to go rescue the
two amigos with my jeep. They were not familiar with the road and the final turn
was hard to see. Especially at night. They were happy to see me. The trip from
the summit took 3 hours. We had spent 9 hours hiking that day. Nobody complained.
Everyone slept well that night. And i wasn't yelled, on the contrary... Barb said
"I never really worried, I knew that Kyle would be ok. Since he was with
We looked for Peter's sunglasses the
following day. Nothing. We spent an hour looking. Until we ran out of water. That
was a Sunday. We still had to drive 800miles home..... which we did. Got home
at 8am. I started a new job one hour later.
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