Sunday, August 15, 2010

Getting so high... 14,000 ft high that is

Hey all!

So the big adventure began with a simultaneous wake-up call from both my dad and my cell phone at 4:45 am. It was almost too early to be tired so I pretty much hopped out of bed, threw on my clothes and my dad, my sister Jenna, my brother Gaines, and I were all in the car just a couple minutes after 5. 

It took a little less than two hours to the base of the Kite Lake Trailhead, right outside of Alba, Colorado (the highest town in North America!). The mounts Democrat, Cameron (the official unofficial 14er), Lincoln, and Bross are located all right next to each other so the plan was to climb all four starting with Democrat. 

Although pretty chilly and a little windy, the beginning of the hike started off well. The first challenge is making it up to the saddle between Democrat and Cameron. We made it up to the saddle without much difficulty but by the time we reached the saddle, the winds had really picked up and we even had to sit down and curl up a couple times. We however were determined to make it up the mountains so we trekked on up Democrat. We were encouraged by others coming down that it was less windy as you went up and got off the ridge. They were right and the hike up to Democrat was challenging of course, but overall pretty smooth. Step by step along the rocky trail, we eventually made it to the top of Democrat, standing at a mere 14,148 feet. 

Then it was down Democrat, which proved to be almost as challenging as the way up. For those of you who know me, you probably know that I can be a little clumsy at times which definitely isn't a good characteristic when climbing down a steep, rocky trail. I ended up tripping once on the way down Democrat and scratched up my knee a little but since that was my only major fall, I considered myself lucky.

By the time we got back down to the saddle the wind had picked up even more. It didn't seem as though many people were attempting to climb towards Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross but following my super-hiker father, we carried on up the mountain. As we went up the wind just kept growing and my siblings and I were stopping every couple of feet to avoid being pushed over by the wind. We kept seeing people coming down, telling us that they had turned around because the wind had gotten too intense, but for some reason that still didn't stop us. We reached the top of Cameron to discover the winds blowing at 70 mph!! My whole body was leaning into the wind and I was convinced I was just going to fly away right there. We knew we had to get off the top really fast so we hiked/ran as fast as we could to a little bunker and cave we saw just over the top. My sister and dad chilling in the bunker:

We thought if we could hurry across the ridge between Cameron and Bross, maybe Bross would be better so we decided to make a dash for it. Well we literally could not hold our ground and we were being whipped around by the wind so before we made it even a quarter of the way across we found another rock bunker to stop in. Where all these bunkers cam from, I have no idea but I am so grateful they were there! This time we were not going back out till we knew the wind had calmed down. We decided to get comfortable, get something to eat, and Jenna and Gaines even closed their eyes for a bit. 

After 45 minutes, the wind maybe died only a little but we knew we couldn't sit in the bunker all day so we resolved to just go for it. We stumbled across the ridge, and the trail took us just a spitting distance from the top of Bross which stands 14,172 ft. in the air. As we scurried our way down the mountain, the wind diminished and eventually we made it down to the parking lot. I decided a victory pose was in order. 

That was my third 14er experience but was by far the biggest adventure. I am glad that we all made it back safely! 

Hope everyone had a great weekend! It is another long-run day for me tomorrow and at the suggestion of Skylar, I will be eating a banana an hour before I run to try to fight my cramps- hope it works!!

- Shelby

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