Filed under: Family Camping, Family Day Trips, Nature & Wildlife, Outdoor Recreation & Hiking
Rocky Mountain High–Part 3
Seeing the snow flurries beginning to fall was enough to prompt us to pack up our snacks and begin our descent. As he had at the start, Ryan took off almost at a dead run, finding it much easier to descend a mountain than to climb it—though he had few problems with that either. We take a deliberate but more leisurely pace, enjoying the view and snapping a few more pictures of the amazing scenery on our way.
We, also, find it much easier going down than making the climb. We are more able to pay attention to the fields of colorful wildflowers and the amazing mountain vistas than we were when climbing past them. We pick up our pace as we are feeling strong and gravity has a part in carrying us on our journey.
It is then that we look back, after descending for about 30 minutes, only to notice lightning on the summit. Looking up, we note that the sky has become cloudy and dark and there are brief bursts of light occurring regularly up on the summit. Others who have been on the mountain are also beginning to head down. Our pace quickens, but we are pleased we got started as early as we did.
A short time later we pass a family with small children, heading up, but moving quite slowly. The mother asks how far they are from the top. When we tell her about a mile, she suggests to the rest of her party that they turn back today and try it another time. We are relieved she has made this decision, as the rain clouds are growing darker and more ominous. Turning back can be difficult to do after having invested several hours or more already in the climb.
As we continue to descend, we pass a large group of young people, with several adult chaperones, seated and taking a rest and refreshment break in a mountain meadow. They are having a lively conversation, unconcerned about the weather. About at the point where we hit the tree line, the clouds begin to part and the sky clears, no rain having fallen. It seems the group of young people knew they had nothing to worry about.
At this point, we start paying attention to our elapsed time. Our pace again quickens; now because we are hoping to complete the hike in minimal time. We are anxious to see how many minutes we can shave off the predictions we have read.
I realize I am now the one who needs to find a bathroom. Knowing we are still several miles up, we walk on briskly. We hike for a time along with another couple. Eventually we overtake them as their pace slows. Remembering that morning at the trailhead, my first thought is that I will now have no competition for the bathroom once we again reach the parking lot. This keeps us maintaining our pace to the finish.
Our goal has now become to complete the round trip hike in less than eight hours. We trek on, having neither seen nor heard from Ryan since the summit. I text him, only to find out he is about to finish. I describe where we are and he comments that we “still have a ways to go.” Not very encouraging news!
We push on, always conscious of time and feeling strong. We finally reach the trailhead after hiking for six hours and fifty-nine minutes, including the 20 minutes we spent eating, visiting and taking pictures as the top. We have achieved a terrific accomplishment and feel strong! After descending on the (unoccupied) restrooms, for a needed “rest,” we stop for a few more photos at the trailhead.
We head back to the camper for a hot shower, then into a nearby town for a hearty meal and a bit of shopping. We had spotted an “I climbed Mt. Elbert” shirt the previous day when checking out the area; now that we have “earned” it we can return to purchase it. While doing so, we are talking with the store owner about the hike and he gives us a web address for a webcam trained on Mt. Elbert and its sister peak, Mt. Massive. We plan to check out http://126.96.36.199:8080 when we get home to keep a regular vigil of our highest peak to date.
We finish the day with a beautiful sunset and a crackling campfire. A perfect end to a wonderful day! This summer, it’s on to Idaho highpoint Borah Peak with its infamous “Chicken-Out Ridge!” In planning the trip and looking at photos of our next climb, I find myself wondering what I was thinking letting Ryan choose our vacation destination!
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