To 13,000 and Beyond- back to the mountains.

The last mountain I climbed was the end of August 2016 with Sarah, and it was Blanca Peak at 14, 345′. I was injured a little over a month later, which lead to my surgery in June 2017, and my extended recovery.

I have been anxious to get back out there, I know it sounds silly but the surgery was one thing, it’s the mental part that takes time to get over it. I lost all of my confidence in the mountains.  It took me finally realizing that’s why I hadn’t been out in the mountains so much this winter, and I realized I just need to do it.

So fast forward to now, Ashley, Sarah, and myself decided to hike James Peak, a 13er on the front range. My only real goal was to get to 12K, and if I was having a hard time, we’d practice glacier travel, self arrest, then go home.

We started at the trailhead at 8AM, it was icy with rocks…very much late spring conditions all the way up to the lake.

St. Mary’s Lake with Kingston straight ahead.

We made our way over to the glacier, and began the up hill trudge to the flat meadow above.

Courtesy of Sarah Engel.

The sun was blazing, it was a beautiful blue bird morning, and I was down to my base layer with my pants pulled up above my calves. It’s rare when there isn’t howling wind coming down off of James Peak, but we got incredibly lucky.

We made it up to the top of the glacier and sat down for a break.

Courtesy of Sarah Engel

After some discussion, we decided that we would give the summit a try, I was feeling pretty good, and trying to stay hydrated.

We continued across the high plateau towards the base of James Peak.

Our trail!
Ashley heading towards James Peak, Courtesy of Sarah Engel
My beautiful strong friend Sarah!
My beautiful strong friend Ashley!

The higher in elevation we got, the harder it got for me to breath normally, I hadn’t been up above 12K in almost two years, so my red blood cells that helped me with elevation, had disappeared. Sarah encouraged me up the hills, telling me to take 50 steps then take a breathing break, then repeat. It really was helpful for me not to concentrate on the fact that I was having a hard time.

We made it to the last 200 vertical, and the clouds had started to close in and as I was counting to 50 for my last few steps up to the summit, it lightly began to snow.

That light snow, within a matter of a few minutes became near white out conditions, and remained as so all the way to the middle of the glacier.

Looking across at Bancroft.

As we headed down the mountain we had to select a spot in the foreground and keep moving,I continued to check the GPS as we made our way across the high plateau. I was mentally exhausted, and a bit out of sorts. The elevation was really getting to me, and I tried to remember to eat and drink, but it’s difficult when you are so tired. I wasn’t quite walking straight, and I kept thinking that I should turn down a different basin. When I was having these thoughts, I’d stop and check my GPS, it was hard to see more than 200′ in front of us, and I was trying to stay focused.

We finally made it back to the rock outcropping that we took our first break at, and located the edge of the glacier, we were home free!

We had also thought that we would be able to glissade, but with all of the fresh powder…it just didn’t happen. Sarah’s Jump-n Jostle Glissade. Sarah had a genius idea, click the link to watch the video.

Once down from the glacier, we worked our way down the icy path, which was now covered in about 3 inches of snow, back to the car. It was baffling to see the difference that 8 hours had made, it didn’t even look like the same place!

We though an ice ax shot was appropriate when we got back to the car, totally worked.

The drive back to town was….special, slick roads and steep turns– but we made it to WestBound and Down, for dinner.

Food could not have come fast enough and just as we finished eating, about to pay….the electricity in town blew. Like the whole town.

It was a great day, and we all made it home safely. I was glad that I had made it there and back without having any major mishaps. Though, next time I’ll make sure to have a larger breakfast and more water.

Thank you Sarah and Ashley for pushing me, I’m grateful for such wonderful friends and climbing partners.

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