Peak Bagging in Colorado - Page 2
A rugged descent off Mount Antero (#12) on day three. Photo by Fred Marmsater.
“Don’t even entertain those thoughts,” said Jared. As we ran down the rocky southern ridge of La Plata into the basin below, severe winds hammered our faces, but I savored the descent—more skiing than running, as we rode out each footfall’s mini avalanche of scree.
Jared’s wife, Mindy, met us at the dusty ghost town of Winfield. I overheard him tell her, “Matt’s not himself.” I wanted to say, “This is me, man. I suck at altitude, and I am weak.” Like a petulant girlfriend, what I really wanted was for Jared to tell me he was committed—committed to completing the route with me. When we stood up, he gave me a hug, then took me by the shoulders, looked me in the eyes and said, “We’re doing this together, Matt.”
Though night had fallen, I shook off my self-doubt and climbed 14,003-foot Huron Peak with newfound energy. The trail only went up the mountain’s west side to the summit, so from the saddle we forged our own way down a steep east-side talus field. Huge unsettled boulders shifted under our feet as we chose our lines through them like downhill mountain bikers. One of my trekking poles got stuck in the rocks and snapped. Better the pole than my leg, I thought.
The relief of being off the rocks was short lived. We scrambled down to Clohesy Lake, a descent so steep we had to grab trees to brake against gravity’s pull. We moved gracefully at first, two experienced bushwhackers flying downhill through the nasty overgrowth. Maybe enjoying the free speed a bit too much, we both took hard falls—the kind that left us lying on the ground, scraped and bloodied, but grateful to be in one piece.
The sun rose as we summited Mount Belford (14,205 feet)—and with it, my spirits rose, too. The next three peaks were connected by a treeless, rocky ridge. Vegetation knew better than to grow there; it’s equally inhospitable to humans, but seemed like a fair trade for not having to descend to the valley floor and climb thousands of feet between summits. The cost of this gift, however, was that we battled 12,000-plus-foot altitude for over six hours straight. Jared’s pace slowed in response.