Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hello? Search and Rescue?

Ok, definitely not AS bad as it seems, but we did call Search and Rescue.  It's a good story, I swear.

Of course the man-friend and I planned an epic.  Maybe too much of an epic for winter.  But heck.  We're having a crappy start to the snow season, so I BET that there's BARELY any snow.  Yeah, right.

We set off at 5:30am and had some delicious hearty breakfast in McDonald's on the way up.  We got to the trailhead at around 8:00am and started hiking.  We were aiming towards Mt. Harvard and Columbia.  We knew it was going to be a long day (somewhere around 16 miles) but as we got started, SURPRISE! Nothing but snow.  The walk was slower than I had hoped for and once we got close to tree line, the trail was barely there.  We had to break trail in some sections and above tree line, we were definitely post-holing.

It was a gorgeous bluebird day... Everyone that knows me, knows that I LOVE snowy mountains during sunny days... the mountains look so pretty.  And the higher we got, the prettier it got.

Happy place
Did I mention that the higher we got, the windier it got?  Ok, you sorta gotta pay the price for those amazing views.  With the wind comes the cold... and exhaustion.  I smiled for the pictures (yes, I'm a poser), but I was quite pissed at the wind and at the post holing going up.  Oh, have I mentioned that I usually bring my Garmin to sorta figure out where I'm at distance-wise and elevation-wise?  Well, I didn't bring it this time, so I had NO idea how much farther I was supposed to go.  And HEY, this was only to get to the first peak.

Yes... I stare at my watch until it finds the satellites... As if staring would speed the process.  
I kept pushing, even though I wanted to stop.  I figured I was roughly 5 miles in, so I may as well get that over with.  Wind increasing, anger increasing... UGH!  Are we there yet???

YES! We made it.  And we're smiling at... SOMETHING?  Cause the 50mph gusts were definitely not funny. 
"Alright, let's go back. I can't keep going", I said.  The man knows how to make me push to the limits... explore what's going on outside my comfort zone and most times, I'm thankful. This time, I was not, but more to come on that... 3 hours from that point.  It was just past 1:00pm when we summitted Mt. Harvard, around 5hrs after we had started.  At that point we were supposed to drop roughly 800 ft as we walked on the ridge for 2.75 miles and then gain the summit of Mt. Columbia.

The wind was insane, but it seemed to calm as we lost elevation, it was still sorta nasty... but the ridge started getting a little too sketchy.  It was taking us forever to walk on it (well, I should say, it was taking me forever) and we finally made a decision to drop a little lower so we could continue on safe terrain.  By the time we got to the bottom there were some things happening:

1. We had dropped all the way down to 12,500 ft.  If we wanted to summit we had to go back up 1,600 ft.
2. Number 1 wouldn't usually be a problem, but it was already 4:00pm
3. Number 2 wouldn't usually be a problem, but in mid-November, the sun sets at 4:45pm.
4. Number 3 wouldn't be a problem (cause we always carry headlamps), but 50 mph winds at the summit and snowy  ridge walks would make for a VERY sketch decent in the dark.
5. All of the above wouldn't usually be a problem, but we were standing at 12,500 ft on the OTHER side of the ridge, in the wrong valley.  To get to our car, we had to go back up and down to the right valley.

Did any of that make ANY sense??  Let me see if I can explain with a map:

This is what we attempted
Long story short:  We started our hike where the purple line starts.  We went ALL THE WAY to the top to Mt. Harvard following the left side of the loop (can you see the lil blue tag pointing at the summit of Harvard?). Then, we looped around on the ridge (to the right of Mt. Harvard) trying to summit Columbia. Since the ridge was sketch we dropped to the right of the purple line (which obviously means we lost a lot of elevation). By 4:00pm, this is where we were standing (RED X):

Aren't we in a pickle?
So... at that point, we had two options: suck it up and go up to Columbia, or head out to the right (red arrows).  We had a map and had figured out which trail (and trailhead) were that way, but with all the snow, and the little amount of time we had left with natural light, we had to hurry to try and find the trail (dotted line which you can barely see).

View of the valley we were leaving behind (with Columbia - the pointy one on the right)
It took roughly an hour to find the actual trail and probably a good 20 more minutes to get below tree line and find a more marked trail from a campsite that had clearly been used in the past couple of days.  Damn deer and/or elk had walked ALL OVER, so it was hard at times to follow the right footsteps.  Especially once it got dark.

Sunset in the backcountry
Let me mention that once we made the decision to bail and headed out in the opposite direction, we had to change gears and go into survival mode.  We had no doubt (once on trail) that we'd get back to the trailhead... but in reality, we had no idea how far of a walk it'd be to get from the trailhead to the highway.  We talked it over and realized we probably had a LONG night ahead of us and lots of walking.  We were not cold (we weren't even wearing all our gear) and we weren't hungry or thirsty (we still had food and water left).  We tried to walk together and only use one headlamp, since we didn't want to use up batteries for both.  We tried to be smart about things and constantly checked in on each other.  Apart from that, we tried to chat about different things and enjoy the adventure.  Side note: this is why I love my man.

We eventually made it to the trailhead... it could not be darker.  We were hoping we'd find someone camping but not a soul.  we kept walking down the road.  I must say, I was happy to be on the road.  I really didn't care how much farther we had to go, but being on the road was a blessing.  We weren't sure how the rest of our night was going to turn out, but the one thing we knew was that we were ok and in good spirits.  In the middle of one of our many chats I asked: "Well, what would one do if in trouble?  I mean, we are ok... but let's say we make it out fine, but one of us is severely dehydrated or hurt?  Do you call the cops?". I can't lie, that made us think... well, yes. I guess one would call the cops.  We took a break and Chuck took out his phone and turns out we had service.  We googled Chaffee County Sheriff's Office and called. We made sure they understood we were ok and were just walking but we were wondering if someone could give us a ride to our car.  We still had NO idea how far we were, honestly.  They offered to call Search and Rescue.  Wait what?  We don't need to be rescued.  Well, we needed a ride... and apparently, they're the ones that could give us one.

We got a call back from Jim, from SAR.  he mentioned he lived 10 minutes away and could come get us.  We kept walking down the dirt road and met up with him 15 minutes later.  It took roughly 10 minutes to drive down the dirt road to the highway and another 15 minutes to town back up the right dirt road and to our car.  We eventually mapped it and we came out 25  miles away from our car.  That would've been a long walk.  We got back in our car, drove to town and had some dinner.  While we usually get sleepy on the drive back home, especially after long days.  It seemed like this time around we still had so much to talk about.  We were super chatty the whole way back to Boulder and the thought of that makes me smile.  We got home a little after midnight, showered and went to bed.  We both fell asleep quite fast.

Can I say one last thing?  This is why I love my man... I love waking up to a new adventure every day.

Until next time...

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all."  Helen Keller

No comments:

Post a Comment