No matter the result, there are few places I'd rather be than up in the mountains of Colorado. This weekend was no exception to that rule. While the summit was not obtained, I was where I wanted to be.
And so the stories of another May Club Die Hard trip have been seeded into the many great memories of events above the tree line. This weekend I was joined by John Pribble, Walter Harrier, Brad Hayes and Ryan Sammons as we sought to summit Colorado's fifth highest peak, Blanca.
Having summited Colorado's top four, I had hoped to make it five, but it was not meant to be this go round. But what a hike it was.
We landed in Colorado Springs last Friday evening and made our way south to Blanca starting at 7 pm. After a quick dinner we arrived at the infamous, Lake Como Road around 11 pm. We packed up and started to ascend. It was a full moon and shinning bright enough to ditch our head lamps and hike in the moonlight and through the shadows of the trees. It was magnificent.
The plow to Lake Como was long. It seemed the 4,000 foot ascent to camp was never going to end. Being far from acclimated, we made camp at 4 am. It seemed like we would never reach the lake. The road up to Lake Como is managed by 4x4 clubs and is an uneven rock aggravation. It was not the typical soft dirt with a rock here and there ascent through the aspens and pines I've been accustomed to with 14er climbs.
We settled in camp, set up tents and put the food in a bag and hoisted it up into the trees. I was asleep in minutes.
The next morning I woke at 7 am and was ready to take on the summit, however, the 2 hours of sleep and 4,000 foot ascent just hours before was completely draining, not to mention no time to acclimate to the thin air.
Ryan and John were willing to make the ascent, so about 8:30 am we took off, this was far too late from my calculations. It was a beautiful climb. The ledge from 12,000 ft to 12,500 was an incredible sight.
We made it to 13'300 by 11 am. We were exhausted and not moving at a fast enough pace. I thought we could summit, but it would be 2 pm or after. We were just 500 feet shy of the ridge line, but the last 800 feet were going to be the toughest. The biggest issue was the energy to descend by evening. The hike down was already going to be 7 miles and a 6,000 foot descent, and descents always hurt the most. I felt we would not have the energy or time left to summit.
It's always painful to call it. I had to do it twice on Elbert due to weather, but it's even harder when you know it has to do with your limits and time table. But that is part of what The May Club Die Hard trip is about every year. Pushing your limits. At this point there was the risk reward question.
So we sat there for about 20 minutes and calculated. We determined it was time to descend. And so down we went. After returning to Lake Como and packing up camp we spent another three hours descending from 11,500.
Lake Como road is a pain in the butt, but we finally reached the car and headed to Walsenburg for dinner.
What a hike and what a story of endurance with good friends. I hope to return to Blanca, but with more time to attack the 15 mile, 7,000 ft ascent.
Sunday was spent in Colorado Springs with a drive up Pikes Peak. I'd been through COS dozens of times, but had never taken the time to make the drive up the mountain. It made for a nice close to the short weekend.
For me, Die Hard trips are too help me keep focused in the everyday. Every morning at work there are difficult problems that have to be summit-ted, people to climb through those problems with, short celebrations at the top, and then, coming off the successes is always the hardest part. But as with climbing 14ers in Colorado, there's always another mountain to climb each day in life.