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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mountaineering gives me life

I took a long break from this blog, and I decided to come write again in hopes that someone else out there might be able to benefit from any of the information I present.  The honest reason behind why I have neglected this blog is simply stated as "depression".  I never got officially diagnosed mostly because I tend to avoid doctors.   I am familiar with it enough to know it was depression, severe depression actually, likely caused by PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from my severe ankle injury in 2013, among some other things. 

I used to think it was a weakness to admit that I got depressed from time to time. Now however, I want others to know that all people from all walks of life deal with depression occasionally.  It's how you come out of it that helps build and define your character.  So here I am... admitting to the world that I suffer from severe depression from time to time.  It happens, I am back on the uptick for now.  Now it's back to the mountaineering stories.  Because mountains, nature, beautiful photographs, gorgeous sunrises, camaraderie with fellow mountaineers, and the occasional summit celebration make me happy.

One thing my depression taught me is that a shared adventure is far more awesome than a solo adventure. 

So lucky reader, enjoy a overstuffed blog post about almost every mountaineering adventure I had from mid-August 2013 through the end of 2013.

Pyramid Peak

Date:   August 15, 2013
Mission:  Summit Pyramid Peak (elevation 14,018')

Who:  Solo
Result:  Failed summit attempt due to ankle pain

Pyramid is one of the most dangerous mountains in the Elk range.  The entire range is notorious for it's loose and rotten rock. 

I began my adventure with a 5 hour semi-decent night's sleep in the overnight lot at the trailhead.  I began my hike early at 0-dark-thirty, silently making my way by Maroon Lake, and up to the turnoff for the Pyramid Peak trail. 

By the time the sun was coming up, I was already a couple miles up the trail and finishing up some switchbacks to break the tree line and enter what is referred to as the amphitheater.  Later I would realized there is a half-ass trail on the right side of the rock glacier in this amphitheater, but in the dark I missed it.  This led to me crossing the rock glacier by hopping the incredibly loose talus.  This slightly off route adventure did some serious strain on my still healing ankle ligaments.  It would be shortly after this around 12,500 ft. that I called off my summit bid early in the morning for no reason other than my ankle pain.

All was not lost however, I was still rewarded with many amazing views of the Maroon Bells, Pyramid Peak, and Maroon Lake.

Standing on the rock glacier, looking back at where I had come from.

Pyramid Peak, as seen from the top of the rock glacier.

The view of Maroon Lake from the tree line on Pyramid Peak.
The Maroon Bells
The descent was painful, but tolerable.  It was incredibly hot by the time I reached Maroon Lake.  As I walked to the lake, a busload of tourists had just arrived.  They all looked at me like I had three heads as I walked right into Maroon Lake shedding only my backpack to cool off.  Chilling in Maroon Lake I vowed to come back to this beautiful place again and make another attempt next summer when my ankle would hopefully be better.
Redcloud Peak & Sunshine Peak

Date:   September 1, 2013
Mission:  Summit Redcloud Peak (elevation 14,034 ') and Sunshine Peak (elevation 14,001')

Who:  Joel Snow and myself
Length:  12.25 miles
Elevation gain:  4800 ft.

Joel and I arrived at the trailhead Saturday evening right as it was getting dark.  The clouds overhead were very ugly, and the thunder was growing louder by the minute.  We hurried to a good camp spot that was maybe 50 yards from the Jeep and setup our tents.  We threw our gear inside with raindrops starting to fall.  The exact minute I jumped in the tent and zipped it up, the skies opened up and we were in a utter downpour.  Lightning was striking close enough to make me wish there were more trees around.  We endured the t-storm for an hour or so, and settled in for a short night of sleep at 10,400'.

Awake at 4am or so, we began in the dark knowing we wouldn't want to be anywhere near the ridgeline between Sunshine and Redcloud by the time the afternoon thundershowers came around.

There's a TV commercial out there that talks about the things that happen in the Colorado mountains that only happen once and if you aren't there to experience it, you'll just never know.  If you are there... you get sights like this. 

This alpenglow on Redcloud Peak existed for only 30 seconds that day. 
It just happened to be the exact moment we got to the ridge at 13,000'.
We continued up the slope enjoying the views of the San Juan range on 3 sides.

Joel making his way up to the summit of Redcloud Peak.
Joel celebrating on the summit of Redcloud Peak

A look at the traverse to Sunshine Peak.

Me on the summit of Sunshine Peak on a bluebird morning.
A look at the basin we had hiked through in the dark.  Much more beautiful in the daylight.
The hike down was uneventful.  My ankle was giving me troubles and pain as usual, but today it was tolerable and thankfully Joel was patient with my slow pace on descent.  It was nice to reach a couple summits again.  Joel doesn't know it yet, but I eventually plan on dragging him to the top of as many 14ers as I can. :)  Good friends are hard to find.

Huron Peak - The Wilbur family adventure

Date:   September 21, 2013
Mission:  Summit Huron Peak (elevation 14,005') for my Dad's 70th birthday.

Who:  Siona Wilbur (wife), Fred Wilbur (Dad), Eric Wilbur (brother), Chris Wilbur (brother), Johanna Greenough (sister), Carol Wilbur (sister in-law), Summer Shook (Chris' fiancĂ©), Liam Wilbur (son), Altai (dog #1), Miliya (dog #2) and myself.

Many members of my family were great enough to fly from New England where all of them live to join my Dad for a surprise party and a 4 day weekend which included the plan to hike Huron Peak with my Dad.

The day of the surprise party, my Dad and I were hiking in Clear Creek Canyon since everything else close to Boulder was flooded from the 100 year flood.  All canyons north of Golden were closed all the way to the Wyoming border.  Dad and I hiked up some steep hills in Clear Creek Canyon to get him acclimated to the altitude since he lives in Western PA. 

At the top of the trail, just left of center you can see my Dad.  
I'm guessing that he was loving the view, but hating the traffic noise from Hwy 6 below.

After the short acclimation hike, we drove home.  During these several hours we were gone, my wife picked up everyone from the airport.  When we arrived home, the family gave a great surprise and a party was on.  Towards the end of the party we gathered everyone's gear so we'd be ready to go in the morning.

In the morning, we packed up two vehicles and many of us drove to Leadville where we stopped for lunch before heading up the 390 road to setup camp near Winfield.  After getting camp setup, we took a quick drive up to the top of Independence Pass to check out some fall colors and see the views.

My wife joined us later that night and by 5am we were all on our way up the 4x4 road in the dark, with half of us in the Jeep and half of us in my wife's truck.

We began our hike in the dark, and even though I had hiked this route a couple years ago, I had forgotten about the immediate turn uphill to the left about 20 ft. down the trail as seen here.  So like a dumbass I led everyone into the basin instead.  I remember thinking to myself that it was weird how we had not gained much elevation yet, but I continued anyway and when I got to the junction for Lake Ann, I knew we had missed a turn somewhere.   

We discussed going back to the beginning, but ultimately decided to continue up and try to find the SW Slopes route, which we did find, and then somewhere near the picture below, we lost again thanks to another coin flip decision gone wrong. 

We can't follow a trail, but we know how to have fun!

I didn't have a map of the SW Slopes route since our original plan was to hike the North Ridge.  So when we reached a junction again just before the tree line I decided on the wrong direction, which led us to climbing up something that was clearly not a trail and clearly much steeper than anything I had anticipated.  We were on the west face of Huron, on what appeared to be a endless steep talus hopping adventure to the summit.  It's not exactly a route to take a 70 year old guy and a bunch of non-climbers from sea level. 

My sister Johanna at the front looking up the west face.
She's undoubtedly thinking "Yikes, but damn that looks fun!"

Yet still, the Wilbur stubbornness and will to succeed prevailed, or at least tried to.  The straw that broke the camels back was about 12,600'.  My old husky Altai is nearly blind nowadays and he was having lots of trouble negotiating the talus.  This led to me making the right decision to turn back.  Nobody was really enthusiastic about turning back to say the least, but it had to be done.

Views from the west face, down into the basin looking SW.

Eric, Carol, Dad, and Johanna starting up the steep stuff.

Chris making a run up the talus ahead to see if it ever ends.  He reported that it did not end.
Good views of the Ice Mountain and friends from here.
This dude does not act 70 years old.  I love you Dad!

My brother Chris was probably the most bummed about not getting a summit.
Come back this year bro, I want to take you up a little mountain called Pyramid Peak.  :)

Back in the basin hiking out and just enjoying being together in such a amazing place.

Even though we all enjoyed our day in the mountains, Wilburs are sooo competitive, almost to a fault.  The failed summit, poor night's sleep at camp, and some normal Wilbur attitudes had my family a bit on edge until a beautiful family uniting moment took place in Leadville on the way home.

We all drove home with smiles on our faces and love of one another in our hearts.

I still owe my Dad a 14er summit.  I think we're going into Chicago Basin this year, hopefully we have better luck this time.

Humboldt Peak - Finally!

Date:   September 28, 2013
Mission:  Summit Humboldt Peak (elevation 14,064')

Who:  Solo

Just me.  And Humboldt.  Let's do this.

Humboldt's east ridge in winter is no joke.  I've had 3 failures on the east ridge for various reasons that you are welcome to read about in this blog.  Today was my first attempt on the west ridge and the summit would be mine... finally.

The day started with a dusting of snow, and the rest of the day was simply great and only got better.  It all started with possibly the most beautiful sunrise I've seen.  Ever.

I was around 12,800' on the slope leading up to the west ridge and this happened.

Crestone Needle glowing from the morning sun.

Crestone Needle and the upper S. Colony Lake

Broken Hand Pass has never looked so good.

If there was ever a sunrise that gave me a jolt of energy, this one was it.  I was on the west ridge in no time, and before I knew it I was standing on the summit of a mountain that I now truly respect.

The Mighty Crestones. 

Proof that I actually reached the summit of my nemesis mountain.

The hike down was uneventful until I reached the camping area at S. Colony Lakes again when I nearly had this porcupine run into me on the trail when he jumped out of some brush.

After he almost ran into me, I stalked him and took this picture.

After Humboldt, I had a second ankle surgery on my right ankle on 10/14/13 to remove scar tissue in the joint and to remove hardware that was holding my broken leg together for the last 8 months.

I took the rest of 2013 off from mountaineering, with one lame, half-ass attempt at the DeCaLiBron in mid December.  I spent a lot of December playing poker tournaments since it's one of my hobbies I can do when I can't walk.  I am proud to say I chopped one tournament three ways and also got my redemption on my poker buddy Bryan Devonshire from when he knocked me out of a tournament a few years ago.  The greatest thing about that final table was that three of us, Bryan, Tom and I spent half the time talking about various 14ers and the adventures we've had on them. 

To me, life is on the mountain, not the felt.  But the poker table sure makes for a good time to swap mountaineering stories.

~~ In Memory of Terry Matthews ~~  

I never met Terry personally, but without him, I wouldn't be here writing this post today.  He's one of the reasons I decided to be up front and honest with everyone regarding my depression.  He was also a greater mountaineer than I can ever hope to be.   Thinking of you Terry...