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Monday, July 22, 2013

Crestone Peak - Nemesis mountain?

Date:   July 4th & 5h, 2013
Mission:  Crestone Peak (elevation 14,294 ft.)
Who:  Siona (my wife) and I
Length:  10 miles
Elevation gain: 3000 ft.

Hiking up to the lakes with the 35lb pack.
The normal trip up Crestone Peak is 13 miles and 5700 ft. of elevation gain.  At the top of Broken Hand Pass at around 12,900', we decided to cut our trip short due to some issues with my ankle.  This trip was just a reminder that it's about the adventure, not the summit.

Day 1 

We arrived at the 4x4 trailhead at 1pm or so on July 4th and was pleasantly surprised to find a not too crowded parking area.  We slowly made our way to the South Colony Lakes. 

Carrying a 35 lb. pack was a bit harder on my recovering ankle than I thought it would be.  By the time we reached our campsite, I was already questioning whether my ankle would be okay for the following day when we were to attempt to summit Crestone Peak.

My beautiful wife!

After setting up camp, we walked down to the creek and I took my boot off and stuck my right foot in the creek as a good substitute for ice.  The water is still very cold and was just what the doctor ordered for my ankle.

After icing the ankle in the creek, my wife and I just hung out, stared at the trees, listened to the birds, sat in the shade of a tree, and just enjoyed each other's company. 

We ate our camp dinner of homemade cold pizza made the night before.  For the record, as a former chef, my pizza rocks and it tastes even more awesome when you are 10+ miles from the nearest town. 

We went to sleep before the sun even set.  By the time darkness hit, a light rain started and I fell sound asleep for about an hour and a half.  After that, we were both just in and out of sleep for the rest of the night.



Day 2

Sunrise over Humboldt Peak's east ridge.
We were already lying awake when the alarm went off at 3:30am.  We packed up our gear while discussing the fact that both of us had nearly no sleep.  We then had a quick bite to eat and were on our way by 4:15am or so.

The hike from our camp at 11,650' was still going to be a long day.  We were going to ascend Broken Hand Pass at 12,900'.  Then the next goal was to descend to Cottonwood Lake at 12,300' before hiking up Crestone Peak's red gully to 14,294'.   So our early start was necessary to ensure we were down to camp and out of the thunder storm risk area before the afternoon came around.

In the dark, following the trail up to Broken Hand Pass, I missed a switchback and we had to scramble over some loose steep rock before traversing some more talus and eventually regaining the trail.  This killed a little bit of time for us, but we were still greeted with a stunning Sangre De Cristo sunrise.

My wife and I made our way slowly up the steep scree & snow mixture.  About three quarters of the way up Broken Hand Pass there is a short but legitimate class 3 climbing section.  On this day, this section was made a bit more complicated with lingering snow & ice.  We both broke out our microspikes for some additional traction.

My wife making her way up the tricky section on Broken Hand Pass.

As we arrived on the top of the pass at 12,900' my ankle was already very sore.  I was discussing turning around with Siona when my wife let me know that she was also having some issues with numbness in her hands and feet, which is a phenomenon that happens to her occasionally at altitude ever since she was diagnosed with Lupus.

My wife is a my hero.  She has pushed through so much pain on hikes like this, just because she loves doing this stuff.  For those that do not know, my wife lives with pain from both Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis.  She has probably experienced more pain than I will ever know from my broken ankle and some bad knees.  She is one tough and stubborn Irish girl that refuses to let anything stop her.  

That being said, I can usually tell when she is pushing herself too much, and this was one of those moments.  Add in some clouds that looked to be building already at 7:00am, and a growing presence of smoke from a forest fire about 50 miles away and we were sold that turning around here was the right choice.  

We snapped some shots from the top of Broken Hand Pass before heading down.

I love the Crestones, but today was not my day.

My wife at the top of Broken Hand Pass

The down climb of that same tricky section was fun but a little sketchy.  I slipped once on the snow and my left knee hit a rock causing some significant pain that would last for the rest of the hike back to the Jeep.

Down climbing the class 3 section with snow and ice.

We took our time on our hike down and enjoyed the views of the lakes, wildflowers, and the warming sun.  We joked about how nearby Humboldt Peak probably had something to do with me turning around since I have attempted Humboldt Peak three times, all in winter, and have had to turn around three times.

Humboldt attempt # 1

Humboldt attempt # 2

Humboldt attempt # 3

We also realized that this was the first mountain my wife has turned around on.  Mountaineers joke about mountains that they've been turned back on as their nemesis mountain.  Humboldt Peak is clearly my nemesis mountain.  Crestone Peak is now Siona's nemesis mountain.  She can't wait to go back, and neither can I.


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