The Mountain Fought Back

The Mountain Fought Back

Lack of sleep and a 3,000′ ascent with the wind blowing in your face is not an idealistic adventure. But, in our defense, we’re stubborn. Mt Audubon is still a nemesis to us, always fighting us as we make our way to its summit, yet somehow, the relationship we share with the mountain seems to work. As expected, the mountain fought back.

We were overly eager to get back in the Colorado high country after having taken a week off from hiking. We set the goal of heading to one of our all-time favorite areas, the Indian Peaks Wilderness, to pay a visit to a nemesis of ours, Mt Audubon which sits at 13,223′ above sea level.

The trail is fairly aggressive, up hill all the way and mostly above treeline. Seems every time we attempt this strenuous alpine adventure the mountain always finds a way to fight back! This outing would not be an exception to that rule.

Once again, we had a fight on our hands. Our plan was a three in the morning wake-up call. Somewhere between seven the night before and two the next morning we were able to get about two or three hours of sleep. We’re blaming that on the full moon.

For some unknown reason, we got ourselves up and out the door and were on the trail by 4:30 in the morning. Headlamps on, bear spray in hand and a less than desirable caffeine level we wandered off into the dark woods awaiting the first light of day.

Amazingly, we broke treeline just as the sun came over the horizon. Wow, what a sight. We began to awaken with the dark now giving way to light.

The night before our hike we looked up the weather for the region and summit of Mt Audubon one last time. Mild temperatures, little to no wind and clear skies were in our favor. Anyone who knows mountain weather will feel our pain on what came next. As we approached the cutoff for the trail that lead to the summit, the wind came vigorously down off the peak and hit us smack in the face! Little to no wind? It would stay this way throughout the duration of our hike, well, until we got back down anyway. We’ve grown to understand that Mt Audubon also has a sense of humor.

Still somewhat half asleep we opted to bypass the summit trail and head off into an area we had never explored. Off trail exploration is something of a comedy act with us, we’re always surprised at our findings as much what those findings lead to. We followed the Beaver Creek trail for about a mile and then headed for a ridgeline to get a view down into the valley where Upper and Lower Coney Lakes sit.

It wasn’t long and we found ourselves navigating a snow field, scree and thick alpine scrub brush. And we thought we were alone! Once again we were looking at each other with that awkward stare of, “what now?” We were surrounded by bear scat and had just about wandered into a den when we found ourselves in quick retreat!

The conversation went something like this, “What’s that? Bear scat. It’s everywhere. (twig snaps followed by grunting sounds from bush) Was that you? No. We need to go…now!”

Back on the trail and laughing at ourselves, we did an about-face and made our way back towards Mt Audubon. Little sleep, certainly not enough coffee, and now full of adrenaline, we were deliriously hiking along. “Hey, you know what, the summit really isn’t that far and we’ve dealt with the wind before.” What is far? It was an additional two miles and another 2,000′ to the summit!

Stubborn, determined or just insane, we made our way up. Loose scree and talus fields are no fun when you are half-asleep. The debate is still out on the actual amount of oxygen at 13,000′ and we are still not sure what grumbled at us earlier. Suffice it to say, we had another incredible day in the Colorado high country and can’t wait to go again.

The views (see video below) were amazing to say the least. What followed as we made or way back to the trailhead can only be described as a sad, yet graceful, fall off the mountain. We must have appeared drunk.

Lack of sleep and a 3,000′ ascent with the wind blowing in your face is not an idealistic adventure. Mt Audubon is still a nemesis to us, always fighting us as we make our way to its summit, yet somehow, the relationship we share with the mountain seems to work. As expected, the mountain fought back.

Peace,

MAD

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Two Places at the Same Time

Ever feel like you need to be in two places at the same time? Is it even remotely possible? This is not to say that we’re supposing time travel is possible in a Star Trek – beam me up Scottie type of thing [granted that would be nice at times]. Perhaps it’s just a metaphor we use when we find ourselves in one of life’s moments requiring to much of us. But why is it always a negative approach? Here’s a spin on the statements like this one that we often make when enduring such challenges. Oftentimes it seems we focus too much on the ugly side of the issue, focusing as it were on the unfavorable consequences and outcomes versus the possibilities of positive impact, even if difficulties still must be overcome in the process. Consider the statement “no pain, no gain.”

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[Trail to Mt Audubon, Indian Peaks Wilderness]

Hiking in the high country is a great way to provoke the mind and soul on such matters! Well, that and getting to see amazing views and making friends with the occasional marmot or chipmunk. But seriously, making a 2,500′ – 3,000′ ascent and summiting a mountain can try an individual not only physically, but mentally as well. It’s one thing to tackle 10,000′ but beyond that, there is a place that any hiker will tell you along the ascent above tree line the body begins to revolt and let you know it’s not happy with the current rigors its being put through, each person is different [thank G-d] and has their own breaking point. Ours just happens to be someplace between 12,000 and 12,500, attributable to raising teenagers one might say.

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[Alpine shelf just below Mt Audubon]

Our goals are often in front of us, seemingly always and relentlessly in front of us, as if running in the same race but keeping out in front egging us on to keep going with somewhat of a devilish grin you might wonder. But we keep on keeping on, what else are you going to do, quitting leaves you nowhere, continuing at least gives us hope. then it hits you, you’re being pulled in all directions, everyone and everything wants a piece of you and two hands, a few hours and what little sanity you have left aren’t cutting it [meltdown!]. The goal remains…

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[Alpine shelf just below Mt Audubon]

So here you sit, beaten to the core, spouting whatever “French” that comes to mind and regressing back to your childhood days of temper tantrums, or some silent version of it anyway. Standing in two places at one time [yes, it is possible] wondering which way is easier to go. Climbing a mountain is much like this if you’re not mentally prepared. You’ll definitely get to a point of exhaustion, a mental brick wall if you will. Close to the goal, yet the mind playing tricks on your determination. Here’s the twist. You stand in two places [mentally], albeit the same place [physically]. Who wins in your inner battle of whits? That’s up to you! Negativity creeps in and sells you a bill of goods like the devil on your shoulder. Does anyone pay attention to the angel on their other should though? This side of the situation speaks positives, you can go on and will be thankful you did. Looking back, looking forward, standing [or sitting] you know a move is coming.

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[Final few feet before the summit of Mt Audubon]

Thank G-d you got over the pity party, we normally do, eventually, at some point, before we’re dead…Alas, the goal is in sight. Hard work, our goals, might walk ahead of us egging us on, but in the end the payoff is so much better than if it all would have been simple and quick. Those methods leave us lazy and incompetent, whereas hard work and time build character, muscles [physically and mentally] and ready for more. It’s fine to be in two places at the same time. We get to take mental inventory, gather our thoughts and make better decisions. Sure we act goofy, downright insane at times, but that’s being human, that’s being normal, we all do it…generally with the curtains drawn and the TV turned up loud. In the end, it’s all good.

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[View from the summit of Mt Audubon 13,223′]

Ah, the summit, you made it. It was a long haul, there were some tense moments, but your here! Pat yourself on the back, take a long and well deserved break, and enjoy the incredible view. Look north, south, east and west…it’s so vast, it’s so beautiful. Then it hits you, there are many mountains, hills and an ever expanding horizon in all directions. This is indeed your life. You’ve been there and done that. Many of what you see you have been through, some you have yet to conquer. Does it look daunting, promising or just plain old mesmerizing? Stepping back and seeing life for what it is, instead of what it not [the man made simulations we stress over] on top of the world is a great place to start, you can do this, will do this and will again find yourself on another summit taking a break, wiping the sweat from your brow and enjoying another battle won. Just remember though, there are those days we don’t make it to the top, we need to stop, step back and return another day to try again. Hike on, peacefully 🙂

Go here to view more photos of our hike and ascent to Mt Audubon