Ryan had never bonked before. When he started to bumble around and kept losing more and more of his edge, I knew something was up. Not really realizing what was going on, he kept on trying to mountain bike further up the Colorado Trail, although with diminishing returns. The big patches of snow that still littered the trail, even though it was June, were probably a good thing, since they ultimately turned us all, including him, around. His disrupted mental and physical state likely made the retreat more palatable to the 13 year old, since he wasn’t one to be prone to turn around before his goal was reached, regardless of the level of difficulty that he faced.
“You’re not lost if you don’t care where you are”, or something to that effect, is a famous quote. I repeated it several times to myself as we kept walking into a thick fog, headed toward the summit of Chiefshead, in Rocky Mountain National Park. I was bringing up the rear of a group of 10, mostly teenage backpackers, and would’ve been completely confident in where Mike was leading us, except that one of his guides, Dennis, was at the back of the line with me and kept muttering things about how we were going up the wrong mountain.
He hadn’t felt very strong, ever since lunch. His backpack felt increasingly heavy and the big uphill into Pinto Park was yet to come. He was not a complainer and was intent on not becoming one at this point. He wondered if it maybe had something to do with the water he’d gotten out of the creek during the break before lunch. He realized that he hadn’t even looked at his water in the bottle before drinking it. What if it was full of all kinds of weird stuff, he wondered to himself.
A mysterious thirst is quenched.
The sixteen empty soda bottles sat on the counter in the Cerro Colorado store for two days, before the shopkeeper finally stuck ‘em down with others. They’d been a good conversation piece sitting out there in the open, but he’d found a spider in one of ‘em just that morning and since he needed to move them anyway, he just did what needed to be done and put them into some of the empty slots in the wooden Fanta case down on the floor. After he’d tidied things up, he thought about dragging the whole box of empties out from behind the Sabrita’s rack where it would be more visible, but realized that if he did so, it would just be in the way and would make things look disorganized, and so he just put it in the back room.
The second part of an adventure climb in the Wind River Range
So, back to our climb. We’d envisioned what the scramble up to the rope-up spot and to a lesser extent the first pitch would be like and were mentally prepared for both of those. But things above that point were increasingly fuzzy, although we were confident that it would all become clearer once we got that far. Better not to confuse the issue, we’d determined.
Climbing an unnamed buttress in the Winds…..
In Two Parts………..
There’s a place deep in the heart of the Wind River Range that we called Golden Lake. There are no marked trails that go there and if you look on a map there’s nothing with that name. There actually is a lake up there, but it has another name. It sits in a basin of sorts, along with two others. The basin is actually a glacial cirque which sits at the top of an obscure drainage which leads down to the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie River. The main lake of the three is full of Golden Trout. Thus, the name.
It wasn’t the easy way out of the predicament, but we chose the more physically painful of the two options and climbed up the steep saddle that led us out of Paradise Park and down into Hell Canyon. As we began setting up our tents and otherwise organizing our campsite at the theoretical end of a long day of backpacking, I did what I should’ve done at least a few days before and read the entry in the guidebook for Rocky Mountain National Park and environs that discussed the area where we were currently setting up camp. There was no ambiguity in what it said, which was simply that “there is no overnight camping allowed anywhere in Paradise Park”. I was sure that I was just reading it wrong the first time I read the words, but they were the same the second time around and I realized the besides violating federal regulations if we stayed, even more importantly, we might just be doing something really negative to the location if we went ahead and camped there.
There had to be a solution, she kept thinking, but it wasn’t jumping out at her. Nothing about the situation made any sense. The only part of it that she was certain about was that a logical person just wouldn’t act like that. Her mind was working hard to come up with an answer, even if there wasn’t one. Maybe, she continued…….. and then her train of thought was instantly broken as she stepped across and put her weight up onto her left foot, which she’d perched solidly up on the top little platform edge of a half inch thick flake of granite. She reached over to the slab, pinched a small nubbin’ of a crystal between her right thumb and index finger and then pulled herself completely up and off of the cheat boulder and onto the almost vertical 60 foot tall rock that stood apart from the others. She was then, fully committed to the climb. In that instant, she’d gone from being a psychologist to a rock climber.
Missing a Tutuburi
The countryside opened up as the trail left the Valley of the Iglesias. Our group of seven had passed a young Tarahumara (the indigenous people of Mexico’s Copper Canyon) earlier in the day and I’d asked about Nacho Kino, an old Tarahumara man that I’d met while mapping the Silver Trail a few years before.
I could tell the story from the trip about the Swiss barmaid that was hovering around outside my tent late one night asking for my tentmate, Matt. Or the one about Matt and I racing our Swiss guides back down from the top of the Argentine Miroir (a famous rock climb) to a nearby café where our group was waiting. Both occurred in the midst of an adventure trip that the two of us were leading and which included a wide variety of people of varying ages including teenagers, a doctor who was even older than me and my non alpinism-experienced wife. As one of the leaders, I was making every effort to look out for the well-being of the group, but nonetheless, those sorts of “things” kept happening.