Wednesday, September 5, 2012

5280 to 14,420 { part 3 }

Who would have ever thought that 24 hours would add up to 3 blog posts...but I guess that's what you get when Long Winded Beth gets behind the keyboard!

After Hunter says to me

You know tonight is a full moon......right?

He finishes it with "Wouldn't it be cool if we got up at 3am and finished the hike in moonlight?!"

Umm...CHYEAHELLSYEAH it would!  Sooooooooooo.  That's what we did.  Crawled into the tent around 7:15pm for bed to get up at 3am.  What were YOU doing at 7:15pm the Saturday of a long weekend?  Not going to bed?  Oh okay, kewl.  ;p  { You are welcome for that, Mart. }

Anyway, back to sleeping.  { Gosh, I run a THRILLING blog, don't I?! }  The winds did pick up an awful lot during the evening, so Hunter and I were both worried that it would be too windy to finish our summit that early, but as quickly as the alarm went off, those winds died down.  We layered up, packed up { thankfully with our smaller packs this time, so we didn't have 50lbs on our backs. } and headed off!  Though I wasn't totally convinced we could do the entire hike without the assistance of our headlamps, the moonlight really was enough to keep the path lit for us.

We were about 30 minutes into the hike, when the both of us kept hearing rustling, tree branches cracking - things like that.  Hunter first said "Well, it could be a moose.  If it is, just keep talking to me because our voices will scare it away."  What is a girl to do about THAT?!  I did just like he said, and kept talking about absolutely nothing { I'm sure you are SHOCKED to hear that I actually succeeded in that quite well. } for some time.  Well, it wasn't a moose, or any wild animal for that matter.  It was a group of about 15 people!  LadaGagasaywhaaaaa?  Yes.  A group of about 15 people were also out at 4am, trying to hike a freaking mountain.  They were looking to get to Columbia, and mistakenly got on the trail for Harvard.  Hunter set them straight and they were on their merry way.  We kept hiking and I continued the attempt to keep my mind busy and not focus on the chill, thin air or tired legs.  After we made it above treeline, Hunter warned me that this is where it will begin to get really challenging.  I guess what I didn't realize going into this was that you would have to essentially walk from loose boulder to loose boulder hoping that it didn't slip out from underneath you!  Believe it or not, I actually preferred hiking through the billions of loose rock versus the steep trail.  I think constantly finding good rocks to step on kept my mind busy enough that I forgot what I was doing { read: so I wouldn't be bitching as much }.

I feel like I need not to save this til the very end and make sure to highlight what an amazing guide Hunter was.  Through the whole thing he was SO patient with me, stopped whenever I asked him for a break.  Hugged me whenever I was cold/needy/scared.  Constantly told me what I good job I was doing.  Reassured me when I told him that I was scared and didn't think I could do it.  Stopped to take photos with me when I'm certain all he wanted to do was keep hiking our way up. I'll rent him out for any of you reading this who would like a guide for their next 14'er.  But his rate is very, very high.

Speaking of stopping to take pictures, allow me to share one of my favorite outtakes.  H was in the middle of saying he thought we had the camera on the wrong setting right as the picture took.

You can kind of see the dew on my hair from the wackadoodle early morning weather.  Another cool thing about hiking at 4am?  You don't give a shizzzz what your hair looks like because it's too dark to see!!  Though once Hunter did get a glimpse of it and announced it was Crazy Hair Time.  At least he spoke the truth.

Where was I?  Talking about absolutely nothing again.  Check.

There we were.  Hiking boulders.  Me: Planning recipes for the week do distract from my burning lungs.  Him: Rocking at life.  What do we start to hear again?  More rustling, more rocks falling, more big, big shapes headed our way.  Though deep down I knew { hoped } they were people, their shapes looked what I would picture a pack of moose to look like. But again, it was a group of about forty people making their way down from the summit.  Let's review.  If it was 5am, and they were coming DOWN from the mountain, that means A) they are crazy, B) they had to head UP the mountain like....super freaking early, C) there were SO MANY of them, I can't fathom how it could be safe, effective, quick, safe, get the idea.  Anyway, they were all nice enough, warned us of the cold weather up top { duh } and told us how pretty the views were { much did you see while it was dark out, sir? }.  Pretty much right after we ran into them, we saw a light from the summit of a neighboring 14'er to which I finally cried out "HUNTER PEOPLE ARE CRAZY.  PEOPLE ARE CRAZY!!!"  and in return he reminded me that we were in fact one of those crazy people too, and had the 3am alarm to prove it.

Touche, sir.  Touche.

Stretch of boulders/loose rock.  More trail steep, steep climbing, then final stretch of more loose boulders and rock.  Right about this time I started feeling the altitude sickness and I started feeling it hard.  Between the anxiety of getting to the summit { it looked SO FAR UPPPPPPPPPPPP }, mixed with the high high highhighhighhigh elevation, mixed with that pesky little annoying voice in my head trying to tell me mean ugly things about how I wasn't going to be able to finish it, Beth was in a bad way.  I'm so grateful that Mary shared her story of her first 14'er, and also my roommate/landlord/friend Sara had done her first just the weekend before - so I had them heavy on the brain and all the positive things they had to say about their experiences.  I knew ultimately it was going to be worth it, I just wasn't sure if I would feel that pride because, again, it was SO FAR UPPPPPPPP.  But just like Hunter continued reminding me "One step at a time.  We aren't trying to break any records here.  Just set your own pace."

He's so good.

The coolest part about the entire hike, was getting about 300 feet from summit and being able to sit for a few minutes and enjoy the sunrise!  I only managed to snap one photo of it, which of course doesn't do it even a seconds worth of justice.  Between the sick stomach and freezing hands, we really wanted to soak that moment up and enjoy it as that was a huge reason for why we had gotten up so early.  And let me tell you - it was incredibly stunning.  The way the sun peeking out hit on the sides of the mountains, casting shadows from the other mountains, it was really a sight to see!

The sun was refreshing to see, and it was amazing to look around us and really breathe in what we were doing, and where we were doing it at.  Just as we were getting to the top, we saw a man behind us { Of course I said to H "Man alive, that man is crazy!" to which I was reminded we were actually AHEAD of him, which makes guessed it.  Equally as crazy. }.  We paused to let him pass, and as he approached us he pulled out his watch and said "According to my watch we are above 14,000 feet!  Can't we just turn around and say we've done it?!"  Shortly after that statement he said something that for whatever reason gave me a huge burst of energy "I climbed Massive yesterday, in half the time, but this one is kicking my ASS!"

Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute.

You are telling me you are an experienced mountain hiker { he has a goal set to climb all 54 of the 14'ers, and Harvard was his 21st! }, and this particular 14'er is kicking your ass?  So it's not just me?!  It isn't only in my head????  ROCK ON BUDDY!

That gave me a huge kick to finish up that sumbitch and conquer the heck out of it.  Seconds after we picked back up hiking again, Hunter made it to the top of a pile of rocks { not summit }, and I hear him go "Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh wowwwww.....!"  I made my way up next to him, and sure enough....wowwwwww!  Though we hadn't made it to the tippy top yet, we were at a place where you could see mountains as far left as you could look, as far in front of you as you could look, and as far right as you could look.  It was truly incredible.  After letting those views soak in, we did what the bitchy voice in my head said we couldn't do.

We summited Mt. Harvard!!!

It was an incredible feat, and an even bigger one looking back on it.  I learned a lot of lessons on this 14'er like: always pack gloves, remember to charge your camera battery, and never, ever let your head tell you something that your body can't do...because it can go a LOT farther than you might think it can!

The hike down was filled with a few scary moments after getting a little off track on our way down { google "rock scrambling" and picture us doing that, but it was also filled with huge rewards of taking in the sights we missed while hiking in the moonlight, reliving some of the funny and not so funny moments of our morning, but ultimately checking off another adventure with my favorite adventure partner.

The rest of the day was filled with a 2 hour nap, repacking our backpacks, and a 2+ hike back to the car.  Once we made it to the truck, the whole experience really hit me and I was so very proud of what we had accomplished as a team.

So there you have it fine readers; a 3 post series of our 14'er.  What did youuuuuuu do for your Labor Day weekend?


  1. Love, love, love! Thanks for spreading it out into 3 posts, so I had more to love. When do you think you'll blog again?

    Your biggest fan.

  2. This makes me wish ya'll lived closer. I think Robert-o and Hunter could possibly be BFF's. Just saying.