When in Colorado…
CLIMB A 14er!
Fuh real, it’s what you do. There’s a crapload of 14,000 foot peaks just laying around here – 53 of them!
And to keep it Nooby, to really TEST yourself, you should consider surprising your body with one. Just go for it, no aclimatizing.
We kept it real. We made an attempt at Longs Peak 3 days after getting to altitude in Colorado.
What I have read since our summit bid is that Longs is considered the most difficult climb of the COlorado 14ers. Note that I didn’t say hike. It’s not a hike, it’s a climb, as the signs and literature reiterated. In addition, it boasts the most technical routes, centralize around it’s stunning diamond face.
I should have Googled “easiest 14er” and gone with that one. Who am I kidding? “Most unremarkable 11er” would have been a great fit for me.
The most common non-technical (you don’t have to wear harnesses or utilize ropes with protection devices) Longs Peak summit route (only non-technical for a few summer months) is the Keyhole Route.
The Keyhole Route is badass.
Unfortunately, I only caught a glimpse of it in the rare moments I enjoyed between bouts of vomiting. This was the really THOROUGH kind of vomiting- the kind that gets EVERYTHING out of your system, leaves you covered in sweat with tears leaking out of your squeezed up retching eyes. The kind that leads to sore abs the next day.
Eric and I hit the trail at 0300. The safest way to summit anything is as early in the day as possible, maximizing your daylight with getting down before weather windows close, generally in the afternoon. Granted, we aren’t climbing K2 or anything, but even regular old casual day hikers should heed this wisdom. Experienced mountaineers, not to mention Noobs, get bit in the ass by this ALL THE TIME. Longs Peak sees around 60 rescues every year.
The base of the mountain is phenomenal. The air is thick and tasty, food stays where it is put in the body and birds chirp lovingly.
Here is Eric taking a high-altitude “rest.”
After 11,000 feet, the mountain can go suck it.
My first bout of nausea happened around 11,000 ft, past Granite Pass, prior to the Boulder Field. It was great! If you look closely in the shot above, you can pick out some black beans from breakfast.
Throwing up (I also had a splitting headache but I know you guys don’t wanna read about that boring shit) is a clear sign to turn around. Get lower! Go to where you last felt comfortable and get better! But this wouldn’t be Noob Lab without added idiocy.
I wanted to check out the Boulder Field and the next privy real bad. This was a huge error in judgement, but there were hoards of adorable animals to behold, so I’m not too regretful. Plus, who wants to shit themself when Husband will most definitely snap photos of the shame?
I felt like shit but look what we saw!!
I made it to the privy, did my biz, and then the need to descend finally became very clear to me, despite Eric’s urging to do so hours earlier. Eric was still feeling awesome, and the magnificent Keyhole was only a half mile away at most, so we went our separate ways.
You should never ever ever split up! Our excuses to do so were that I was feeling “fine” between my not fine times, the trail traffic was heavy and I had plenty of food and water to take with me as well as extra layers in case the weather turned. Plus, Eric was just going to look around the Keyhole and then follow, and naturally catch my haggard ass on descent. Did I mention you should never split up?
What I didn’t account for was that I wouldn’t get immediate relief with the thickening of the air. Instead, I kept puking. Each time, it got increasingly difficult to think. I was having a terrible time trying to regulate my body temperature, too. I would stop, throw up, have a heat flash, shed some layers, immediately try to chug some water and a shot bloc (electrolyte gummy), hike for 5 minutes, get the shivers, put layers back on, hike for 20 minutes and repeat.
Meanwhile Eric was enjoying lovely scenes such as these:
Much to both our surprise, I made it down to camp before Eric (I secretly think he bagged the summit).
A few hours of sleep and some vodka later, I was feeling much better. I was able to hold down a pretzel stick.
Feeling revived by the pretzel stick, I reflected on the day and what I had learned. Our goal had never been to reach the mountain top. We really wanted to see how altitude would affect us. Goal achieved. It’s never about the summit. It’s about the journey. And by “journey” I mean cairns with adorable fuzzy pica sitting on top.
A little while later, still reeking of bile and vodka, a really cool lady strolled over to ask us about the mountain, water availability, etc. I liked her immediately, especially when I found out she was a retired Air Force pilot. After recounting the tale of the day, she asked, “so what would you do differently next time?”
The answer was very clear to me.