We had started the day at 5:00 am – too late to be considered an “alpine” start but not so late that it wasn’t still early at the summit of Mt. Democrat. As we headed back, climbing gingerly over the iciest damn rocks I have EVER SEEN, we began to mull the concept of actually continuing on. What the what?
No joke, those are what the rocks looked like. It was hard on knees and balance to crawl down the rocks, and nauseous-terrifying for someone who is afraid to walk across an icy flat parking lot. At one point, my legs just stopped. I waited for a minute with the desperate hope that maybe someone would just pick me up? Just over this rock? Alas, that’s not how mountain climbing works. I dug deep, took a breath and moved. There was slipping and not a few moments where tears were close, but, since I’m sitting in my chair now, I’m assuming that I made it.
We reached the saddle. Now, Mt. Democrat sits in a trio of 14,000+ mountains. Actually, it sits in a quadrangle, but apparently there are rules about these things. Democrat’s sister mountains are Mt. Lincoln and Mt. Bross.
From this poorly illustrated picture, you can see that you take one trail up to the saddle. Go left and you are on Democrat. Go right and you head on over to Mt. Cameron and then over to Mt. Lincoln and Brosse. Typically, climbers efficiently try to hit all three (official) 14ers in one day.
A few gels and some water later, Mike, Brian and I headed out. Chris (my husband) had sadly twisted his knee and decided to wait this one out.
We had stopped talking at this point. Breathing the frigid air, my only focus was my next step. It gets too overwhelming when you actually stop to think about how far you need to go…and your very inching progress.
Suddenly we were at the top of something. I saw the handwritten sign surrounded by rocks. Hallelujah! My second fourteener of the day. OMG! My second!
As I prepared my high-fives, Brian shared the sad news. Not all fourteeners are official Fourteeners. Again, what the what? According to Wikipedia, a 14,000+ peak “must have at least 300 feet (91 m) of prominence to qualify.” Mt.Cameron, while a very nice mountain, did not fit the criteria. Alas, we took our pictures and moved on.
Finally, there in the distance was the top of Mt. Lincoln – a tough chunk of rock sticking out of more rocks. A lot of scrambling, some pulling and a boost later and there we were. It was official –
There was a brief discussion of trying to bag Mt. Bross, but Mike wisely decided that I probably had enough. Plus, the biggest danger of Colorado 14ers was beginning to loom overhead – the clouds were breaking from ice to storm clouds. We judged it best to hightail it back to the car.
We made it to the bottom. My legs were shivery shaky – I hadn’t sat down once all day. I remembered all the terrible days of my hospitalization – the time I coded, the time I arrested, the emergency surgery and then I looked at my husband and at my feet. Those feet, his heart and this amazing heart had gotten me up and back. I couldn’t wait to do more.