Monday, September 6, 2010
Massive Quick Takes
Note: I happen to like to read about other peoples' adventures, as well as enjoy seeing their pictures. Other people couldn't care less about the mundanities of someone else's life. If you are like me, then pull up a chair. If you are one of the people that would rather poke your eyeballs with a 3-hole punch than read another blog post with pictures of mountains, then slowly put the punch down, and walk away from the blog. No one needs to get hurt, and I will not care if you skip this. :)
After I finished my 100 miles, I figured that I would talk less about hiking and more about other things. But then I did this hike and needed to talk about it for seven reasons.
1) The travel companion. I went on this hike with a friend that was a date several times. When I told him that I was not interested in a relationship, he still wanted to be friends. That works for me, especially when he said he wanted to go hiking. Sweet! I was a little concerned about how the dynamic of the day would go, but it was worth a shot, since he is a nice guy. Overall, it went well, though at the end of the day, he was still showing signs of being interested in being more than friends, while it was confirmed for me that I didn't want more than friendship. Eh, well. What's an epic hike without a little mild drama?
2) The sunrise. We got to watch the sun come up while we were on the trail. I love to do that. It's a little disorienting being on the trail in the dark when you start, but worth it when the sun starts to peek over the mountains through the trees. The peaks to the west of you turn red, then pink, then gold, before the full light of day hits. We didn't have any clear shots of the rosy peaks (though we could see it through the trees), but made it out of the trees in time for some of the gold.
3) The change in weather. This is my first fall hike (I know it's not really fall until later this month, but in those elevations, it's definitely fall). Suddenly, all the extra layers that I carry around became more important. I needed them all! By the time we reached our destination (mostly, but more on that in a minute), I was wearing enough layers that I could have played quite a long game of strip poker before causing concern to even the most prudish of Victorian schoolmarms. It wasn't too bad at the trailhead, but as you can see, it was a little chilly at the higher elevations.
4) The wind. Holy buckets, the wind. If I remember anything about this hike it will be the wind. It started out with chilly gusts, and continued with chillier, more frequent gusts. As we approached the saddle, the wind was blowing so strongly, it was literally knocking us off balance. I'm not sure quite how fast the wind gusts were, but they were definitely approaching dangerous miles per hour. It got to the point that the wind no longer felt like an inanimate thing, but a personal force with an agenda to get us off the mountain. It was crazy! (And it made me crazy. I may or may not have found myself yelling at the wind after some particularly strong gusts.) On the way back, it was even worse, believe it or not. It was blowing us over so much that we were crouched down as we walked, holding onto rocks so we wouldn't be taking a sudden, really fast trip down the mountain. Let me tell you, the quads were shot after that, and I still needed them for another 6 miles of downhill! (My mom will probably get the Reader's Digest version of this paragraph: It was pretty windy up there.)
(The saddle is the low place.)
Just because, here's part of the view from the saddle. (We had to brace ourselves while taking the pictures so we could not fall over... funny how calm the pictures look!) We were headed up, and the ridge was behind us.
5) The sheer massiveness of the thing. It's a mountain that is 14, 421 feet tall. That's the 2nd highest mountain in Colorado, and the 4th highest in the US. The main trail (that we did) is 14 miles long. It's a monster of a mountain. Which, I suppose, is why they call it Mount Massive. (Btw, altitude is amazing. It looks the same as anywhere else, but when you try to move, it takes SO much more energy. I would walk about 20 steps and have to stop. ANNOYING.)
6) The animals. We could hear pika squeaking all over the place, and we finally found one that we could get a picture of. They're a little shy.
We also ran into a little flock of ptarmigans. We took pictures, but you can barely see the birds because they blend so well with the rocks! At least with this one, the bird was casting a shadow, but you can really see how well they are camouflaged! (The bird's back is to the camera.)
7) The view. Amazing.
In the end, we did NOT make it to the summit. I don't know how high the false summit is, but I'm guessing over 14, 400. You can see the summit in this picture.
It looks so close in a photo, but standing on top of the mountain, it seemed like an impossible distance away. I was too tired, but mostly I was too scared of the wind. There was no protection from the wind in that stretch of space, and I chickened out. Or something. The view wouldn't have been any better over there. It was just the idea of making the summit vs. not making it. I guess I don't have the pride to be a true bagger of 14'ers! But I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. Anyway, for more Quick Takes, head over to Jen's!