Snow. Wind gusts up to 50 MPH. Clouds. Numb fingers. Famous Colorado fall colors. Surprises were displayed all throughout the weekend. How you handle the unexpected can determine a lot about your experience and the outcome.
I stole the title, “The Obstacle Is the Way” from one of my favorite books. I highly recommend it because it is very true. Often times we think of obstacles as things that are there to stop us.
Rather those obstacles are there to prepare and teach us for the future. That’s exactly what I believe these conditions were sent our way for!
I completed my 5th 14er in the same number of weeks. I’m really starting to fall in love with the mountains and the lessons they teach!
Long have I used them as metaphors in my life and writings. But now, having experienced their majesty and inherent danger, the metaphors have come to life!
Huron Peak would be the summit within our sites this Saturday (9/16/17). The weather predicted was clear and sunny with a chance of some snowfall up top Friday night.
We arrived at the trailhead just after dark on Friday. The last hour of the trip was on a single lane mountain road that took us well into the depths of the forrest.
It’s truly a freeing feeling knowing that you are several miles away from any city or cell service. My only companions were Logan and my little pup Sophie. Two of my closest friends.
We didn’t bring enough propane for our camp stove, as the first cup of boiling water took much longer to boil than expected, thanks to the wind and altitude.
Our plan was to each have a complete meal once arriving at the campsite. Our plan was cut in half as we shared a meal.
The only other food I had eaten was a 14″ sub from Which Wich, which I have to say, I was thoroughly impressed with. The sandwich was good but nothing mind blowing. Where I was blown away was the customer service upon entering the establishment.
I had never eaten at one before and the only reason I wanted to go there was that they give free sandwiches to those who climb 14er and take a picture with a Which Wich sack at the top!
It’s a tough balance eating just enough calories to fuel my workouts and these climbing expeditions, as I’m trying to get as lean as possible but do it in a very slow manner.
Friday I was in quite a large caloric deficit. Saturday I took to the mountain fasted, as per my usual.
Nonetheless, I felt good on Saturday morning. Our trip started out in the forest and about half a mile into the trip, we saw small snowflakes begin to fall.
“So much for being clear,” we thought. But, that thought didn’t last long as these two ole Texans got a bit excited to see the first snowfall of the season.
We pressed on and just as we got above tree line (~12,000 ft) the snow and wind became a bit more of a factor.
We weren’t quite prepared for these type of conditions, as we expected it to be rather clear. Between the two of us, we had only one water proof and wind-resistant jacket, mine.
Logan was very skeptical of continuing, as he knew he wasn’t properly equipped. Definitely shows the maturity he has, as a climber. I was impressed but my instincts told me that we’d be okay and heck, I’d give him my jacket if need be.
I knew that we were prepared mentally and I was willing to tough it out and be a little cold in order to allow Logan to get his twelfth 14er and my fifth.
In the grand scheme of things, this was a small moment but at the time it was a big deal.
W – What’s
I – Important
N – Now
– Lou Holtz
This was our day and this was a test of our faith and Relentless spirit.
What was the difference between this trip and Sunshine and Redcloud??
We both knew that we had what it took and that these challenges were there to test us. After all, the night before we had discussed a longer-term goal that I’m sure will lead to many sleepless and anxious nights…
It’s incredibly important to have confidence when tackling a real mountain or metaphorical one. If you don’t have the proper mindset, a lot can go wrong. Nature and life is a very unforgiving place and it must be entered into with respect and preparation.
I gave Logan my jacket and convinced him that I’ll be fine. He was reluctant at first but my smooth and persuasive manner gave him peace of mind.
I knew I was in for a long, cold day but the feeling of summiting was more than worth it.
The last quarter of the summit bid was clearly the toughest, as it usually is. We ran into several snow covered areas of the trail, some of which had collected 3-5 inches of snow.
We passed a few people who had turned back without summiting. One guy said he made it to just a couple hundred feet below the summit and decided that the conditions were just too tough.
“Just go as far as you can.” he said.
We agreed, that’s what we’ll do. Knowing that we probably wouldn’t give up just shy of the summit. We also knew that if anybody else made the summit, we would also make it. As we continued up we past a few groups that had indeed made the summit. That was the last confirmation that we needed.
The higher we climbed the stronger the wind got. We found a place just before the last push for the summit to rest a bit, drink some water, and get a break from the whipping wind.
Upon leaving this spot, we climbed up over a small saddle and was immediately greeted with a huge gust of wind. It was as though somebody slapped me in the face. It was the last true test of how bad I really wanted to get to the peak.
But, I damn sure didn’t come this far, to only come this far! I was already cold and tired; there would be no way I didn’t summit Huron Peak and have something to show for it. And, after all, a Which Wich sandwich was on the line!
Eventually, we reached the peak and boy was it worth it. Clouds flew by us and we could catch glimpses of the other peaks around us. Each peak climbed brings it’s own challenges and rewards. This was my favorite 14er yet and having Logan agree with that only confirmed it for me!
After all, if it was easy, I probably wouldn’t enjoy doing it so much.
The old saying is certainly true: “there are no easy 14ers.” While technically speaking, there are some that are easier than others but none are a simple stroll in the park. Regardless of elevation, every peak should be respected.
Growing up in Texas, I viewed the mountains as far away lands, lands that I only dreamt of and never really considered being able to personally experience.
If my travels over the last 4-5 years have taught me anything, it’s this:
***nothing is out of reach…
***nothing is too far…
***nothing can stop you…
***nothing is impossible…
…if you have the courage to “Just Go.”
I’m afraid what many thought to be my last crazy move (moving to LA) was just the beginning. I apologize to those who love and care about me because I’ll probably be many, many miles away for the majority of the time in the future…
…but, I can promise you this, that our time spent together will be cherished and thought of often, as the things I hold most dear are the memories…
As always, I can’t thank you enough for reading and sharing this journey along with me… I’m always down to share stories over coffee or sushi so if I’m ever in your area, don’t hesitant to reach out!
It is necessary that I continue down this path, living and creating more memories. At the end of it all, it’ll surely be some “Top Shelf Shit.”
Mountains Climbing Goals
(Please note that these are lifetime goals)
***Climb All 14ers – 96 Total
53 in Colorado
29 in Alaska
12 in California
2 in Washington
***State High Points – States I’ve Lived In
Colorado: Mt. Elbert [14,443′]
California: Mount Whitney [14,505′]
Arkansas: Mount Magazine [2,753′]
Tennessee: Mount Guyot [6,621′]
North Carolina: Mount Mitchell [6,684′]
Oklahoma: Black Mesa [4,973′]
Texas: Guadalupe Peak [8,751′]
These meals aren’t bad at all. If you camp, hike, backpack, or whatever and are interested in these meals, you can order them online (just click the link below) or find them at you local REI, Cabelas, or outdoor store.
Thanks for reading! Have a good week!
– Ole LaToof