During high school, two friends and I decided to try and backpack all over thecountry.
Andrew, Jeff, and I took trips to places like the Grand Canyon, SantaFe, and the Buffalo River. After each trip the three of us would say, “wevegot to go somewhere better, more challenging.” So during the spring break ofmy junior year we decided to pack the Wet Mountains in Colorado.
We planned thetrip for weeks, calling the ranger station, checking weather conditions, andplanning out meals for the trip. We knew the trail would be a little moredifficult than anything we had done before, would, but we never conceived of St.Charles Peak being too challenging. We started out about six in the morning forthe long drive to Rye, the town just at the base of the Wet Mountains. The tripto Rye went pretty well, except for a few miscalculated map readings and acouple close calls with the “low fuel” light.
When we finally made it to Ryewe made camp about three miles from the trailhead so we could get a good nightsleep and start out early the next mourning. While we were sleeping a huge stormmoved in and stacked good eight to ten inches of snow on the whole north side ofthe mountain. The next morning Andrew yelled from outside the tents “hey guysyouve got to take a look at this.
” Thinking a raccoon rummaged through ourpacks looking for food, I slowly crawled through the tent door and looked inastonishment at the white blanket covering the mountainside. “This is going tobe a hell of a trip,” Andrew said slowly sipping his cup of steaming coffee.”This couldnt be happening,” I thought.
We had checked the weatherforecast at least four times before we left, and each time they said there wasno chance of snow. After contemplating whether or not to continue our climb tothe summit, we all decided that we couldnt turn back now. “We only have aday and a half hike; it cant be that bad,” I said, convincing Andrew andJeff that they had made the right decision. To this day I still dont know ifwe did the right thing, trying to reach the summit of St.
Charles Peak. Trudgingthrough knee high snow trying to find the trail, we decided to pull out thecompass. Because no one wanted to be responsible for getting us lost, we had todecide which one of us had the most experience using a compass. Since thecompass was mine, they figured that I knew how to use it the best. Not wantingto swallow my pride, I pulled out the map and tried to figure out where we were.
When we finally had an idea of our whereabouts, we started up the mountainlooking for the next trail marker. After about four or five hours of hiking,fatigue started setting in. Our feet became colder from the melting snow seepinginto our boots, which made each step seem to get tougher and tougher. “Guys, Icant feel my toes. Im being serious, I really cant feel them,” Jeffkept saying, each time a little more serious.
We finally found a clump of rocksthat was out of the snow, so the three of us stopped and made lunch to keep ourenergy up. While we were eating our macaroni and cheese, we noticed a few stormclouds beginning to roll in. Thinking it couldnt be any worse than it alreadywas, we moved on up the north face. The higher in elevation we went, the deeperthe snow kept getting. Now plowing our way through waist high snow, our feetgrowing colder with each step, we finally decided to make camp for the night. Tosetup our tents on the sloping mountainside we had to carve out about a ten-footby ten-foot level square in the snow using our dinner plates. As soon as we gotour tents set up the overhead storm clouds began spitting frozen rain and snow.
We jumped in the tents and decided to call it a night. During the night thetemperature dropped to what felt like 20 degrees. Afraid we might gethypothermia from the extreme cold and lack of energy, we stayed up all nighttalking from tent to tent trying to keep each other awake. Luckily, we made itthrough the night. We decided to get up early and hike when the snow was stillfrozen so that we could walk on top instead of sinking in with every step. Wegot up early and ate oatmeal and breakfast bars. I dont know if it wasbecause of the lack of sleep or just because I was so hungry, but that wasprobably one of the best breakfasts, I have ever eaten. After breakfast wepacked up and took off for the short two-mile hike to the summit.
We started outpretty well, but our 30-pound packs now felt like we were carrying small cars onour backs. The three of us slowly trudged up the white mountainside with thegoal to summit before sunset. After about an hour, and close to 200 yards fromthe peak, we decided to drop our packs and scramble for the summit. When wefinally made it to the peak we could see for miles in every direction, andcouldnt hear anything except for the wind whipping by our ears.
I canremember feeling like all the coldness had left my body, and I was as warm as ifI was sitting in front of the fireplace at the cabin. I have never felt agreater sense of accomplishment in my life. When we finally made it back toTulsa, we found that each of us had a slight case of frostbite, and sufferedfrom exhaustion. This trip taught me many valuable lessons. One of the mostimportant is to always be prepared. Another thing I learned is how true friendswill stick by one another through anything, no matter what.