Here’s to spontaneity!
Not much to the lead-in for this blog: climbing a 14er with Ben was on the list of 50. Every time he and I chat we look at the week or 10 days ahead of us to see if anything works with our schedules, and on Saturday when we chatted, we came up with something that worked! Surprised us both, but we found a little window when he was out of school, I could make it out, and the availability of flights cooperated. So Tuesday afternoon I headed out to Denver, via Atl, and arrived around 6:00. Ben’s girl, Kirsten, picked me up at the airport and we drove to meet Ben just east of the Eisenhower tunnel off of 70.
Kirsten headed back to Denver, and Ben and I headed up a gravel road to the start point (in his 4-wheel drive Tracker, which was necessary). He set up the tent, and after I wrapped up in most of the clothes I brought, we slept for a few hours.
The alarm went off around 5, and we set about breaking camp, stuffing stuff sacks, filling camelbaks, and Ben even fixed us a mountaineer breakfast of coffee and oatmeal. Ben’s a fellow foodie, and had half and half and organic sugar for the coffee, and cranberries, cinnamon, and sliced almonds for the oatmeal.
We headed out of the parking lot around 6, just as it was getting light. It’s only fair at this point to tell you that our base camp was at 11,000 feet – but don’t be so quick to be unimpressed – it’s still a 3,000 foot climb to the first summit. When you begin, you are in a little valley, and can only see the faces of the mountains closest to you. As you ascend, more and more peaks peek their tips out into your field of vision. It’s as if the panorama unfolds in a reward for all your climbing effort.
See the saddle shape on that ridge between the two peaks in the sunshine? We first plan to ascend Gray’s peak on the left, then drop onto the ridge and hike it over and up to Torrey’s peak.
Ben entertained me as we hiked the elevation with tales about hiking up/skiing down these peaks in the winter. On the outside I was the cool, hip mom urging him on, celebrating his adrenaline fix, and on the inside my insides were the baking-soda-vinegar-5th-grade-volcano-science-project. It’s not easy being me.
Because these peaks are so close to Denver, and because there are two so close together, and because it’s nearing the end of the hiking season, this trail was rather busy. There were probably 20-25 other hikers on this trail, everyone smiling and good-humored, if panting and straining. There are 54-58 14ers in Colorado (any guesses why there is a disparity in the number? No fair google-cheating – you can figure this one out), and it is a common goal to summit them all, whether you are a Colorado resident or not. Ben has 11 or so. Guess how many 13,000 foot peaks there are? Over 700. He’s a little more interested in hiking the Centennial 100, or the 100 highest 13ers, because they are a lot less crowded, and a lot less developed (translation: more of a challenge).
So we hike and switchback and turn and hike and switchback and rest and hike and then….the peak!! We made it!
It was awfully gusty while we were at the peak, and we came close to choosing to turn around and go back down. Then we looked at one another and said, “Oh, HELL no!”, at about the same time, so off we went, wind gusts and all.
The trip down was much quicker, of course, and we were back at the car by 3. We had a post-hike beer that was delicious, and then hit the tostitoes for the drive back to Denver. We got to have a dinner with Kirsten at a very cool Italian place in her area of town. After that, it was a quick trip to the airport and 36 hours after the trip began, I’m home!
Ben and remarked several times while we were hiking how very fortunate we are to have this trip come together like it did. We both had to have the window of time, the flights had to work, the weather had to cooperate…and for this trip, we got them all!
Now here’s the part of the blog where I go off about my kid, so if you’ve read too many of these from this web address, you may be excused.
I’m in love with this boy/man. I love to make him smile, I love to hear him laugh. I absolutely love how his mind works and how he thinks. I love to hear him rant about religion, and I love to hear him describe skiing among those hills. I love his funny stories about his crazy-ass skiing friends, and customers he’s had in the restaurant. Watching him love on a pup that someone brought on the climb nearly brought me to tears. I want to give him everything – all the toys he wants, all the gear he needs, all the trips he wants to take. I love how he’s going back to college, and the enthusiasm he has found for that. I love seeing my little boy in the face of this grown man.
Ben, thank you for this trip. Thanks for helping your mom achieve one of the things on her 50 list. I’ll never forget it – our predawn breakfast, our conversations, the moment on the drive down when we were both laughing so hard you had to pull the car over til we stopped.
Do I need to even describe how sore I am? Thighs, calves, quads, glutes, back – so exquisitely sore I really can’t move without groaning. Back to working out tomorrow, so technically I only missed today.
One more thing on the list – on to the next one.
Thanks for reading!