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Not Quite to the Summit Point

as published in the Mountain Mail on

August 10, 2018...

Our family goal for this year’s annual 14er was Huron Peak. Some of the participants from last year’s Mount Yale climb weren’t able to make it, but we had some new participants, including a two year old Lab/Rhodesian mix named Kimba.

Besides Kimba, other potential canine candidates belonging to the group included my lab, Kersey, and Ollie. Kersey wasn’t considered too seriously because of her 10 year old age-induced arthritis. Ollie, my daughter Shannon’s cockapoo, was considered up until the night before but then the idea was nixed.

Shannon had even brought along a doggie backpack in case Ollie got tired. However, Shannon has found when running with Ollie that sometimes he’ll plop down as if to say, “I’m done.” As the event evolved this year, the decision was a wise one.

Most of the 10 of us convened at our house the night prior. Shannon, Aaron, Callie, Cassidy, Alexi, and Reese all drove down from the Denver area and arrived midevening. We picked up Jerry in the morning and Austin met us close to the trailhead.

We all woke up early on the morning of the climb. Kimba was dressed appropriately with her canine backpack that carried her very own poop bags. We all packed water, energy bars, extra clothes and Aaron carried an extra gallon of water.

Even though the forecast had predicted clear weather, we tried to leave early enough to avoid possible afternoon storms. We did, however, start on the trail about an hour later than planned, partly because of the very rough and bumpy two-mile drive past Winfield after driving 12 miles on a gravel road off Hwy 24. Kimba agilely balanced on the platform of the truck’s enclosed bed.

I took off on the trail first as the others finished packing up their stuff. This slight advantage was to somewhat equalize the speed difference between a 63-year-old woman and mostly young fit adults in their mid twenties and a couple of older men who run/hike long distances at least weekly.

The hike was gorgeous and weather wise perfect as we started out at about 8:30am Cool, but not a cloud in the sky. During most of the three-hour climb up, the sky remained clear but about three-fourths of the way up, some clouds were spotted in the distance. One of the more experienced hikers stated, “we should be fine but we don’t have much time for ‘dilly dallying’.” I encouraged all the others in the group not to wait for me but, to instead, pick me up on the way back down from the summit.

We saw lots of dogs accompanying their owners; dogs of various breeds, ages and ability levels. Kimba was probably the only Labrador/Rhodesian Ridgeback. Other breeds included a Mini Doberman, some Siberian Huskies, an Australian Shepherd, Labradors, and Golden Retrievers.

Probably the youngest dog we saw was a four-month old Australian Shepherd. This puppy had gotten a lift up in a doggie backpack but was agilely maneuvering the rocky terrain on the way down when I saw him. A particularly impressive Golden cross had only three legs but was maneuvering the trail much better with its three legs than me with my two legs and two poles. Even though these hiking dogs were only at between 10,803 and 14,000 feet elevation, they all were acting as if they were in heaven as they accompanied their owners and investigated the environment.

As we approached the last half mile of the summit peak, there was about a quarter mile distance between me and the rest of the group. The sky above us was now cloudy and I felt a few raindrops. I heard other hikers around me talking about aborting the hike. No cell service, of course, to tell the others I was turning around. I decided to keep ascending. Just as I reached the summit (but not the summit peak), I saw the others in my group rushing down. I did likewise. At the top, they’d felt the electricity in the air, hair standing upward from the head and back of the neck and a buzzing on metal such as the button on their cap.

What took about three hours to ascend we quickly descended in two and a quarter hours. We dashed through three distinct storms with hail about the size of pellets bouncing off our heads…ouch!

We all arrived back to the vehicle safe, but wet and cold. This was an adventure that none of us had ever had before, but will always remember. We haven’t decided yet where to go next year but the consensus is that we’ll head off earlier and probably do the hike in August or September rather than July!

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