Via Ferrara

There is nothing better than going on vacation to some place that is super cool where you know a local. On our final day in Telluride, we were fortunate enough to do a little “hiking” with my friend Andy/Tyler.

Maybe I should give a little more background to Andy before I go any further.

Andy was the type of kid who had more energy than seemed humanly possible. He exhibited that awesome, yet dangerous, combination of athletic talents and a fearless attitude. He was the best player when it came to tennis baseball, was the only kid who could hold his breath longer than Abby or me and would attempt ridiculous tricks off the diving board. There was a rumor, that probably lives on today, that one time he actually swung over the top of the swing set. And even though I hadn’t seen Andy in more 15 years, I can say confidently, that attitude/persona hasn’t changed. Even though his life has taken him all over the country and even to different parts of the world, he is still that totally crazy kid I once knew.

So when Matt thought we should take Andy up on his offer to take us hiking, I immediately knew it was a bad idea.

Andy took us to a place in Telluride that few people know about, the Via Ferrara. Up until a year ago, this was a hidden gem that only locals were aware of, that is until a reporter published information about it in Telluride magazine last year.  Thankfully, because of liability/insurance reasons, tour groups have yet to set up trips there, so the only real way to do the hike is to have a local show you the ropes. Thankfully, we knew a local.

The hike up was beautiful and Andy acted as our tour guide, giving us historical information about Telluride highlight all of the mining activities, interesting facts about the Cedar trees that line the canyon walls and stories of festivals and celebrations that capture the true essence of the town. Unfortunately, the history lesson soon ended and we were instructed to put on harasses and helmets. Suddenly the “hike” got serious.

Andy assured up it was pretty basic. Clip in,  shimmy along the rock, unclip, repeat. What he failed to mention are that there are some sections without cables or handholds. It is hard to describe exactly what it felt like to cling to a rock face 300-400 feet in the air, so I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite part of the climb was when I looked at Matt. He is usually the one pushing me to do crazy stuff. Not this time. His face was white as a ghost, his entire body was shaking and his comment was “I don’t know what the hell I was thinking getting us into this.” It was funny, for some reason that fueled me to press on. I know, we have a really healthy marriage.

 

 

 

 

The scariest part for me was definitely at what they call “the main event.” On this section there is a great deal of “exposure” which I learned means “really scary stuff.” Basically, the rock face curves inward slightly which results in a sheer drop below you. For about 15-20 minutes, you are clinging for dear life to iron rungs that were drilled into the wall god knows how long ago. Somehow I managed through it.

 

 

 

 

 

Honestly, I wish I had been able to take in the sights a little more, but let’s face it, I was scared to death.

 

 

 

Oh, and did I mention that Andy did the entire thing without a harness or being clipped in?

 

It is nice to see he is still the same kid who once swung over the top of the swing set.

Hiking in the Face of Danger

The first full day Matt and I spent in Telluride we decided to take a little hike. I told Matt that I didn’t want to do anything too crazy so we decided to hike to Beaver Creek Falls. This is a relatively easy 2 and a half mile hike to a waterfall. I had planned to hike to the falls, then turn around and hike back. Unfortunately (yet not surprisingly) Matt had another idea.

There were a couple of other people at the falls when we got there. Matt decided to ask them if there were any other options for our return trip. They told him about a hike that climbed up to the top of a ridge (note that the didn’t use the word hill) and then over to the ski area. From there we could either take the gondola back down into town or continue hiking.

Matt looked at me (as if I had any option) before marching onward and upward. We continued to climb. And climb. And climb. Soon enough I started to feel the effects of the altitude and had to take frequent breaks to put my hands on my knees, hunch over and pant. Never before had walking taken so much out of me.

We continued on for over an hour. Thankfully the scenery was incredible so I kept my complaining to a minimum. As we got higher and higher, the ridge we were looking for seemed to just get further and further away. After many switch backs, we finally started to see the path flatten out. Unfortunately, this was right around the same time that the clouds rolled in and the thunder started.

At first, the thunder seemed to add a cool ambiance. Then it started to scare the crap out of us. Stuck on the ridge of a 12,000 foot mountain is not somewhere that you want to be during a thunder and lightning storm. Matt and I proceeded to run, yes run, the rest of the way up and across the ridge. We encountered two locals who asked us if we were training for the upcoming 17 mile run that went over one of the mountain peaks in the area. We simply told them “no, we are trying to get away from the storm.”

“Silly tourists” they must have thought.

Thankfully, after a little panicking and some yelling by me at Matt (clearly this was his fault) we made it to the gondola safe and sound. What started out at an easy 5 mile hike turned into an 8 mile dash for our lives.

That’s the thing about being married to Matt – life is always an adventure!

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Conquering Half Dome

When Matt and I decided to go to Yosemite, I left most of the planning to him. He talked about going on a few hikes, one in particular called “Half Dome.” I didn’t pay much attention to him during these rants… I figured “hey, I’m from New Hampshire. I practically grew up in the mountains. How hard can this hike actually be?” Well, let me tell you…hard.

When I was in 8th grade, my school spend the first third of the year preparing for our trip to Mt. Cardigan. We practiced outdoor survival skills like getting up tents, starting soil, measuring trees and analysing soil. But more than that, we learned teamwork, independence and real problem solving skills. The memories that I formed in 8th grade, particularly on our trip to Mt. Cardigan, are some of the fondest that I have from my childhood.

When Matt was in 8th grade, his school took a trip to Washington D.C. They toured the city and spent the night in a hotel. Honestly, there is no comparison between our experiences. Don’t get me wrong, I love the city of D.C. and think that the city has a lot to offer. However, going with your school won’t provide a very different experience than if you took a family vacation to D.C. That is what made Mt. Cardigan so special. It was an experience that was created by our teachers and more importantly, by ourselves.

For the past 9 years, every time Matt and I go on an outdoorsy type vacation I compare it to Mt. Cardigan. When we went hiking in the White Mountains, it wasn’t as intense as Cardigan. When we went hiking and camping in Havasu, Arizona it wasn’t as intense as Cardigan. When we went canyoning and ice climbing in Interlaken, Switzerland it wasn’t as intense as Cardigan. When we went cliff jumping in Capri, Italy it wasn’t as intense as Cardigan. Matt has grown to detest Mt. Cardigan because none of our trips can ever live up to those 4 days.

Well, after successfully hiking to the top of Half Dome last week, I am happy to report (and Matt is EXTREMELY happy to hear) that it was more intense than Mt. Cardigan. After more than 16 miles, 9 hours, 3 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,  and more than 8 liters of water later we successfully completed Half Dome.

Although we both walked away extremely tired with sore muscles, it was worth it. The views from the top were worth the sheer terror I felt while hoisting myself up the “cables” at the top of the mountain.

So now when Matt and I take our vacations, they will have to live up to the experience of conquering half dome… although, Cardigan will always have a special place in my heart.