14er

A fourteener is a mountain that exceeds 14,000 feet  above mean sea level and Colorado has the majority of such peaks in North America – 53 in all. So naturally, when we started planning our trip to Colorado, Matt added “summit a 14er” to our list. So after a little research, we decided to tackle Mt. Sneffles, located just 7 miles west of the town of Ouray (the inspiration for Gult’s Gorge in Matt’s favorite book Atlas Shrugged).

After a short drive from Telluride, we arrived at the access road that wound 8 miles up the mountain to the trail head. Unfortunately our ford focus rental car was no match against the rocky dirt roads. We were forced to park our car a mile from our original plan, which added 2 miles to our hike. I should have seen this as a sign of what was to come.

 

We hiked up a rocky road for 3 miles. The views were spectacular but I was having trouble enjoying them. Even though the hike wasn’t super long, it was steep and the altitude was definitely taking its toll. I was pretty short of breath and started to suffer from a dull headache.

This brought us to the upper trailhead.

 

 

 

 

 

At this point, I was pretty tired and didn’t really want to go on. However, Matt convinced me and we started the last mile to the top.

The path went from a rocky road to just rocks. I felt like a mountain goat making my way over the difficult terrain. Our pace, which was pretty good up until this point, came to a crawl. I was definitely suffering from the altitude and kept needing to stop every 50 – 100 yards.

We approached the final stretch, a ridiculously steep section that was all rock. No longer were their switch backs or a well defined path. It was just, get up any way you could. To make matters worse, there were people who were making their way down the slope. Every so often, they would yell “Rock! Rock! Rock!” and Matt and I would jump out of the way of the mini rockslide. Needless to say, it wasn’t the best experience I’d had.

 

After making it 3/4th of the way up the last bit, the altitude, my extreme dizziness and the difficult terrain proved to be too much for me. I had to call it quits. Matt was a good sport — he definitely could have made it to the top but he turned around with me.

Even though the hike was difficult, I couldn’t deny the views were amazing.

 

We made our way back down, feeling pretty dejected by Mt. Sneffles.

We decided to turned the mood around with a sweet Call Me Maybe dance off:

It was nice, that after a very long, somewhat disappointing hike, we were able to laugh at ourselves.

The day ended on a high note when we returned to the car to find this waiting for us.

So we didn’t make it to the top — that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t reward ourselves, right?

 

 

 

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.