|View from our camping spot|
I hope everyone had an awesome Memorial Day weekend. Mine was packed full of fun and craziness, which of course now means that I am more exhausted than I was before the weekend. Sigh. It was worth it though!
Let me start with the hike. As you may remember from Friday, a group of us headed up to the Buena Vista/Leadville area to tackle La Plata peak, a 14er in the area. According to the guide books, the trailhead was off a paved road, but we figured we could drive down the dirt road instead of hike it since we all had 4×4 vehicles. We found a campsite on Friday night, set everything up, enjoyed some serious cooking by Cindy, and crawled into our tents with visions of La Plata dancing through our dreams.
|Heidi, Chris, Craig and Cindy|
|I needed a pic of Paula so I stole this one from her blog 🙂|
On Saturday morning, we had a bit of a late start but nothing we couldn’t work around. We glanced at the guidebook one more time and found our way to a log bridge that seemed exactly like the one described in the instructions. It appeared, at the time anyway, that we were on our way!
Unfortunately, after 2+ miles of hiking, the six of us were looking at each other and kind of wondering what the hell was going on. While we were trekking through a beautiful valley, we had yet to tackle any elevation gain, and with the suggested 4.5 mile hike from base to summit, you would think that we would have started the ascent. Something was clearly wrong!
|The scrub things in the bottom are the willows that we had to bushwhack through!|
We looked around at all of the various peaks towering above us and picked a direction. We thought we knew which peak was La Plata, so instead of wandering even further to search for the trail, we decided to bushwhack it. Yup, we thought the best decision was to blaze our own trail straight to the top of a 14er. Brilliant!
We found a quasi-safe chute that led to the top of the peak, and headed up! Holy cow y’all, this slope was steep! Chris and Heidi had an app on their phone that determined slope percentages, and at one point, the app told us we were on an 80% slope! Seriously, do you know what that looks like? It was literally almost vertical! Granted, I don’t know if I believe that it was truly 80% grade, but let’s just call that an indicator of a wicked steep mountain.
|Looking up at our hiking
To make our new route even tougher, there was no trail since we were bushwhacking it. This may not sound like it makes the hike more difficult but it truly does. We were scrambling through scree fields, stepping over logs, climbing over rocks, shoving aside willow branches, and crossing over a stream. The kicker? According to our GPS, we managed to hike 2000 vertical feet in just one mile! Out of all of the hikes I’ve done (excluding any rock, ice or snow climbing) this was by far the steepest hike in my memory!
We finally crawled our way above tree line and were able to look around. It was then that we realized the situation: we were absolutely, without a doubt, on the wrong mountain. This was NOT La Plata peak, and we could see La Plata across the valley! We could see the easy trail, skirting back and forth across the mountain, taking hikers all the way to the summit. But nope, that wasn’t where we were!
|Tals loving life. Most photogenic dog ever? I think so 🙂|
|My baby girl and me, right around 12,000 feet|
At that point, it made absolutely no sense to go all the way back down to the valley and attempt a summit of La Plata. The wind was vicious (40-50mph gusts) and a storm was rolling in, so there was not enough time in the day. We all talked about it and decided to continue up the totally random mountain that we were bushwhacking our way up. We continued with this plan until we were just shy of 13,000 feet. Then, we decided to call it. We hunkered down, hiding from the abominable wind, and ate our lunches while we enjoyed the view. Although we weren’t at 14,000 feet, the view was still amazing!
The way down the peak was just as random as the route up the mountain. Hiking down such a steep slope was definitely sketchy and rocks and scree kept sliding around underneath our feet. We found our way into the woods, and the hike turned into a precarious journey of log-jumping as well!
|Looking back at Paula, Craig, Cindy, Heidi, and Chris scampering down the peak|
In short, the hike this weekend was not quite what we had planned! Initially, I felt a tremendous amount of guilt because this was both Chris and Heidi’s first 14er attempt ever. As someone who, in theory, should know what they were doing, I felt responsible for leading them all over the freaking wilderness.
However, after getting over my original thoughts, I realized that we still had quite the adventure! Sometimes, even backcountry travel can get too “canned” or planned with all the set routes and trails and hiking systems. This trip was anything but mundane, and I think that was my favorite part. Sure, we never even got close to the predetermined 14er and we certainly didn’t climb any peak of consequence (still not sure what mountain we were on….) but we had an exciting day of backcountry exploration. Can it get any better than that?
Actually, it can. We decided that since there was no trail and this mountain was essentially nameless, we’re claiming the first ascent. Put that down in the record books, Guinness 🙂
How was your weekend?
When you go into the mountains, etc., do you prefer to sleep in campgrounds and hike maintained trails? Or would you rather go with a more off-the-beaten-wilderness path?
I’m sure you can guess my preference 🙂 Would you expect anything less?!