This past week, we joined a few other good friends to attempt Colorado's formidable, 14,197 ft. Mt. Princeton.
We were dubious of success because, aside from the acclimatization challenges, all of Colorado's 60 something 14k'ers were buried in snow. In fact, locals told us this past winter was the worst in memory, with three times the average amount of snowfall.
So, when we arrived, we heard lots of conflicting reports, such as:
– “There's at least eight feet of snow on top of every 14k'er.”
– “The small stream you see on your way up will be a raging river on your way down.” (Note: as a notoriously weak swimmer, I envisioned myself being dragged under a class five rapid as I struggled for air.)
– “Everything north of Buena Vista (our base) is buried, but you just might find something passable due south.”
It wasn't until we happened on a seasoned local guide by the name of Mike Mays that things began to look up. Mays, who knows Vern Tejas, the legendary guide who took us up Russia's Mt. Elbrus, said there were two or three 14k'ers that could be summited. His words were echoed the very next day by a clerk at the local climbing, biking and kayaking outfitter.
And so, throwing caution to the wind, we decided to give it a go. It turned out to be a brutal slog, replete with few trails, lots of huge boulders and, of course, the requisite snow. At some points, we went in right to our hips. But, the snow was stable and there weren't huge mounds of it directly above, so we continued.
In all, it took 10 hours and 30 minutes to make it to the top and back. But, it was well worth it. In fact, I highly recommend a week of climbing, cycling and running at high altitude as a superb remedy to the stresses of everyday life.
I understand why most people prefer sucking down margaritas in Cancun or playing the roulette wheel at the Mandalay Bay. Me? I'll just keep climbing and smiling.