Humility is a good thing to have. It’s also a hard thing to receive. Receiving it, by definition, means being humbled. And that’s not a fun process.
I came into the summer doing what I usually do with the hopes of getting into the Rockies to see some new peaks. In the past, I’ve had various levels of conditioning – sometimes excellent, sometimes not so great. If I have a weakness, it’s that there are times when I try to see how little I can do and still get my butt up these things.
I took that a little too far this time. Sure, I lifted a bunch. I ran a little. I did other bits of “conditioning.” And then I drove myself to Colorado to climb Mount Lindsey, a peak in the Sangre de Cristo Range that has a fun route up its northwest ridge.
Some things that went right: I had another one of those meet-a-partner-at-the-trailhead moments. Laura is a Colorado gal who had roughly the same kind of experience as me, and as it turned out, she was a great partner. Knowledgeable about the high country, great conversationalist, and overall a pleasant person to be around. She was also remarkably patient. Girl’s got Colorado lungs, you see, and she could have dusted me at any time but didn’t.
We had a perfect weather day, too. No storms forecast until evening, warm temps, light breezes. Given the mileage (8.5 miles), the gain (3,500 feet) and the route difficulty (Class 3-4 on the crux wall), this was a mountain well within my wheelhouse. That is, if I was in shape.
Normally I can find a rhythm between 10,000-12,000 feet. It’s not a fast rhythm, but it eats mileage just the same. Once I get past 12,000 feet, I slow down considerably, but by then I can usually chew up the rest of a route in decent enough time.
Not so this time. The night before, I didn’t sleep. Not even a bit of dozing. I tossed and turned for seven hours at camp. Not exactly a good omen. Once we got going, I handled the easy portions of the trial just fine. But the route up Lindsey includes some steep sections in the trees, easier hiking in a basin below its summit ridge, and then steeper switchbacks going up to 13,000 feet.
I was struggling right off the bat, maybe like I never have before. Poor Laura was having to stop and wait on me every couple of minutes or so, even when we were below 11,000 feet. By the time we hit 13,000 feet, I was getting a little dizzy and was pretty much zapped. We struck up a conversation with a couple of dudes who’d come up behind us, and they were going to do the same route we planned. At that point, I suggested to Laura that she continue up with them and I’d call it a day. I’m sure I could have topped out, but I feared that I’d have nothing left for the downclimb, and that’s just not safe. This way, Laura could get her summit and I could take a slow walk down to contemplate my failure.
I’ve been turned around before. Lindsey is the fourth mountain I’ve attempted and turned back short of the summit. But the other three times there were reasons that were either beyond my control (weather and route conditions) or something understandable (pooping out after having done three peaks the previous two days). In this case, the fault was entirely my own. I didn’t prepare myself for the task, and I got my butt whooped accordingly. I deserved what I got.
That’s not to say it was a total loss. The scenery was, again, drop-dead gorgeous. I met some cool people. I got a heck of a workout. But no summit. And that’s too bad. It’s rare that everything lines up so well for success, but you find yourself unable to seal the deal. This one’s going to stick in my craw for awhile.
Anyway, here are some pics of what is one of the more scenic mountain scenes I’ve laid eyes on. Maybe next summer I’ll come back, and have the fitness to get it done.
Until next time, folks.