Day 33 - 07/07/13: North Halfmoon
Mount Massive is the second highest peak in Colorado and, right next to it is Mount Elbert, the highest peak. This time of year the area is swollen with hikers climbing both mountains. Even worse the trail head for both is in the same spot. Just about a 1/4 mile down the road separates them. Both Massive and Elbert have undergone transformations in their ecosystems as a result of the traffic and there have been numerous attempts to re-route certain popular trails to diminish impact. On the road in I encountered tons of people. Looking at the map I decided to take a lesser used approach to Mount Massive. The standard route up massive is with the Colorado Trail and then the connection to the Massive summit trail. I settled on taking North Halfmoon Creek to the base of the alpine. At the trail intersection for the North Halfmoon Lakes, a shorter 2.5mile trail gains 3,200' vertical feet for Massive's summit. My plan was to loop hike the mountain by taking the standard route down and back to my Jeep. I planned for an overnight and packed light. I carried my 28L pack with one 10x12 tarp, a big agnes air core sleeping pad, Z lite sol SM therma-rest, 850fill 0 degree down sleeping bag, water proof dry bag for the sleeping bag, one set of wool baselayers, 1 extra pair of wool socks, one down jacket, rain jacket, para-chord for bear hang, x2 1Lwater bottles and filter, esbit pocket stove with 4 solid fuel cubes, 1 dehydrated meal, granola, beff jerky, oatmeal, recovery and whey powder, and gummy bears. Attached to the pack was my climbing helmet and Ice-Axe. I was wearing a poly, quick dry short sleeve shirt light weight quick dry pants, poly underwear, wool socks, GoreT Boots. Carrying one small medic kit and emergency mylar blanket, and wearing a lanyard with a whistle and compass. Pockets also contained my head lamp (that was dead), and my Kestrel weather tracker.(I have detailed this because it is actually important information if you want to understand what happened more than just know what happened) Halfmoon Creek and North Halfmoon Creek had some of the purest looking water I have seen in the mountains. The scenery cooperated also, I guess...
I reached the trail intersection of Halfmoon lakes trail and the summit trail for Massive. It was a nice meadow and close enough to the tree line to keep me safe through the afternoon storms. It was about 3pm and I was rather tired so I ate a bit and slept under a nice grove of pines with very thick cover. As the storms started to clear in the afternoon I found a place to pitch my set up on a nice flat rock in the meadow. The sky cleared and I watched the milky way appear. Deneb, Vega and Altair of the summer triangle gave me something to fall asleep to.
Day 34 - 07/08/13: Bring em' Home
I awoke at 1am to flashes of light, and a sky with no stars. It doesn't rain out here at night during the summer, so I thought. It made no sense. A series of poor decisions over the next few minutes and equipment failure leave me exposed while retreating to the tree line 50m away in the darkness. Mid retreat the rain and hail unleash and all of Zeus' fury. I made my way to the place where I had lunch and dinner. I was soaked and so was all of my gear. Shivering, I realize I was becoming hypothermic. Wrapping myself in my emergency blanket, lighting my solid fuel stove, drinking warm water and eating food, for the next 3 1/2 hours until I could see the slightest light in the sky, I made it through the night. Once I could see the ground I began pacing. The sun rose, I dried out my sleeping bag, and tried to get some actual rest in the meadow. It was good to get warm but once I awoke I was in full blown flu symptoms. I was already planning on one more week for the trip and I knew it would take a few days to get healthy and a couple hundred dollars in a hotel room. It was better to just head home. I kept it as easy as possible descending back to the jeep and drove straight back. By Tuesday at 5pm I was home.
North Halfmoon from mumblefords on Vimeo.
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3,700 miles of driving, 35 days of travel outside of New Orleans, 11 summits attempted, 7 bagged, 2 rivers paddled. Falling short of a number of my initial goals it is easy to become "upset" but the above list is respectable. Looking at what I actually did and not what I wanted to do; it was a great trip. I am able to come home with a few thousand dollars that can go towards a new truck that could make these kinds of trips more comfortable. As unfortunate as the final circumstance was, overall I was ready to come home prior to this incident. I shot high, admittedly, and it was hard work to get what I did accomplished. In the next post I will offer a detailed Incident Report for what happened at North Halfmoon on Mt. Massive.That is why I was vague in the details above In truth I almost died, I made some bad decisions but knew enough to make it out. Knowing that deep down inside I have the will to survive and the ability to look beyond the peril of the current situation so that I may act, and not hesitate; that is the treasure I found in the Dragon's lair.