On Friday the 18th of August, Jon and I drove out to Leadville to begin set-up for our big event! A Summit for Someone for Big City Mountaineers. We had been planning this event for a while and the day finally was here! We got the MHM tent blown up- by mouth -because we definitely forgot the air compressor to do that job for us. And we were ready to go! Cooler of beers, car full of food, tent pitched, hammocks hung, spirits high. This was an especially exciting weekend, because some friends from Minnesota were coming to help our cause! A crew from Midwest Mountaineering was driving down to summit Mount Elbert on Saturday morning with us. Midwest Mountaineering is a Minnesota institution when it comes to the outdoors. The kind people who work there are all experts in some way- from portaging to trekking to climbing, there is at least one person who has done that thing you think no one has ever done.
When the van of old and new friends rolled up to our camp sites, we knew the day was really started! Most of our camping is done minimally and just the two of us- so car camping with friends was a real trip! Immediately everyone started pitching tents and pulling out wonderful gear. We all took plenty of time to check out what everyone was using, what they thought of these things and carefully compared this vs that. Gear junkies unite! It was awesome.
Clouds started to roll in at the usual time- around 2pm. But they were beautiful clouds. The puffy and full variety. They just added to the mood and made the sunny blue skies really POP!
Everyone started to gather under the tent, where we ate some food and talked about the following day. This big group had just rolled in from the Midwest and were not completely acclimated to the elevation- nor had they done 14ers. So we chatted for a bit, talking about the route, how to dress and what to bring along. All that stuff. It quickly turned into conversation about life, adventures and more gear talk. The important things in life!
We took a good deal of time shooting the shit and relaxing. It had been a big day and tomorrow promised to be much bigger. As the sun began to go down, we all started to grow sleepy and one by one started to disappear into our various tents. Not one person had the same one. It was very cool and very colorful. The plan was for everyone to wake up around 2:45am, eat and get ready. Hit the road at 3:30am and be to the trailhead by 4am. We were successful in our timing.
At 4am as we stepped out of our three vehicles to convene in the lot, we all looked up. The sky was black, with impossibly bright starts blanketing all of it. The moon was a sliver and tiny Venus was a pinpoint above it. Surreal. It was a tranquil moment of enjoyment. Enjoyment for the little things and the simple things. I don't think I've ever witnessed stars so abundant or so bright.
We began hiking in the darkness, headlamps brightly showing the way. The woods were dense, but all we could see was the trail in front of us. It climbed steadily and we paused to catch our breath and delayer frequently. By the time the glow of the sun was visible, we were just about out of tree line. And by the time the sky was painted in pinks, yellows and oranges, we were on open tundra. We paused here to enjoy the view. Mountains of blue, sky of yellow. It was glorious. Our group was delighted and that moment of quiet and peace enveloped everyone. It was a good morning.
For the next hour or so, the world was covered in a delicate alpenglow. Splashes of pink and gold were making our world a tranquil wilderness of excitement and possibility. The trail never stopped climbing. It was a challenge at some points to keep going, but everyone did and the views became more and more beautiful.
By the time we were hiking up the false summit, everyone was feeling very stoked to be on the actual summit. 14,439ft and the second highest point in the lower 48. Soon we'd be standing above everything else in Colorado, and the anticipation for that was pretty awesome.
"I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright." -Henry David Thoreau
The last summit push was quick! Suddenly there was some extra energy and pace increased. And then we were there! And it felt wonderful. A light, cold wind. Blue skies and clean air. Birds soaring overhead. Everyone in fantastic spirits.
The views were incredible. Mountains, lakes, wilderness and barely visible cities. Nothing like being so high to make you realize how small you are. Maybe the only lesson I will never tire of learning. My favorite feeling.
I am so thankful for this weekend. Time spent with friends in the mountains to do something great. We ended up raising a solid amount of money for Big City Mountaineers and that feels wonderful. It's really easy to take for granted the gift I was given as a child- the gift of nature. For those of us who grew up in wilderness, it can be a real trip to understand that there are people who have no clue why nature is important or why you'd want to explore it. And that is heart breaking! Nature is healing, inspiring, empowering and reflective. It is a representation of everything good in this world. And it is key to happiness. We must help teach and encourage generations younger than us to take care of these lands. To protect them and respect them and appreciate them. Otherwise these lands wont be around forever.
We plan to make this a yearly event- a group camp and summit to fundraise for charities that support the education of children in all things outdoors. A new and exciting mission to raise awareness on conservation and ecology. Thanks to all who participated this year! It was a weekend that will continue to make people smile for years to come!