Summiting in the Clouds

I wasn’t sure I’d be hiking at all. I didn’t have a hiking buddy and the weather forecast wasn’t stellar, so I was debating back and forth on going. Then on Friday night Tristina text me and asked if I still wanted to go.  I looked at the weather forecast (not great, but no thunderstorms), and said sure!

We woke up at 3am and were on the trail at 3:50am.  We saw this Columbine growing out of a barrier at about MM2.  I thought it was pretty cool, and at first didn’t think it was a real flower, but it was growing this way, and bloomed just at the opening. 

We made really good time.  Tristina and I hike at a similar pace, and we both intended to hike quickly.  We made it to Barr Camp at 6:30am (that’s about 6.5 uphill miles in 2h 40m).

We talked to a lady I’d seen the past couple of times on the hike.  Her name’s Dana.  She hikes to Barr Camp in the mornings before her grandkids wake up at 9am. After some chatting, she seems like a potential hiking partner in the future.  She’s summited over 40 times, and always by herself.  She asked me if I knew “Larry” (I didn’t, but apparently he’s a frequent hiker too).

We could tell it’d rained last night, which made hiking a bit easier.  The dust on the trails wasn’t present, and there were dew drops on the Aspen leaves.

We made it to the A-frame at 8am.  It was foggy and surprisingly “green” compared to my last visit 2 weeks ago. 

Our usual view of Colorado Springs was lost in the clouds…

We took a break at A-frame and then headed out again.  The clouds just got thicker, and at times it began to rain.  It was surreal hiking with such limited visibility.  We had a hard time gauging exactly where we were on the hike.  At times we’d pass a landmark and be surprised we’d reached it so quickly!  I’m not sure if it was the lack of beating sunshine, lack of visibility, or lack of stopping for slower hikers, but we hiked much faster than normal.

Here’s a picture of the Cirque, a 1500 foot drop you can’t tell it there with the fog… could be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing!!!

Here’s a view of the hiking conditions:

Last time we hiked this rocky area was all under snow.  It’s interesting to see what it looks like sans snow.  You can also tell why we had difficulty finding our footing and experienced a lot of mini rockslides…

I had to get a video of this!  It’s not great quality, and kind of hard to see due to the fog and poor visibility, but this is where we “glissaded” the first time we summited this year.  I plan to get another video next time the weather’s better, but this gives you an idea of how far we went.

Here’s a picture of where we slid…

Here’s where the rain really picked up.  I was so glad I’d brought my rain jacket with hood!  We reached the summit at 9:57am:  That’s our fastest time yet!  Usually it takes about 3 hours from the A-frame to get to the summit, but it took us less than 2 hours!  Total, that was over 13 miles uphill in under 6 hours.  Awesome! We got there just as a train was pulling away.

When we went into the summit house it was deserted.  This is the first time I’ve been there when it hasn’t been ridiculously full.  We attributed it to the poor visibility at the peak, and the fact a train had just left.  The only people at the Summit were those of us who’d hiked up.  There were two men who’d run up (and were looking for a car-ride own), and a father son duo who’d hiked up the “easy” way (the backside, which starts at 10,000 ft elevation).

We stayed for about half an hour, then decided to hike back down.  The fog was beginning to lift and while we couldn’t see Colorado Springs we were able to see further distances. I love how green it is!

We saw a few deer on the way down, right on the trail…

and one of my favorite mushrooms!  They are so cool to see on the trail (no touching though)

I wasn’t sure how it would be going with just one other person, especially since she was one of my Girl Scouts and we have an adult/scout relationship, but it ended up being really enjoyable.  We hike at similar speeds, and didn’t run out of things to talk about on our 11+ hour hike.  I was thankful to have a hiking buddy, and to have been able to hike the peak again! 

The only downside was my hiking shoes… due to lack of traction they kept slipping.  They’ve lasted me 20 years, but I think it’s time to get a new pair. 

Author: Laura M Clark

Laura has summited over 500 peaks above 13,000' solo, including being the first woman to solo summit all of the Colorado 14ers, as well as the centennials. After each hike, she writes trip reports for each one and publishes them on her blog, which is read by fans all over the world. Author of Wild Wanderer: Summiting Colorado’s 200 Highest Peaks, which is available to purchase on Amazon.

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