Summer 2017, Day 19: Climbing Uncompahgre Peak

We had a nice Shabbos in our dispersed camping location above Lake City, Colorado.  We’re parked at 9,000 feet above sea level.  We had mild headaches as a result of acclimating to the reduced oxygen up here.

On Shabbos afternoon, and there was a knock at the door. I answered the door to a pair of older women who wanted to have a theological conversation. I declined their overture. “The only sure things in life are death and taxes” goes the famous saying, but it seems missionaries should be included as well.

We left our RV parked at our campsite and drove our truck up to the trail to Uncompahgre Peak. The road included two stream crossings:

Summer2017_Day19_001

Most of the trail was narrow and rocky, so careful tire placement was critical to avoid scraping the underside of our truck. Even with a four wheel drive pickup truck, it took nearly an hour to cover the five miles:

Summer2017_Day19_002

We had great views as we approached the trailhead:

Summer2017_Day19_003

At last we reached the beginning of the trailhead at 11,400 feet of elevation:

Summer2017_Day19_004

Thanks to already being at 9,000 feet of elevation since Thursday, we only suffered minor altitude sickness as we ascended the trail:

Summer2017_Day19_005

After a short while we could see Uncompahgre Peak in the distance.  With a summit elevation of 14,321 feet above sea level, Uncompahgre Peak is the highest mountain in the San Juans, the 9th highest mountain in the Continental US, and less than 200 feet lower than the tallest mountain in the Continental US, California’s Mount Whitney at 14,505 feet:

Summer2017_Day19_006

The trail almost immediately climbed above the “tree line”, the altitude above which trees cannot grow. We passed trickling streams cascading over stone ledges, their frigid waters supplied by melting fields of snow:

Summer2017_Day19_007

A bewildering variety of wildflowers swayed in the wind, enticing butterflies with their scent and color in a desperate effort to be pollinated before September snows set in:

Summer2017_Day19_008

Summer2017_Day19_009

Summer2017_Day19_010

As we continued to climb, even a relatively slow hiking pace brought out rapid breathing since the air at this altitude contains only 60% of the oxygen found at sea level:

Summer2017_Day19_011

Summer2017_Day19_012

Summer2017_Day19_013

Summer2017_Day19_014

Summer2017_Day19_015

Up and up we climbed. As we approached the peak, the grade of the trail increased, then increased again:

Summer2017_Day19_016

Summer2017_Day19_017

Summer2017_Day19_018

Summer2017_Day19_019

Summer2017_Day19_020

Summer2017_Day19_021

Looking back down the trail, we could see this peak, so insignificant around here that it doesn’t even have a name:

Summer2017_Day19_022

Summer2017_Day19_023

Summer2017_Day19_024

Summer2017_Day19_025

Summer2017_Day19_027

Summer2017_Day19_028

Summer2017_Day19_029

Summer2017_Day19_030

Summer2017_Day19_032

We encountered a rock wall that, while not vertical, was steep enough that we were holding on with our hands as well as our feet. The temperature was steadily dropping as we climbed, and we donned gloves, wool hats, and jackets to keep the biting alpine winds at bay. By this time, we were higher than any of the surrounding terrain, and the views were breathtaking. Snow-kissed mountain peaks (even in August!) extended as far as the eye could see. I imagined buckskin-clad explorers like Lewis and Clark, trying to find their way to the Pacific Ocean, encountering this vast expanse of rugged peaks in their path:

Summer2017_Day19_034

Summer2017_Day19_035

At last we reached the summit. Despite our recent high-altitude acclimation, at over 14,300 feet of elevation, we were all suffering from headaches and nausea. But the views, what views! From the summit, a 360-degree panorama of lesser peaks and mountains was visible, layer upon layer, to the horizon:

Summer2017_Day19_036

Summer2017_Day19_037

Summer2017_Day19_038

Summer2017_Day19_039

Summer2017_Day19_041

Summer2017_Day19_043

Summer2017_Day19_040

Summer2017_Day19_044

Summer2017_Day19_045

Thrilled with our accomplishment, we ate our lunch and began our descent:

Summer2017_Day19_046

Back down through the steep part of the trail.  One missed step and it’s a long way down:

Summer2017_Day19_047

Summer2017_Day19_048

Summer2017_Day19_049

Summer2017_Day19_050

Six hours after we had began our hike, we were back at the truck.

Unfortunately, my advice to wear brimmed hats was not heeded.  M has quite the burn on the back of his neck:

Summer2017_Day19_051

We’ve climbed our first Fourteener!  We will sleep well tonight, I think.

Summer 2017, Day 17: Exploring Lake City, CO
Summer 2017, Day 20: Driving the Alpine Loop

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>