There’s a special breed who live for dawn. While you’re asleep we tip-toe out of bed. We yearn for the unspeakable hour. A 2am wakeup call means nothing. There’s anticipation in the air when we lace up our boots by headlamp; our foggy breath obscuring our vision. A morning cup of joe high in the mountains sounds like the perfect coffee date. Nothing beats skiing a fresh line of powder shortly after sunrise. The pyramid shadow of the mountain points us to the next horizon. We live by the sun. We are dawn patrol.
Zerrpppppp, click. Zerrrrpppp click. Zerrrrpppp click. My legs sound robotic as they slide across the skin track on their makeshift skis. The only thing that reminds me that I’m human is my heavy breathing. “Phew this most certainly is killer,” I huff as make my way up, slowly, towards what I hope is the top of the ridge. We had taken a wrong turn somewhere and ended up on a steep skin track through some rather dense trees.
I stand there, frozen, unable to speak, pinching a ledge of rock about a knuckle deep for dear life. We had bushwhacked our way up a Castlewood Canyon to hang out on some walls and get our climb on – however at that moment it was the last thing I could bring myself to do. Half way up a route where the holds went from gentle 5.9 jugs to a grueling 5.11a. finger killers. There I was, stuck in my sick fantasy on how was I going to fall to certain death. Tears started to trickle down my face.
As I finally clear the boulders and begin to rip my spikes off Nina does a happy dance and starts rolling furiously across the patches of snow. She’s happy to be outside enjoying the great white wonderland. Seeing her joy brings a warmth to my heart. I look up at the beautiful lake snuggled against the steep couliors of the 13,000′ peaks surrounding me. Life is perfect. This is why I snowshoe with a dog.
It’s cold, well below freezing. You’re a few miles in and the weather is starting to roll in quick. 40-50mph freezing winds whip down the steep face of the mountain your hiking next to. You lose sight of your partner in front of you. Despite the seemingly brutal conditions you’re warm. The wind actually feels good. You’ve been working hard through the drifts. You stop, look at the swirling landscape around you and you’re overcome with pure joy, even though you know you can’t go on. You aren’t making it to your intended destination a mere 1.5 miles ahead. In that moment, you realize that you’ve arrived at the day’s destination. You are here.
It’s tough to shop for an adventurer. When it comes to gear we can be pretty particular. Those unfamiliar with the scene often feel intimidated with all the options and the steep price tags. Furthermore, we typically seek out experiences not things. Adventurers are a particular breed that can seem difficult to shop for once the holidays roll around. However, the reality is we are actually quite easy to please. In fact, many of us would rather prefer the company of those we love to any material thing. So here’s an adventurer’s gift guide to spark some inspiration for the adventure lover close to your heart.
5 miles deep in some tougher terrain. The trail was slick with ice and snow and at times littered with rocks and boulders. Overall it was nothing too difficult, but I had been the only person I’d seen all morning. Just me and Nina walking along this beautiful valley soaking in the early morning sun. Steep snow dusted cliffs towered above the east side of the valley, while sun kissed steep hill covered in burned trees flanked the west. I took a deep breath and smiled as I watched the steam from my breath on the exhale I heard it.
Despite the challenges, reaching the base of Jones Mountain while being enveloped by the weather at Ptarmigan Lake made that extra mis-mile of hiking worth it. Sitting next to a roaring fire with some of your closest friends, laughing so hard it hurts kept the cold at bay. Watching my severely socially challenged dog chase a young pup around the fire erased whatever she was thinking by sitting next to a stream and refusing to move in 34 degree weather. The morning sun after 2 days of nothing but cold and clouds felt like a gift sent from the heavens. Being in the mountains is a beautiful balance. Beckoning you in for more, but just as often reminding you that you are a mere mortal; humbling you to the fullest.
Another weekend up before the sun. Another wind-whipped cold morning. Another high altitude struggle. Another summit sunrise. Another smile. Another day well spent in the mountains.
Squirrel and I set out to achieve a pretty ambitious goal: climb three (4 named) 14,000’+ peaks in one morning. That alone is a pretty tall order, but it doesn’t stop there. Only in Colorado can you go and do something like that, then see a show at a natural amphitheater (Red Rocks) that night. It was exhausting, exhilarating, and totally worth it. The promise of a full moon and good weather, this was an opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up.