The 3:30am wake up call came with some ease this go around. Surprisingly, my eyes naturally popped open without an alarm. It’s as if my natural body clock knew what was coming. I rolled out of bed and got moving for today’s destination: Lake Haiyaha in Rocky Mountain National Park. Who doesn’t want to ring in a new year watching the sun rise dramatically over the snow caped mountains?
I was 48 hours deep into a long, weary journey from Bali to Jogjakarta. During that time I had traveled by local bus, suspiciously un-seaworthy ferry, crappy bus, inconceivably crappier bus, taxi, foot, and finally – train. To give you a sense of how far I traveled Jogjakarta and Denpasar, Bali are roughly the same distance as Los Angeles is to San Francisco. In other words, about a 5 hour car ride in America. Without going into too much detail, as this particular stint is a story on its own, I was filthy, I was exhausted, I was hungry, and at the end of my rope. To make matters worse, my SIM card had run out of credit and I hadn’t been able to find a place to stay.
There’s an easy way and a hard way up Guyot. We decided to take the challenging route up the east ridge. Class 2+ and 3 scrambles gaining 1,800′ in a little more than a mile. Nothing quite says leg burn like a steep uphill rock scramble.
A lot of people look at me sideways when I tell them I use Couchsurfing. I usually get a shake of the head “you’re crazy.” Or a gasp, “You let strangers stay in your house?” Or, my favorite, the quizzical, “Isn’t that dangerous?” To which my normal reply is “Getting in your car and driving to work is dangerous, does that stop you?” I’ve met some amazing people and forged life long connections through the Couchsurfing network. For those who have no idea what I’m referring to, Couchsurfing is an online network that connects travelers with local residents. You can stay or host or just meet up for events.
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.