Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Sawtooth

Bierstadt-Sawtooth-Evans (though we didn't quite make it to the top of Evans...)
July, 2008

What a beautiful day! Or at least it started out that way.
For all the 14ers we've done, my brother and I had never done a 14er together. So while his wife was out of town, he and I headed to the hills for a very memorable hike! Mike is posing here with Bierstadt and the Sawtooth in the background. Mike and I had both already done Bierstadt, so it was a pretty quick hike to the summit. We stopped a couple times to talk to other hikers on the trail, but not too many people were out, as it was a Tuesday. Really random, though, I met the sister of two of my students from school. Small world!
It was beautiful on the summit and it was the perfect temperature, I could have stayed up there all day! We had a snack, started getting pumped for the Sawtooth and met a couple of other hikers who were thinking of the Sawtooth, so we invited them to come along with us. So Becky and another guy (I forget his name!) joined us. Here are Becky and Mike as we begin crossing the Sawtooth. I was really encouraged because it wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it was going to be. It definitely looks a lot scarier than it really is. The only thing scary about this traverse were the clouds we were watching form all around us. As we continued the traverse, we also watched the clouds grow darker...
We made it to the saddle of the Sawtooth and found ourselves stuck. We looked up at Evans, and dark thunderclouds crowded the summit. We looked behind us thinking we could just go back up and over Bierstadt, but those clouds were even more ominous. So, instead of sliding down the face of the Sawtooth, we decided to just sit and wait it out.
The clouds eventually cleared over Evans and we continued quickly on our way. It started getting a little steeper with some more exposure, but it was a lot of fun!
We made it to the ridge, stopped to take a break, and five minutes was all that was needed for more clouds to roll in. That is the summit-that is how close we came. Now you're probably thinking, "Those clouds don't look that bad, why didn't you just go for it?" Well, it was one of the most difficult decisions we'd made, but...
...this is what was coming from the other direction, straight for us. We contemplated dropping our packs and racing up to the summit, but when we saw lightning touch down just over the summit of Spaulding, we realized it was too close and we needed to get down as quickly as we could. There's nothing more disappointing than getting so close to a summit and turning around, but it's just not worth the risk.
We hiked quickly, but carefully down the ridge, but realized that as we were getting hailed on, we were right where lightning could strike any minute, so we ducked under a rock to wait out the storm and protect ourselves from the lightning. I'm not sure if this was any safer, but it was kind of fun!
The hail let up and the storm passed. Part of me wanted to go back to the summit, we were less than an hour from the top, but we had no idea whether or not we were safe from other potential storms, so we decided to continue on down towards our car.I'm not sure we were really following a trail, but we did all we could to avoid the willows and the myriad of little rivers flowing as a result of all the snow we got this winter. Every now and again we'd look back at the summit and there was nothing but blue sky (grrr!), but I still don't regret our decision. By the time we made it back to the car, it was beginning to rain again. Here's one last look at the Sawtooth. Evans, I'll be back soon to get you!

Even though we didn't quite reach our goal, the Sawtooth had been on my list since last summer and I was grateful to have put that under my belt. And of course, I'm always thankful when everyone returns safely. We met some new people, and I had a blast hiking with my big brother ;-)

1 comment:

Tara said...

yay! updates! i'm glad you turned around, too. don't want you to be one of those climbers who gets stuck in an avalanche like the crazy ppl who climb everest!