mtnpaSeptember 11, 2012 at 11:48 pmPost count: 41
“Eyes on the prize…reboot the mission.” Mick Jones
On a good day at the crest of Whitcomb Hill the northern profile of Mt Lafayette can look stark and inviting.
While skies overhead showed glimpses of blue on this day the top half of the mountain was enveloped by a by a mean-looking motherbleeping hammer cloud. At the trailhead the air was thick. There was a faint mist while clouds loomed just above. I laid out the gear while the Team met and gathered. The Mt Lincoln crew started up while we finished packing. Soon we were on our way to the hut where we would regroup.
As we climbed we entered the cloud and the mist became drizzle. Rocks and ground were wet as if it had already been raining for some time.
When we approached the first outlook the wind exhibited an unmistakeable roar. We knew this would be the day’s greatest challenge. The inside of the cloud zoomed by and trees snapped to and fro. Pressing on the first members of the Team reached the hut shortly after 9.
This gave us plenty of time to dry out and fuel up. I spoke with a gentleman who had turned back a half mile short of the summit because he was being knocked down by the wind. Weather station indicated winds at the hut from the south-southwest at 35mph with frequent gusts over 50mph. Visibility was limited.
Time for some serious discussion about the future of this mission.
First thing was to emphasize the harsh conditions ahead. We would forge on as far as conditions would allow.
Any spot that offered shelter from the wind would be a mandatory stop to regroup and make sure all were OK.
If we reached a point were it became unsafe to continue we would retreat to a safe spot and set up our rig there.
The Team geared up and headed out. I was happy to see dry rocks as we climbed away from the hut.
When we left the shelter of the scrub the wind became somewhat noticeable.
As we reached more exposed areas controlled movement became difficult. A rock outcropping offered shelter and we regrouped.
Some suggested that we set up there. I knew that the top part of the trail would wrap around to the north side of the summit.
This would offer protection from the man-moving gusts. We did a check to see if anyone wanted to head back.
No takers, this Team was tough. I advised everyone to stay low to the ground.
We battled the wind for another 20 minutes until we swung around the cone then to the summit.
Barely time for a deep breath before we faced our next challenge: Raising and flying the Flag in winds considerably stronger than those at the hut. Out came the group gear. I realized that Jon took all the heavy stuff. Gotta love hockey players.
We set to assembling our rig like a trained unit. Most of us had met just a few hours ago. I’ve known Dave and Lynda for some time but we only began hiking together recently. Kevin and Pat were part of last year’s Monroe Team and still came back for more. Rachel brought a constant smile and cheer in all conditions. Ann was the first to arrive. If stature were measured by enthusiasum and exuberance she would be a giant. Mark and Diane were dragged into this by Ann. I found out at the last outcrop that this was Diane’s first hike. She runs and bikes and is very fit. She wasn’t flustered at all by the conditions. Mark was in the military and had been deployed twice. Huge thanks for your service to our country!
Raising the Flag required all of us plus a group of four from Boston who stopped for lunch at the summit. They moved recently from Colorado and were on their way to Garfield tentsite.
After an epic wrestling match Old Glory was standing proud while snapping in the ferocious wind. Not sure what the wind clocked in at, but I was able to lean back into it with all my weight without falling. Meanwhile there was a slight break in the clouds which afforded us some nearby views. The Flag flew for an hour when we decided not to push our luck. We packed up and headed down. I wanted to sweep to make sure all made it to the hut.
Starting down I observed many get knocked down by the wind. Great care was needed to descend safely.
We were a couple hundred yards down when a roar louder than the wind came from behind. We turned to see the Blackhawk just overhead.
Closing the gap on the rest of the Team I was right behind Ann, Mark and Diane. A rock ahead appeared to be flat but it was pitched forward.
When I stepped on it my foot rolled over, I said a bad word, sat back and leaned against my pack.
Looking up at the sky I noticed clouds hurtling by at amazing speeds. Also noticed it start to get dark around the edges.
Mark asked how I was doing. Told him I was trying not to pass out. He put his pack behind my head and gave me water. Diane pointed over yonder and asked me to identify the next peak. I guessed she was pointing to Lincoln. After several deep breaths I shook off the cobwebs and gimped on down. Ann gave me her poles while she took the Flagpole which was nearly twice her height.
A few hous ago I didn’t even know these folks yet I have no doubt that they would have stayed with me no matter what it took to get me down.
Tomorrow the Arizona Cardinals QB will suffer the same injury and will be driven off the field in a cart.
Since I’m an ex-hockey player I was able to walk down.
We all met at the Woodstock station afterward to share drinks with the Team and FOT48 participants from other peaks.
I hope I’m lucky enough to have some of these folks on my team next year
2012 LafayettemtnpaSeptember 13, 2012 at 2:51 pmPost count: 41
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