4 Pass Loop
If you have have ventured into the mountains enough, I'm sure you may have heard that the mountains themselves determines your fate...They decide the outcome of your trip. Your chance of summiting or completing your route depends on the mountains grace...well, maybe...
I tend to think the Mountain has no say...as far as I'm concern, the mountain is asking you to come...many times drawing you in with no regard. Like anything else, mountains are temperemental...they can be calm to chaotic...but either way, they are always inviting you in!
So who determines the outcome? No...not the mountain, but the mountaineer...It is up to the person to determine if they want to accept the invitation up the mountain. If you have been on a trip with me, you know that I ask God for His blessings and safety...But, I also pray that He would allow us to use wisdom and discernment as we move forward. I think many times our ambition is bigger than our eyes, and we use poor judgement along the way because of it.
Asking for God's wisdom on a mountain is like asking for "eyes to see" what the mountain is up to! Even though she is beautiful...she is often times a deceiver! What temptation...
(Maroon Bells)4 Pass Loop
Who: Brad Hardin "Brother in law", Kevin Mullis, and me
mileage: 8 miles round trip
We left DFW on 9/15/11 and within 14 hours, we went from 705' elevation to 12,000' plus...remarkably, we did not feel any altitude sickness symptoms. I think popping all those pills the days before may have been putting my liver at risk of failure, but it sure did help with acclimitization!
After a late lunch, we headed towards the Maroon Bell Wilderness to start the 4 pass loop. The 4 pass loop is a 26.2 mile roundtrip trek that goes over 4 passes over 12,500'. We started at Maroon Lake TH at near elevation 9,500'.
Our goal for day 1 was to hike past both Maroon and Crater lake and see how far we could get towards Maroon Pass. As you start to make our way on the trail, you come up on this friendly reminder:
We continued past Maroon lake and went up 500' feet on the trail...this part of the trail is really pretty. You hike into a dense section of Aspens and really pretty floral.
(Kevin and Brad before Crater lake)About two miles in, we finally arrived at Crater Lake. This put us right under the Bells. We hung out here for a while and took several photos. There were several campsites in this area as well. As we were getting ready for this trip, we learned there was a bear attack at these sites. There were warning signs of the recent attacks posted nearby. Nontheless, we weren't too concerned...
So we continued up and over and we could see our first glimpse of West Maroon Valley...From our vantage point, the entire valley looked like it was under heavy fog. And definitely a preclude to the day to come.
We hiked another mile up and found really nice camp sites in a heavily wooded area. The pads were flat and we felt the trees would insulate us some from the winds. Kevin set up camp and Brad and I went looking for water...
That night was cold...but I filled up my nalgene with boling water and threw it in my sleeping bag. If you have never done this before to keep warm...do it! It is great way to stay warm in your bag. Later that night, we all awoke to something loud. We could not determine at first what it was...since we were all either asleep or just out of it. But then we heard it again...it sounded like a locomotive coming at us. We all perked up, butt cheeks clinched, and looking at each other like we were about to spend our last moments together. The sound roared closer and closer and it was coming fast...and then suddenly it died. Few moments later...it happened again...and again... and again. It was massive rockslides above us...It was unnerving and did not stop for a while. It made for a real uncomfortable night...Later the next day we could see the activity and felt better knowing the rocks rolled into a lower area than we were and that we were really in no danger. But in the dark, you didn't know that...
The next morning was colder and drizzly...and we were about to hike into some really bad weather.
As we kept going up the mountain, the rain gave way to snow. The winds started to pick up, and visibility diminished. What was difficult was not being able to see landmarkers. We could not see the mountainside above us...therefore the contour maps were no good to us. We could never really tell where we were on the map. On top of this, everytime we walked through willows...it dumped a good amount of water on us.
Kevin was getting the worst end of this whole deal. Besides battling a bug...his clothes were not doing so well. Especially his pants. He was wearing REI Endeavor pants and they failed miserably. They did not repel water and they quickly absorbed all the moisture. That moisture then leaked into his shoe...then socks. This was a recipe for disaster...but Kevin kept going, and we were right behind him.
The weather got worse...eventually it was a white out...and we could no longer see what was around or above us. We believe we got as high as 12,000', right below the first pass, when Kevin had to make a really big call. Kevin was trying to push...but he was sick, cold, and worst of all, completely soaked. He stopped, turned around, and looked at us...I can tell this was one of the hardest decisions of his life.
But the hardest decision was the right decision. He needed to turn back...Kevin had "eyes to see" that he was putting himself at risk of more sickness, injury, or even worse. We have been dreaming of this hike for half a year...we have been planning for so long...our ambitions were right in front of us. The mountain kept alluring us to climb it...we wanted to oblige...but Kevin understood more. He understood, relied on wisdom, and listened to truth...On this day, Kevin had "eyes to see" and turned the mountain away. Brad and I followed Kevin back down...