Wednesday, August 5, 2015

"One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure." ~William Feather

There is a man named Mike in the 14ers group, who is known to be a great mentor and trustworthy climber. I first met him on a Winter Welcomer (or may it was a Fall Welcomer) descent of Quandary after a terrible ascent with my now ex who spent the entire time chastising me for not being fast enough or strong enough. In his defense, I was pretty slow that day. Regardless, it was a great relief to heal step and post hole down that mountain with Mike at the end of that day.

My mountaineering skills have increased significantly since that day. When Mike invited me to join a finisher team on the Wilsons Traverse, I was so honored. I marked off the weekend on every calendar I had, and spent the first part of summer focused on building endurance for that weekend. Two weeks before I took a break from the mountains, and headed to Seattle to visit friends.

The Team: (back left to right) Todd, Mike, Mikey, Me, Steve, (front) Adam on Wilson Peak - Summit 2 of 3.
While in Seattle, we received news of the unfortunate passing of a great man, Mark Coates. When I turned 30, I was determined to make an adventure out of it. I planted the seed on my 29th birthday, and by 30 11 other people were crazy enough to join me on a 200 mile relay from Miami to Key West.

Ragnar Relay Florida Keys - Team FarFrom das VanAgain

Ragnar Dads: (left to right) Mark Coates and Bruce Groves
Having met Bruce Groves a couple of times over the years of knowing his daughter, Emily, we extended the birthday adventure invitation to him, and allowed Bruce one friend to come along. That friend was Mark Coates, and they became our adventure dads that weekend. My introduction to Mark was a man who ran faster than I did, never stopped smiling, and had no shame in sporting a moose hat all weekend. Mark was an effervescent man that touched the lives of everyone he met.

There's no stopping this runner.

The moose hat. No shame in having fun, and making laughter.

Real men have butterfly tattoos, even if they are temporary.
“If you want me again look for me under your boot soles.”
~Walt WhitmanLeaves of Grass
I looked, and there you were. This adventure is for you, Mark Coates. 

I knew I would write about the weekend on this blog - why would I not? It truly was the adventure of a lifetime. I also knew I would dedicate the post to Mark. What I didn't plan on, was 4 of my five climbing partners for the weekend being Dads. There I was joined by 4 adventure dads. Two with kids at home, two with kids all grown, and one guy whom I can only imagine will become an adventure dad himself one day. Over the course of two days, our team hit the trails and achieved great things.

The adventure dads, and Mikey on the summit of El Diente - Summit 1 of 3.
You may be familiar with the Wilson group already without realizing it. You know the mountain on the Coors Light label? Well, that's Wilson Peak aka Nancy for the weekend. We saved Nancy for Saturday. The trip started with everyone coming from all over to the Kilpacker Trailhead  (Kansas, Arizona, 3 different Colorado cities). We tossed on those back country packs, and went 4 miles into the basin.

The full weekend team: (front) Todd, Kelly, Tara, (back), Me, Mikey, Steve, Mike, Adam (Photo by Todd)

Luckily, ticks aren't as bad in Colorado as Virginia. (Photo by Mikey)

Columbines - the Colorado state flower.

Our first views of El Diente - Summit 1 of 3.

Views from the camp. (Photo by Mikey)
Summit Day one was an early start with a 3:00am alarm, and boots on trail around 3:30am. Mikey and I headed out about an hour early with the plan to summit at the same time as our faster partners starting later. We could not have timed this more perfectly.

Mikey looking out at first light to Wilson Peak on the other side of Navajo Basin.

Steve caught up to us about 10-15 minutes before the summit. I decided El Diente would
be my first summit register sign-in. (Photo by Mikey)

Ready. Set. Ridge. After joining up as a full team on El Diente, we snacked and discussed the route across the traverse. We had several team members that have climbed 3 of the classic traverses, and Mike who had also climbed this Wilsons traverse. With the right team, the right skills, and the right weather, you can accomplish great things in the mountains. From the looks of it, the weather was going to hold for the next couple of hours. We spent somewhere between 5-7 hours above 13,000'.

Passing under the organ pipes. (Photo by Mike)

Traversing the gendarmes. (Photo by Mike)

Sub-summit on West Wilson before the descent to the crux wall. (Photo by Mike)

Summit of Mt. Wilson/Ann. Number 16 for me.

Two and a half hours after our summit of El Diente, and we were on top of Mt. Wilson/Ann. We asked a nice stranger to snap a photo of us (see above team shot), and refueled before discussing which gully we would descend back to Kilpacker. We collected some beta from a team heading up Kilpacker to the summit, and determined the golden gully we passed on the traverse is our best bet.

We descended the gully into a snow field, and distributed traction among the team. Between ice axes, crampons, microspikes, and trekking poles, every one descended the snowfield safely. The snow was very forgiving with no post holing or bullet proof ice. We really lucked out on this, and it made for a nice, yet bumpy glissade.

Exiting the gully to the top of the snow field. (Photo by Mikey)

Gearing up for the snow. (Photo by Mikey)

A look back up the snow. We descended to the right of this frame. (Photo by Mikey)

Mike and Steve making a gear unload and refueling stop by a Carnie Wilson. (Photo by Mikey)

So this is what it looks like in the daylight - Kilpacker Basin. (Photo by Mikey)

And then it rained... (Photo by Mikey)

And rained some more... (Photo by Mikey)
We packed up camp in the rain, and headed 4 miles back out to the Kilpacker trailhead. After some un-mudding of shoes, gear rearrangements, and planning, everyone headed into Telluride for food. Burgers for everyone at Steamies. I enjoyed the yeti burger, and a side of fried chicken tenders - didn't feel an ounce of guilt about it either. I recommend the blueberry ketchup if you're ever there for a meal.

Adam, Tara, Todd, and Kelly headed to Placerville for a hotel stay. Mike, Steve, Mikey, and I all headed for the trailhead to car camp at Rock of Ages. After some more rearranging and repacking of gear, my head hit the pillow before full sundown. Another early morning was on the horizon.

3:30am meetup with boots on trail by 4:00am, and we were off for summit 3 of 3. This would also be the 14er finisher summit for Todd.  Colorado 14er finishers climb all 58 14,000 foot summits in the state. Todd started his adventures on 14ers back in 1999, and by noon on Saturday he was a finisher with 59.

Trail by headlamps. Recharge those batteries. (Photo by Mikey)

There are adventure moms too. Kelly, for instance. (Photo by Mikey)

Kelly and Todd reaching the Rock of Ages saddle with Wilson Peak/Nancy in the background.

Time to gear up for class 3.

We had a considerable amount of conversations about the weather when we reached the Rock of Ages saddle. For the most part it looked over-cast, but pretty mellow. A lot like the day before when the clouds burned off a bit during our traverse. We did watch the rain start over Lizard Head to the south while we were about half way from the saddle to the summit.

Luckily, the weather held for everyone to summit, and Todd descended Wilson Peak/Nancy as a finisher. The sun even made an appearance when we got back to the saddle. 3 summits in 2 days. Great things happen with great teams.

Just go up - Wilson Peak/Nancy's false summit.

Final walk across to the summit. Summit 3 of 3. (Photo by Mikey)

Todd Payne finished the CO 14ers with his wife, Kelly, by his side. (Photo by Mikey)

This is unbelievable. Now let's go before it rains. 

On the descent. I like the five point stance. Two hands, two feet, one butt. (Photo by Mikey)

On the saddle to Gladstone. No more class 3+. Taken shortly before the
ceremonial sharing of the pringles (Photo by Mikey)

The traverse team with our El Diente-Wilson traverse in the background.
The old mine building, now marmot motel. (Photo by Mikey)

8,000+ feet of grain. 20+ miles. 3 summits. 2 days. 1 finisher. (Photo by Mikey)

Trailhead breakdown, and more ceremonial sharing of pringles and changing of tire.
After replacing a tire on Todd and Kelly's vehicle, the team headed back into Telluride for one last meal before departure. The Brown Bag Deli did not disappoint. I opted for the K-Lub Klub, but the deli's fan favorite is the Snapshot. One stop for coffee, and it was time for the long drive back to Denver. After getting stuck in traffic from an accident, I made it home in time for bed only 21 hours after my last alarm.

"No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow." 
To Mark: You went too soon, but you lived the life you had, 
and you lived it with adventure and enthusiasm.

Bruce, Emily, and Mark in Miami - Ragnar 2012 Florida Keys 199 Miles

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