Monday, August 10, 2009

Conquering the Mountain

We’ve made it home safe and sound. It was questionable for a while if that was going to happen, what with all the being lost in the mountains, and the car mishaps, but we did indeed make it home.

We’ve been home since late Saturday night and now we’re wondering why we came back home. It’s HOT here. It’s a darn good thing we like so many people here because otherwise I think we’d have turned the truck around the first time we got out of it in the panhandle.

It’s amusing to me how family trips always seem to go awry. Never do they go like planned. There always seems to be some sort of mishap. Someone ends up in the hospital, someone gets lost, cars break etc. This trip? All of the above.

Seriously, how could I not be a blogger living in this family? The material I am handed is just too good not to share.

Today we’ll start with ‘the day the boys went up the mountain and almost did not come down’. (Sounds like a good title for a children’s book…or not).

It was decided before we left for Co that 2 of Sir D’s brothers (D & B) would climb Long’s Peak taking along my boys, Bob and Will, and B’s 10 year old twin boys. I was so busy packing enough clothes and food and blankets and whatnot, for 6 people for 14 days, that I did not actually consider making sure my boys had the proper mountain climbing accoutrement like, say, light weight backpacks to carry water and snacks and decent tennis shoes (turns out, indoor soccer shoes are not a good choice) or any sort of climbing gear, really. (Can anyone say run on sentence?)

Once enough gear and high protein, light weight snacks were packed up in borrowed backpacks, the group of 6 headed off up the mountain. They left at 3 am. Yes, I said 3 am. Nuts, I know! Apparently there is this silly thing called ‘weather’ up in the Colorado Mountains. They say you must have summited by noonish before the ‘weather’ rolls in and electrocutes you. Who knew ‘weather’ was so powerful? So…up they go. The rest of us hung out around camp, enjoying all the NOT HOT that was outside. We had a really great day. At one point my sister-in-law R called up to camp after having been in town to tell us her car had died. (It is at this point in the story where I will not comment on the superiority of diesel power because enough of that was done by the brothers at the time.) Sir D and another guy who was camping with us with his family, rode off to save the day, or call a wrecker to come get the (gas powered) truck to take to the shop.

By the time they were finally on their way home it was noted by someone (a MOM) that the hikers had been gone for quite some time, and didn’t we all think that it was a bit odd that they were not back yet, and shouldn’t someone check it out, and hay, since you’re out and about anyway saving the day and whatnot, perhaps you should check on the hikers since it’s now 5pm? (Hello again, run on sentence.) So on the way back from dropping off the (gas powered) truck to be fixed, Sir D and SIL R headed out to the trail head parking lot (that was FULL of cars earlier) to get the skinny.

When they drove up the parking lot was nearly empty. Hummm. Sir D spoke to a ranger who said he’d cleared the summit and followed the trail all the way back down to the base and had not seen our hikers. Not good. He said that did not mean anything really since there are many trails down the mountain and sometimes people even camp on the mountain. It just means that they were not on the summit (good thing with all that ‘weather’ up there). He said that it did seem a bit long to hike to the peak and back down, now that they’d been gone for 14 hours. He said to wait another hour to hear from them, and then the fun would begin. He did suggest driving to the other trail head (several miles away) to check if they’d gotten on the wrong trail and ended up where their truck was not. This did not seem likely as there was cell service at the trial head and they would have called, but we did it anyway. Nothing. We waited for the requisite hour and no word was heard. To say we were now getting worried was a bit of an understatement. During our hour wait, we did a few things. We wrote down a description of all the hikers and gathered photos and put them in two files for Sir D and our friend T to take to the two trail heads and hand out to the Rangers should a search party be needed. It was noted by me that neither Sir D nor myself really knew what our boys were wearing, save the stupid indoor soccer shoes. I was having this reoccurring thought that if something bad did happen would the powers that be bring me up on charges for sending my children mountain climbing in what really amounted to slippers? We did know what snacks they had and whose backpacks they had were wearing… Once the hour was up, Sir D and T drove off to the emergency call boxes at the two trail heads as instructed. You could cut the tension in the air like a knife back at camp. We moms tried to act calm and serene for the little kids but it was extremely obvious that we were all very worried. We did a lot of praying, in the group and separately. I may have struck a deal with God that if he let my boys come home I’d never let them leave the house in indoor soccer shoes (SLIPPERS!) again. So we sat…and waited…and prayed…and waited. I don’t remember the last time I’d ever been this afraid. The later it got, the less likely anyone thought it would end well. Someone had to be hurt, otherwise, why would it take this long? We had no communication with Sir D or T as there was no cell service at the camp. That is why Sir D or T had to keep driving down the mountain to check their messages in case the hikers called. We at camp knew that the next step, that was about to be executed once they got to the call boxes, was that the Rangers would set up a search party hiking up from both trail heads to the summit, looking for the 6 lost hikers. At this point, we were all getting a little nauseous at camp. I heard a diesel engine coming up over the rise. Sir D with news, I imagined. I prepared myself for what he had to say, who was hurt? How bad was it? I simply would not let my mind go any further down that path because I could not stomach the thought. When the diesel engine crested the mountain road, it was not Sir D in my truck coming over the rise but my BIL D, and all the hikers. We sat there in stunned relief. They hopped out of the truck, tired but happy. Like conquerors returning home from a huge victory…. Poor men. After they were hugged fiercely, they were all yelled at!

Turns out, they had NO IDEA they were lost. They thought it was early evening 5 or 6 ish. They didn’t know till they got to the truck that it was after 8. They’d been gone for a total of 17 hours.

We were able to get a hold of Sir D due to the fact that someone could send an email to their phone (we had access to email at the camp, but no cell service, they had cell service but no email) to tell them that all was well. Sir D called back Shannon at the emergency number, who he was now on a first name basis with, and called off the search party that was being organized.

Everyone was extremely thrilled that the 6 hikers had been found, safe and sound. I’m sure the Rangers, who were about to begin an extremely long hike up the mountain at 9 at night, were especially relieved. Needless to say we were all very, very happy to have the men back. They made it all the way to the top. They summited a 14,259 foot in elevation peak. They lived to tell the tale. It took a very long time because they had 10 year old boys with them and they were all severely effected by the elevation (what can I say, we’re flatlanders around here!) not to mention some of them were wearing slippers. When I asked Bob if it had been worth it he thought for a minute and said, “Uh, No. If I had know how hard it was going to be, and if I had know that I was going to have to walk straight up for 16 hours, then rock climb without proper equipment for the last bit, I probably wouldn’t have gone. But it’s really cool to be able to say I did it.” Yes, they did it.

And this is what they saw when they got to the top.

My men conquered the mountain.

Late that night, after everyone had gone to bed, Sir D and I sat outside under the awning of our camper and watched a fierce storm roll up over Long’s Peak. The lightning was something to behold. Again I thanked the Lord that my boys were not lost somewhere up on that Mountain, but safely tucked in their beds. And I also realized that those Coloradoans are not kidding about the ‘weather’.

Even thought I didn’t go up that mountain with them, that hike up Long’s Peak is something I will never, ever forget.


Tonya said...

Longs Peak is definitely not the easiest 14er to hike, but I guess it was the closest for them. Yikes. Glad they are FINE. The storms here are amazing - and scary! We just had a ripping one last night. It was scary and I was in my house! :-)

Glad you had a good time here!

mamamanuscriptsplace said...

What an adventure! Very well written. Yes, even with the run on sentences! The pictures are breathtaking. I am so glad that everyone made it some safely.

The Source said...

Just found your blog and wanted to say Hi. I'm happy to have found someone else who's homeschooling older children...everyone I find has little ones!

Anonymous said...

And what is so wrong with a gas powered truck?!!