Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Day 33, Oh My.


Teeth chattering, fingers numb, I can see my breath. It's 5:30 AM. We camped at 10,000 feet last night. It can't be more than 40 degrees this morning, if that. Off to hike a mountain...

We planned on making oatmeal to warm us up, but decided against it so we could get an earlier start on Elbert. (In the photo above, Elbert is above the outhouse.)

We arrived at the Mt. Elbert trailhead and were surprised to see 12 cars already there. At 6:30 we headed up the mountain at a steady pace. With the elevation and steepness of the hike we were going fairly slow, but we did pass a few parties on the way.

At around 13 or 14 thousand feet elevation we really started to notice the lack of O2. There were a few false summits and finally we made it to the top where a bunch of people were hanging out. The view was great and we felt a strong sense of accomplishment having made it. Our training paid off!

The entire ascent took 3h40, we spent half an hour at the top. For most of the hike the sky was 100% blue, but once up top we saw that nasty clouds were beginning to form. Time to go. The way down seemed to take forever. We made it below the treeline before the rain (and mini-hail) began. The whole way down took 2h20. Round trip was 8.5 miles, elevation gain of 4373 feet.

Our next stop was Colo Springs. There seemed to be no good way to get there -- the roads went at least 50 miles out of the way in either direction. Except there was this one road that went right through -- looked promising! Our AAA map marked it as an 'unpaved' road (with no route number) and it looked about 7 miles long. Shortcut!

At a gas station they didn't know what the unnumbered road was, but told us how to get to a road that goes to Mosquito Pass. We figured it must be the same road, how many roads could there be going between two 14,000 foot mountains?

The road started out decent but that didn't last long. Laurel handed the wheel over to Dan for some rough driving. We were already two miles in and didn't anticipate this road turning into the "worst road in Colorado", or the "highest off-roading road in the country" as it was described to us by a few people we passed.

It was rough alright. Rutty, rocky, narrow, exposed, downright scary. Big rocks too. Laurel's knuckles were white gripping the "Oh My" handle. With a few lucky guesses about which way to turn, we made it to the top, which was marked Mosquito Pass, elevation 13,185 feet. And it said we were going the right way, towards Fairplay!

Downhill was interesting. 1st gear wasn't slow enough, had to use the brakes almost the whole way down. At one point the road turned into a stream. We passed a few decrepit abandoned mines. On the whole 13 mile road we only saw one mile marker (#3). It had blue and yellow ribbon tied on. Earlier we noticed a crummy weed tied with the same ribbon, and later we saw a bush tied with ribbon, so I guess those were mile markers too.

Towards the very end a stream crossed the road. It was about 2' deep and 10' across -- no problem for the Escape!

Easy highway driving the rest of the way to Manitou Springs where we're staying at a nice campground with showers, wifi, and laundry.


Thomas said...

Be careful using your brakes most of the way down the mountain. . .Mt Chehaw in AL, on the way down they used to have points at which you'd have to stop so that your brakes could be checked for over heating (in addition to telling you drive in 1st).

John said...

That sounds like a fun road to get lost on... But Tom is right, riding your breaks down a mountain does some interesting things to the break pads if they don't burst into flames. Does the truck not have 4Wheel Low? Generally that slows down 1st gear even lower.

Brian said...

Yeah, when we were in Hawaii, there was a news story about a runaway car down Mauna Loa whose breaks had overheated. Oops.

Congratulations on making it to the top!

Big Wall Nuts said...

Yeah, very well aware of overheating brake pads, lots of morons don't know how to drive in the mtns and you can smell it. On the way down we stopped a few times to take pictures and there was no smell.

I had Tire World look at our tires, etc. today, everything checked out.

No idea about 4WD-low... the truck is supposed to automatically go into 4WD when needed -- I never saw the light come on.

"Runaway" on this road would have meant down a 45 degree grassy/rocky slope -- Bad.