Like most outdoor sports, mountain climbing has a strong element of chance involved – manifested primarily in the weather. The key to handling Mother Nature is to respect her. And to remember that she is always trying to kill you. Thus, it pays to not be too married to your plans as they can change on a dime.
I got word last week that our plans for the prospective S2S climb have already been changed. Due to our very late spring (and late winter), the access roads leading to Greys Peak are still closed. Fortunately, Greys sits in a cluster of fourteeners so we have turned our sights on nearby Mt. Bierstadt.
Oh, hello Mt. Bierstadt, we meet again .
There is also an additional consideration.
Yeah, those are snowshoes. We are still very early in the mountain climbing season and most of our peaks are still covered with snow. Mt. Bierstadt is no exception. Snow is a reality on the mountains all year long – our first attempt on Bierstadt was halted by a snowstorm at the summit for which we were totally unprepared. That was on August 1st.
The cons of snowshoeing are that 1) I haven’t done it since my sixth grade Outdoor Ed (fortunately I loved it) and 2) it will require greater physical effort. Thank goodness, I’ve done a billion kettlebell squats since February (number could be slightly exaggerated). I’m still anxious though – I’m still new enough at climbing mountains that old heart fears still lurk.
The pros are that the layer of snow eliminates the rock scrambling. This is huge. Rock scrambling is difficult under dry conditions, but throw a layer of ice on rocks and it is miserable for those who are balance challenged. Being able to hike OVER the rock layer will be fantabulous.
The extra gear was the easiest and least anxiety producing change. Working in a mountain climbing office has its advantages and within two days of the announcement, I had a two pairs of borrowed snowshoes and poles under my desk plus water-repellent pants and a jacket loaned by my boss’s daughter. An ungodly amount of money went into REI’s till to stock up on the rest of our gear. We are set for rain. We are set for snow. We are set to now walk ON the snow.
Plans have changed, but when you are climbing for the No Barriers organization, what’s an additional barrier? Stay tuned!
PS: Reports from weekend climbs on Bierstadt show that snowshoes are not super necessary. Snow pack is firm – provided summit is before 11:30 am and you are headed down before the sun. I’m hoping for a very early start – 3:00 or 4:00 am to take advantage of the firm snow pack.