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130 Plans and Decisions 2009-09-28

crossing the Animas River

Before our summer of 2009 trip to Colorado to climb the 54 14,000 foot peaks, my wife and I did a lot of planning. We realized that our planning would make or break or trip, success depended on our accurate assessments of our strengths and weaknesses. Some of our planning was right on target and very successful but other plans fell short.

Sitting at home and planning is a bit like going through an all you can eat buffet when you are really hungry. You pile too many items on your plate, you eat too much, and you too many leftovers. In the mountains you plan trips that are too hard, for too many days in a row, and you leave with too many goals left unreached.

For example... (good means a good decision or plan and bad means a bad decision or plan).

After climbing Uncomparghe and Wetterhorn in the San Juan Mountains, we drove to Montrose. Arriving late that evening we spent the night in a motel (good) for extra comfort and also to dry out and reorganize. We were slow moving the next day but still had to finish packing, drive to Purgatory and backpack in to Chicago Basin, 16 miles (bad) away. We didn’t get to the trailhead to the afternoon (bad), but figured we would still arrive at the Chicago Basin camping area before dark (good). We had never walked the trail (bad).

We were hiking (bad) in from Purgatory because we were bringing our dog, Jake, and we desired a more flexible schedule than what the train offered. It was wet and rainy for the whole hike sixteen miles of the walk. The trail was not hard, just brushy from lack of use.

We wanted to arrive by dark so we pushed ourselves to keep a pace pace(bad). At dusk we found Nick’s tent (good). Nick had gone up a couple of days before us and was waiting on our arrival. Luckily for us he was there and was able to help us set up our tent and filter water (good). We ate and went to bed, but were very tired.

Waking late (bad) we didn’t leave camp until six that morning. We soon found ourselves in a trail-less area. We were unfamiliar (bad) with the peaks and their approaches. We were slow and there was a lot of snow (bad). Due to our late start, the snow was quickly softening (bad). Our plans for the day were to climb Sunlight and Windom peaks, but we were barely able to make it up Sunlight (bad).

Instead of climbing Windom (bad) that afternoon, we headed back to camp. We ate all the food (good) we could spare and went to bed (good) as soon as possible.

After a refreshing night’s rest (good), we left camp early the next morning to climb Windom. We were moving faster (good) because we were now familiar with the area, but slowed because of the verglass (iced over rocks) on the upper slopes of Windom.

We hiked as quickly as possible to the Eolus group. Our plan was to climb Eolus - an official peak - and North Eolus - an unofficial peak. Route finding due to the heavy snowpack slowed us (bad). We climbed the Eolus Peak, but did not have time to climb the North Peak (bad).

We had to return to camp, pack, and walk out sixteen miles in the hot afternoon sun (bad). When we finally reached the trailhead we were tired, but we still had to drive to Ouray (bad) and find our friends (good) who were waiting for us there.

Beat, we took the next day off (bad) to enjoy the company of our friends (good).

Lots of plans and decisions led to our not being able to climb North Eolus. From the ridge leading to Eolus we only needed another hour, but we did not have an hour to spare or the strength to continue. Our failure probably started with our late arrival in Montrose after climbing Uncomparghe and Wetterhorn and snowballed from there.

(cloudhiking has a complete recap of the events mentioned above.)

We learned from our mistakes and were better able to balance the need for food and rest with our desire to climb and stay on schedule.

Happy trails.


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