Sunday, October 21, 2012

COBS Day 9 - Williams Peak

These are the words, as written, of Chuck Lafean, age 16, on Course C-242 of Colorado Outward Bound School.

Up at 4:30 for a peak climb of Williams Peak (13,400 ft., technical). Reach summit in about 3 hours. Weather is holding. Back down. We stop at bottom for a rest and everybody falls asleep. It snows. When we get back to camp, we find Colleen and Tom waiting with tea, lemonade, and popcorn. 20 minute hike to new camp (solo base). Another great meal and sleep. Rain.

The striking thing about this experience was that, while I had come from sea level to 10 or 12 thousand feet above sea level, I had had no noticeable effects of the altitude (with the exception of the burning lungs day one), until I passed through the 13,000 ft mark on this climb. I wasn't the only one so affected either.

The weather for this climb was cloudy and cold. I distinctly remember putting on frozen pants and boots, having been made wet by several days of constant rain and then the freezing temps of the night before. Getting dressed was pretty miserable.

I don't remember that much of the climb itself. It was a technical climb, meaning at some point we were roped up. We brought our packs, but they had been emptied with the exception of rain gear, the food we would need and the climbing gear. I do recall that we climbed over, under, around and between large slabs of granite. And it was hard to catch your breath- that seems so silly to me, for some reason, we had only increased our altitude by 5 or 6 hundred feet from where we had been every day for a week and a half. It makes me contemplate what it must be like in the larger mountain ranges- we were 1,500 ft below half way up Everest.

The strongest memory is of the return trip. We stopped by a small pond for a snack or lunch, I don't recall. Regardless, the sun peaked out from behind the clouds; the first sun in several days or almost constant rain. The result was that we all fell asleep and took a little nap in its warmth. As we were asleep, it went back behind the clouds and actually started to snow. We woke up in the snow!


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