Climb of Pikes peak, Colorado   4303m (14 110ft)   May 29 2001
Pikes peak in Colorado is one of the highest mountains in the United States and despite the fact that a road and a cog railway go to the top the best way up had to be to climb. Even though I started out to the base of the mountain at 6am it took nearly 4 hours to negotiate the decrepit public transport system to the start of the trail where I was told by locals that the return trip was more than 26 miles (45km) and would take 12 to 18 hours! It was already 10 am. I decided to go anyway.....
A little over half way up the weather started to deteriorate and the ominous black clouds I usually delight in seeing were unmistakably those of a developing severe thunderstorm,...right above me. I had no sooner found a large rock to shelter under than the lightning started hitting everything around me, some strikes were within 200 yards. Because I was at nearly 11 000 feet it started snowing instead of the usual rain or hail that occurs at lower elevations. I had a small video camera with me so at least I could record the action. After 30 to 40 minutes under the rock the lightning passed but  60mph (100kmh) winds and heavy snow continued. I was well equipped so decided to continue up a clearly marked trail even though it was well below freezing. Only an hour earlier I had passed several groups of people clad only in shorts, t shirts and even those stupid "sports sandals", most of then didn't even have backpacks, water, jackets etc. One remarked about why I was carrying so much "stuff" Even though I started out in shorts and t shirt too I was now wearing every piece of extra gear I had with me. The other people had all turned back because of altitude sickness. If any of those people had been caught on the upper part of the mountain they would have been in serious trouble. Above the tree line the storm raged for more than 3 hours with high winds and white out conditions. I noticed in the fresh snow large paw prints crossing the track. They were not form a domestic house cat!! It it then you realize that out here humans are not on the top of the food chain but rather part of it. Bears and mountain loins live up here but the locals said that no one had ever been attacked. Many times I thought about turning back because of the weather.. About an hour below the summit the storm stopped even though the wind was blowing as hard as ever, the sky cleared completely allowing a perfect view of Colorado. It was so cold I was only able to take one photo on the top as gloves could only be removed for a few seconds! (the batteries went flat in the cold anyway) Despite the altitude I was not really suffering any of the usual effects of altitude sickness although on the way down I developed a light headache for a while. I was also greeted by an ambulance crew who rode up on a train after reports of me and the other people being lost in the storm by the ranger at the bottom. I told them that the others had been seen on their way down the mountain and I was quite happy to climb back down myself. By 7 pm it was dark and even though I had a light the batteries went flat followed closely by the batteries I took out of my walkman. So it was 3 hours of guessing my way through a maze of tracks in the dark. I had a mobile phone but was unable to call my friend that was meant to be picking me up because the phone would seek out a different network than the one I was on that had a stronger signal. The other network wouldn't allow me access. Finally I got down low enough to call him and stop him from calling out search and rescue. I finally arrived at the bottom at exactly the same place I started from at 11pm having somehow successfully navigated through a forest in the pitch dark. Another day in the office.........
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