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I PRESSED ON...To Touch the Face of God at 13500 Ft

Posted Aug 19 2010 5:03pm

It was about 10:00 Wednesday night and I was putting fresh batteries in my Petzle headlamp . My wife looks over at me and says, “I usually don’t worry about you…but this one has me worried. There are bears and mountain lions…a lot can happen on that mountain and most of it is bad…and to top it off, you’re doing this in the dark.” Just two weeks prior, a husband and wife Team from Dallas Texas had perished mountaineering in the same vicinity that I would be climbing when an unexpected storm had moved in and they had fallen off the mountain. This was fresh in Bren’s mind…I could tell. I I responded, “Bren, I will be fine…I will watch the weather, I am properly equipped, I am in good physical condition…I will get a great picture of the sunrise over the mountains…and will be back before you’re done with breakfast.”

My goal was to proceed from the Lodge at Horn Creek Camp, about 5 ½ miles to Horn Peak. The elevation change would roughly be from 9,000 feet to 13,500 feet. My original goal was to summit in less than two hours. This goal proved ludicrous. I had spoken with David who had lived in Horn Creek for the past 8 years and summitted it 48 times. He told me that 3 hours would be considered strong. I had also talked at length with Andrea about the climb. She had been on staff the past 4 summers and summitted the peak 20 times. She told me that she tells people to expect the climb from the treeline to the peak to take 2 to 4 hours. She had completed that part in an hour. These conversations were good. They taught me what to expect…climbing routes…and timelines.



Sleep was restless that night. I tossed and turned…from the excitement. I couldn’t stand to wait…patience had been tossed to the curb…and at 0300 in the predawn morning, I was up…dressed in Nike Running shorts and a North Face tech shirt…ready to roll. I would be carrying a small generic pack….loaded with a generic fleece, North Face Wool hat , Nike Running Gloves, and a REI E-Vent Jacke t…worth every dime I paid for it. Knowing that this would be over 4 hours of aerobic activity I also threw in an apple, a peanut butter sandwich and a 2 liter Camelbak for hydration.

At 0333, I stepped out the front door of the lodge, and started the Garmin 405 to begin the time…I was off…and time was of the essence if I wanted to catch the sunrise.

The Rainbow Trail runs over 100 miles long the Sangre de Cristo Mountains…named by the Spaniards because of the pinkish hue that occurs when the sun first peeks over the mountains…reminding them of the “Blood of Christ.” I head off into a jog up the trail head for about ¾ of a mile until I come to the Rainbow Trail…make a right and run an undulating and rocky route for another 1 ¼ mile till I come to Horn Peak Trail…make a left…and climb…up…up…up…a rocky terrain that my buddies Aaron and Hans named boulder alley…rocks…on top of rocks…with more rocks…footing is sketchy…and you’re climbing…two big climbs up to nearly 11,000 feet elevation…I had made good time…running… then fast paced walking as if on a mission….through the switch backs…up to the treeline. It was dark…for some reason this didn’t seem right…I should come out of the treeline…see a post marking the trial up the ridge to the first peak...the false peak…something is wrong here…and so I backtracked a little less then a 1/4 mile…and started back up…I came out a different place but recognized Horn Peak. One thing though… I wasn’t on the ridge…but along the base of the ridge…and so I began the ascent to the ridge at over a 45% grade…at over 11,000 feet. From the treeline to Horn Peak is about ¾ mile….and oh yeah…with about 2,000 ft vertical climb in that little jaunt. The darkness had caused a bit of disorientation…but not for long…I was on the ridge…climbing. Andrea had warned that all you will see from the treeline is the false peak. The air was thin…the footing difficult as the rocks left anything but a solid flat surface. The shadows cast by my lamp made the jagged edges of the rocks treacherous. The footing was bad enough, but being fooled by shadows made it more precarious. In the dark…with a single headlamp, I was cognizant of my footing…a wrong move here and it would not be pretty. There was no protection from the wind and I had donned my jacket. The wind would gust strong the farther I climbed. The temps were, I estimated to be below 40 and the wind would gust…up to nearly 50 MPH. Twice I hunkered down on all fours as the wind caught me in attempt to blow me off the terrain. I PRESSED ON…20 steps at a time…recovering for 15 seconds to get some oxygen in the whisper thin air…onward…the wind…being ever so vigilant on were to put my feet…and 27 minutes later I was at the false peak…27 minutes for less than ½ mile stroll…and the Peak still seemed too far…and the rocks were getting bigger…and the wind stronger…keep moving…the sun will be cresting soon. For some reason this part was the most difficult...I had pushed it physically and my body was ready for some recovery time…so onward, I PRESSED ON…as fast as I could go with over 12,000 feet of elevation to provide my oxygen. I live at 500 feet…and my mind was tired of focusing on where the next precarious step would be. I was about 75 feet from the peak and the sun began to show…quick…I grabbed my camera…snap….snap…snap. I turned around to summit…I PRESSED ON…quickly…pumping my legs…gasping for air…gasp…gasp…move, move…there…there…I was there…on the summit of Horn Peak…2 hours 52 minutes and for a brief moment…I stood in awe…of my Creator…of His wondrous love…from there it seems you can reach out and touch the face of God…not so…only with your heart…only with your praise…redeemed by the Sangre de Cristo…not sitting down but standing up…looking around…quickly…more pics…I must descend quickly if I want breakfast…I promised my wife I would be back for breakfast…I PRESS ON…


















A rapid descent with this terrain can be brutal. The footing is so precarious…so poor…the quads have to compensate…and although you are not as winded on the way down…the legs are hammered. From the peak to the treeline in 45 minutes…it had taken just about an hour to go up…and I felt like I had been put through the ringer…I find the trail below the treeline…and there are my friends, Aaron, Hans and their wives, Lorren and Star. All 4 athletes…all four had begun the hike at 0500. They looked good…refreshed. Hans wife, Star, looked at me and asked, “Can I make it?” I knew she could…but not wanting to discourage her by telling her it will be the hardest ½ mile you have ever tread….I responded, “of course you can do it…of course!”

I continued my descent….quickly…trying to run…I PRESSED ON…the legs didn’t seem to want to move like they should…the quads were so hammered…and my mental focus was waning too. My mind was as tired as the body…I continued…running slowly…down boulder alley…careful…careful…don’t roll an ankle at this point…and down…down…so much easier on my breathing…but not on the legs…and there...done…across the field to the Lodge…5 hours and 12 minutes…11 miles round trip…and just in time to catch some breakfast…I promised my wife I would be back for breakfast…and I couldn’t break that…Reed, an Ironman triathlete, looks over at me and brings me some eggs…some fruit. I kissed my wife…told Luke and Hope…let me take a shower…then we will go bowling…the day had just started…and we had a lot to do…and so I PRESSED ON…

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:13
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