Andrew Hamilton’s 1999 Attempt

Day 10 (September 6, 1999)

Today was already day 10.  I had climbed 30 mountains and still had 25 to go.  That just didn’t seem right.  If I could only climb 30 mountains in the first 9 days, how was I supposed to climb 25 in 5 days?  Well, for one thing, I wasn’t in the San Juans anymore!  Nevertheless, I had my work cut out for me.

Since mom had rejoined the support crew, Laura had slept outside in her sleeping bag, and didn’t hear her alarm.  I woke up and looked at my watch, it was 5:00am.  This was not a good way to start the day, an hour and a half late.  Everyone quickly got up and Laura made me breakfast.  I hopped in the truck with mom and dad and we started the 2 mile drive to the North Halfmoon Creek trailhead.

It was early and we weren’t quite sure where we were going. It is not hard to find, but the confusion with the trailheads last night had us all messed up.  Finally, we came to a bridge, and we noticed a trailhead sign and we were there.  I started hiking at about 6:00am.  Dad was hiking along with me and insisting that I give him my pack.  I asked him to go back down so he wouldn’t keep mom waiting in the car and he did.  But he promised to bring my bike up to the trailhead so I could ride my bike two miles down the road when I was finished with the hike (this was so that everyone could wait for me down at camp).

It took extra long for my blister pain to go away, but soon I came to the steep part and although I was a bit sluggish, I made the summit by 8:30am.  Once again I had perfect weather.  At the summit I radioed down to base but no one answered.

At 10:00am I was back down to the trailhead, but my bike was nowhere in sight.  Man, my support team was 0 for 2 this morning.  I radioed in and Natalie answered.  I asked her where my bike was, and she said my dad was on the way.  I picked up my stuff and started running down the road.  Then I radioed Natalie again and I asked her to send someone to pick up my dad.  I continued running, and running, and running.  No sign of my dad.  Then I saw mom in the truck, I threw my pack in the back of the truck and hopped up front with mom.  Mom hadn’t seen my dad either, he was lost.  I couldn’t believe he was lost, certainly he hadn’t gone past the bridge.

We got back to camp and packed up.  I was hungry so they fed me some more food.  We decided to move on to La Plata, while Laura waited for dad to show up.  Dad had gone past the bridge and kept biking up the road until he came to a stream crossing.  He knew then that he had gone too far.  So he had returned, found the trailhead and left my bike there.  As he was walking back to camp, he happened to ask a couple of campers if they had seen a guy hiking down with hiking poles and a long blond pony tail.  They said I was about fifteen minutes ahead of him.

He hurried back up to the bike, and rode back to camp fifteen minutes after the rest of us had left, and he and Laura then made their way to West Winfield trailhead, where I was beginning my climb on La Plata.

Mom, Buddie, and I started up La Plata at noon.  Mom just came along for a few minutes.  We were hiking along a four wheel drive road, which would take me to about 10,900 feet, and from there I would follow the trail to the summit.  The road was pretty smooth so mom offered to drive up in the truck, but I just told her to stick with the original plan, to have someone bring my bike up to the end of the road so I could ride down.

Buddie and I continued up the fast trail.  There was a section with lots of willows, mud, and water, and it slowed me down as I did my best to keep my feet dry.  When dad had first met up with us he had been shocked at the shoes I had been using, since they were all old and had holes in them.  Since we have the same size shoe he had given me his nice shoes and by now, they were the only shoes I could stand to wear on my feet because of my blisters and sore toes.

After the willows, buddie and I sluggishly made our way to the summit.  I was very hot and was moving slow.  La Plata has a painful false summit, and even though my altimeter warned me that the peak was a falsie, I was demoralized when I reached the false summit and saw the real summit a half mile away.

I reached the summit at 2:30pm.  There were a bunch of guys smoking pot near the summit cairn, so I couldn’t see if there was a summit register.  I radioed in my progress, and was like “Later Dude” to the guys by the summit cairn,  and headed down.  I made better time going down than I had on the way up, thanks to a nice little scree slope, and was down to my bike by 4:00pm.  I hopped on and was back to the trailhead at 4:16pm.

Dad took some pictures while I ate.  I said goodbye to Shane, Natalie, Leslie, Mouser, and Buddie because they were headed back to Boulder.  Then I crawled into the back of the truck and Laura, Dad, and Mom started the fairly long drive over to Mount of the Holy Cross.

I was not looking forward to Mount of the Holy Cross.  It is a long hike and includes about 5,500 feet of elevation gain.  The killer for most people is that first you hike up about 1000 feet to Half Moon Pass, then you have to drop down 1000 feet before you get to Holy Cross’s North Ridge.  On the way back, you have to ascend that 1000 feet one more time before returning to the trailhead.  To me, it didn’t make any difference that it was up or down, either way I went about the same speed (although the uphill was less painful).  Either way, it is still a long hike relative to other fourteeners.

Dad and I started up the trail at 7:05pm.  I wanted to move as quickly as possible for my one hour of daylight.  Dad carried my pack up to Half Moon Pass and he was hiking like a man with a mission.  He was now using his hiking poles and within seconds he had a good lead on me.  I continued relatively slowly, trying to hike through the pain of my blisters.  Sometimes I wondered if one day the pain would not go away.  But eventually I was holding a pretty good pace.  I had to yell for my dad to come back so I could get some water.  When we got to Half Moon Pass, I had to ask him to turn back.  He wanted to carry my pack down the pass, but he didn’t have a headlight and I didn’t want him to hurt himself hiking back in the darkness.  I continued down and soon had to turn on my headlamp.  I got a little lost just after the stream crossing, but soon found the trail and followed it up to tree line.  Although I was impressed with how long the batteries were lasting in Natalie’s headlamp, I was starting to think that maybe the reason I kept getting lost was because I had the low power bulb in and couldn’t see very well.

After tree line the trail was hard to follow, but I knew I was basically headed south and since the stars were out, I had no problems as I slowly made progress to the summit.  It seemed like a long ways but I finally reached the top at 10:30pm.  I radioed in my progress and headed down.  The descent to tree line was agonizing, most of it on large boulders.  I was concerned about dropping too far west so I went down slowly and cautiously.  Once I made it to tree line I was able to pick up speed, but as I was tired the going was slow and I didn’t make it back to Half Moon trailhead until 2:36am.

I demanded 4 hours of sleep, ate some food and crawled in the back of the truck.  Laura said goodbye as she had to get back to Wyoming.  I was sad to see her go, as she had been so vital to my success until now.  I fell asleep as mom and dad drove to Harvard Lakes trailhead, the trailhead for Harvard and Columbia.