(rewind to Wednesday 21st September)
I wake to the alarm at 1am, after a night of restless sleep and strange dreams. I pull on a pile of clothes, it’s feeling fairly warm though, and there’s no wind. “Doesn’t seeing rings around the moon mean bad weather is on the way?” Boer asks. The sky looks cloudy, not promising. We hike to the ranger station and fill out the log, then repeat Mondays easy trek through the trees. The moon is only a few days from being full, so it’s bright enough that our headlamps are unecessary. It gets darker and lighter as clouds pass infront of the waning moon though. We reach the stream in decent time and keep on trekking, winding up the side of a knoll. We take a break, then start heading up through boulders, zig-zagging up hill as the wind picks up. By the time we reach the boulder field proper, it’s nice and windy (by nice I mean unpleasantly cold, and gusting strongly enough to nearly blow me over). The sky is looking clearer at least though.
I see Orion bright over Longs Peak, with the waning full moon bright to the right of it. Here the trail finding is hardest, as we try and pick out the cairns and make our way up to the Keyhole (which doesn’t look like a keyhole at all). The ‘path’ becomes steep and scrambly, and very windy as we dive into the stone shelter next to the Keyhole. The sun is rising, pink sky is spreading over Boulder and Denver, and we can see the cloudy sky properly for the first time. Boer looks dubiously at clouds to the north of us – I say they’re not rainclouds…
“Then what are those things underneath them?”
“Um, they’re dangly bits… we’ll be fine.”
We contemplate our options, and how bad the wind will be, but decide to go through the Keyhole and see what conditions are like round there, while keeping an eye on the weather. I think it will hold. None of the clouds are in our area, and in the direction the weather is coming from it looks clear.
Getting through the Keyhole is a struggle, as the wind is intense. Once we get round the corner though, it dies off to being manageable. After a few metres we realise it’s time to stash the trekking poles. The view down is gorgeous, to glacier ravaged valley, and we hop along the side of the mountain, following the red and yellow bullseyes marking our way, and avoiding plummeting into the valley. We reach the trench and start picking our way up through the loose rock. There’s snow lurking between some of the rocks. We reach the notch, and move around to the east side of the mountain, fighting the wind again. The wind stays strong as we move along the Narrows, with its steep drop off – but I’m having fun! Even if the strong gusts do make life interesting. The exposure really isn’t that bad. We reach the home stretch, and start making our way upward on the Grade 3 scramble. Boer is feeling a bit tired, but I’m really enjoying the climb, and am almost a bit disappointed when we reach the top – a boulder strewn plateau – at 8am.
Photos are taken (and we have to weight Russell the Moose so he doesn’t blow away for his) and we eat and hang out for half an hour or so, before heading down. We reach the trough before meeting anyone else, then between there and the end of the boulder field meet another 14 people. Some very alarming, as they seem to know little about the mountain, or the weather. We hike down – my eyes are sore and dry, so much so that it hurts to have them open. We race down for a while as we’re getting closer to the campground, when we think we might make it back by 1pm. But it ends up being 1.13 when we reach the ranger station.
In camp we cook pasta and sauce, crash in the tent for a few hours, before waking sticky and hungry, and drag ourselves into town, for eyedrops, and for dinner at Ed’s Cantina, where we are served by a manically chirpy waitress. Home, we crawl into bed and crash.