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Colorado SufferFest 2005
Spencer Stirling

Since it's been six months I figure that I'd better chronicle my last couple of trips before I forget everything about them. Obviously I've already forgotten 90% of what happened, so I'll keep it short. The Jabroni gang embarked on the annual SufferFest climbing Colorado Fourteeners (14,000 ft peaks). Interrupted by a two-day flu (that nearly killed me, I swear) I bagged 7 peaks in 7 days. I think that Andy got 10 peaks in 10 days, which was the record as far as I know (although several of the guys had already spent the previous week climbing Blanca, so I'm probably wrong). I don't care anymore, anyway. Here is the cast of characters:

Sarp (Captain)
Adam (Saddam, girlfriend of Sarp)
Andy (a rogue)
Paul (group psychopath)
Me (still haven't moved passed rank of "Ensign" for 6 years)
Yafis (group punching-bag)

Typically the mountains fell into two categories - shorter (6-8 miles round trip) and longer (12-14 miles round trip). All had difficult elevation gain, although now I cannot remember any numbers to save my life (probably over 5000 ft. for most of these).

We started out with a warmup, attacking Sherman - a shorter mountain. Personally, I think this is one of the least-attractive peaks that I've seen - with widespread mining stripping the entire place to its knees. Instead of just "bagging" peaks, I prefer to hike in pretty areas. Frankly, I've climbed 11,000 ft peaks that are as/more difficult than anything we climbed, so I don't know what the big deal is about "Fourteeners", but there we were anyway (that's not to say that it isn't hard - each day kicked my butt).

We made camp at 12,000 ft, which we decided later was not a good idea on the first day (there was even a bout of puking in the morning - I won't name the guilty party - he knows who he is). Nevertheless, the moon was incredible that night, so Andy, Paul, and Yafis decided to climb the mountain by MOONLIGHT! Those crazy dorks... between them leaving at midnight and returning early and the false dawn piercing my eyes I didn't sleep much. Nevertheless, Adam and I set out as soon as those guys returned for our morning ascent. Sarp decided to hang back and take a rest. I agree with him - Sherman is only worth climbing once just to "bag" it.

Anyway, as usual the views from the top were incredible. Here is an adjacent smaller peak - the clarity of color is really amazing!!!

Here is the first of a bunch of pictures that will basically look exactly the same

The next day we decided to hit Mount of the Holy Cross, which was my personal favorite BY FAR. Now THAT is a mountain!!! It's a longer hike, with hard elevation gain. The views are really UNBEATABLE!!! In fact, this is probably the only mountain that I'd climb again.

We were off at our usual pre-dawn time - beginning the hike by headlamp. Even with this early start we did manage to get into some afternoon storms later in the trip - starting early in Colorado is mandatory. Here we are several miles into the hike, greeting dawn. This is the reward for hiking over the first saddle:

Paulino is really a disgusting pig... I held it the entire day. Sicko

Look AT THAT!!! Seeing what I was going to be on top of later in the day really inspired me. Since I hadn't seen the peak yet, coming over that saddle and meeting this sight impressed me:

Here's the Jabroni gang, modulo myself

Randono (Andy) crosses the river

Sarp takes the ridge - I guess it was cold

After many long suffering hours, here I am at the summit!

Now there IS a little story that I absolutely MUST tell while I'm here. If you are the victim of this incident then please forgive my sins. Sarp, Adam, and I were on the "A" team - probably 1/2 hour ahead of the others - when we noticed a lone backpack near the summit. We were a little surprised that somebody had beaten us since we had a very early start and were clipping along at a good pace, but since people camp along the trail is seemed perfectly possible. However, as we got to the summit there was NOBODY in sight. Normally we probably wouldn't think much of it, thinking that the owner had gone some other way, but in this case there really was no way out except over the cliff to a nasty death. We left the pack and summited, but upon returning an hour or so later the pack was still there.

I must admit that the situation was a bit strange, so we figured that somebody had gotten into trouble and had to get down the mountain without the pack, or that somebody had frozen to death somewhere the previous night. Long story short, we took the pack, hoping to return it to its owner or inform search/rescue of trouble.

Now we are REAL idiots, because by the time we got down that peak we all forgot completely about the pack. We happily washed our feet in the river, packed up, and drove two hours south for our next camp. All was right with the world until about 10:00pm when one of us remembered the pack. With the same "oh shit" looks to each other, we drew straws to see who would drive it back to the police. Of course, I drew the short straw, although I think that was totally rigged. So I forced Andy (who had nothing to do with this whole thing) to drive my lazy butt back and hit the local Sheriff office.

Those cops made me wait outside (it started to snow) for a good half hour, but finally one appeared. I was a bit worried about the lecture that I was about to receive, and the fact that I had to pee like a racehorse didn't help the situation (usually it is not a good idea to take an illegal leak when cops are around). After taking all of my information, up to and including my entire family tree from my first ancestors in the Americas, he took the bag and told me that I had done a good thing!!! Here is the quote: "when we find the frozen body this will help to time the death".

I think that more likely some guy was sitting outside of his car, wondering why some idiot had taken his backpack with his carkeys and all of his food. Woopsy... in this case the "A" team sucks.

Putting these unpleasantries aside, here we are on the trail of our next victim: Mt. Huron

Check out that look on Paul's face - that's about right. Even though this was a shorter hike, my legs were thoroughly abused

I think that Andy looks like a dork with his walking stick

Here's a view from the summit of Mt. Huron

At this point we were all a bit tired of the suffering, so we decided to find ourselves a hotsprings and relax for a day. Really this rest day should have come later in the trip, but Paul had plans with his dad, etc., so this was the only rest day that we could take.

After asking all of the local hippies, we found ourselves in a hotsprings that is really more like a resort than anything. We were hoping for something a little more unofficial, e.g. $15 cheaper and naked, but we took what we could find (and wasn't 4 hours away).

I must have been paying for my sins, because a lightning storm came out for several hours - forcing us to sit outside in the cold. Finally we got into that warm water, and I soaked my sore muscles.

Like most normal people, after about 1.5 hours I was pretty satisfied and ready to go make camp and go to bed (it was getting late). Since we were getting up early to climb two peaks it sounded like a good idea. But no - my friends all are obsessive-compulsive and they didn't want to go. So we sat... and sat... and sat... and sat, for 5 HOURS!!! Even THEN they didn't want to go... AHHHHHH!!! My skin was worn away, and boredom nearly put me into a watery grave. Finally I managed to pull the peanut gallery from their hopes of meeting girls in the hottub.

The next day was definitely the worst day. We were going to bag two peaks, Harvard and Columbia. This hike is a long one, with significant elevation gain. The first peak was a rocky ascent - we hiked along the outcroppings and a jagged backbone for miles, but we made it:

Here I am at the summit of Harvard. If I don't look right, then that makes sense. For some reason, be it food poisoning (the tuna packets were looking a little suspect) or some bug caught from the hotsprings, I started to feel rather lightheaded and achy (this wasn't altitude sickness, either). Nevertheless, I pushed on.

While descending Harvard we got into some weather - a lot of rain and lightning to scare us. All of us descended ASAP except for Yafis, who has an uncanny ability to stay in the worst places at the worst times. Toward the bottom we took shelter in a rock field underneath a mammoth boulder that created some kind of cavern.

We waited for Yafis to finally emerge from his panic-frozen stance ATOP THE RIDGE (he actually waited the storm out up there... I wasn't going up there and getting struck). On we pushed toward Columbia. Here is my approach to the peak - I missed it by 1/2 hour

The weather moved in and forced us off of Columbia. Not feeling well, and having hail stones smacking me in the face, I lost it. Yafis was still nowhere to be found (he was lost AGAIN), so I yelled some words that only the wind should hear. Damnit, I had that peak. The others were going to wait out the storm, but by this time I was downright ill, so I had nothing on my mind but descending.

It's a good thing, too, because at the bottom I puked. That tuna came right back to bite me. I was in bad shape. Already soaking wet, I waded through a good mile of swamp and river at the bottom of the valley to get back to the trail. I threw up again. I plodded through the bottom just hoping to get out without becoming too ill. We were stupid to split up, but I wasn't going up there for sure. Thankfully the sun emerged, so I stripped down to dry my clothes and boots on a rock and watched the others bag that peak, except Yafis who was trailing me by about 20 minutes. I did all of the work to bag Columbia, but received none of the reward. I didn't care a bit - we had many more miles to still hike back, so I waited for Yafis in case I couldn't go on.

That hike back was brutal. I was delirious half of the time - for some reason my head just wasn't functioning. Everything ached - try gaining over 5000 ft elevation and hike 12-14 miles while having a bad flu, and let me know how it goes. It's not safe, anyway. When I got back to the truck I passed out inside while Yafis waited for the others.

I was ready for a hotel room at that point, but eventually I just gave up and camped with the others. Imagine camping with the flu, no medicine, and no developed toilet. That pretty much describes my next day. While the others went off to hit Yale (a shorter hike) I slept the entire day away. I was happy to have that break.

Now I think that my narrative must have some of the days mixed up, but you get the point. The following ceremony has NOTHING to do with my flu, but rather took place several days later after I had successfully worn the same pair of underwear until it ripped completely apart.

It's almost medieval, but I actually wore that pair until it literally fell off of my body. As a sign of gratitude, we had a small fire and incinerated with a small tribute. I read the eulogy:

I have no idea why I am trying to look tough in the picture above... there was nothing tough about it. Really I was choked up over the funeral pyre

My last climbing day was glorious. We climbed 3 adjacent peaks in a single day - a successful "triple-bag". Now THAT was a long hike, but we suffered through it. I still wasn't really feeling great, but I didn't want to miss these peaks.

We smacked down Mt. Belford early on, leaving time for the other two. You can see that I am starting to protest these same old dumb-looking summit pictures - we're not conquering heros, but rather bungling idiots.

I was not about to have the same stupid picture for Mt. Oxford, so here was my counterstrike. Let me preface this by saying that the temperature on the summit was COLD (note the full coats in the previous picture). Nevertheless, as soon as I summited, I stripped off all twenty layers of clothing that I had. Sarp thought that I was going insane, and for a minute I probably was. Nevertheless, there is nothing like being naked at a COLD 14,000 ft.

Now for the third and most difficult peak - Mt. Missouri. Here Sarp and Adam deliberate on which approach to take. The climbing on top is described in our guidebook as a Class IV route of the author's "worst nightmares".

So Sarp took the standard conservative route, Andy and Paul took another conservative route down the other side, but Adam and I were feeling adventurous. That was foolish. Here is our Class IV nightmare. We were completely exposed - no protection, nothing. The climb up took a couple of hours...

...but we didn't die. The others were glad to see us. I look like a serious DIRTBAG in this picture - but that's how I felt.

There's my triple bag.

The hike down was longer than it had a right to be. My knees were aching, and everybody looked wasted. We drove to La Plata, knowing that we would not be able to do the difficult route (we weren't prepared). Sarp, Adam, and I decided to bag the next day and go check out Aspen. To my surprise, Paul was serious about hitting it. So he, Andy, and Yafis went out for another while we took an easy morning in Aspen.

Since Aspen doesn't wake up until noon, and we were getting up at 5:00, we spent a lot of the morning just walking around. I was starving, and nothing was open but the cursed McDonalds, so in we went. I can't eat anything there since I can't eat wheat, so I asked if I could substitute a hash brown for the hamburger. The "manager" told me that I could sub in an apple pie, but not a hash brown. I explained to her that I can't eat wheat, so she then offered to just give me the hamburger BUN rather than the hamburger.

Now I get tired of explaining to every idiot in the world that "flour" IS wheat (seriously, you'd be surprised how many people don't know what flour is), and that her offer was, in fact, completely BACKWARD to what I needed, but I tried to explain it to her and also point out that the stupid hashbrown is cheaper than all of the above. Not willing to budge, I leaned in and said "I'll be back". Then I returned with a flamethrower and took the whole place apart.

OK, that last part didn't happen, but it did in my mind. Finally the grocery store opened, which was better anyway because then Adam could perform his usual doughnut-theft and I had sushi for breakfast. Here is Sarp humping a horse.

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