MT. SNEFFELS 14,158'
20 August 2012
This one was pretty quick. Most of the hike was along the 4WD road, which I obviously wasn’t going to attempt to drive in my little Corolla. Once I arrived at the trailhead, I only had a mile to the summit. I’d started early under starlight, but when I looked up at the trailhead, it looked darker. I realized I couldn’t see stars. I couldn’t tell how ominous the clouds were, since the sun hadn’t risen yet. It had sprinkled intermittently, but nothing serious. I decided to press on and keep an eye on it. I’d stop and re-evaluate the situation at the base of the lower gully, since that would be the first tough part of my morning. The weather continued to play peak-a-boo, but it looked reasonable when I started up the first (of two) gullies. It was loose, not my favorite, and my progress was pretty slow. Fortunately I had a much better view at the saddle; unfortunately it had started sprinkling again. The weather persisted for a short bit, so I waited patiently at the saddle to see what it was going to do, all the while keenly aware that it would do exactly what it wanted to do, that it wouldn’t ask permission and might not give much warning.
I knew I was on the edge, as I often am above treeline, so I committed to do the best I could with the information I had. All I could reasonably do was evaluate, re-evaluate, and re-evaluate again. So that’s what I did. I’d chosen control points along my route since leaving the trailhead. I watched the sky vigilantly, but took extra care to stop and re-evaluate at each of those control points. I decided that thunder was my “no questions asked” turn around point regardless of how close I was to the summit, but it never came.
From the saddle, it looked like the lighter, nicer clouds were moving towards me. I had a decision to make. I wasn’t opposed to turning back if the situation demanded it, but I recognized the pull of what some call “summit fever.” I very consciously looked at my situation, expelling emotion from the equation. When the rain stopped and the sun revealed reasonably mellow clouds, I decided quite decisively to go for it. The upper gully was steeper, but the rocks were a little more solid, so I managed it a little quicker than the lower one. Still it took me longer than I’d hoped to make the summit, all the while with a watchful eye on the weather.
I made the summit with just enough time to take in the view and snap a quick photo before the light rain began to fall again. It was time to go, no reason to be up there anymore, no decision left to make. There was one move left: down. The rain continued for the duration of my descent of the two gullies, then it really started falling at the base of the lower gully, as if on cue. Since I was on solid ground, and there was no lightning or thunder, the rest of my trek back to the car was actually just a different kind of fun. I simply enjoyed the new experience. No regrets. Money, time, and effort well-spent.