I said a prayer on the day that I left Chama. And I prayed every single day that I was on the divide. I always thought that I was agnostic, but when you’re out there on the side of a steep, snowy mountain, the prayers flow out of you.
My stomach was in knots on the climb up from Chama. For the last 3 years, I had listened to Will talk about his San Juans experience. He entered the San Juans in May 2013, and he told me stories of post-holing in snow, only getting 10 mile days, and of freezing at night.
It sounded brutal.
But, of course, I wanted to give it a shot anyway.
I entered the San Juan mountains on June 7th in a record setting snow year for Colorado. We found the snow to be patchy in places, but the sketchy traverses were frequently covered with snow. In the morning, it was icy, and by 3pm, it was slushy stuff that crumpled under foot. I constantly prayed that my footing was solid. Everyday, I wore waterproof socks, microspikes, and I clung to my ice-axe like my life depended on it.
I slid off a snowy traverse at one point, and I ran into a tree that was 15 feet down. It happened so fast. I sat there, in the snow, for what seemed like forever. I couldn’t stop shaking. I looked below me and saw a steep slope that seemed to go on forever. Going down was not an option. When I finally calmed down, I grabbed my ice-axe and kicked foot-holes so I could get back to the trail. It took 3 hours for my hands to stop shaking.
The next day, I found myself following 2 guys on another steep snowfield. It finally got so steep that I parked my butt on the trail and slid down when my landing looked safe enough. It was one of those moments that was fun after you picked yourself up at the bottom and realized that you were safe.
The last few days have taught me a lot. This was the real deal out here. I wasn’t Superman. I could really get hurt.
There are people who love this stuff. My boyfriend, Will, is one of these people. I could see him out here, heart pounding, wanting more. But, I’m not one of those people. I’m just a girl who wants to walk to Canada. And I tried my best, but mountaineering isn’t really for me.
It was beautiful to hike the divide, but the conditions are currently too dangerous for me.
The good news is that there is a low elevation route for the next section. I am excited to explore new parts of Colorado as I walk north through the Creede route.
And maybe I won’t have to pray so much in the next section. 😉