Mt Evans Extreme

It was the end of May, 1999, and I had just returned from my Great Bolivian Adventure. I didn’t have time for a full day of mountain fun, and, naturally, Brian wanted to ski; we picked Mt Evans as a good, close-by solution, with the thought of seeking the route less travelled to spice things up. And, I was anxious to see how much better my performance would be with my Bolivian, high-altitude acclimatization.

A view of Mt Evans and the rocky ridge separating Mt Evans from Mt Spalding

We drove up early to get good snow conditions and parked in the parking lot beside Summit Lake. We started working our way forward, postholing our way to the top of the bowl rim so we could get a good view of the options. We decided to angle right toward the rocky face dividing Mt Evans from Mt Spalding, aiming for the snow slope that reached nearly to the top of the ridge.

Brian nearing the exposed rock portion of the climb. The hard snow climbing occurred just before this spot.

Brian picked it, and I went along; I thought it looked interesting and possibly climbable. I forgot that we didn’t bring a rope; read: no belay.

The climb started like any other moderate snow climb, but about 2/3rds of the way up it got hard; the route became steep over mixed terrain.  And I was huffing and puffing with poorly functioning lungs. I whined to Brian that my allergies were acting up and trying to suffocate me.

The last 50 feet was thinly covered rocks; very little for the crampons and nothing for the axe to grab onto. On two separate occasions I had to commit to moves that I expected to fail, when failure meant some very bad outcomes. My alternative was to stay there for the rest of my life. The worst was at the very top, which turned into a moderate rock climb with crampons and ice axe making every effort to kill me.

I didn’t get a belay, but I recall Brian was generous with his words of encouragement.

But we made it to the top of the rim.  Thanks, Pal!

Then we hiked to the summit and enjoyed the well earned views. My breathing was so labored that I swore to Brian that if Colorado made my allergies this bad again, I was moving!  The skies had quickly changed from beautiful blue to looking like rain or snow soon, but we didn’t start down for the North Face until the axes started singing their dreaded electrical song.

We got down well enough. My glissade wasn’t very good due to operator error; I guess I just forget how to do it, having been skiing instead for the last year. Some additional huffing and puffing while postholing had me really annoyed with my physical performance. I had looked forward to kicking Brian’s butt for a change, but my 20,000′ plus acclimatization just didn’t pay off the way I expected.

Brian about to descend the North Face to escape the electrical field around us.

Twenty-four hours later, I knew why:  I had the flu. Isn’t air travel just lovely? At least I could continue living in Colorado with a clean health conscience.

It was my 3rd summit of Mt Evans, and the most interesting so far.

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