Flattop Mountain (12,345ft), Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
In the middle of a flippin’ hail storm.
Meg and I learned the first rule of mountaineering pretty quickly. Don’t be above the tree line when a storm rolls in.
We knew we wanted to avoid this if at all possible. We woke up super early (4:00 or 5:00), but by the time we drove to the park from Longmont, parked, took a shuttle to the trail head, and were on our way, it was 9:00..
We tried to push the pace, but it was our first day at real altitude, so we were slow. We crested at about 12:30PM, just in time to see a huge storm on the horizon. We quickly pulled out the rain gear we could. Meg managed to get her rain coat on, I had to settle for my wind breaker. Neither of us managed to get our rain pants on before the hail started to come down. In sheets. Lots of lighting, and we were exposed way above the tree line.
We ran down the mountain as quickly as we could, but eventually the hail was too much. We saw another couple on the trail take cover in a small boulder field, and we followed suit.
The rock we took cover under protected our backside up to our heads on while we were seated; we used our packs to cover our fronts while we waited for the storm to blow over.
When we got back to town, I started to research what best practices were in that situation and realized that it was much sketchier than just picking up ton of bruises from hail. We were at a high risk of being struck by lightening due to our altitude, exposure, and the lack of trees. No bueno.
We were so stressed about the possibility that we’d get caught in a storm, that it was a major drag on the hike up. We had a few spats on the way to the summit. We tried to do the right thing and get an early start, but it just didn’t work out. We tried to push the pace and make good time, but due to altitude, it wasn’t happening. The first half of the hike wasn’t very enjoyable.
When we were in the thick of it.. soaked, bruised, and beaten, huddled under a rock on the top of a mountain, trying to stay warm….
We were loving every minute of it.
Jürgen Leonbacher - Ridiculous Slab, Gaisenjarga
So those of us who climb; know that slabs can be pretty tricksy customers! They’re are all about balance, control and footwork; but when you have hand holds as small as these puppies, you need some sort of black magic to stick to the wall!