15 September 2009

Tribute to Martina

by Ferenc Jacso

29 July 2003

I first met Martina Saturday 7/26/03. Hiking up on the Willow Creek Trail in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness with Deborah, we were close to the camp site at Willow Lake. Suddenly a young pair in their mid 20s passed us like a breeze. After 2,500 feet of elevation gain, just as if they started a short hike to a neighbouring hill. I hiked Quandary that morning then met Deborah in Fairplay to drive to the town of Crestone and further up a rough road to the Willow Creek Trailhead. Hiked another three hours when this pair passed us.

The night was miserable. Rain started just as we jumped into our tents. Then stopped. Then started again, pattering just a few inches above our heads on the tents. This pattern seemed to continue all night. Sleep came to our eyes just for short followed by long hours of vigilance. Can we make it after this many rain? Rocks will be slippery, we will get wet and cold and discouraged. I depicted walking down the trail in the rain all wet after not climbing anything. Not Challenger Point neither Kit Carson.

After 4 a.m. I couldn't sleep any more. Finally decided to get up and start in complete darkness at 5 a.m. To our great surprise the rocks were dry, just the plants hold plenty of water on their leaves. Missing and searching the trail again and again in the dark we finally made it above the waterfall of Willow Lake for the first lights of the morning. Overcast, sun hidden behind the gray-white clouds. I expected better treatment from a fourteener given I wake up this early already near the peak...

We hit the steep long slopes of Challenger Point. Deborah’s legs were getting shaky after a while, so she decided not to continue. Looking back I could see a pair approaching us climbing the same route we did. I made it to the top of Challenger Point, signed the peak log, took a few photos then hurried to Kit Carson so Deb shouldn't wait too much. From Kit Carson Avenue the views of the Crestones were stunning. Although I missed the easiest and shortest route, I didn't find any difficulties I faced on Longs Peak a month ago. I made it to the top quite easy, signed another peak log, and spent 20 minutes on the peak because the views were so beautiful. Just the sunshine was missing.

Shortly after I left the peak I met the same pair again who we met the night before. They approached Kit Carson on a different ridge than I descended so I just shouted a Hi and kept going. Oh, wait a second. "Hey guys, stop moving, let me take a photo of you. You look just cool!" "Are you Ferenc? Are you American?" "Yes it's me, I'm Hungarian actually." "Oh, we are from Slovakia, Martina and Stano. But we have been living in the States for six years now. Just moved to Colorado from NY a year ago." Slovakia is a neighbouring country to Hungary, just about the same small, both smaller than Colorado. I've been there several times. So we continued talking. I took a note of their phone number, and we agreed to meet next weekend and climb some San Juan fourteeners together.

I continued down and found Deborah in our campsite just finishing putting together everything. Great, we can go right away.

We could be some 10 minutes from Deborah’s car when it started raining. Oh, wow, didn't the sun shine just 15 minutes ago? This must be a short, easy shower then. But not. In just a few minutes it started to pour down like crazy. Lightning started to strike one after the other. By habit, what I learned from my father, I started counting the seconds after the flash to measure our distance from the place the lightning hits the ground. Five seconds. Oh my goodness, run!

It hit the ground just one mile from us! We get to the 4WD car finally. Here we can't get hit by a lightning, we are in a metal cage. We started to drive down, completely soaked but happy. Soon we still started to worry again. The flash flood started to wash away the road completely. Once we even got stuck in a deep ditch carved by the water roaring across the dirt road. Deborah's legs got shaky again. But the good old Toyota 4Runner did what I thought impossible. Then I walked ahead to make sure the road is still there, under the "rivers" crossing it. We escaped, finally.

We kept our fingers crossed for those who were still on the trail. At least 10 cars parked at the trailhead so we were really worrying given how difficult we could escape.

This morning (7/29/03) I finally called the number I got from the Slovak guys to discuss our next adventure. "Hi, I'm Ferenc, remember we met on Kit Carson." The voice replying my call was fading away. "Yes... I remember. But... something terrible happened..." Oh, no, come on, they fell on the rock or what - ripped through my mind. "Martina has died. She has been hit by a lightning. Me too, but I survived. She didn't."

I couldn't believe it. Two heavy teardrops rolled down my face finding their way to the carpet. Then Stano couldn't stop talking. He didn't want to put down the handset. We were talking for an hour.

"You know she loved mountains. She was so proud she can climb them, she jumped on the rocks fast and self-confident like a bighorn sheep. We did Blanca in snowy conditions two months ago. We climbed Kit Carson early to get down in time. When the thunderstorm hit us, we thought we were on a safe place, way below the peaks and ridges, maybe 1.5 miles from the car. Then it came just in a second. Just above the Willow Creek Park meadow. That was her favorite meadow. She loved it. We separated 30 feet from each other just in case something happened to the other, we could help each other. I wish I didn't separate from her, and we were gone both, together. I couldn't help her. She was burning.


"We dated for four years and then married two years ago. She was 25. Maybe she is happy now. She is all right up there. I waited next to her. Later hikers passed by and they called the emergency number by cell phone at 6 p.m. I got dry clothes from them but of course it got wet soon again. I was with her all night wet and cold in the dark. I couldn't believe nobody comes. The rescue arrived at 12 p.m. the next day."

Here is their last photo from near the top of Kit Carson, maybe the only one where they are together on a big mountain.

And here is her peak list from what I learned from Stano: Grays, Evans, Bierstadt, Snowmass, Blanca, Challenger Point, Kit Carson. "Not everybody can make it - she could."

Rest in peace, Martina.

1 comment :

  1. Shocking and sad. Her call on earth had ended. I wish her husband much love and peace.

    ReplyDelete


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