19 August 2009

Mount Evans

15 June 2002

Not only did I climb Mount Evans successfully today, so did my 15-year-old daughter!

She really complained when I woke her at 4 a.m. so I could shoot the sunrise before we began our hike. So I let her sleep in the car until 7 a.m. while I shot the smoky sunrise, a couple of ptarmigans and a herd of mountain goats, including a very, very young baby. Maybe two days old! It was so tiny, about the size of a cat! Whole roll of film...

The wind got bad a couple of times, but not anything near what it was doing last week when it was fanning the big Hayman fire I didn't even know about. We had to stay low to the ground in a couple of places when powerful gusts nearly knocked us off our feet, but we made it without any problems. My daughter has climbed her first 14er, and I have climbed my third.

I kept dreaming the previous week that I rescued some cute guy while I was hiking Mount Evans. In my dream, Prince Single and Available offered to take me to dinner because of my “heroic” act. I couldn't wait to hike because there existed the remote possibility that my dream just might, maybe, perhaps, if the stars aligned properly, come to life. (My fingers were crossed!)

While my daughter and I were taking a photo break during our genuine ascent, two guys approached us from behind. My daughter whispered to me that if they weren't hot guys, she was going to kick my butt. Turned out they were quite a bit older than me. Later I told my daughter maybe they were hot when they were our age.

The younger of the two, the 52-year-old, passed us and kept going after a friendly exchange. The 68-year-old, who had never climbed a mountain before in his life, tried to pass us, but he was very wobbly, almost as if he was drunk.

I asked him if he was okay, and he showed me a bloodied hand. He said he'd scraped it on a rock but didn't even know it because his hands were so cold. I asked if he was dizzy; he was. I asked if he had a headache; he did. I asked if he felt like he might throw up; he asked me please to not talk about that because he was trying to keep it out of his mind.

I told him he was suffering the symptoms of altitude sickness and that he needed to sit down for about ten minutes and drink some water. He sat down for about 30 seconds and then got right back up, worried that his friend was going to leave him behind. I don't think his friend knew how he was feeling.

My daughter and I walked behind this guy for a few minutes, but then he nearly lost his balance on a very steep and rocky ledge because he was so dizzy. Then he threw up.

I sent my daughter ahead to tell the other guy that his friend is sick and needs to rest before going on. Then I made this guy sit down, and I made him drink some water. I rubbed some snow on his hand to clean it, then I bandaged his fingers. I gave him some grapes and told him he wasn't going anywhere for at least 15 minutes. I told him my daughter was going to retrieve his friend. He actually stayed put until he began feeling better. By that time, his friend was back. I told him we'd wait with them a few more minutes, and that he should rest a while longer to make sure the altitude sickness passed.

Then I told him exactly what another hiker told me a week before – the mountain isn't going anywhere. I told him to take his time and rest whenever he feels dizzy. His friend asked me all kinds of questions about altitude sickness. He'd lived in Denver all his life, but had never been to Mount Evans before today. He wasn't experiencing any of the symptoms, so it never occurred to him that his friend might not be feeling well.

People sometimes die from unattended altitude sickness. More frequently, the result is falling off a dangerous mountain because they are so light-headed.

I did what any mother would do, but both of these guys acted as if I had performed a miracle. At the end, they took a picture of my daughter and me together on the summit. I hiked back down to my car, as did the younger the two guys. He beat me back up the summit in his car and picked up my daughter (who like the older guy, was done and did not want to descend on foot – good thing there’s a road on this mountain!).

My daughter reported both men said I am an angel, that I had saved the second man’s life, and that the second man said I'm a very attractive young woman.

So, I guess my dream sort of came true. In a kind of twisted way...

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