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Day 54 9/16/17  Base of Mt. Elbert to the Summit to Twin Lakes

Miles: 12.3 Steps: 34,235 Vertical gain: 4,041 feet Liquid consumed: 160 oz. Wildlife: squirrels, Kevin the boxer, lots of humans Faith in Humanity: obviously this one goes to Christina and Kirk. They are so generous and fun to hang out with! Full story below. What a long, crazy day today! At 2:30am I awoke to someone yelling loudly at their camp. Go AWAY, they yelled. For like 10 minutes. When I set up camp last night I didn't see or hear anyone else. I couldn't understand all they were yelling, but assumed it was likely a bear or some other wildlife. And if I could hear them maybe they'd come my way next? Regardless, I was up and awake! Might as well climb the mountain! I packed up and was on the trail by 3am in the pitch black. Up, up, up. It was cold out but I kept moving. Ate a couple snacks, passed a group of guys who said "my dogs friendly" as it snarled, growled BD barked loudly at me. Glad it was on a leash! Above treeline it was really windy. REALLY WINDY! I just kept going. There was a little snow on the ground but not enough to make it slippery or dangerous. Towards the summit I thought "should I stop?" It was insanely windy and sooooo cold. I'm guessing 15 degrees with strong wind. At the top of the mountain I was getting knocked over pretty hard by the wind. I jammed my trekking poles into the ground and hoped to not get blown away. Winds exceeded 50mph for sure! I finally summited at 5:45am. In the pitch black of darkness. I was super cold and the wind was relentless. Someone had built a rock windbreak at the summit as is common on exposed peaks. I was sooo cold. As quickly as I could I put on a winter hat, down jacket, and started literally running down the mountain. It started to get a bit lighter as the sun started to rise, but there was an issue: the clouds above me weren't lightening at all! Huge dark storm clouds stood above. I did my best to jog to treeline, but on Colorado's highest peak, that's a looooong way away! Thankfully there wasn't any thunder, but it did start to snow. Actually snowed pretty hard for a bit. I ran into 2 guys ascending and they asked "do you think it's safe for us to continue?" I said its up to them but I really thought absolutely not. The storm was very threatening, they decided to keep going... next I met a really cool guy from Australia, Luke. He was just a bit above treeline and he decided it best to turn around and wait in the trees for a bit. We ran for the trees together and had a great conversation for a half hour or so. He's. Even exploring the US living in his van. We had a lot in common as we'd both worked at ski resorts and were both passionate about travel and backpacking. Great to meet you, Luke! Good luck on your travels! I was still pretty cold after reaching the trees but continued down the mountain. I chatted with a lot of folks hiking up who were all quite surprised I had already summited (at night). It's funny sometimes when people ask how far it is. FAR! If you're below treeline in the highest in CO, you've still got quite a ways to go. It was fun chatting with everyone and telling my tale of the insane Summit Winds and snow. I did end up getting one of my favorite photos with the sun shining its rays down. Pretty awesome! Ok so this day is epic. It's barely 9am when I reach the Twin Lakes General Store and I've already had such a crazy adventure! The owners at the store are super cool and hiker friendly, I enjoyed talking to them. A young couple who bought the store because "how else are we going to live in Twin Lakes?" Good point. I sat at the outside table and drank a soda. What's next? Waiting for Kirk and Christina, the couple I met in Grand Lake a couple weeks ago to come meet me! I was really excited as we got along really well and it's so awesome that we get to hang out again. On foot, on my journey, that's quite rare! I meet people once but that's it. They arrived around 11 and it was awesome! I almost didn't think they were really coming. We scouted out a tent sitethen actually drove into Aspen for a bit, haha. We had a great conversation, a great lunch at Zanes tavern, bought steaks and other supplies for an evening BBQ and headed back to Twin Lakes. We really had a beautiful view and the campsite was great. Kevin, their sweet boxer, was on his first camping trip and did really well. We hung out, had some drinks, a BBQ, a fire, and a great time!! I hope I get to spend more time with both Kirk and Christina (and who can forget Kevin!). I even made it until after 11pm before going to sleep, which I was surprised a little by since I'd been awake since 2:30am! What an amazing day! I'm so lucky!

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