Peak(s):  Pikes Peak  -  14,110 feet
Date Posted:  01/30/2021
Date Climbed:   12/22/2020
Author:  HikesInGeologicTime
Additional Members:   TallGrass
 Pikes for the Pestered  

Day I: Hedging over Heizer

I confess to having been relieved when my partner texted me shortly after midnight on December 21st to let me know he had a nail in his tire.

Repairing it would, after all, mean he'd be stuck at the gas station outside Colorado Springs he'd last texted me from, which meant he wouldn't be able to reach the trailhead he'd fixated on as a starting point for a calendar winter opener ascent of Pikes. That, in turn, meant that if I hustled down to the gas station from Denver, I might - just might - be able to talk him into a different, shorter, less-bonkers starting point for a calendar winter ascent of Pikes.

But of course I should have known better. As I have lamented to other hiking partners I met through the auspices of the forums here, "The first rule of arguing with TallGrass is, 'Don't argue with TallGrass.'"

And so I occasionally checked my phone as the time ticked toward the official winter solstice while my partner disassembled what appeared to my inexperienced eyes to be the entire back end of his motorcycle in between dismissing my concerns that CAIC had rated avy danger in the Front Range at Considerable, especially for east-facing slopes like those the Barr Trail crossed; that while I generally trusted his fondness for nonstandard routes to add a dash of spice to otherwise straightforward ascents, tacking the Heizer Trail onto Barr would definitely make this one longer, but not more interesting; and that cold weather makes every hike harder, so certainly Crags' mere 16 miles would be challenging enough. He concluded his counterargument as he rolled his patched back tire across the parking lot to fill it with air by declaring that if I wanted to claim a Pikes snowflake by way of Crags, I was welcome to, but he was hitting Heizer.

Because I am subconsciously trying to build up enough stomach acid to start my own ulcer farm, I soon found myself weaving my long-suffering Subaru Outback through the narrow, icy streets of Cascade in the wake of a motorcycle with a good-as-new rear tire, searching by headlight for a parking space and a half that would be close enough to the trailhead not to add too much more onto what I'd already calculated to be a ~30 mile roundtrip outing without attracting the residents' ire. My partner was able to confirm with an early-rising dog-walker that our vehicles' eventual resting point was fine and dandy, and after a final round of preparations, we put boots to trail at 6 a.m., three hours after the official beginning of winter.

The reading I'd done on our route back when all but the most stubborn and desperate part of my brain had conceded to the inevitable informed me that Heizer would start out with a bang, not a whimper. I spent the first of the steep switchbacks settling into a stride that would allow me to stay warm without sweating and breathe without hyperventilating. Once I found my rhythm, I urged myself to keep pressing onward and upward until I absolutely had to stop, certain that my slow churn would ensure that I wouldn't get too far ahead of my fresh-from-the-flatlands partner.

I was likely as flabbergasted as said partner was understandably disgruntled when my Mile High-born-raised-and-residing-in lungs, not to mention a handful of hikes above 13k' in recent weeks, meant I got to take my time admiring the sunrise while he caught up. Fortunately, the trail leveled off into a forested series of hilltop rollers after that, and the length of his legs compared to mine meant that I soon got to play catch-up as our path wound downhill to a junction that offered us two options for joining Barr. More fortunately still, even my...uh...adventurous partner was keen on the option that would put us closer to the summit.

I'd like to think an insistence on taking the Hurricane Canyon option would've been what finally kicked my self-preservation instincts in, but most likely not.

We passed the reservoir shortly after that. It quickly became apparent that it was the turn-around point for most who came up this route, or at least those who had done so recently; while the snow was, thankfully, only ankle-deep at its worst, it was pristine enough that I could imagine an established trench would be all but a pipe dream after a strong storm.

The trail seemed to me as if it undulated up and around toward the exact same crest in the trees several times over until some point in the early afternoon in which the snow the snow thickened to mid-calf-depth at times with a brittle crust that, as I punched through it on every step, made me think of a baked Alaska. I asked my partner how he felt about choosing this approach over the Crags now. "No regrets," he insisted as he carefully placed his feet in my postholes.

This particular torment only lasted a half mile, and the reward for enduring it was an intersection with a trail that had clearly seen heftier use and which was marked by a metal sign informing us that it was 7.8 miles to Pikes' summit and 2.5 back to the top of the Incline. We celebrated our victory with a sit-down break on a dry patch of ground, where TallGrass tossed out, "So...Barr Camp tonight, summit tomorrow?"

Sure, I was tired. I hadn't really slept the night before; my initial plans for greeting winter had been a solo hike of Evans. Then I'd gotten a text around 8 p.m. as I was trying to settle in for a short night from an unfamiliar western-Kansas-based area code that started with "Fwd for TG" explaining that he was on his way across Kansas with a brief rundown of his Pikes plans and indicating that he expected his own phone to have service again once he reached Colorado Springs. I'd immediately resigned myself to the bigger adventure. But I'd at least managed to snag a couple hours of slumber, unlike my partner, and there was my whole built-in acclimation at play, so perhaps it should have been no surprise when I responded, "Or we could rest at Barr Camp for a couple hours, have dinner, then try for a midnight summit."

It was absolutely no surprise when that thought took his fancy. What did turn out to be a surprise to me was that Barr Camp - which I thought I had remembered from a summer 2016 day trip up Barr as prep for a September 2016 day trip up Mt. Whitney - as being 8 miles from Manitou Springs, was only 6 miles and change. That would have been a happier surprise had we not stashed our as-yet unused snowshoes at mile marker 5 1/5, thinking we'd have a longer way to go with such unnecessary weight.

Our consternation vanished as Barr Camp hosts Ellen and Travis greeted us and encouraged us to have a seat and a hot beverage in the main cabin once we'd gotten our packs secured in our assigned lean-to. Sadly, there would be no spaghetti at 7 p.m. that night, an on-mountain luxury my partner had practically drooled over, as it was Monday, and they only cook dinners Wednesdays through Sundays. But the 7 a.m. pancake breakfasts were an everyday offering...

It quickly became clear after I availed myself of some ramen and plenty of tea and TallGrass of a backpacking meal (his own) and some hot cocoa that there would be no midnight summit. I could've drowsed in a chair by the wood-burning stove all night if our hosts hadn't needed proper rest of their own, and while a sleeping bag with the bottom pointing out to the stars wasn't quite as cozy, the night was mild enough to make me think that maybe my companion had been onto something with his earlier grousing about how the bluebird conditions were calling the wintriness of our eventual snowflake into question...not that I was complaining.

August 2016 or December 2020?

Day II: "Surprise" Snowblasting on the Summit

I myself had reached Barr Camp too early in the morning in 2016 to ascertain for myself, but we would hear after we rejoined the rest of human civilization that pancake breakfasts from prior times had not been worth a later start. Ellen and Travis, however, had only just taken their posts in early December and put enough care and attention into their culinary endeavors that, between the tastiness of the meal and my partner's outgoing nature, we did not take to the trail until 9 a.m.

But this wasn't a concern; Ellen had informed us that the National Weather Service had reduced its previous forecast of a 20% chance of snow after nightfall all the way down to 0%, and I am no stranger to dark o'clock descents with this partner in particular. I figured there was no way we'd be back in time for the spaghetti dinner they also don't serve on Tuesdays anyway, but we'd be back in time for a well-earned night of rest after a tiring but abso-positivi-lutely not-at-all traumatizing day.

Of course, when mountain-lovers make plans, the cosmos laughs. Somehow the smothering of syrup I'd added to my generous stack of pancakes that morning had done next to nothing to tamp down an insulin sensitivity revved into high gear from the previous day's efforts, and I had to stammer out a request for a break a mere mile and change above camp so I could confirm that my blood sugar was indeed too low and toss back some Skittles. This is less fun than it sounds when the Skittles in question have suffered through an alarming number of freeze-thaw cycles.

The sugar was still taking its sweet time working its way into my bloodstream when my partner, who had charged out of bed half an hour earlier than had been absolutely necessary that morning to go back and retrieve one set of snowshoes - we figured with the trench and overall snow levels we were seeing, we'd only need one person at most to potentially pack down trail up higher - suggested we find yet another cache point for them. The trail above camp was clearly less-traveled, sure, but it was just as clear that this had been no banner year for ski enthusiasts as yet. I agreed not only to give my head another moment to stop swirling but also because we had determined that with the acclimation et al., I was the better candidate for 'shoe schlepping. My partner found a promising-looking tangle of brush and tree roots at the last stretch of trail before we'd be breaking out of the trees entirely, and soon, my step had a little more three-months-early spring to it.

I started feeling better overall once we reached the turn-off for the A-frame, which was good, because we soon lost the trail in the thin-but-still-pervasive snow and found it best to track down and follow predecessors' footprints up the general path(s) of least resistance through the shoddy patchwork quilt of snow and tundra. Eventually, I recognized a rock formation up to our right, and we were happy to have trail under our feet once again...for the time being.

This was definitely taken during my August 2016 trip after I'd gotten lightning-graupel-snowed off the summit...but there was still just about as much accumulation in those few hours as there had been in all of last October-December!

Alas, one of the problems with snow is that it is incredibly discourteous. It snubs the places where it's wanted/needed, barges in on those that don't, and once you think you've left it behind, it'll shoehorn its way back into your life like that ex you never truly loved in the first place and sure as all get-out don't years after you broke things off.

So it was with this covering. We would posthole for a ways across what TallGrass' GPS reassured us was indeed trail, then frown at an obstacle of boulders in our path, then do a combination posthole/boulder-hop to get back on track, or whatever seemed to most closely resemble a track at any given time.

It was probably earlier in the afternoon than it felt when we finally slogged our way to and past the metal sign solemnly informing us that we only had two miles left to the summit. My blood sugar had tanked again, and if the morning's Skittles had lacked a certain luster, the second helping certainly didn't improve my outlook of them.

Fortunately, the slogging eased up half a mile later, and while exhaustion prevented us from fully appreciating the mostly-dry stretch of trail across east-facing slopes so barren that wayward construction debris from the summit was a far bigger concern than avalanches were, the comparative ease of motion did relieve some lag from our drag.

All the snow had collected in the trail even here, but fortunately, there just wasn't a whole lot of it...yet.

The snow, alas, did have one last "HEY BABY HOW YOU DOIN'" starting a switchback or two below the Golden Stairs. I'd offered to do any trail-breaking that needed to be done a mile or so back, and here, my partner took me up on it. Fortunately, at least one intrepid soul had resolutely punched through the drifts that had piled up since this peak's last storm; though their stride was a bit longer than mine, I was nonetheless grateful not to be making my own sinkholes.

The sounds of the construction equipment had long since halted and the golden aura in the sky had started to fade by the time the snow petered out onto the dusty, rubble-strewn road acting as a moat around the construction fence blaring DANGER KEEP OUT warnings every few feet. Though we'd read that there was a diversion path that would add 1.5 or so miles onto an already long route, there were no gates or other barricades shooing us off the dirt road, around the construction equipment and the new Summit House, and onto the pavement where the Pikes Peak Highway begins its fittingly unceremonious loop around the disappointing jumble of boulders that mark the mountain's true summit, or at least used to mark such a point before those boulders got shoved into one of the newer, larger, fenced-off jumbles encircling the summit.

We ourselves made a complete circle via the loop road, looking for any area of shelter with an open or unlocked door we could duck into to get some relief from the wind. Summiting after even the construction workers had taken off, however, had its pros and cons: a pro was that no one was around to scold us for accidentally wandering somewhere we weren't supposed to be. A con was that there was no one who could take pity on us and allow us to sit somewhere we'd be warm(er) but out of the way.

My partner made his own shelter by huddling on the lee side of a dumpster while I wandered back around the nearest un-jumbled viewpoints to take some twilight pictures. I tried not to think too hard about the clouds gathering scenically but ominously just west of the peak as I finished photographing them so I could hustle over to the iconic sign in front of the old summit house, where my wind-chilled hands took a hasty series of blurred selfies atop what was now most likely the highest natural point left unturned on this mountain.

The scenic pics turned out way better, despite the construction's evidence being all but unavoidable.

TallGrass was ready to aim for lower ground by the time I returned to the dumpster, so we made a hasty exit past the soon-to-be Summit House, the construction equipment and fences, and into the uppermost of the reinforced footprints. Despite the remaining light's hastier-still exit, we'd already reached the base of the Golden Stairs by the time we had to deploy our headlamps. The relative gentleness of the passage threading across the east face to the sign proclaiming we had already come down one mile, then back across again, afforded me luminous views of Colorado Springs' lights glittering nearly 7,000 feet below, and while the glow would have masked the stars anyway, I was unconcerned about the lack of celestial bodies visible above. The wind had faded to an occasional dull hiss, so surely the clouds that had worried me were much ado about nothing.

Snow slogging isn't much fun no matter which direction you're going in, but at least it was easier on the lungs on the way down, although more of a Choose Your Own Adventure in the dark - and, as GPS and the occasional reflective sticker on a metal signpost a decent ways uphill of where we'd wound up confirmed, we did not always choose wisely. Nevertheless, we made it past what I'd seemed to recall as being the worst of the snow-filled scrambling when a light snow started falling. While I was a wee bit miffed at the weather for calling the forecasters' bluff, I couldn't really complain too hard about my surroundings. I've never cared much for Christmas - my secular Jewish upbringing led me to view it mostly as an odd blip on the calendar during which most Americans smile through gritted teeth as they delicately tiptoe around any line of conversation that could lead Uncle Jiminy into yet another political screed, leaving the ski slopes wide open for my use - but the softness of the flakes' fall had selections from The Nutcracker pirouetting through my head.

Also taken August 2016, this was nonetheless a heavier snow than what my winter partner and I had to deal first.

We were still a mile above the A-Frame when that fall went from vertical to horizontal and the city's glow vanished. It was as if the snow's fragile ego couldn't take this latest spurning and so called in its death metal back-up band, the 30+ MPH Wind Gusts, to give us a desperate serenade. Their combined forces filled in what tracks we were able to follow, blurred the edges of the trail, blew whatever life remained out of my partner's GPS batteries, and then surrounded us from all sides when we tried to huddle behind a boulder so he could switch them out, a process that had to be repeated when his first backup set of batteries failed as well, then given up on when the brand-new set of batteries he would later confirm he'd packed decided to play Hide and Seek in an ill-placed fold of backpack fabric.

We blundered as best we could down what we were fairly sure was the trail, squinting behind shielding hands - and, in my case, one set of eyelashes that were rapidly freezing together - to find an appropriately-wide path between lines of rocks that, I declared, were too even to have gotten there naturally. This worked a bit, for a few switchbacks; TallGrass' GPS, which he'd been able to keep on life support by somehow urging a bare minimum of cooperation from his first set of accessible batteries and angling his headlamp to make up for the unit's lack of backlighting, reassured us that we were doing a remarkably bang-up job of staying on trail.

But it was already late, we were already cold, those very same batteries had already given out once, and the weather had already demonstrated its lack of concern for what NOAA said and for our well-being. I had to lean almost all the way to one side not just to avoid being blown over but also to hear my partner shout, "I SAY WE BUSHWHACK STRAIGHT DOWN THIS SLOPE AND INTERCEPT THE TRAIL FROM THERE. SOUND GOOD?"

Bushwhacking is not my favorite thing ever. I'm claustrophobic, which can make going through dense forested areas without a clear path through very...interesting. I'm also nyctophobic, which is a fancy way of saying that I am almost old enough to be sworn in as President of the United States and still afraid of the dark. I've also spent enough time on and around snow to have developed a decided distrust of it, especially when it's been left to its own devices for a while.

And yet I agreed to my partner's suggestion immediately. This situation was draining my energy and replacing it with irritability, which was doing neither me nor my friend any good. Besides, I thought as I did my best to balance speed and care following his powdery plunge steps, if any sort of Lovecraftian Eldritch abomination were to jump out from behind a tree and devour someone whole, it would probably go for the group leader and then be too consumed with debating said leader's arguments in favor of his own life between chomps to notice me sprinting down behind them.

I allowed myself a cautious amount of relief when we reached the beginnings of the trees' protection much sooner than we would have if we'd stuck to the trail, or attempted to. Though the fluffiness of the snow was such that I would have found it far more enjoyable with skis, it was deep enough to protect against most potential stumbles but not so deep as to be a strain to extract a foot from.

It didn't seem too long into our plunge-steps when I heard a shout of triumph followed by, "Does this look familiar to you?!" And indeed, I shortly found myself going from knee-deep powder to a mere ankle covering, plus a path through the trees too wide to have gotten there naturally. All we needed to do was follow it back down to camp, and we would be tucked away from the worst of winter's sudden but inevitable betrayal.

Taken January 2021, when we were bored on a bad weather day and so decided to take Manitou Incline up to Barr Camp to revisit with our hosts and thus develop a grudging appreciation for winter's most infamous gift.

Unfortunately, we needed to take it back up a little ways first, or so TallGrass convinced me; at that point, I would have been perfectly happy to post a thread to the forum about the snowshoes that were free to a good home while I started skinning in earnest and mastering ski-boot scrambling where the snow failed up any subsequent winter peaks. Fortunately, as seemed only logical, we'd reached the trail not too far below where it makes its last cuts through the trees, so we didn't have that far to re-climb in order to hit the waypoint my partner's GPS offered up with its dying breath. It did take me longer to retrieve the 'shoes than he would have liked - "You're standing right on top of them!" he exclaimed, though I pointed out that he'd been the one who'd concealed them and had done an excellent job of it - but we were soon headed back in the right direction, and evidently in just enough time to continuously affirm our path before the snow and wind completely obscured all pre-existing tracks.

There definitely would have been no spaghetti dinner for us, had there been spaghetti dinners on Tuesdays. There were no lights, even, when we shambled back into camp shortly before midnight, though my partner did give a brief call of greeting to let our hosts know we were back, a call which apparently got lost in sleep's shroud.

Ellen would, however, mention hearing footsteps walking past the main cabin several times, and I was able to confirm that those were mine. There's a water pipe in front of the cabin that camp visitors can use to fill their bottles, and I was as cold as I was dehydrated; because my body had shown no figurative chill in running amok any time I injected insulin, I'd decided to back off on that medicine entirely until I was no longer walking so that I could avoid any more stops to treat low blood sugar.

But that now meant I had to treat high blood sugar. While I'd given myself a necessary dose as soon as I'd shed my pack at the lean-to, it would take even longer than daylight's Skittles to start working. In the meantime, those Skittles had my mouth convinced that it was lost in Death Valley during a heat wave, and it would not be parted from that delusion no matter how many times I desperately unearthed each remaining water bottle I had brought with me out of my pack, lifted it to my lips, and lowered it in despair as I realized that the remaining contents were now frozen solid.

My partner, however, had a stove and, rather like the devil, was willing to make a deal: if I did the trudging across camp to fetch water, he'd carefully remove one arm from the sleeping bag he'd immediately snugged himself up in to heat what I brought back. Reluctant as I was to abandon my own sleeping to cram my toes into boots that seemed to have lost all insulated properties as soon as I'd stopped moving, it was an offer I couldn't refuse even without the threat of waking up to a horse's head in my sleeping bag...though at that point, I thought as I made the trek to the water pipe, I wouldn't have minded cuddling up to *any* animal's head as long as it was freshly removed and warm. Hell, in that sort of state, I'd have been overjoyed to take the body it'd recently come from, too!

Happily, no animals were harmed in the making of this trip report as the hot water did a blissful job of bringing my core temperature up to something passing for normal, and while my sleeping bag was even less cozy than it had been the previous night, fatigue now kicked enough with enough vengeance that I figured I'd be able to make do until sunrise and its promise of more pancakes.

More colorful than the pancakes, but nowhere near as tasty.

Day III: The Insolence of Icy Insulin

Maybe I shouldn't have been thinking about pancakes, I mused to myself as I tried to shift around yet again to find a warmer, cuddlier position around my boots. Sleep had largely eluded me; memories of the time I'd gotten hypothermic on Longs (albeit in July) merrily flashed through my mind every time I'd gotten close to drifting off, and the compromise with my apparent PTSD that allowed for a light doze hadn't lasted very long before I woke up to my current predicament.

See, if snow is the equivalent of the ex who won't leave well enough alone, Type I diabetes and its side effects are the equivalent of the family member who shows up uninvited, tramples all over your boundaries, refuses to leave, and punishes you for trying to make it do so. I'd deliberately taken a reduced dose of insulin before bed in hopes of avoiding the need to thrash my way out of my sleeping bag in the middle of the night to consume yet another package of Skittles.

But now I had the opposite problem: my blood sugar was still too high. As is common in such a state, not only was I thirsty once again, I also had a desperate need to get rid of the water I'd already consumed.

I tried to resettle myself. Maybe the exertion of squeezing my legs for however long it was until dawn would warm me up...

I didn't know how long it was until dawn, though, so I reluctantly uncurled myself and got ready to make a bathroom run.

I survived peeling myself out of the sleeping bag, slamming my icy feet into my frigid boots, dashing through the few inches of fresh snow to the pit toilets, and darting back once I'd finished cursing my overexcitable immune system for having set me up to be in this position over three decades ago. I felt somewhat better when I removed the boots, burritoed them and myself back in the bag, and attempted a long-forgotten yoga pose to try warming my toes, but there was still the matter of replacing the hydration...and naturally, my water bottles had frozen yet again.

Happily for me and less so for him, my untimely stirrings had also audibly nudged my partner out of the Land of Nod. I cleared my throat and tried to match the sugariness coursing through my blood as I asked, "Heyyyy, you still got any hot water left?"

He did not, but he still had the stove handy and was willing to strike the same deal as before: if I fetched the water, he'd heat it. My toes protested the unwrapping of the legs I'd tortured around them and protested even harder at their abrupt return to the boots' carbonite-esque embrace, but my mouth cared not.

The boiled water was the tastiest I have ever drunk. It was so good that I raised no protests when TallGrass proposed that I go fetch some more so he could fill his thermos up all the way and I could chug whatever was left.

While he boiled the second round, I reluctantly attended to the overarching matter of business. Clearly my blood sugar wasn't going to calm down on its own, and I figured that at this point in the night, the time it would take to drop all the way down to Skittles-necessitating levels would be long enough for the sun to start peeping over the horizon and pancakes to start sizzling over in the main cabin. I removed the case containing the medicine from its place in my pack - somewhere safe, where I wouldn't be able to roll over on the vials in such a way as to crush them in the middle of the night - and really should have been less shocked when the vial I needed had an almost-photogenic sprinkling of ice crystals inside it.

I must've stared at it for a good few seconds. Insulin is, or is supposed to be, a liquid. Liquids freeze. My water, also a liquid, had frozen all the way through. It was only natural that the medication should do the same.

Also from August 2016. As much "fun" as this was to descend in, I would later decide that I was fine with it as long as it doesn't turn essential medications into a miniature snowglobe self-portrait.

My brain unfroze just enough for me to try giving the bottle a shake and sighing with relief when the crystals dispersed and moved enough that I knew I could extract some fluid from the vial, which I could only guess was made of stronger, more temperature-resistant stuff than your average Nalgene. My partner had been cheerily chatting as he tended to the stove; I mumbled the occasional "mm-hmm" as I prepped and filled a syringe. Before I could separate syringe from vial so I could inject myself, he said something I wish I could recall now because, at the time, I deemed it worthy of my full attention as well as a response. When I turned back to the syringe after the few seconds that interruption had taken, however, the insulin in it had frozen solid.

"Did you know insulin has a freezing temperature?" I cut my partner off as I grabbed another syringe. "This would be absolutely fascinating as a science fair project in a totally different setting!" I then warned him to stay quiet until I finished drawing the dosage I needed, removed it, and successfully plunged it into my abdomen before it too succumbed to its surroundings.

With as many of our pooled biological needs met as we could attend to under the circumstances, we huddled back into our respective sleeping bags. Instead of returning to some restless, half-hearted attempt at sleep, however, we kept chatting, with me as a slightly more active participant now. The discussion did fade into drowsing for a few minutes or so before dawn, but we both spared the alarm the usual groans and whines when it piped up to inform us that the hour of pancakes was at hand.

Travis had gone into town for necessities the day before, and the other hikers who had made reservations for the previous night were no-shows, so it was just us and Ellen. She acted as an exemplary host as she not only fed us pancakes but allowed us to crowd in by the wood-burning stove at the center of the cabin as the whole morning ticked away while we absorbed life back into our feet and warmth back into our boots.

Not long after noon, I waited for a break in the discussion to remind my partner that we still had packs to reload and the third-smallest slice of daylight we'd have all year rushing away as we spoke, so perhaps we should get a move on. It took another hour after that before we shouldered those packs, bid Ellen a grateful goodbye, and set off down the trail, but in spite of the sun's light already losing its luster in an obvious manner, I wasn't concerned; TallGrass had barely started uttering, "I like doing loops. Maybe we could descend Barr instead of Heizer," than I had said, "Yes. Absolutely. Barr it is!"

The descent to Manitou Springs was mercifully uneventful, save for running into Travis hefting a well-stocked pack of his own back up to the camp. After we thanked him as well, we ran into no one else until we reached Manitou a bit after dark, where SpringsDuke, our third partner from the likes of January's Bierstadt outing and June's Little Bear adventure, had agreed to pick us up. We treated him to dinner (though it wasn't that much of a treat, since he'd already eaten), and regaled him with our latest trials and tribulations until the night wended on late enough that it was time for him to drop us back off in Cascade.

We also got some snaps of the summit that were Lord of the Rings-esque enough to make it look like we'd had a REAL adventure this time around, too.

Our vehicles hadn't been ticketed or disturbed. I would guess that I had a far more comfortable return trip to Denver in the 12-degree temperatures than my motorcyclist buddy did, though I would also venture to say that we were equally pleased to reach my condo with its four walls, modicum of climate control, blankets, and indoor plumbing, not to mention a refrigerator that would keep my insulin warm enough no matter what time of night I needed a hit.

I was able to shake up the Skittles with forkfuls of leftover Pad Thai whenever my blood sugar tanked over the next few days. I was also able to convince my partner to keep our next series of outings to day trips only so I could keep the insulin close to my body, though I wouldn't and likely will never be able to discourage him from choosing the most difficult of all possible options whenever he has the opportunity.

I further doubt that I'll be able to discourage myself from going along with whatever that Most Difficult option is. After all, I do have an ulcer farm still in its infancy.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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