Ascent Essay, Research Paper

During high school, two friends and I decided to try and backpack all over the

country. Andrew, Jeff, and I took trips to places like the Grand Canyon, Santa

Fe, and the Buffalo River. After each trip the three of us would say, ?we?ve

got to go somewhere better, more challenging.? So during the spring break of

my junior year we decided to pack the Wet Mountains in Colorado. We planned the

trip for weeks, calling the ranger station, checking weather conditions, and

planning out meals for the trip. We knew the trail would be a little more

difficult than anything we had done before, would, but we never conceived of St.

Charles Peak being too challenging. We started out about six in the morning for

the long drive to Rye, the town just at the base of the Wet Mountains. The trip

to Rye went pretty well, except for a few miscalculated map readings and a

couple close calls with the ?low fuel? light. When we finally made it to Rye

we made camp about three miles from the trailhead so we could get a good night

sleep and start out early the next mourning. While we were sleeping a huge storm

moved in and stacked good eight to ten inches of snow on the whole north side of

the mountain. The next morning Andrew yelled from outside the tents ?hey guys

you?ve got to take a look at this.? Thinking a raccoon rummaged through our

packs looking for food, I slowly crawled through the tent door and looked in

astonishment at the white blanket covering the mountainside. ?This is going to

be a hell of a trip,? Andrew said slowly sipping his cup of steaming coffee.

?This couldn?t be happening,? I thought. We had checked the weather

forecast at least four times before we left, and each time they said there was

no chance of snow. After contemplating whether or not to continue our climb to

the summit, we all decided that we couldn?t turn back now. ?We only have a

day and a half hike; it can?t be that bad,? I said, convincing Andrew and

Jeff that they had made the right decision. To this day I still don?t know if

we did the right thing, trying to reach the summit of St. Charles Peak. Trudging

through knee high snow trying to find the trail, we decided to pull out the

compass. Because no one wanted to be responsible for getting us lost, we had to

decide which one of us had the most experience using a compass. Since the

compass was mine, they figured that I knew how to use it the best. Not wanting

to swallow my pride, I pulled out the map and tried to figure out where we were.

When we finally had an idea of our whereabouts, we started up the mountain

looking for the next trail marker. After about four or five hours of hiking,

fatigue started setting in. Our feet became colder from the melting snow seeping

into our boots, which made each step seem to get tougher and tougher. ?Guys, I

can?t feel my toes. I?m being serious, I really can?t feel them,? Jeff

kept saying, each time a little more serious. We finally found a clump of rocks

that was out of the snow, so the three of us stopped and made lunch to keep our

energy up. While we were eating our macaroni and cheese, we noticed a few storm

clouds beginning to roll in. Thinking it couldn?t be any worse than it already

was, we moved on up the north face. The higher in elevation we went, the deeper

the snow kept getting. Now plowing our way through waist high snow, our feet

growing colder with each step, we finally decided to make camp for the night. To

setup our tents on the sloping mountainside we had to carve out about a ten-foot

by ten-foot level square in the snow using our dinner plates. As soon as we got

our tents set up the overhead storm clouds began spitting frozen rain and snow.

We jumped in the tents and decided to call it a night. During the night the

temperature dropped to what felt like ?20 degrees. Afraid we might get

hypothermia from the extreme cold and lack of energy, we stayed up all night

talking from tent to tent trying to keep each other awake. Luckily, we made it

through the night. We decided to get up early and hike when the snow was still

frozen so that we could walk on top instead of sinking in with every step. We

got up early and ate oatmeal and breakfast bars. I don?t know if it was

because of the lack of sleep or just because I was so hungry, but that was

probably one of the best breakfasts, I have ever eaten. After breakfast we

packed up and took off for the short two-mile hike to the summit. We started out

pretty well, but our 30-pound packs now felt like we were carrying small cars on

our backs. The three of us slowly trudged up the white mountainside with the

goal to summit before sunset. After about an hour, and close to 200 yards from

the peak, we decided to drop our packs and scramble for the summit. When we

finally made it to the peak we could see for miles in every direction, and

couldn?t hear anything except for the wind whipping by our ears. I can

remember feeling like all the coldness had left my body, and I was as warm as if

I was sitting in front of the fireplace at the cabin. I have never felt a

greater sense of accomplishment in my life. When we finally made it back to

Tulsa, we found that each of us had a slight case of frostbite, and suffered

from exhaustion. This trip taught me many valuable lessons. One of the most

important is to always be prepared. Another thing I learned is how true friends

will stick by one another through anything, no matter what.

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