August 07, 2003
Sue Wolber, Bob Proulx, Nate & Diane Berg, the Campbells (Von, Susan, Ashley, Adam), Alan Silverstein, Forest Service rangers Darryl & Mike, Darren with the Pickle truck.........
The main reason for this trip was the dedication of newly-named Columbia Point, in memory of the Columbia space shuttle tragedy. A large group of us camped at both the locked gate trailhead, and up at the South Colony Lakes. Both have many beautiful campsites in the trees.
The five miles of 4wd road up to the locked gate is pretty rough, but a mix of serious 4wd trucks and "street" trucks made it up including our and Nate's Ford Explorers. With granny gear and in first gear most of the way, careful drivers made it up with low double-digit hits on the frame. On the way down on the 6th frame hit, I said "we must be half-way down" :-) I would not recommend this without a granny gear. Two Jeep Cherokees overheated on the way up when the drivers were not using low range, and a Suzuki Samurai had engine problems but finally made it up.
We had planned to start hiking at 0430 to get the group up to the Point, but literally three and a half hours of rain and hail upon the group the previous afternoon trashed those plans. Bob and I were hanging around upper camp and ran for shelter into Von Campbell's tent and spent almost four hours talking with them (they had good wine, these guys know how to camp!) waiting for the rain and hail to stop. Nate and Diane were half-way down to lower camp when the skies opened and they ran downhill, resulting in a couple of twisted ankles.
Alan and three others had planned to hike up the afternoon before to place the memorial plaque, but were caught in the rain and high-tailed it back to upper camp, wet and cold. They got up early and made it to the top of Columbia Point, next to Kit Carson peak, next to Challenger point and started installing the dedication plaque. Everyone else waited for sunrise to dry the trail and melt the hail.
Bob and Nate and Diane and I were at the lower camp and over-estimated how long it would take the upper group to get moving after sunrise, so adding in the ~30-40 minute hike to the upper camp; we were a long ways behind the main group (plus we forgot the camera so I ran back down across the creek to get it). Fortunately Alan had recruited plenty of ham radio operators for communication between all the groups. I raced to catch up to Bob and was pretty winded when I hit the main camp and hadn't even caught up yet! The main group had already reached the saddle west of Humboldt and decided to stop there -- Alan had left camp a couple hours before them, was hiking faster, and had just reached Columbia Point so it was decided the main group would remain on the saddle for the dedication.
Bob waited for me while I ran an errand to give a message from the saddle to one of the organizers still at camp, then we hoofed it to try to make it to the saddle before the end of the dedication. Nate and Diane were suffering from wrenched ankles because of the previous days downhill run, and the gray skies worried them that another storm was coming, once burned and twice shy they turned back before the upper Colony Lake. Bob and I continued to the T junction at the upper lake and turned right to head up the ~700 ft of switchbacks to the saddle west of Humboldt.
The trail is extremely well maintained, mostly by volunteers from the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative. I had slowed down by then, and we didn't make it to the saddle before the F16 flyby. A few minutes later we reached the saddle, and Alan up on Columbia Point announced the plaque was in place, to much cheering. Most folks headed back down while Bob and I settled down to be high radio relay, to wait for Alan and the high group to come down. I had major brain fade and am kicking myself - we could easily have gone all the way up Humboldt and back down before Alan got back. Instead we went probably halfway from the saddle up to Humboldt peak, with a great view of Kit Carson and Challenger and Columbia Points... and waited there... and waited... and realized too late just how much farther Alan had gone. Oh well. We were at 13,000 feet and low on oxygen. Must engage brain.
We got most of the way from the trailhead up to Humboldt, and the views were incredible!! Especially compared to Grays, the views from even the saddle are just gorgeous. I would love to go back up there, especially if I can again sucker someone else into driving that horrible road :-)
Pictures below include (in order): one of the Jeep Cherokees taking on two gallons of water on the way up, the Pickle truck, (Howard? or Gordon? on) an ATV, Nate and Bob's Explorers on the way up, inside Von's tent with water leaking from the top seal, stunning views on the way up, the Campbells at the saddle, Scott and John with one of the memorial flags, more views of the lakes and peaks, marmots and pikas abound up there, the "summit" plaque group of Alan, Steve, Mike and Darryl, hail the second evening covering the ground, and Bob and I.
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