ATTEMPT #2 on Little Bear (14,037′) Saturday Eve Aug 27th
Little Bears and Gummy Bears Everywhere, Oh My!
Saturday evening this project took a turn for the worst. What else could possibly happen to me on this epic adventure to become the first person to camp on the top of every Colorado 14er?
My much anticipated climb and summit bivy of Little Bear started off promising. A few cumulus building over the peak, but nothing too bad. I headed up the chute to the west ridge for a 2 time in three days. When I made it to the West ridge crest by 5pm, I was pretty happy to see that clouds to the west were thin, I just might get a chance to go up.
Suddenly a bright flash from the southeast just past Little Bear’s South ridgline. Ten seconds later an echoing boom. “Not to worry”, I said to myself, “that should be continuing east on the other side of the peak”.
I was right about that, the storm moved east, however, I got an update on my phone from Chris at 510pm that wasn’t promising:
“Jon! Different flow Today. Couple of strong storms around you. General drift to the south believe it or not.”
South! WTF!??? I couldn’t believe it, but upon careful observation, storms were flowing towards me from the ridgelines to the north. What a shame. By 530 I hadn’t seen nor heard lightning for 20 minutes, so I decided to press my luck and go towards the west face of Little Bear, and up the ridge a little further.
If the flow would have been like it was the day before I would have been in business! It was clear to the south and to the west. By 6pm the clouds from the north engulfed the ridge. I was at 13,500’. I was a sitting duck. It started to hail. The wheels came off. A quick flash of lightning, an instantaneous boom. “Dang that was close!”. ‘Abort!” I tossed my jacket on and was almost sprinting on my tip toes across rocks and boulders of the west ridge. The Hail was hurting at this point, and so was my spirit: Tail between my legs, getting my ass kicked. I was at the notch on the ridge within minutes, and as the hail subsided, the sky opened up and the raindrops were drenching me. I jumped and skipped down the north chute of the ridge and was in my camp as the rain continued my 645pm. Completely deflated, and crushed. It rained for the next hour, and I took stock of the situation. Out of food, tired from two other nights in storms and up high, it was time to go back to the trailhead and wait for a better window for Little Bear later in the project. Now that Ellingwood and Blanca were finished, I could conceivably to a ‘Dash and Crash” from the trailhead in good weather at some point.
I had my 2 tent taken down and packed up in a few minutes. At 730 I was hustling down the trail in the fading evening light. Why was I having such bad luck and weather on the two toughest pair of 14ers? For some reason the Mountain Gods weren’t letting me have Little Bear or Capitol. To be quite honest I was wondering when I would ever be allowed to get up and spend the night on those two peaks. Oh well, there’s a reason why nobody has ever done this before. Looking back at the peak I kind of wished I had tried to make it in the storm, then convinced myself there was nothing I could have done. “Do I want to be known as Jon Kedrowski, the guy that camped on the top of 40 14,000’ peaks and got killed by lightning, or do I want to be known as the guy that climbed to the summit of all the peaks and camped on them and lived to tell about it?” I choose B. I’m gonna finish all of them. Patience is a virtue, and I will be back!
The Last Straw, Crushed by a Little Bear for a 3rd time in three days!
By 930pm in the dark via headlamp I was getting close to the car. It started to rain lightly and I was happy to be getting back to the relative safety of my vehicle. I saw the Tahoe about 100 feet away in the glow of my headlamp. There was something shining on the ground on the passenger side of the truck.
I walked closer and saw the damage. ‘Crap! Somebody broke into my truck!” he passenger side window was broken. I unlocked the vehicle, and immediately though about my wallet hidden under the seat. I opened up the truck and it stunk! It was dirty and muddy everywhere. My valuables were in-tact.
Unbelievable! A Bear had busted the window and destroyed the inside of my vehicle. Paw prints on the hood, the roof, and on the seats. “Son of a Bi&*#!”. Adding insult to Injury, now I not only had to deal with a defeat on Little Bear, but had another Little Bear to deal with. The video tells the story.
Needless to say, I’ve spent Sunday catching up on emails, writing, and waiting for some auto glass places to open tomorrow in Alamosa so I can deal with the damage. I have a temporary plastic window for now that I rigged, and I was up until 3am last night cleaning up everything. That Bear is probably bionic now too, as I had a 10 lb bag of Muscle Milk Chocolate Whey Protein for recovery after I climb, and the bag was nowhere to be found. The bear also ate most of my gummy bears and all of my trailmix!
The weather is absolutely dreadful over the Sangres today, so a day off is slated. When all the chips are down, I still have to keep a positive attitude and I can certainly say that things are on the up and up despite the damage. I have 18 peaks to go, and I had an enlightening conversation with Mr. Bobby Hill from Cielo Vista Ranch. The gentleman from Texas and his wife Dottie own the ranch and getting access to climb Culebra in order to do the project could be imminent. In 2005 I climbed Culebra and it ranked the highest for least amount of impacts in an article I published and in my Master’s Thesis. My hope is that Bobby will allow me to go up Culebra in better weather later this week, and we discussed me also helping them re-assess the peak for impacts in 2011 now to compare my results to the ones I have from 2005, and also do some qualitative observations and feasibility assessments to some other 13ers in the area that the property also involves. He is amazed with the continuing popularity of climbing Culebra, but also wants to continue to balance the demand with the protection of the resource. I agree that charging the $100 fee is an exemplary management practice. I will be looking forward to helping out and also contributing to the Ranch in any way that I can with my assessments. This experience just goes to show that it is important to keep a positive mindset and opportunities will present themselves just around the next corner. Once the weather clears by Tuesday, I will be back out on the peaks, including Culebra, and the rest of the Sangres!