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, weve
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
youve 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.

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This couldnt 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 couldnt turn back now. We only have a
day and a half hike; it cant be that bad, I said, convincing Andrew and
Jeff that they had made the right decision. To this day I still dont 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
cant feel my toes. Im being serious, I really cant 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 couldnt 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 dont 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
couldnt 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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