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The Climb of Mount Silex MAG
The most exciting mountain climb of my lifebegan as an easy backpacking trip into the Grenadier MountainRange. This is one of the most rugged, remote and beautifulmountain ranges in Colorado, located in the WeminucheWilderness. The inaccessibility and ruggedness of theGrenadiers combine to prevent many excursions. There are tworoutes to access the mountains: either by the Narrow GaugeRailroad and a 23-mile hike, or a 20-mile, four-wheel driveroad and a six-mile hike. I chose the second option, andarrived at the trail head feeling carsick.
The six-milehike over Hunchback Pass went well. My backpack was overloadedas usual. I made camp on the only level ground available, butall I really cared about was the beautiful view. No cameralens could ever capture the grandeur and majesty of themountains. That evening I ate my supper of dehydratedbackpacking food, and watched the sun set beautifully on thebacks of the three mountains I would challenge tomorrow. Theywere Storm King Peak, Mount Silex and The Guardian. I scoutedthe mountains, looking for the best ascent and descent. Then Iwas off to dream about the adventures tomorrow wouldbring.
I began the climb early to ensure enough time tocomplete it and arrive back at camp before dark. I decided toattempt Mount Silex first because it had the best rock. I didnot realize I would have to wade across two creeks and a bogto reach the base. After that, I was faced with a wall of oakbrush and slick grass. This was time consuming, and it waslunch time when I reached the rock of the mountain. Rockclimbing has always been my true passion, and this mountainhad the best rock I had ever climbed.
When climbing amountain, half the challenge is climbing and the other half isfinding a successful route. Mount Silex had a considerableamount of large crevices that were impossible to cross, and Ihave to thank a mountain goat for the success of my climb.While climbing, I spied the shaggy goat near the top, and Ifollowed its tracks for most of the climb.
If I havelearned anything from climbing in Colorado, it is that thereis a rainstorm almost every afternoon. I found myselfthree-fourths of the way up the mountain when the stormstarted to roll in. I thought I would reach the top afterevery ridge, but there was only another to take its place. Isoon realized I had two choices, either turn around or presson and reach the summit before the storm. After finding thatdown climbing would be impossible, I pressed on, hoping thenext ridge would be the last.
But the storm was soonupon me. I suspected this was not the normal afternoon rainshower. I could feel the friction shock the hair on my armwhen I made a quick move, and the hair on my head was standingstraight up. I made the mistake of standing erect for onemoment, and felt a buzzing shock on the top of my head. Iimmediately removed my cap, realizing there was a metal coveron its top. I think I came close to being electrocuted, andafter that I started quizzing myself on information to makesure I still had my mind.
When I had just about losthope, I saw a tiny cairn that marked the highest point of themountain. I had reached the top, but I wanted to be anywhereexcept at 13,628 feet during a thunderstorm. I got off thatmountain as fast as I could, only stopping to plug my earswhen the thunder cracked. The whole way I prayed I'd get downthe mountain alive. I had no luck finding a route off themountain; the saddle I was planning to descend ended up beinga steep rock slide into a lake. So, I took a three-mile detourdown a basin and around the base of Mount Silex and TheGuardian. Half an hour later the storm let up, and I saw ablack raven fly over the canyon. It is pretty unusual to see abird of that size at 13,200 feet, and I still wonder what itwas doing there.
I arrived at camp just before dusk,moving at the pace of a tortoise and feeling about as tiredand deadbeat as a marathon runner. The climb of Mount Silexwas a humbling experience. A mountain holds the power to takeyour life at any time, yet the challenge to reach the top isalways there. As I backpacked out the next day, I made a vowto the Grenadier Mountains. They had not seen the last of me;I would come back to stand on top of them all, one mountain ata time.
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Related ResourcesAppalachian Mountain Club
Green Mountain Club
Adirondack Mountain Club
Appalachian Trail Conference
USDA Forest Service
National Park Service
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