“… but don’t count on luck to survive.” –Mark Houston and Kathy Cosley in Alpine Climbing: Techniques to Take You Higher
So, this is the advice ringing in my ears when we take off to climb on Lumpy Ridge in the Rocky Mountain National Park on Sunday. As we were heading south at around 9:30 that morning, we knew we were really late. Really late. But hey, you never know. Only a 20% chance of rain, maybe we’d get lucky?
When we got into the area, the clouds were already thick and getting worse. We decided to change plans from a multi-pitch climb on top of the ridge to single pitch climbs closer to the trailhead. We were hoping to make it to Crescent Wall or Fin City.
The first rolls of thunder hit us not more than 10 minutes after we left the car. No visible lightning yet, but we got sprinkled with rain a few times. While we could see the crags in the distance, we never found the approach trails and eventually found ourselves all the way up at Gem Lake.
It was a pretty little lake, with gorgeous views. But it’s still annoying to hike 30 lb packs of climbing gear up 2 miles and 1500ft of elevation gain, and know that you won’t be climbing that day. We rested for a few minutes at the lake, and then started to jog down as the thunder got closer and lightning began to flash around us in earnest. The weather deteriorated rapidly, and we took shelter in a small, dark cave while the worst of the lightening pounded the cliffs around us.
The storm moved off, and we hiked back down to the trail head. Still nervous of flashes in the distance, and a little too-close-for-comfort thunder. The trail through the woods below us was coated in a thick layer of pea-sized hail. It looked like rough, icy, snow had reappeared in patches all over the valley. I guess it’s summer in the mountains!
Maybe we’ll get up earlier and have better luck later this summer.