August 23rd 2013
Challenger Point – Saguache County, CO – 14,087 ft (4,294 m)
Santa Fe Brewing Saison ‘88 – Saison – 5.5% ABV
I seem to always have the ‘benefit’ of leaving jobs during summer. This time is a little different, and I only got two extra days between jobs. But I still needed something to clear my head and recharge the batteries. I decided to pack up all by my lonesome and make my first trek down to the Sangre de Cristo range.
The plan was to hike into Willow Lake and stay the night there and climb Challenger and Kit Carson in the morning. As I approached the trailhead near Crestone, CO I looked up at the mountain wall in front of me in awe. I began to wonder what I had been thinking. This range seems to come out of no where and shoot straight into the sky. After spending most the summer in the gentle Sawatch Range, the ruggedness appearance of the peaks here were worrisome yet welcome.
I started off on the trail with a very heavy load. It had been a while since I carried overnight gear, and I figured I was in much better shape now than before. You could say I overpacked a tad and probably had enough gear and food for 3, pushing 4, nights. And also a few cans of beer :). But no big deal, right?
Well, turns out I do have limits. Only about 2 miles into the trek, my legs burned and shoulders ached. Not the good aching after a hard days climb, but the sore, grumpy, ‘screw this’ kind of aches that I hadn’t felt in a while. As I pushed forward I found myself having to stop every 20 to 30 minutes for a breather. I just kept telling myself that no matter how tempting it may be, DO NOT TAKE OFF THAT PACK UNTIL YOU FIND CAMP.
Of course eventually I peeked over a hill and saw the lake. Finding a good spot to pitch tent I was able to finally rest. I was exhausted. But no rest for the wicked. Put the tent up, unpacked want I needed, and began to cook dinner. After sitting and eating I felt much better. I poked around the lake awhile, checked out the waterfall, and eventually settled on a ledge above the lake where I sat for a good two hours. Overlooking the lake as the sky grew dark I had a few beers and just lost myself in thought. It was what I needed.
The next morning I awoke at 4:30 and started off to Challenger Point. A short hike through willows quickly lead to easily one of my least favorite hikes ever. About 2000 vertical feet of scree, the first half of which has fairly well defined ‘trail’. Only about 300 vertical feet into it my legs and lungs hurt again from the day before. I had burnt them up, and the nights rest had barely recharged them. I looked up and the remaining route and just wanted to turn back. I hate scree. I hate being this exhausted. But I know more than that I hate quitting. I powered through it until eventually I gained the ridge. From there is was a great walk over to the summit, which I was lucky enough to have to myself.
And as my reward – a style of beer I rarely see in cans. Saison ’88 is the 25th Anniversary brew from Santa Fe Brewing. It is an average saison, but nothing really special or worth seeking out. But that morning as I drank it I couldn’t imagine anything tasting sweeter. Soon it was time to move onto Kit Carson