Peak(s):  Mt. Spalding  -  13,842 feet
"West Evans" - 14,257 feet
Mt. Evans  -  14,268 feet
Date Posted:  08/21/2017
Modified:  08/22/2017
Date Climbed:   07/14/2017
Author:  rob runkle
 Mt Evans from Summit Lake   

After a tough 14er trip with the kids in 2016, I decided to change up a few things. The first change was to make Day 1 an easy day. Or, at least that was the plan. Mount Evans, from Summit Lake, with only 2,000 feet of elevation gain should be easy. Or, at least, that is what I thought. Being above 12,000 feet for 7+ hours isn't easy, period.

As always, coming from Ohio, we flew into DEN on a late flight. We picked up some groceries and drove to the Echo Lake Campground for a few hours sleep. We hit the sack a little after midnight. Alarms went off at around 4:30 am. We gathered up our stuff, ate some snacks, and drove the rest of the way to the Summit Lake Parking area. We started hiking right around 6 am. The crew this year was my daughter Anna (10 yo), my son Nolan (8 yo), my neighbor Chris and his son Garrett (9 yo). Anna and Garret had come last year for Bierstadt and Sherman. All three kids had done Handies two years ago.

Evans in the morning

The kids, ready to hike

My "Gangsters" half way up Spaulding

The hike started great. We chose to take the West Ridge Route, and grab Spaulding along the way. At the start, Nolan was the strongest by far. Garrett, was dragging very slowly, but about half way to Spaulding, I pulled back with Chris and Garrett and gave "G" a bit of motivation. Not sure what I said, but I was able to get "G" to pick it up a bit. Maybe he just struggles getting started, and was finally hitting his stride. The climb to Mt Spaulding is easy to follow and a moderate class 2 hike. Sometimes there were high steps, which were hard on the kid's little legs. But, there wasn't any serious scrambling, unless you intentionally went off route. We made the top of Spaulding in around 3 hours. About 100 yards from the summit of Spaulding, Nolan started to complain that his head hurt, and he was feeling nauseous. I convinced him to at least finish Spaulding, then we could decide to continue or go down. He agreed, then a few steps later, vomited up the water he had in his belly. Luckily, his breakfast was beyond the stomach. Nolan had the same problems, two years ago, as we approached the top of Handlies. On Handies, I was able to throw him on my shoulders, and carry him the rest of the way. And, the many doggy hugs he got on Handies perked him back up. This year, Nolan is approaching 80 lbs, and I'm not sure that I could carry him on my shoulders on class 2 terrain. Needless to say, he was still able to continue, knowing that the summit would be an extended break. I also was looking at his complexion, and actions. His color was great (not green, pale or blue), and his stride was strong. I was definitely ready to pull the trigger and descend ASAP, if needed. Altitude sickness seems to hit everyone a little bit different. Some get mild headaches, some nausea, and some just get delusion and wasted. Personally, I almost always get a headache on day 1. Nolan appears to be a puker.

Nolan getting energy from a pup

Anna, Nolan Garrett on Spaulding

Me imitating my Marmot buddy

Group pic on Spaulding w/ Marmot photobomb

When we got to the summit of Mt Spaulding, we took a well deserved break. I made sure to fill everyone with calories, and fluids. I regularly quizzed Nolan if he wanted to continue or go down. Initially he was adamant that he wanted to go down. During our break, several other groups arrived, including several with dogs. One dog in particular, a chihuahua, took a fancy to Nolan. Nolan is obsessed with dogs. I thought that Nolan was going to hug that chihuahua to death. As happened on Handies, the visit from the dogs perked Nolan up a bunch. Our options were: 1) return the same way that we came (about 2 hours to the car) or 2) continue across to Evans (about 3-4 hours to the summit). I told everyone that if we went over to Evans, I could leave them at the top, and I would run down to get the car, drive up and pick them up. With some doggy lovin and this new plan, Nolan perked up enough that he was willing to go with that plan. After a 40 minute break, we started towards Evans.

Nolan at the Spaulding/Evans Saddle

Anna at the Spaulding/Evans Saddle

The walk to Evans wasn't too bad. Initially it is down hill, off the summit of Spaulding, then it begins a long, gradual up hill climb. I felt that the climb up Evans would be much less steep than the climb from Summit Lake to Spaulding. So, I thought that the kids could handle it ok. As we began the uphill towards Evans, I wanted to try and grab "West Evans," a soft peak. I told Chris that I would make a quick run up to West Evans, then meet them back along the trail. The trail was clear, and I knew that they would be able to stay on route. So, I started up the ridge. I should mention, at this point, I was carrying both Nolan and Anna's back packs. This turned out to be a big pain, as I scrambled along the ridge, in some solid class 3. About 40 minutes after I left the trail, I finally made the summit of West Evans (about 1:30 from the summit of Spaulding). In hindsight, the ridge scramble was a blast, but I would probably gain the ridge much closer to the Evans summit, if I did it again. I quickly tagged West, then ran back down the trail to meet up with Chris and the kids. They were all doing fine. Nolan was feeling a bit nauseous, but his color and demeanor was still good. We continued towards the summit of Evans. Even though it is pretty flat at this point, the going was pretty slow. The kids were tired. And, you could tell it was more than just physical exhaustion. With only 3-4 hours of sleep, the kids were just plain old tired. I have done this day 1 thing for years, but I did not consider the impact that it would have on the young ones. They clearly need more sleep - duh! Another lesson learned.

Nolan, almost to Evans Summit

Anna, ready to be done with Evans

Chris and I on Evans Summit

Group on Evans Summit

We reached the summit of Evans about 1:20 after I left the summit of West Evans. Total time from Spaulding to Evans was just under 3 hours. At this point, it started to lightly rain on us. There was no indication of thunderstorm activity, so I wasn't worried about lightning. We spent about 35 minutes on top of Evans, and pondered our next step. Chris was indicating that he was not ok with the whole idea of me driving back to pick them up. I think that Chris wanted to have a complete trail head to trail head experience; in order to consider this a true "summit bag" for himself. I kind of picked up on his vibes and started negotiating with the kids that we should all hike down on our own legs. Our plan was to descend the Northeast Face of Evans, back down to the lake. This was a much shorter route, and would be all down hill. Somehow, Chris and I convinced the kids to do the descent. We started down the Northeast Face. The route was loose scree and pretty steep. The wet dirt at times helped, and other times, it made it slippery. As tired as Nolan was - and having AMS symptoms - I was absolutely stunned at how well he did on the scree descent. Anna, Nolan and I pulled ahead of Chris and Garrett a little bit. Garrett was struggling on the scree, and at this point, I was not worried about any of us losing the trail. Plus, it was looking like more rain was coming, and I wanted to get back into a dry car as quick as possible. Honestly, on descending terrain, it is best to go at the pace that seems natural to the individual. For some, that is slower, and others can do it faster. But, for faster person to go slow is awkward. Or, at least that is my experience.

I have been doing mountains for over 15 years, and it has taken me years to perfect a speedy scree descent. Nolan was a natural. Anna was doing great also, but every once in a while, she would slip or stumble and that would shake her up. I think that Nolan explained it perfectly when we were hiking one other time. Nolan has always been a clumsy hiker. He falls all the time, and has been hiking since he was three years old. He used to cry whenever he fell, but now he barely even registers a fall. He just gets back up and continues. A few months back, we were all hiking around home, and Anna fell down. Anna NEVER falls when hiking, and never has. We all commented on how Anna doesn't fall, and Nolan always does. When Anna fell, she started crying, and laboring. Nolan's comment to Anna was, "Anna, you need to fall more often, like I do, and you will get more used to falling. Then you won't cry anymore." I think that explains why Nolan did so well on the scree descent. He is always hiking on the "edge of control." And, a scree descent is definitely on the "edge of control." Nolan is practiced at hiking at this level. It was pretty cool to see him doing so well, and it perked him up.

We made it down to where the trail meets the road in about an hour, and made the final walk back to the parking lot in about 20 minutes. Just as we reached the car, the skies opened up. I was so glad to be under cover. And, I was feeling bad for Chris and Garrett, who were still up on the slopes. I quickly got things arranged in the car, and drove up to where Chris and Garrett would be intersecting with the road. A few minutes after we got there, they came strolling out onto the road. I asked if they wanted a ride, and they both looked at each other and said, "Nope, we want to finish this thing." I guess the vibes I got from Chris on top were correct. If they were unwilling to forgo the final quarter mile (in poring rain), Chris certainly must have been struggling with the concept of foregoing the whole descent. We drove back to the parking lot. Chris and Garrett arrived a few minutes later.

Day 1 was tougher than I had hoped it would be. Total round trip was around 8.5 hours. By the time we had gotten back to the car, Chris and I had discussed how this was the case, and come up with a tentative plan for next year. Instead of forcing ourselves up a mountain on Day 1, it looks like we would need to take a rest on Day 1, then climb on Day 2. It wasn't so much acclimatization; an extra 24 hours wouldn't make a huge difference. But, it seems that the kids do not operate well under only 4 hours of sleep. Next year, we will plan to get a nice easy night sleep on the first night. Then, take is easy on Day 1, get a full 8 hours that night, and climb on Day 2. Another thing that I decided is that I wouldn't have the kids use camelback bladders on the next hike. I'm sure that Nolan's nausea was primarily due to AMS, but I also suspect that he might be getting air in his belly from using the bladder system. He had also used a bladder on Handlies.

For Anna this was her 4th fourteener, Garrett and Chris, their 3rd and Nolan, his 2nd. Tomorrow would be a rest day, at Princeton Hot Springs.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
08/22/2017 11:22
Love seeing youngsters learning to enjoy the mountains. And you don't do a bad marmot impression...

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