A Frigid Night Near Pagosa Peak

I’m working again at Sonlight Christian Camp this summer in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. There are tons of new faces working this time around whom I’m positive I’ll be making lifelong friendships with. We just finished up our staff training and I thought I’d share with you a little story about my adventures in the mountains this past weekend. I could have died so it’s pretty interesting I guess.

A group of  about 12 staff members planned on going up a mountain ridge about 12,000ft above sea level where they would camp in a meadow near a lake, summit Pagosa Peak, roughly over 12,500ft, and then hike back down the next afternoon. I heard some news that it would be below freezing that night in Pagosa Springs, roughly 7,000ft, and I couldn’t imagine sleeping in a place where temperatures could be even colder. I told my friend Grant that I wouldn’t go but as staff members began packing up their items, I fell into a slight bit of peer-pressure and I ended up going up the mountain.

As we packed our backpacking bags, I knew my little 30 degree temperature sleeping bag wouldn’t be enough so I rented out a mummy bag from one of our camp buildings. I had roughly 25 pounds in my backpack as we began our accession up the mountain. Not very much camera stuff but clothes, lots of warm layers and some food that we purchased before we made it to the trail head. Around 8:30pm, the sun was setting and our group was just getting over the ridge.  Our front leader said there was only ten minutes until we reached our destination but she didn’t factor in snow. If a path isn’t cleared, walking on snow and ice can lead to your death if you slip and slide right off the mountain. I was using my monopod as a walking stick when I walked over the snow so even if I slipped my monopod would still be caught in the ice. With the snow it would have taken us another 30 minutes to reach our destination if we continued our hike but we didn’t. At this point in time I couldn’t see our leader in front of us. It was pitch black, and windy I immediately began putting on warmer layers. It was so numbingly cold I couldn’t feel my fingertips.

We were about halfway through the snow when someone suggested that we head back, away from the wind and sleeping on the trail. Everyone agreed and began rushing over the snowy paths to find a spot to warm up at. Everyone moved so fast we didn’t realized half of our group was missing when we made it back to the trail. I gave a walky-talky to someone in the group that was split up from us but the communications were jammed. We didn’t hear from them for about 30 minutes. During this time, one of our staff members from the other group was sliding down the snow but was caught by another staff member. People were freaking out but others were confident that they would return to the group. I was with the group that made it back to the trail and I was in my mummy bag with my legs sweating. Mummy bags are surprisingly very warm and you’re even encouraged to sleep naked so that you can be warmer in your bag. If I wouldn’t had grabbed that bag however I may have gotten hypothermia.

Everyone cuddled together between two logs while I laid on the trail with two other guys. The trail was not flat and it was not soft. I slept for maybe 2 hours on and off but a majority of the group had the same if not less sleep. One amazing thing that I took away from this experience was the view of the night sky. Not once in my life have I looked up at the sky to see so many stars. I didn’t take any photos of it because my fingers were numb but it was definitely a sight I won’t forget. Below is a picture of the mountain range that my group of 13 people slept on. I left with a bunch of bruised shoulders, hip bones, and another crazy backpacking story to add to my memories.

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