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August 2006

The best thing I could think to do to prepare for the altitude and physical demands of the Himalaya was to hang out in Frisco, Colorado for a week at 9000', and climb 13 or 14 thousand foot peaks every day.  There are many to choose from a short drive from Frisco, and most are day hikes.

I'm noticing that more and more of my adventures do not result in photographs.  A little disappointing perhaps, but it's true that light and other conditions are not always conducive. And with every year, I get more fussy about what I want to shoot.  The Hasselblad was with me every day, but light and inspiration were lacking.  It was still a great week.

The first two days were spent on long conditioning hikes, up to 12,000' or so.  First was into Salmon and Willow Lakes, and day two was a long trek up to Eccles Pass, and back around Buffalo Mountain to Frisco.  The view from Eccles Pass is stunning.  This is a place I would like to return to photograph, but spend a couple days.

On the third day I climbed to the top of Buffalo Mountain, about 13,000' high.  The next day was Quandary Peak, up to 14,200'.  Over the last couple thousand feet, there was an ominous black sky off to the southwest.  I kept trying to convince myself that it was on a track to the north of my mountain.  Not the case, however.  Just short of the summit, lightning began striking all over the area, and I encountered a couple women literally running downhill.  One stopped for a moment, and I casually inquired, "Well, whaddaya think ?"  Her response, "I think you will make a very good lightning rod.  Though your rubber soles may dull the pain a bit."  I took her sarcasm to heart, and turned to follow them, but I couldn't keep up running downhill.  Soon the wind and hail started, and all of a sudden I was literally in winter conditions in August !  The hail was almost ankle deep.

Mount Elbert was the next day.  This is the second highest peak in the lower 48 states at 14,400', and Mt Whitney in the Sierras of California is somewhat higher.  This was a good long slog, and my old body is starting to whine a little.  About a thousand feet short of the summit, I ran into Dave and Michelle from New Hampshire who were about to turn around. We decided to continue on as a committee, and had a fine climb.  The summit view was gorgeous, and in conversation it was determined that we shared affinity for a well-brewed IPA.  That was good motivation for the very long descent, and we enjoyed a couple pints in Leadville at the highest elevation brew pub in the country.

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