Last year at about this time, a few friends and I headed out to Carson National Forest to mountaineer a route up Little Costilla Peak. As mentioned in the blog I wrote, the trip was excellent, but we were unsuccessful in summiting due to inclement weather and exhaustion. Our summit-deficient trip left us with an insistent desire to return again. So we packed up and headed that way for the weekend.
Last year, we camped at Black Mesa before hiking into our mountain. We decided to forego the pitstop this year and head straight for base camp in Carson National Forest. Right as we pulled into our campsite, we got a flat tire. Not a huge issue, but not ideal. We changed it out real quick and then I cooked dinner for the posse. I only mention these two chores because I think the hectic few hours before bed led me to my next misadventure...
I haven't spent a ton of time in the mountains, but I thought I'd spent enough to have seen the effects of altitude sickness. I was wrong. Kristen and I settled into our tent and dosed asleep after a mildly exhausting couple hours of chores.
I awoke to Kristen yelling for help and literally shaking me awake! I lunged forward, panicking and ripping off my sleeping bag. My eyes were wide open and dilated but I was unable to see, I gasped for breath and slowly regained my composure, and eyesight.
I'm typically a quiet and light sleeper. Kristen said that in my sleep I started snoring, which is uncommon. She nudged me to be quiet, but I slowly started gasping for air. She then started thumping me in the face with her index finger, but I still wouldn't wake up! That's when she yelled for help and I awoke.
Apparently, without any of our knowledge, one can suffer from Cheyne Stokes breathing and sleep apnoea when acclimating to altitude. It totally freaked us all out. We were unable to do any quick google searches to diagnose the problem because we didn't have cell reception. For the rest of the trip, I cautiously went to bed and only slept on my side. While it was only a singular occurrence, it totally tripped me out, especially since we were only going to be increasing our altitude and isolation for the rest of the trip.
Valle Vidal means Valley of Life in Spanish. It definitely isn't an understatement. Elk, antelope, deer, and animal tracks by the hundreds could be seen on our hike into the valley. Our base camp was a hike about 3 miles into the woods following a stream between two mountains.
Once we made camp, we decided to scout a couple routes up the mountain. Billy had a topographic map of the area and picked out a few routes. Since there is no real trail up the mountain, we did a lot of bushwhacking last year that really exhausted us. This year, we found a few game trails and easier ascent. This made all the difference for our trek the following morning.
Little Costilla, or Little C-eazy, has 4 ascending peaks. From the angle you hike in, you can't see the following peaks. There are times as you walk where you think, 'Oh! There it is, that's the top. I'm almost there." and then your soul is crushed when you reach the top of that section and see another section looming behind it. At one point, I was leading the walk. Someone radioed ahead to me and asked, "Is that the top?" I didn't even reply because I knew that radioing dissappointment below would be a morale-killer.
Despite the deceiving peaks, altitude, and heavy legs, we made it to the summit! Reaching our goal without a defined trail was really awesome. We were especially glad after not making it last year. The views from the top were wonderful, and there was still a ton of snow.
Our descent down was very steep, but as you lose altitude, you regain strength. We made it back to base camp for dinner, a little whiskey, and a warm fire.
The next day we made our hike out back to our vehicles. We drove through no man's land and made camp at Black Mesa (Lake Carl Etling Park). The park was packed because of Memorial Day weekend, but we really just wanted to rest, eat, and enjoy one more night under the stars. If you haven't seen a starscape at Black Mesa, you are really missing out!
Some of our group had to leave camp early and head back to the city. Ryan, Kristen and I decided that since we don't make it to Black Mesa often, we needed to hike it. We got to the trail at 6am and had a wonderful hike. Elk, turkey, lizards, deer, and antelope were seen and no other hikers had made it out yet. It was a great way to wrap up the trip!
Walking quietly in the woods, gazing at stars, and seeing wildlife all reinvigorates me. We try to get out of town every other month or so, but it never seems like we do it often enough. Trips like this really help me brainstorm new ideas, exhaust me physically, and get me off my phone for a while. I'm super thankful for my friends and wife that encourage me to get out into nature often. Now that we're back into the fast pace of work, hopefully I can apply a few of the sentiments I had while on this trip into my work at the store. We'll see what happens, thanks for trekking along with me! Come by the store and swap stories with us, and know that we always love seeing photos of our gear on your adventures!