THERE IS ONLY ONE FIRST…
Several months ago, my buddy Mike V and I discussed working together on an article about his first large-scale athletic experience after seriously breaking his arm in a hockey game. The experience was to complete the GORUCK Challenge – a physical and mental challenge held in an urban environment (In our case Las Vegas) whereby the group would undergo a series of difficult team-building activities over a span of 12 hours covering approximately 20 miles. I opted to do the challenge with Mike. It was just as rewarding as it was difficult. And it was extremely difficult.
Following the completion of the GORUCK Challenge, founder and Green Beret Jason McCarthy invited Mike and I to join the community’s first major leap from it’s core Challenge program – the GORUCK Ascent – over 100 hours in the Colorado Rocky Mountains with ambitions to climb peaks over 14,000 feet. We were honored and excited to accept the offer. It would be the first of its kind.Along with the Ascent came an opportunity to help the GORUCK’s core cause – the Green Beret Foundation. Ascenters were asked to raise funds in advance of the event. With the help of many friends, I raised over $5,000 for the foundation.
Mike and I jumped on a plane from Orange County to Denver Colorado on August 30th and with little time to acclimate to the high altitudes, joined the rest of the GORUCK Ascenters on September 1st in Nederland, Colorado.Here’s a photographic narrative of our adventures…
Upon arrival, the cadre informed us that the maximum weight for our packs was 23 lbs. My bag was over 40 lbs. Although we planned to ascend above 14,000 feet and would be gone for several days, I left behind my tent, sleep pad, some food, and a number of items in order to make the weight requirement. Only the bare essentials would make this mission.
We left at 2:30AM on a bus to our drop-off. After a 2 1/2 hour ride we began our first Ascent in the Collegiate Peaks in search of Mt Missouri.
Mike and I after planes, rental cars, buses, and no sleep – still smiling. We;ve gone form sea level to about 10,000 feet here.
By 12,000 feet I had aquired a nasty case of AMS – Acute Mountain Sickness – Migraine, Nausea, and other fun things from ascending faster than my body could acclimatize.
I stopped my ascent at about 12,000 feet. Not a bad place to rest.
The next morning the teams began their ascents after warming up by a fire.
Mike and I decided to find our own adventures along the Colorado Trail. Sixteen miles round trip made for a great time.
Amazing countryside everywhere you go.
We found several great spots along the ice-cold Clear Creek to soak our feet and relax.
When we returned to camp, our Cadres discussed the team’s plan for an ambitious new Ascent in search of the highest peak on the map – Mt Harvard – 14, 420 feet.
While they were preoccupied discussing our plan, we drank their beer (Sorry Cadre).
Our first day toward Mt Harvard I set up our shelter for the night. Base camp was at about 11,500 feet. Temp was freezing at night. We woke with ice on our bags.
Cadres Dom and Jason worked with the team in plotting our course for the peak.
Java was plotting as well. Getting his rest for the Ascent.
In the afternoon we hiked up to Bear Lake – 12,000 feet.
The team descending back into camp to get a fire going, dinner, and sleep before the next day’s climb.
After dinner, Java had dish duty. This was licked completely clean and then reused for each meal.
Ilka, Foster and Jason keeping warm and sharing stories.
On top of Mt Harvard – 14, 420 feet. I’m not sure about the flag. I think we now have some kind of entitlement to the peak. At least until the next flag shows up there.
Jason and Java at 14,420 feet.
Nothing is supposed to live at this elevation. No trees, plants, bushes. Life is at a minimum.
After our Ascents we celebrated back in Nederland with the GORUCK essentials – Fire and Beer.