Mountain Vision #189

Savage Basin

Savage Basin, Imogene Pass 1979

When I was in junior high, I once walked from Manitou Springs to the top of Pikes Peak, non-stop, by way of the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, and returned by the same route, after a couple of hours of hypothermic fits and altitude sickness, and swore I would never do it again. As far as mountain climbing was concerned, this would have to be it. There would be no more.

I slept for two days after that, waking only to wolf down a T-bone steak and collapse into bed again. Lactic acid froze my body into a contorted position, from which I could not rise, and it was several days before I could walk correctly. Sir John Hunt would have to do without me.

The change in altitude had been extreme; from a summer of sailing in Minnesota at, say, 800 feet to 6,000 feet for two days, and then to 14,000 feet. Acclimatize if you can; it was Mountain Baptism.

So, when Lito proposed skiing to Ouray from Telluride, I naturally jumped at the chance. What is a poor boy from the plains to do?

Karen insisted on hiking in low-cut cross-country boots, and only later did I surmise that it was because of her congenitally mangled feet. Alone, and kicking her own steps, she resolutely soldiers on. The Inch-Worm Technique, Lito insists, will always get you there.

Senior correspondent Bob Chamberlain lives with his dog at 8,000 feet in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley. 

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