Besides hiking Baldy, we needed to get our three hours' conservation service done. Philmont requires each crew to spend some time maintaining trails and doing other such work, and we had missed our easiest opportunity back at Clarks Fork, so the pressure was on to get 'er done here. This would put the seven going to the summit under a lot of pressure to get back in time for the long hike to the Cons site. It also meant that we couldn't continue on to French Henry to do blacksmithing this day; whether we added that on to the next day was another matter for later consideration.
In addition to both major efforts, above, we had to pick up food at Baldy Town. In addition, everybody was determined to get a shower there -- only our second on the trail. But showers close at six o'clock even where available, since showering makes you a smellable and you don't want to go to bed smelling like something a bear would like to investigate. Finally, we would have to top off with water for the return to Ewells Park.
With all that in mind, we got up extra early and were on the trail by 6:30 a.m., arriving in Baldy Town (just under 10,000' above sea level) an hour later. We left our extra gear with Pat and Cheyanne. Michael put lunch in his pack, and Jeffrey took all the extra water bottles. Jeffrey would be packing over twelve liters of water (25 lb.+) up the mountain; I nicknamed him Water Buffalo. We got off on our way to the top just before eight.
Heading for Baldy Town
The first half of the ascent was rocky and steep as it climbed through the forest. I couldn't help thinking that I was a lot younger man the last time I climbed this mountain. Either that, or they'd raised it higher in the last twelve years. My arms grew tired from pushing myself up the trail on my walking stick. We reached the Saddle -- an alpine meadow stretching south of the summit -- around two hours later.
At the Saddle
Everyone was ecstatic at the view from the Saddle, but then I pointed behind us at the trail leading to the summit. The last six hundred feet or so of Baldy is loose gravel, and the trail is steep as a staircase. No more switchbacks, just UP. Several of us had trouble. Legs hurt, lungs are working overtime, hearts pound, altitude begins to play a role. I shared my technique for climbing this high, this steeply: take ten or a dozen steps, then pause to catch your breath; repeat until you reach the top.
The upward way
As I approached the top, T.C. and Michael came back down to offer their help. I didn't need it, but I was touched. Sarah, looking down at their offer of love, began to cry. I hauled myself the last few steps and upon reaching the little plateau that crowns the mountain, declared,
"Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised . . .
in the mountain of his holiness!"
The last couple of crew members finally got to the top just before 11:00. We were exalted. Giddy. Triumphant. We took some pictures. Then we shared lunch. By 11:30, we were ready to start back down.
We rushed down the mountain, only to miss the Cons party's departure by ten or fifteen minutes. We confirmed that Cheyanne and Pat were already there, then changed to our long pants and hustled as fast as our weary legs could carry us a little over a mile to the work site. We spent the next three hours building a new trail from Copper Park.
Finally, we got back to Baldy Town, got our food (including some luscious fresh apples and pears), got our showers, and topped off our water. Then it was back to Ewells Park for supper. What a day!
Cheyanne building trail