T H E    R E T U R N

If you'll recall my earlier comment about our choice of ascent being impossible to retrace, this is what happened next: coming down we missed KC Ave, as impossible as that might seem, and descended almost into the Colony Lakes valley, which features a ledge resembling that of KC Ave.  

At any rate, by the time we figured this out, Jim was straddled high above us, trying to find the original trail, and struggling through what was most definitely Class 5.  That's him beneath the red arrow.  I know it was C5, because this is defined as climbing where you use unconventional muscle groups to stay aloft: when I asked Jim about it afterwards, he said the most sore part of his body were the muscles in his hands.

 

Dan and I found a much easier C3 route back to KC Ave.  In the meantime, we lost site of Jim, but thankfully not contact: Jim and I had both brought a pair of radios, so all four of us had one.  These proved utterly indispensable to our safe return, as we were able to guide each other to safety.

Here, Jim has finally regained the Avenue.  Check out the grade below him where he ascended.  Not pretty. 

Jim resplendent: glad to be alive.  At this point, I detected some slight delirium when he said: "I almost ditched this pack on that stuff back there.  I figured we could always go back and get it..."

Willow Lake and one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever beheld, looking out over the valley.  We're still about a half hour from camp, where Ken was waiting with a campfire and dinner, having avoided our fate of getting lost.

The three lone amigos at the spot shown above.  We look much better than any of us actually feels. 

Welcome home: the tent where we had thrown all of our stuff while leaving that morning, in case of rain, and which Ken had pillaged, thinking he'd never see any of us alive again.

Leaving camp the next day, we happened upon a pair of bighorn sheep. 

Coming down the switchbacks where we'd previously seen so much sleet.

Same general area, overlooking the valley between the Sangre de Christos range where we were and the San Juans on the horizon.

Leaving for Texas.  Ken gave us the lovely white sprig you see in the foreground from his garden.  It's a plant called Statice, and I have hence titled this shot, most appropriately, "True Status".

Jim, Ken, Dan: I love you guys.  Awesome journey.