Monday, July 4, 2011

7/3/11 Base Camp, Mount Everest

Dolores to Lizard Head Pass, Colorado

Let's just say everyone (except Matty and myself) is feeling rather under the weather today. Chris and Johnny managed to get out of their sleeping bags for a brief moment. But only long enough to move their camping mats into the shade and manufacture the z's once more. Every hour or so, the move it a bit further to avoid the sun. Chris sits up and I think it's possible we're going to press on before the sun sets. Nope. "Can you get me a Gatorade from the grocery?". Argh.

I pace and clean everything in my path. I grocery shop. I do laundry and ending up chatting with yet another hobo, who asks me if I, myself, am a hobo too. I think about it for a moment. I guess so. I live out of a bag, I shower and launder infrequently, I am in a new town every night. I am, indeed, a proper tramp.

I have a pow wow with Matt and Johnny about where to stay in the next town. We would like to get all the way to Telluride, being that they will have libraries and bike stores, which we are desperate for. But, we know it is a bit too far and there is a substantial mountain pass in the way. We decide to throw out a line and attempt a warm showers contact for Telluride.

Here's what I'm thinking: It's one day's notice. There are FOUR of us. We would be arriving the fourth of July, we are total strangers. Seems extraordinarily unlikely anyone will be able to accommodate us. I pick a dot on the map and call the contact number. I explain myself, apologetically: the only campground available in Telluride will be in use because of the festivities, we have no where to stay, blah blah blah. Before I can even finish my pathetic proposal, Don interrupts me. "We have a huge six bedroom house and my three girls are away at summer camp. We would love to have you and have plenty of room. You really must be in Telluride for the fourth of July. It's going to be the highlight of your trip. It's a real peace of Americana. We can even come get you in Rico if you'd like."

Matt and Johnny can tell by my expression and all of the emphatic head nodding that we have hit the jackpot. Everyone is high-fiving with jubilation.

I make Chris two sandwiches and by four o'clock, after he has slept for nearly 15 hours, we have finally convinced him to press on to Rico, which is half way to Telluride. For the first three and a half hours, the ride is awesome. Rolling hills, bubbling river with kids tubing and fishing. A cool breeze accents the heat at every dip down. In good time, we arrive at the camp site that we had all previously agreed upon. No one is there. We get a text from Matty saying he has decided to camp at Lizard Head Pass, which is just a few more miles down the road. Here's where shit gets ugly. The sun sets. The temperature drops 50 degrees. We gain 3,000 feet in elevation. Cars and motorcycles are zooming past. My arms are so frozen I cannot brake. Chris can barely see the road because his batteries are dying. We push on further and further, always thinking we are just a few seconds away. But the night consumes us and the fear is palpable. More than half of our water is gone. Certainly not enough to cook and ride again the following day. When there is not silence, there is a clamor over what to do. We stop on the side of the road and frantically put clothes on, a jar of peanut butter rolls into the road. I am too tired to even retrieve it. I am concerned because my base layer is wet with sweat. I am shivering. We see the light of campfires and I drag my bike in the pitch black dark through a rocky dirt road.

The poor people at this camp site. A big cute Irish family is circled around a fire, drinking beer and laughing. I must look like Swamp Thing. I have interrupted the fun, sweating, shivering and crazed. "Have you seen another cyclist come through here?"

"Oh, god! Are you alright?"

"Are we at the summit? We are looking for our friend."

"The summit is still another 500 feet up. About a mile and a half. My god, I hope you find your friend. Are you going to be ok?"

I didn't say anything. Chris was waiting at the trail head for me. I picked up my million pound bike and defeatedly shoved it in the direction of the road. We ride on. We nearly missed the summit sign, but saw a huge circle of camps on the right. We were worried about Matt, but we parked it. I set up the tent in the deep wet grass with no gloves on. Chris tries to get the stove working to make soup and chili. We work in silence. I had to ask myself at one point, Are you going to die, Lauren? Are you physically ill? Are you in danger of hypothermia? Do you need to phone a life line? No. You are cold and tired and scared of bears. Chill the hell out and set up your tent. A cattywompus construction was close enough for jazz. I jumped into the sleeping bag and put on every layer I have in my tiny bag. Chris unzipped a tiny hole in the tent door, stuck a hand in with a steaming camping cup of ramen. This is base camp at Everest, i think to myself. It could be so much worse than this.

We finish all the canned foods and try to sleep. My inflatable pillow has burst. Of course it has. I sleep on my own pants. It rains through the entire night. I am not dead. I am not physically ill. I am not going to die...


  1. Oh, baby, don't die in the mountains. We need you here.

  2. OMG Lauren! You know what I would sign to you: "You are the most gangsta bicyclist EVER!!"