It’s 11:20 and we’ve been pushing hard over the high ridges of the continental divide.
“There’s nothing in the sky that’s less than an hour from lightning capacity, and that ugly bastard is the worst.” I say as I gesticulate towards a thunderhead 15 miles behind us.
“Yeah I think we have an hour and a half.” Kit says.
We’re guessing, and hoping we can predict what the clouds will do. We’ve been watching them form and thunder for near a month, but it’s still guesswork.
We start up our final three miles. We’ve been at it since just after six, with a little over ten miles behind us. We’re at 12300 feet, looking at a 1000 foot climb. The air is thin and we have little time to make it before the storm is on us.
A low rumble catches my ear and I hold my breath for a moment, silencing the rush of thin air through my throat. I hear the rumble continue, it’s and airplane flying out of Denver. There’s still time.
The smaller thunderhead has grown to an ugly gray cloud, looming to the left of our peak. My legs burn and my lungs fill with acid, pushing hard to make the miles.
12:07 – The thunderhead creeps over the peak, but it’s so close I can feel it. The thought of ditching crosses my mind. Another detour like yesterday fills my head with dread. Besides, it’s exposed ridge going back. No safer.
12:18 – We make the peak, barely breathing, pausing only a second for a brief photo before we head down, still another half mile on the ridge.
12:39 – Below the ridge only a few hundred feet thunder claps above the peak.
The next two days have much shorter ridge walks and we will be better able to set up for them. These mountains are spectacular but foreboding.