When we got to the city of Gothic, CO we were very turned around. We thought we were headed for Aspen, but the map led us here. We got out and spoke with the locals to find the trail, many of them warned us of its difficulty and urged us not to attempt it. We decided we didn’t want to drive 3.5 hours back to Aspen, so we pursued it. The beginning of the hike was seriously so gorgeous, I was brimming with joy and excitement. It was gorgeous. Bright flowers lined the path and the big maroon peaks were beckoning.
This feeling of joy would soon wash away as we began climbing up, up and up after passing Judd Falls. The intense incline was honestly something I wasn’t prepared for and most importantly, was not in all the right shape for. I was geared up for a tough 16 mile hike and didn’t know I was signing up for an even tougher 23 mile hike. Yikes. I simply could not keep up. It sucked. Like, it sucked a LOT. At one point I think my friends were a good full mile ahead of me. Giving up, unfortunately, wasn’t an option. My friend had the keys to the car.
Eventually, I caught up to my trio of friends taking a break and eating a sandwich. I had been powering through, moving slowly but still moving. As soon as I stopped to break, they were ready to move again and honestly there’s something really crushing about it. I don’t blame them, they’re wildly in better shape than I am and this was the 3rd backpacking trip I’d ever attempted. First one over 4 miles and here I was, trying to tackle 20. I was in over my head. We continued on to the hardest part of the trail, I couldn’t believe it. My body couldn’t believe it. At this point I was starting to feel the symptoms of altitude sickness.
I turned to my friend about halfway up Triangle Pass and told him I simply could not go on, I would have to set up camp in the bowl below us or risk not being able to leave the next day. We continued on another mile, because I don’t know why. I think my friends just really wanted to try to make it to the springs and weren’t aware we had another 5 miles to go to get there. After we logged that last mile, they finally agreed to set up camp as a storm rolled in.
Together, we set up camp by a glacier puddle and began prepping some food with our JetBoil. I was able to breathe again, but didn’t feel great. It wasn’t long before I was throwing up and feverish – full blown altitude sickness. I crawled into my sleeping bag and fell asleep to the sound of thunder.
The next day was beautiful, the group was ready to head on to the springs but I decided to stay at camp and not risk being unable to get home. I still felt miserably ill, unable to take more than a few steps without getting light headed. I would make my way down to the glacier puddle and filter water a few times before I watched a couple on the ridge contemplate continuing on, then ultimately giving up and turning around. haha! I sun bathed for a few hours, it was honestly really nice. I even watched an emergency helicopter fly by and had half a mind to flag it down. At the time, I thought the joke was funny – but a week later it really wouldn’t be when I read that a woman died from AS in the exact same spot right after I hiked it.
Since I’m slow af, I decided to pack up and start heading back down before everyone else. They still managed to catch up with me, how, I have no idea. I was booking it down the mountain! So fast that I ended up dropping my phone about 4 miles from the trail head. I realized this only 2 miles in, but decided going back 2 miles to get it was just NOT on the agenda. Bye phone! Lucky for me, since the trial isn’t trafficked much, the hikers that found it were good people and turned it into the local CBPD. Hell yes! Whoever you are – thank you so much!!!
When we got the car, we were all incredibly exhausted and not thrilled about a 4 hour drive back home. But it was incredible. My friends say that hiking to the springs from this way is so totally not worth it, go from Aspen. But if you’re on the hunt for a challenge and want to be immersed in some of the most incredible views – this is the trail for you.