HikaNation: Colorado, Kansas -- 32:05

Marce Guerrein's HikaNation Journal entry
Going over the Continental Divide in Colorado

August 31, 1980

I am up early so as to speak with Maude. She has given cause for alarm to our group of 10. She is having trouble with elevation. She is unable to catch full breath, she coughs all day and throughout the night. She has fluid building in her lungs. She is no longer carrying a full pack. Rich is carrying her tent and sleeping bag (12lbs.) and Guy is carrying her food (10lbs). Although one of the young chaps has volunteered to take her "out" it is decided she can go with Clarence, the one who is going off.

She agrees. Lower elevation makes sense to her also. It is a common ailment for mountain climbers - fluid builds in their lungs until such time as a person drowns.

Click on photos for larger views

Williams Lake

Now we are eight making our way to "The Knife Edge" the prize for this last day in August. I thought I was on it for a long time before I actually was. We camped at Williams Lake just ahead of it by approximately 2 miles. We wind up and up, literally clinging to the side of the mountain, one switchback after another, the trail two boots wide, and in places, one boot wide. I am truly frightened. I try not to look down, but my peripheral vision tells me that it is curtains with any false move. We are traveling over horse trails, if you can believe. I have no idea what I would do, or could do, should I meet a horse with a rider. I think there is not enough room for me. However, the traffic is moving in one direction - forward - and there is no turning around. And just to add to my excitement, the wind howls. I am so busy watching every boot step that I forget to wish I had stayed in bed.

And then there it is - the Knife Edge. Scott D. lets out with a war whoop again and again. Cameras are clicking and as I round the bend there perched high on the rocks is John Olmsted, the fellow making the movie.

The Knife's Edge

More thrills are ahead - little did I know. We are at an elevation of 13,000ft. plus and we climb over to what is known as the Whale Back. This is a series of peaks, which are mountains of gravel. Absolutely no vegetation is visible. I am absolutely sure that the winds are about 80mph. It whips me around to face another direction. I am truly scared now. There are tales about people going over the side. It must be here that some lose touch with the ground. I grab Dave C. and hand-in-hand we climb the gravel peaks. Had it not been for him, I'm sure I would have my first flying lesson without benefit of fuselage.

The Whale's Backbone

We have our largest single trek immediately atop the Divide at this juncture - roughly 10 miles. We do not go all the way but make camp in one of the saddles.

I eat and go to bed immediately. Not only am I exhausted, emotionally and physically, but also it is very cold.