“Did you make it?” I asked.
“No,” the teenager responded. “We were, like, a hundred feet from the top before things got too crazy.”
“Well, good call. Better to be safe, of course.” I smiled comfortingly and allowed the four hikers to pass by. They looked relieved to be halfway down the mountain, though obviously still infused with adrenaline after looking over their shoulders for lightning for the last twenty minutes. A thunderclap echoed between the faces of Mount Evans and Mount Spaulding, as if to reaffirm the wisdom of their decision. I stared at their retreating backs for a moment, then turned and continued up the ridgeline, towards the storm.
Yes, sometimes I can be an awful hypocrite when it comes to outdoor safety, especially when I catch a whiff of adventure in the air. My choice to proceed up Mount Spaulding might seem a bit rash, as a curtain of precipitation was currently closing in fast on my position. However, these storms were coming in waves, and the sky overhead was clear and bright only an hour ago. It would be so again. If I could time the ascent just right, I’d have blue skies during my final push on Mount Evans, and my quest to claim the Colorado Fourteener summits could proceed on schedule. I only hoped that when this current wave came crashing down, I could withstand it long enough to emerge intact on the other side.
The previous wave had caused some damage to the nearby town of Idaho Springs. Streets were swamped with rainwater, and several cars had parked beneath highway overpasses to escape a barrage of hailstones. The strength of the current storm front was unknown, although the frequency of sonic booms hinted at a vast store of electrical power. Nevertheless, I was undeterred, and my bravery had much to do with the presence of a paved highway in the vicinity that led almost to the top of Mount Evans. The road’s proximity took much of the mystique and the element of danger away from this mountain, even though I was attempting to reach the summit by more honest means.