Day 1 of a 17 day trek out to Colorado was off to a bit of a rough start. The plan was for my buddy Jack's flight to get in at 10:30 pm local time with mine getting in 30 minutes later at 11:00 pm and then heading to our buddy Nic's place for the night. This was the eve of "Snowmageddon" with flights out east being cancelled left and right yet mine somehow left more or less on time and arrived 30 minutes early. I turned my phone on to find out that Jack's flight had been delayed. The only problem was I had no clue where his layover was from or what airline he was flying so I met up with Nic and we went on to search for an open airport bar. Three bars and a few beers later, my phone finally rings to find out Jack had landed. So we closed out our tab, found Jack at baggage claim and headed back to Nic's.
After a quick layover at Taco Bell we arrived at his place around 2:00 am. Spirits were high as we cracked open some Dale's Pale Ale and geared up for the next day. That was when I realized the boneheaded move I had made. I forgot to pack the T-nuts for the slider track of my split kit. These tiny little pieces of metal are crucial and I knew they would be near impossible to find.
Maybe we were just being optimistic or maybe it was the beer but we kept our spirits high and made a list of snowboard shops that open at 6 am. Our heads finally hit pillows a little after 3 am. Three alarms simultaneously went off at 5:30 am without anyone even flinching. At about 5:45 Jack had mustered up the energy to get out of bed and kick me and Nic to get up. By 6:15 I had called just about every shop along the I-70 corridor to no avail. No one carried the T-nuts. On to plan B.
We loaded up the Jeep and made our way towards Home Depot. After running in and out of the store multiple times and about 45 minutes later I was finally able to McGiver a screw/washer/nut combination that just might work! Thank goodness, because plan C was to bootpack which I was not looking forward to after literally being at sea level 12 hours prior. After a quick celebratory Coors and a pit stop at McDonald's for breakfast we were finally on our way to the mountains.
High fives and excitement were quickly replaced with "Son of a b*$%@!". We hit the dreaded Saturday I-70 traffic. So we trudged along while trying to make friends with passengers in the neighboring cars until we stopped at a gas station in Idaho Springs to use the bathroom and grab a pair of cheap sunglasses for Jack. After finding a pair of suitable $10 specs we jumped back into Jeep. We turned the key, the engine turned but it wouldn't start.
Ten minutes of trying later we had given up on trying to get it started ourselves. There just happened to be a tow truck at the same gas station picking up a few things so Nic kindly asked them to give us a hand. They checked the fuses, battery and all looked good but the Jeep just wouldn't start. They had one final trick up their sleeve. They were going to give the engine an ether boost. With fingers crossed we let them give it a shot and viola, it fired right up.
We thought we were in the clear but then the mechanic explained there was no guarantee it would start again and that we should bring the Jeep home and take another car if we could. We could have easily headed back and taken Nic's roommate Jason's Subaru but by the time we'd get back up to Berthoud our day would basically be over. We looked at each other and much to the dismay of the mechanic we decided we were going to live life dangerously... upwards and onwards!
We finally got to the Berthoud Pass parking lot at around noon only to find it packed which in my experience is not very common. Nevertheless, we squeezed our Jeep into a spot and geared up. We were eager to make the most of our day. We decided we were all in and agreed not to see if the car would start again until we were done for the day and started heading up. Between minimal sleep and no time to adjust to the altitude the first skin up, although it is fairly low pitched, was quite brutal. We made it to the top of Floral Park, strapped in and dropped.
We immediately had grins from ear to ear. The snow was all time and made us completely forget about the previous 12 hours. Pow slashing through the trees, we were hootin' and hollerin' all the way back down to the road. After the high-fiving and fist-bumping had subsided we stuck our thumbs out towards passing cars until one was kind enough to stop. It was a pickup that actually stopped to get their friends next to us but were kind enough to offer us a ride anyway. So we loaded it up, 3 people and 3 dogs in the cab and 6 people and all the gear in the truck bed. As sketchy and cramped as it was we managed give some passing cars a view of a mid day full moon on the way up.
Back at the parking lot we returned to the Jeep to find that we had actually parked right next to Nic's friends we were supposed to meet up with that morning. We decided to take a break and hang out with them for a bit. A few beers and burnt bratwursts later we headed back up. This time our objective was The Sentinel and the skin up is a bit steeper. We huffed and puffed all the way up while another backcountry snowboarder's dog ran laps around us as if it were laughing in our faces.
We strapped in and I decided I'd film us this time around. I pulled out the GoPro and of course the new selfie stick I had just gotten didn't wanna stay in the proper position. At this point it was the least of my worries. With a shrug of my shoulders I used it anyway and I sincerely apologize for the awful filming in the mini edit below. Just like in our first drop, the snow was awesome. Hoots, hollers, high fives and fist bumps were had before we caught a ride in the back of yet another pickup.
We got back to a fairly empty parking lot. Being as it was late in the day and our legs already being pretty spent we decided to call it after just two runs. This was only day one after all. Now came the moment of truth. We put the key in the ignition, crossed our fingers and turned. Just like that, the engine fired right up and we started heading back down to Denver. We stopped at a few more shops in town, leaving the Jeep running each time, until I acquired those precious T-nuts. Our final stop was at Autozone a few blocks from Nic's place where we had them run a quick diagnostic. It was our final stop because we couldn't get it to start again. It stayed in that lot for the next 5 days... but that's a story for a different day!