First 13er – most aggressive hike to date; a tale I’ll likely never forget.

Arrived early but being a summer Saturday, parking at Mitchell Lake was full — adding an extra mile to our start (not so bad, considering my 2012 track record).  Two miles of pine before I pushed thru treeline.  Large boulder climb to the top similar to all past 14er week hikes, skies started greying up, but one quick push UP and SUMMIT SUCCESS!

Everything soon went suddenly wrong.

I took a short panoramic summit video and started heading back.  Ro touches his nose on my leg and I get a small static shock.  Ok that’s odd.  I step on a large flat rock and ZAP!  I pop back, fall over a summit boulder, hit my head and pass out.  I wake up soon after and luckily Ro is laying beside me simply checking out the scenery – not injured, hadn’t run away, a-ok.

I sit up, bit dazed, feeling nauseous.  I know I need to get down but still confused about where I’m at & what happened.  I don’t see a trail and start down the rocky mountain backside — yeah, crossed the ridge and started down the wrong side of Mt Audubon. Scary adventure ensues, not recommended. Ro and I start scaling down large mammoth rock formations — his back-end tucked snug into my backpack.  Ro sensed this was out-of-the-ordinary, stayed calmed, forearms over my shoulders, provided sloppy kisses along the side of my face every 20 minutes.

HELP – I yelled often; no one.  Not a soul.  Completely isolated and alone.

We’d climb down and meet a cliff.  Hike back up the mountain, hike sideways, then try to go down again.  Shale rock caused rock slides, so I’d target a large rock below which would stop our slide – concerned I would slide off a cliff, my body found weeks from now.  Not a best case situation.  Did it hurt?  YES.  Rocks cut my clothes, legs, arms, bloodied my hand.  Again, not recommended.

I prayed out loud, I yelled HELP.  Nothing; no one.  Down, we needed to get down.  I spotted a lake below, assumed this was Blue Lake where a related trail would take us back to civilization and safety.  Closer to the lake, I saw this water was surrounded by a willow thicket.  Tried walking on top of the short sturdy bush.  Not only was Ro held back by this undergrowth, but my legs were taking a beating.  And…mosquitoes.  Back up on rock and travelling horizontally around the mountain base, looking for a trail.

I stopped and emptied my stomach (often) – ’til I was left with nothing but the previous 2-3 sips of water. Sun was starting to set. Continued to push on knowing that my energy level would drop exponentially if I lost a day in the mountains.

Near dusk I saw a light and happened upon a young married couple.  I talked like a crazy person and told them I needed help.  My clothes were ripped, my shorts acting as a loin clothe – backside completely ripped away exposing blue underwear (boxers would have been better had I known, but at least I didn’t go commando :))

If I could have started with the lightning part first, I would have seemed less alarming.  BUT I had a dog on a leash — what crazy dangerous person travels with an Irish terrier?  As conversation continued I remembered more of my day.  Jason pulled out a map and showed me I was 27 miles from my car.  All I could think (& verbalize) was that I could not hike 27 more miles today.

There ARE good people out there.  These folks – Kerry & Jason – were the most amazing people.  They created an action plan.

Plan A – we talked to campers with a SUV; unfortunately they were severely [drug] impaired.

Plan B – hike 4 miles over the ridge of a nearby mountain; a 1000 foot incline.  Ugh, couldn’t imagine hiking anymore this day much less UP over a mountain at night.

Flashlight, water and off we go – Kerry led the way.  Positives: no rain, clear skies, lots of stars.  Jason sparked conversation throughout the hike, taking my mind off the distance and allowing my brain to re-piece together events of the day.  Less than 3 hours later, arrived back to my Prius — 2am Sunday morning.

Used absolutely everything in my backpack except the knife.

Expect a series of lame lake hikes over the next 2-3 weeks.  Leaving these kinds of adventures for younger folk.


FOLLOW-UP:  Jason & Kerry emailed me after the hike — again, AMAZING people.  Turned on my camera following day and was surprised to find a video taken from inside my backpack with hike conversation confirming this did all happen — not a dream.

ALSO, searched out a doctor Tuesday (first visit since 2007) — irregular heart beat, taped my right leg, wrapped my left ankle. Another appointment scheduled for Friday morning — gonna be a-ok.


Mt Audubon (summit video)

hike conversation (w Jason & Kerry)



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13 Responses to hike #29: Mt Audubon (13,223ft)

  • Joyce E. Nichols says:

    Keenan, God is good!! You are a live and what’s a little irregular heart beat. At least you weren’t badly burnt by the lightning strike or your brains permanently scrambled. Glad to hear that you are downsizing your hikes a bit. Good and faithful Ro right there at your side. Wonderful animal!! Love you and am glad I will still be hearing from you about your adventures. Love, Aunt Joyce

    • jill says:

      Too late Joyce. Brains were scrambled along time ago. Maybe it put them back. 🙂 Seriously, you NEED to tell us where you are going and check in with us when you return so we know what mountain to search if we don’t hear from you. Even those lake hikes have snakes and bears.

      • KEENAN says:

        23 weeks to go and my hike challenge is over (maybe). Seriously 14er & 13er opportunities will only be there for only another month, maybe 5 weeks tops because of snow. As warm as it is now, snow will be flying by Labour Day on the high peaks. Generally no snake worries if I keep to my part of Colorado – bears though…maybe. My boss Jim made the same request after this past weekend and will contact family #s if I don’t return. Also he advised that I carry a laminated card with contact #s in my wallet that folks can call if they recover a body.

    • KEENAN says:

      Agreed, this hike was mighty extreme. Will take it easy for a few weeks. Felt sooo much better today. Expect tomorrow’s DR appointment to be nothing but upside from Tuesday. Arms are starting to itch as scratches and deep cuts start to heal. God is great!

  • Sarah says:


    Wow!Lightening strike?-that’s crazy! Glad you are ok…awesome that Ro stayed at your side. Thanks for sharing your adventure… I hope you don’t have any more like this again! Happy easier hike this weekend… and hope the ticker goes back to normal soon. (…and shouldn’t you go to a doctor once a year?)

    🙂 Sarah

    • KEENAN says:

      Expect a mighty lame hike blog this weekend. Hey we almost had something else in common – a broken tailbone. Mine turned out to only be a black-n-blue backside — nothing broken. DR once a year? You Canadians with your socialized medicine. Joking; yeah I was long overdue — think it’s a guy thing.

      • Sarah says:

        …even simple walks can be NON-LAME…look for cool photos on your walk this weekend! Glad you didn’t break your tailbone.. mine has been giving me grief after all the flights I’ve done! (was almost ok, but then I started flying in mid-June…that hasn’t been a good thing!)

        …YES, it’s a TOTAL guy thing! 😉

        • KEENAN says:

          Healthy happy lake hike today – pics later…certainly won’t compare with yours, a true photographer. Overall a FAAANNNTASTIC day! Wishing you the same Sarah 🙂

          • Sarah says:

            …I be no ‘professional’ just someone that likes to snap photos! My day was most excellent…can’t wait to see your photos from your lake hike. I spent my afternoon in the lake at my Gramma’s cottage!

          • KEENAN says:

            Jealous. Enjoy time at your Gramma’s cottage. My grandmother passed a few years ago. Being the oldest grandchild, she was always there until I finally had enough cousins around. Playdoh – she was the amazing at making Playdoh AND playing Chinese checkers 🙂

  • Kerry says:

    Keenan, I don’t think I ever shared with you my rendition of the hike that day. I’ve pasted it below. I’m so happy to hear you’re back to hiking and doing well! I really am so grateful that we found you that day.

    I’m moving back to California in a week, so Jason and I had long planned to spend some quality time together this weekend. After the shooting happened in Aurora on Friday morning, we just wanted to get out of town and get away from the media coverage. We were just so sad.

    We planned an epic, 27 mile loop over 2 passes (Buchanon and Pawnee) and 1 ridge that is high enough (over 11,000 ft) to be mostly considered pass #3. It was a beautiful, fantastic morning. The type of day and the type of hike that makes you so thankful to live in Colorado. And I had the victims of the Aurora shooting in mind as we crossed over the first pass, which made it even more meaningful.

    The hike ended up taking more out of us than we expected, and we still had 4 miles (and maybe 1500 ft elevation change) left as darkness encroached. I knew as long as it didn’t rain, we could safely make it back to our car parked at Brainard lake, although it would be a very late night.

    As we stopped at a creek to put on our head lamps and get water, a figure with a dog approached us. He said he was a Christian, and he needed help. He said he was hiking Mt Audobon and must’ve gotten struck by lightning and electrocuted. He said he was lost and didn’t know where the trail was, and needed our help.

    It’s actually really scary coming across someone in the wilderness, in the dark. You can’t see their face. You can’t really see much. So Jason said he would come over and have a look at the guy, but he got his pocket knife out and told me to grab his walking stick and start hitting the guy like crazy if he attacked Jason. I’m usually a very trusting person, but after what happened in Aurora I was very paranoid and fearful that this man could actually be out to get us. I mean, we did just find him wandering around in the middle of the wilderness. But Jason checked out his injuries and he seemed friendly, so we decided to help.

    First, we gave him some emergency “hammergel” we had in our first aid kit, to help with electrolytes (note: from now on I’m bringing dried gatorade powder in my first aid kit, just in case). We saw some lights in the distance (we were near a 4WD road) so the 3 of us walked, slowly, to the vehicle to see if they could drive this man back to his car. As we approached the vehicle, I think all 3 of us got a weird vibe. We asked one of the men in the vehicle for help, but it became obvious pretty quickly that something was “off”. No alcohol smell, but he must have been on drugs. He said he could drive the injured man back to Louisville tomorrow, since he was playing golf at 1 pm (???). It was so strange, and not a normal reaction.

    The injured man decided instead he would try and make the 4 mile trek up over an 11,000 ft saddle back to Brainard lake, where both of our cars were parked. We gave the man some water, and very slowly began walking. I was first, the injured man second, and Jason was in the rear. We had to take breaks maybe every 15 minutes because the man was very nauseous and weak. Those 4 miles seemed like they took an eternity. We probably left the creek at 9:30 or 10 pm, and didn’t make it back to our car at the trailhead until 2 am. We just kept talking to the man, kept taking short breaks, and encouraging him to keep going. For awhile, we were worried he wouldn’t be able to make it. In that case, we decided that Jason would stay with him and I would walk back to the car by myself, and drive until I got cell phone coverage to call the sheriff. But despite the man’s inability to keep food and water down, and the fact that he had been wandering around since ~ 10 am lost, off trail, disoriented, we eventually made it back to the trail head.

    Throughout the entire 4 hours that we were walking with this man, I had to push thoughts that he might be up to no good out of my mind. When horrible things happen, like what happened in Aurora on Friday morning, it makes us distrust in humanity. But this injured man we found; he needed our help. He had no water, no food, no jacket or pants…. just shorts and a t shirt. It had been lightly raining that night, and he really could have died out there if we hadn’t serendipitously arrived at the creek when he did. The 27 mile hike was almost more than we could handle, but for some reason, I feel like we were meant to do it so that we could help this man. And it reminded me that hurtful people are the minority in this world. We cannot distrust people just because a few crazy people exist. We need to keep living our lives, and lend a hand and help strangers when we can. Humans are good.

    • Thanks Kerry for sharing your recap. I will be forever grateful for your act of human kindness. I have since expanded my Colorado friend base and rarely hike alone. Additionally, I’ve taken up marathon running (goal to hike in all 50 states) — & an Ironman planned in August. Hope to buy you two dinner some day!

  • Kerry says:

    PS- we’re living in Klamath Falls, OR now. Look us up if you’re ever out visiting Crater Lake!

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