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Flat Top Mountain

Updated: May 22, 2021

Reaching the Peak of Flat Top Mountain in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park was, admittedly, not what I had set out to do that day. When I entered the park for what seemed like the millionth time, all I wanted to do was have an endurance day as I was preparing for Kilimanjaro and could use the stamina.


I arrived at Bear Lake early that morning with not much more than a jacket, water and internal sense of the park. I had my sight set on Odessa Lake whose trail head resides just beyond the view of the everyday spectator. It would be a mostly flat, mildly difficult endurance hike; a ratchet up from the last one. then, at the fork, I saw the sign for Flat Head Mountain and figured I could make the day more exciting by jetting up that and hitting the lake on the way back. Little did I know I had set my sights on just over 12,000 feet.


Typically, I have a much loved (if not totally destroyed) map of the park to consult before making these grand gestures. That day however, spontaneity and lack of preparation had gotten the best of me; off I went to conquer new territory.


I must have looked ragged because I came across the well meaning but completely uncalled for "don't worry, you're almost there" from about one too many passerby. I got to tundra before it hit me - complete and utter fatigue. Sitting on a rock trying to correct my vision from it's blurred state, gulping the last of my water, a couple came by asking if I were okay. Apparently the color from my face had drained as well.


They sat with me a moment and decided they were a bit peckish and so enjoyed a snack. They were on their descent and were kind enough to offer some rations; cheese, cherry tomatoes, a Snickers. Each of these were the most delicious versions of themselves; not because they were anything special but because I was on the verge of collapse.


By the time we parted ways I was refreshed and ready to push on to the summit. It was a great challenge and while I didn't have proper equipment for the hike, I'm sure glad I had my camera!

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