Off Yonder – Adventure Travel Stories - Seeing the world for what it is

Ellingwood Ridge Challenge
La Plata, Collegiate Range, Colorado, United States


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I had the pleasure of guiding a trip in the Colorado Rockies with Mark James for the Adventure Unlimited Ranches. We took a group of intrepid adults from A/U’s Adult Base Camp (ABC) program to La Plata where the plan was to traverse Ellingwood Ridge. The five of us (two guides and three adult campers) camped at the base of the western ridge. The next morning we made it up the western ridge to the 14,334-foot summit where a batch of my mom’s home made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies were delivered. That was a treat. Once rested at the summit one camper opted to turn back and was accompanied by Mark while the rest of us started our descent along Ellingwood Ridge. This is not a trail and is a technical route. About an hour into the traverse we realized the best idea was to turn back to the summit instead of continuing on along the ridge all the way down as planned.

On our way down along the trail we encountered a couple, a brother and sister, where the woman had had a pretty good slip and gashed her leg. She’s a nurse and had bandaged herself up pretty well but was still on a fairly steep and slippery part of the trail. Only one from our party was needed to help her so I sent the campers along back to camp to tell Mark what was going on. I helped her all the way down off of the western ridge into the approach valley where it was pretty normal walking. Her husband was waiting for her at the end of the trail and they got out just fine.

In the mean time, Mark and his camper were out on a little adventure of their own such that my campers didn’t see them at camp and it made them wonder what was going on. Just as they were about to abandon camp, Mark popped up over the ridge and they struck camp and all packed out. Since I was helping the lady, I sent my pack down to camp so now there was one extra pack at camp and I was at the parking lot thinking Mark and the gang had already come out. They hadn’t. Since I was now at the trailhead with only the shirt on my back and it was starting to get dark, left a note on the van and hitched a ride back to the Ranches where as we started to assemble a team to head back up and see how Mark and the crew were doing, they drove up and we got to share the stories about what happened! Kudos to Mark who humped a double load out with my pack strapped to his!

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