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Aspen mountaineer recounts Rocky Mountain high

Michael Appelgate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Ted MahonSkiing options abounded for the eight people, including four from Aspen, who took part in a trip through the Canadian Rockies last May.
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ASPEN – Local mountaineer Ted Mahon described his 85-mile journey through the Canadian Rockies as a “vacation.”

For him and seven others who took part in the 10-day trip last May, it was not a typical, relaxing tour.

The group – Mahon, his wife, Christy, fellow Aspenites Art Burrows and Dirk Bockelmann plus four Canadians – traversed the noted Bugaboos-to-Rogers Pass route in British Columbia. Wednesday, Mahon recounted the experience during a one-hour talk at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.

“This was a vacation for us, so the idea was to make it as fun as possible,” Mahon said.

The route took the group through the Purcell and Selkirk mountains. The total elevation loss and gain combined for more than 35,000 feet.

Before the journey even got started, the group placed five caches of supplies along the route via helicopter. The process, in comparison to the 10-day journey, took only an hour. This was in stark contrast to the first trek across the mountains in 1958. As Mahon pointed out in his presentation, the four men representing the Nordic Club of Dartmouth did not have the luxuries he and his group had, chiefly GPS navigation and satellite phones.

“One of our group members rearranged his flight home during the trip,” Mahon said. “We had it a little bit better off than they did.”

The trip was on hold from the outset as weather caused the group to delay its departure by a day. Once the weather cleared up, the team set off with their 30- to 45-pound bags from the south in the Bugaboos heading north to Rogers Pass.

The pace was easy and lighthearted; sometimes the team set off at 11 a.m. or noon after it had eaten breakfast and made coffee. Once it set off on the day’s journey, never more than 15 miles, the group confronted routes that often included extremely steep slopes and tricky downhills.

Not one member of the team suffered any injuries, and the journey featured very few setbacks. At the end of the trip, with around 20 miles remaining, weather forced the team to dig in while supplies ran short. They were forced to retreat 5,000 feet down to the lowlands to find another cabin where they could find supplies. That meant climbing back up the mountains to finish the hike.

“When we were camping to wait out the weather, another group caught up to us,” Mahon said. “They ended up calling in a helicopter, and we kept going. We didn’t know if we could pull it off.”

As the weather cleared, the team finished the final two days of its journey.

“If you like that sort of adventure, it really is a great time,” Mahon said. “I liked our style. It was really fun. It was far more enjoyable the way we did it.”

The highest peak that the team traveled over was 10,200 feet, and the group went as low as 4,000. The group celebrated the journey at a restaurant near the bottom of the final peak. Victory was sweet, as Mahon recalled, as the group kicked back with beers and great food.

There wasn’t too much time to celebrate the accomplishment, however; Christy had to be back at work at the ACES the next morning, so she showered before they boarded a plane back home.

“None of the seven other men on the journey did,” Mahon said, laughing.

mappelgate@aspentimes.com


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