I'm a mountain biker, and my husband is also a mountain biker. He often heads off into the woods, high into the mountains with the guys for long, epic rides. Come winter it's time for "Tuesday Night Worlds" when all the fast guys come out to play. I've done some of the trails they do on those rides and wow - it takes me and Nick an hour or more longer to complete the same distance. It's a given that Tuesday is Nick's night and I don't usually see him again until 8:30-9:00. I'm not normally worried - he's riding with other guys and he is also well prepared. Small medical kit, warm clothes, water treatment stuff and a spot tracker for emergencies. He'll occasionally check in with the spot so I know what's going on, but normally I just know the route and who might be joining him. But I also know that one day, I may get a phone call changing everything.
Well, last week, we got that phone call. But not for Nick - he had bailed on the guys ride to pre-ride the CMSP race course with me and the girls. He wanted to check his gearing and make sure I was comfortable with all the lines on Cougar's Shadow. And it was a super fun ride. For what ever reason, he'd offered to let me drive the van down to the park, but I declined. I still hadn't driven the brown bullet - just not feeling comfortable with the large vehicle. After the ride, I was uploading files to the computer and Nick was warming up supper. Then the phone rang - due to the crappy reception we get at the house, it was actually the second time Amber had tried calling. This time it went thru. Cam had crashed and the guys were going to try to walk him out. At least that's what they told her. Fred had tried calling Nick multiple times to tell him the real story, but it hasn't gone through. So we jumped in the van, picked Amber up and headed west up the pass. Then Nick got a call from the guys. I have never seen Nick drive that fast up US 24 thru Ute Pass. I knew something was seriously wrong at that point.
We reached the trailhead to see the ambulance and fire responders talking to Blaine - one of the guys on the ride. They were waiting for SAR to arrive so they could figure out the easiest and safest way to get up the trail to where the Todd and Fred waited with Cam, trying to keep him warm with all their spare clothes and even tree branches. Once Nick and Blaine explained the trail, the first responders took them up the Pikes Peak Highway to help them figure out how to get to Cam. Fred had triggered his spot and between that, the cell phone gps and Nick and Blaine's directions they had his location down to about 300 feet. It was just a matter of getting there. That left me and Amber to wait for Daniel - who was walking down with the bikes. And then I would have to drive the van down this narrow little road to a more centrally located place to wait. And wait. And wait some more. It was agonizing, waiting and not knowing anything. All we got were the occasional texts from Nick or Blaine. Once of the longest three hours of our lives. There were four of us in the van - trying to keep things light and keep our minds off the worst case scenarios.
Then finally - the ambulance coming down the mountain. A short stop to let Amber know where they were going to take Cam and what was going on. Then gone again. Amber followed with Kervin, leaving the other four guys with me and Nick. We dropped them all off, then headed home. A long night and no information about one of our best friends. We wouldn't learn anything until Wednesday morning. When we did hear from Amber it was a collective sigh of relief for Cam. And given everything, he is super lucky. Things could be so much worse...
Things can happen so quickly. Sometimes we are prepared for what is coming, but sometimes there is no preparation that can help. Sometimes we make choices that seem silly at first, but later can be life saving. Why didn't Nick join them? He didn't need to come with us to the park. Maybe things would have been different if Nick had been on that ride - but it's impossible to say if it would have been different for the better or worse. What's done is done - all I know is I will be more prepared when heading out into the mountains. It's impossible to say if and when someone else will get that call. We are mountain bikers - unfortunately accidents happen on the trail. But that doesn't mean we will stop riding our bikes - danger abounds just walking thru the parking lot to work. It just means we will find our safety in numbers and communicate the plan to everyone. Plain and simple, the mountains and trails that we call our home and playground demand great respect.