Via Ferrata High to Rocky Mountain Low

We have been to Telluride many times but never had time to fit in climbing the Via Ferrata.  From what I remembered it was a steep hike requiring being clipped into a harness.  Aimee handled all the reservations and I didn't think about it until Tuesday morning when we were picked up by our guide.
 When we drove to the trail head I could see a small path and was thinking that would be neat and then the guide continued to trace the trail along the front of the rock face.  Wait!  I didn't sign up to go rock climbing!!  I thought it was a hike.
Our guide said we would have to pass the entrance exam which was a small stretch of the climb that would sample all the technical areas we would continue onto.  If we made it through the entrance exam without having a panic attack, we would likely be OK.  As I looked at the anchor line careening off the mountain I wondered if I would pass the entrance exam.

 We all made it, however Bill was having serious reservations about this idea.  I think after Rim 2 Rim, Havasupai Falls and then this thrilling hike, Bill was also reconsidering his friendship with us!
 After the entrance exam I was feeling pretty good and like I could tackle it!  That all evaporated when we got to the section that would require us to scale the side of Ajax's Peak.  Really, these iron ledges were going to hold me?!  I am not afraid of heights but this was a little insane.  Who installed this and tested it?  Why hadn't I done more research?
Every step required complete concentration.  Living on the edge for sure!
At the end of the Via Ferrata was a bench dedicated to Chuck Kroger, the man who single handedly built the Via Ferrata.
Our guide spoke of Chuck as a true legend.  Apparently he was a pioneer climber in the 60's, ultra runner, cyclist, inventor, metal craftsman, construction company owner, and a mountain renaissance man.  One day as he gazed at Apex Peak he decided Telluride needed a Via Ferrata like the one in the Dolomites of Italy.  Via Ferrata means iron road in Italian.  They were constructed during WWI to assist in moving soldiers.
But the craziest part is that Chuck decided to build the Via Ferrata at night, in secret, and on public land.  He and his wife welded the iron handles in their basement.  Chuck would single handedly climb the mountain, drill holes into the rock face and secure the iron handles all in secrecy under the cover of night.  It took him ten years and he completed the last sections while battling pancreatic cancer.  A real wild man!
We happened to be climbing while a member of the Telluride Mountain Club was officially surveying the route and examining the sturdiness of each rung.  He told us the Forrest Service has wanted to shut it down for years and they have been lobbying to keep it free and open just as Chuck designed it;  there for all who have the heart to enjoy it.  When I look at the picture, I can't agree more.
 We got to cross back over the rock face and I felt much more confident the second time.  It was an awesome experience and has stoked my desire for more thrilling adventures!
When we got home it was time to ride and hike.  Max, Bill, Hailey, Hank, Ben and I wanted to get in a ride while Aimee, Grace, Karlie, Kaitlin and Julianna hit the hiking path.
I was in the back coaching Hank down the mountain.  For most of the ride Hailey had been sandwiched between Bill and Ben and then Max and Hank.  This prevented her from really cutting loose.  She is an avid mountain biker at home.  In the non summer months she goes out nightly.  She loves to go as fast as she can.  However, the desert trails are more flat than the sheer downhill of Telluride.  Toward the end of the trail we paused so Max could coach Hank and I could ride freely.  Hailey had a spot where she could pass Max and and Hank and go full throttle.
With just a 100 yards of the trail to go she hit a bump too fast and flew over her handle bars.  Neither Max or I saw the crash but saw her crumpled up in a ball on the ground.  We rushed down to her and she was having trouble breathing and holding her left arm.  I could tell immediately that she had broken something but were more concerned with her head and neck.  As we examined her and ruled out concussion or neck injury she started to go into shock.  Her skin tone turned yellow and her lips blue.  She started to feel like she was fainting.  I began to worry she had a punctured lung.  At that point we called 911.  An angle showed up at that moment.  A young man happen to be walking down what is usually only a mountain bike trail.  He offered to call 911 and directed the responders to us while we could both focus on Hailey.  Bill took Ben and Hank to Aimee who coincidently was on the way back.  The firefighters made it up the trail in their truck.  I don't know how long it actually took but it seemed like forever.  
 That picture was only taken because while Hailey was in shock she insisted she should take a selfie with daddy.  A daisy was growing right where her head landed so I plucked it and put it in her hair. 
 I can not say enough about the people of Telluride.  Every single person went above and beyond to be good to us.  The fireman offered to take the extra bike and delivered it to the house after he got off work.  The medics were so kind and gentle and the ER doc provider us with her cell phone should we have any trouble in the night.  The nurse also told us she would be on duty the next day and to call for anything.  The pharmacist was getting to know Max on a first name basis after he had called in a prescription for Hank's raging ear infection the first day of the trip and then immediately filled Hailey's prescriptions right before closing.  All that talk about small town hospitality is sure true in Telluride.
We spent Wednesday letting Hailey rest before the big drive home.  I stayed home to play nurse while the crew took the day to ride and hike.  The ladies hiked to Bear Creek Falls while the boys rode.
We had one last celebratory toast.  Grateful that her injury was not worse.  Even though she would need surgery it could have been so much worse.
Telluride is a special place for us.  It was particularly magical staying in a castle on the hill, experiencing the Via Ferrata, and despite the unfortunate injury, seeing the kindness of the folks of Telluride.
 Hailey is already talking about going back and conjuring the trail!  Until next time Telluride...

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