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It was 4:00 a.m. My head hurt, my body was numb. I felt dumb as hell, but somehow more alive than ever. This was my bachelor party. An epic adventure that started with the best of intentions and ended in a helicopter ride.
Sounds pretty sweet right? Did I forget to mention the stitches, the CAT scans, the broken collarbone and busted ankle? Well, my epic failure is your gain. This is a cautionary tale. And like anything else, should be taken straight up with a whiskey chaser.
Being a Colorado boy, I decided to skip the downtown strip bars, serious black-out potential and next-day embarrassment, and instead headed to the hills for my back-to-the-Earth bachelor party.
I enlisted two of my best friends, we’ll call them Pico and Paco, to head up to the 14,131-foot summit of Capital Peak. It’s near a little place “where the beer flows like wine,” a little place we like to call Aspen, and I figured if we got an early alpine start, we could be back in time for afternoon swills at The Jerome.
And it all started great. I was feeling really… really… ridiculously good about myself. I was set to marry a beautiful (though ever-so-slightly deranged) Mexican-Argentinean about a month later. She drove me crazy, but I knew I’d look good for the wedding. And knew that if I could just find my own balance–my own inner zen–I could make things work. Climbing Capital was part of my 12-step program to find that balance.
*Note to you bachelors from the Man Code Library,“If you start with the idea that if only she can change and if only you can change it’ll all work out, then you’re probably headed for a bachelor party breakdown.”
By 10 a.m., we were above the tree line. A serious conversation the night before on whether helmets and ice-axes would be required was well worth it, as we donned our helmets and ascended across a narrow gap with 3000-foot falls on either side called the Knife’s Edge at about 13,000 feet.
From there it was a hip-hop scramble to the top. We took some celebratory pictures, and I looked down thinking about my wedding, about what she would wear, what I would wear. What we’d say and how our future would look.
I’m no Grateful Dead fan, but they had it right when they said, “When life looks like Easy Street there is danger at your door.” I saw the first hint of lightning in the distance at about 1 p.m. We’d better hurry up if we’re gonna make it in time for sunset on the porch, beers and maybe a cigar.
*Another note to you Bachelors from the Man Code Vault, “Don’t rush it. Don’t rush anything. Don’t rush getting your tux on. Don’t rush the party. Don’t rush the wedding. Let it come to you.”
So I picked up the pace. I was in the lead. No problem getting past the Knife’s Edge. We were on the K2 summit, the sky was swirling with electricity as clouds started to build. If only we could get around this talus field and onto the snowfield and back to solid ground, we would be safe from lightning and closer still to my blushing bride. So I started to descend.
We needed to get from the K2 summit (below the actual summit) to a safe place on the other side of a massive field of boulders. So I started down. Slowly… but with precision and 100 percent concentration… Then I heard a crack and a boom. I was holding onto a rock cropping that jutted out above the scree field. It cut loose, a refrigerator-size block of Colorado granite flew past me.
Getting rescued off the top of a mountain: both perilous and expensive!
Being close to death is part and parcel of every bachelor party. It’s really about being close to a new life. That’s why we party until our eyes grow weary, and why we push ourselves onto Knife’s Edges. It’s just part of being a man. And as with any near-death experience–or entering the event horizon of a black hole–things started to move slowly… very slowly.
I was free from the boulder, but I was tumbling. I thought I could grab hold of something, anything, but a boulder hit my ankle and flipped me like a rag-doll, head-over-heals. I was now somersaulting down a 45-degree field of boulders like a demented Cirque de Soleil performer.
Keep your head in. Get your bearings. Stop. Stop. Stop.
This truly could have happened in the Diamond Cabaret in downtown Denver, but as with any epic fail, it had to take place at 13,000 feet, with a 3,000 foot drop just 100 yards past where I skidded to a stop.
I took my vitals. I could wiggle my toes. I could move my fingers. My back wasn’t not broken. Wedding tackle box…still intact. I can think. I can feel. Paco and Pico thought I was dead. They really did. But I wasn’t… I was more alive than ever. And that’s what makes a bachelor party great.
As with any cleanup after a great party, we started putting together the pieces. They came down to me and checked my vitals. My collarbone was broken, my head was bashed. Worst of all, my ring finger was dislocated. I had a weird gash on the back of my skull and just above my hip were large sections of flesh that had been torn from my body.
Paco reached for his phone. “Where’s your emergency?” the 911 operator asked. “Thirteen thousand feet below the K2 Summit on Capital Peak.” Help was on its way.
It took another five hours to pull me off that goddamned mountain. First I was put in a litter, then tossed up the scree field four inches at a time until we got to K2. A amazingly brave and totally bad-ass helicopter pilot who risked his life on a daily basis to save idiots like me had managed to locate a safe landing zone, but could barely touch the skids down because we were near the heli’s envelope. They threw me in. My rescuer put his arms around me and we ripped off that mountain in a nosedive toward the valley below. It was probably the scariest moment of the day… then came the wedding.
The writer ended up marrying that crazy Mexican-Argentinean. He wore a ring on his other hand, and eventually not at all as they found their paths diverging. Next time he gets married, he’s sticking with strippers and lap-dances. The events in this story are true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
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