Mt. Bierstadt - Colorado 14-er
As you probably know, I do a lot of hiking. This hike however is far different from my norm! It's been on my list of things I'd like to do, and today was the day!! It's been a few years in the making, not for any reason other than scheduling and weather constraints, but today was forecast to be clear and beautiful!
August 26, 2017, Mt. Bierstadt became a reality. My first time ever attempting to hike a Colorado 14er, which just means that the elevation at the summit is 14,000 feet or higher. A group of friends from my gym and I had made our plan, set the date, and headed off in the dark hours of the morning with anticipation of an exciting day! We left the trailhead at 6am and by the time we even got to the parking lot, it was jam packed with cars and we parked on the road, not an unusual sight by any means! Some people leave at the wee hours, say 3:30-4:30am, so they can reach the summit at sunrise, like my friend Zoey did!!
Zoey's morning view... (and photo)
We met her running down the trail after her summit! This girl has got some serious fitness!
We had a group of 10 that met at the trailhead. It was dark, and chilly, as we headed off along the wood planked path that took us across a swampy area to higher ground. The sun was just starting to lighten the sky, enough to reveal just how "not alone" we were.
The beginning of the hike is relatively tame. Like I said, we crossed a boggy area, and a beautiful lake sat off to our left. We were surrounded by bushes, some that were almost as tall as us, some that were more short and scrubby as we approached the start of the incline. Seems painless enough! ;-)
It was chilly but a long sleeve tshirt did me just fine! The skies were still pretty dusky, but enough light was coming through to see the mountain we faced ahead of us.
The bushes went from short to tall to short, and there were quite a few muddy puddles to jump over!
We spread out a bit, accommodating hikers of all paces (my pace taking up the rear lol). The views as we gained some elevation were incredible! The sun was starting to come up and hit the mountains behind us, creating a beautiful glow.
The skies were getting brighter, the sun hit the peaks and left the valleys shrouded in shade, creating a rich and beautiful color scheme.
The lakes below were calm with the most beautiful reflections.
This...I couldn't get enough of it.
There was one other photography buff there with me so we stopped to take LOTS of shots. Brian found us amusing. ;-)
I was definitely thrilled to be surrounded by friends on this adventure! It was a hairy one at the very least!!
This terrain was much different than what I am used to seeing on my wooded/secluded hikes! It was kind of cool to be above the tree line and while the landscape was more barren, it held it's own kind of beauty!!
Sunrise came, and the beautiful warm light shone through the valleys of the mountain ranges. When it hit us, it warmed us and cast the most beautiful light!
This group was just ahead of us and this was the first sign of sunrise that I saw, other than the glow lighting up the distant mountain peaks.
By the time our group went through the same light, it had changed and was much more illuminating!
The trails started off fairly tame. They went from flat and swampy, to more steep and rocky.
Each switchback posed a different challenge, and the rocks kept getting larger and larger to climb over or navigate around!
The silhouette of part of our group was fantastic! So tiny in a sea of vast wilderness!
One of many stops for me!
Breaks are a necessity on hikes like this!
We carried on and noticed how the scenery went from more lush and bushy to more stark, barren and rocky. There was definitely still green nestled into the rocks, but not like it did at a lower elevation. With each and every switch back, I kept feeling like we were JUST around the corner from the top! Silly silly me…..lol. The trails quickly turned into a fairly steep graded single track, with sizable rocks that jutted from almost every piece of the trail, forcing you to step up onto anywhere from 12-30” tall rocks. It was at this point that I REALLLYYY thought we were almost there! ...well maybe I was praying that we were that close!
These huge rock mountains were impressive!
I loved the shadows our bodies cast against the perspective of my tiny ant sized friends and the sprawling hills...this was humbling to say the least!
The terrain from here to the top was extremely rocky and hard to navigate.
..and there she is! The summit is just within our reach! We could taste the victory but the reality is, that climb is another 20 minutes minimum!
I headed to a peak to look on the other side to see what it held...I was in awe!
We were high enough to see layers upon layers upon layers of rolling ranges. A lake nestled in below, just visible if you were in the right spot!
We all successfully reached the top, some more quickly than others, but nonetheless we were all there, together! I was still on a high and feeling pretty good, even though my muscles and lungs had a different story to tell! My brain, through the fog, felt accomplished!
The thrill of being at the top was infectious!!
The Garmin doesn't lie!! We are truly at 14,000 feet!
It's really kind of cool how many people do these hikes, although it's also a bummer to have so many people there, I kind of like the solitude when I get out in nature! Still, this many people, putting out such physical effort to achieve a goal...very inspiring!!
My bestie and I!
Akemi and I with our matching good luck CO socks!
There is is!! Proof! I should have laid down and done a selfie with it lol!
Success has been achieved!
My group, minus 3 that had to head down before us!
After we all had a snack, took some really cool pictures and posted to Instagram ;-) (yes there was cell service at the top), we started our decent. I can personally say, this part was MUCH worse for me than going up, even considering the fatigue of the climb. A few others of us however, were totally up to running down or descending more quickly! The experience was different for everyone!!
The boulder field we had to traverse to get to the summit, and then down off the summit was super sketchy. As long as you minded your speed and footing you were ok but it required some focus!
Ahhh, down off the last of the boulders and making my decent...
Being mindful of my step!
I got to enjoy some of the sights that were behind me going up! See the reflections now? SO beautiful!
See if you can take a close look at the ridge of this mountain, see the row of people along the backbone? The peak just to the left is the summit!
One risk of climbing this high is that storms can roll in, and quickly, making the threat of lightning strikes a reality. As we were going down early enough to not face that danger, I loved seeing the clouds casting their shadows on the distant mountains!
We all ended up back at our respective cars, exhausted and feeling happy to be done! I had a good time on this adventure but I will be completely real and say I don't want to do anther one any time soon lol!
I have had a couple of friends who conquer these frequently, tell me some encouraging things, and not to throw in the towel after this one. After the memory of the difficulty fades, maybe you will see me out again in the future!!
I have learned over my life to never say never!!
We drove down the switchbacks to get to Georgetown and some nourishing food, and saw this cute little dude just chillin on the side of the road! Definitely a cool way to end the day!