After studying the routes on both mountains, I strategized to attack Mt. Bierstadt first, mapping my course for a very full day of hiking. I set out early and drove to the west side of the mountains–where I planned to begin.
It is difficult not to set expectations for a hike once I have researched the mountain and planned a course. Sometimes I am spot on and other times I am entirely off base. On this overcast Tuesday, I was expecting a relatively quiet and uninterrupted double hike. This was an instance where I was off base! As I arrived, the parking lot was full, overflow parking was full, and I only narrowly squeezed between two cars on the side of the road. I prepared myself for a busy trail.
Unlike Mt. Sherman, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this hike had a trail map. I took a selfie with the marker– the token of these trails that I have become so fond of. I set off into a quarter mile downhill hike into a marshland. I had a birds eye view of the plain where I could see dozens of people’s heads bobbing along as they hiked. They appeared to be ants in a line as they headed to their destination.
I signed in at the station and began my hike jogging. This was the certainly the coldest start to a hike thus far!
Because this trail was over the marshland I was able to enjoy fun pathways and wooden walks to navigate the mud and small creeks for the first and last mile of the hikes. From this open valley, I had a perfect forecast of the high mountains and technical trails to come. Just as I hit the initial grade of Mt. Bierstadt, all vegetation disappeared and left only a clear path of desert rock to the top.
As I hit the higher elevations, it became evident that the ample physical activity of the weekend was going to make muscle fatigue a real concern for completing the trip. 13,000 feet was met with heavy breathing, dry eyes from the cold wind, muscle soreness, and intense efforts to continue each step. The only reprieve from my state of exertion was the overcast and cold conditions; there was no sunshine to sap my energy any further. I continued to sip my water and maintain my calories knowing that the battle to completion was entirely mental. Switchbacks came and went like days in the week, some quickly and others seemed to drag on forever. I continued on, greeting other hikers as I passed them during their rest breaks on their own journey to conquer this giant rock.
Arriving at the top I made my way to the U.S. Geological Survey pin and took some pictorial evidence of my conquest. In surveying the full view from the top, I noticed two high mountains in the distance. It was Grays and Torreys peaking up in the distance. Completing this first portion of my journey and seeing the fruits of it gave me my second wind and will to adventure on to Mt. Evans. I mentally prepared for the next portion of my journey, the difficult class 3 climb of the Saw-tooth that linked the 14’ers.
As I descended Mt. Bierstadt, I had an incredible view of the cliff faces, Mt. Evans, and Abyss Lake which awaited me. I essentially slid my way along the faces. I caught up to another hiker attempting to do the same and we hiked together for a while for support and safety.
The accountability of companionship proved to be a faster way to cross the knife edge as we bouldered over 200 plus feet cliff faces together. Halfway across the Saw-tooth trek, we were provided with a perfect perch which provided us a framed view of Mt. Bierstadt on the left, the cliff face we just climbed, as well as the narrow cliff face we were about to cover to get the the Mt. Evans trail.
Mt. Evans provided me a new outlook to what is possible on top of a mountain. After traversing 6 miles of difficult trails and taking in beautiful and rare sights, I stumbled upon the modern world again. I climbed over one final ridge to find a parking lot full of cars, a visitor center, an observatory, and throngs of people. I was initially upset that someone could simply drive up this mountain, not earning the beautiful view the peak provided. I decided that despite my resistance to this idea, there was still something special about my view compared to theirs. We could see the same sights, but I believe I found a different appreciation for the same view by completing the journey to the top on foot. I transitioned my thoughts quickly after chatting to a couple of groups who saw my trail completion and wished to one day complete the hike themselves. They were mesmerized to hear where I started my journey from and to see the Saw-tooth I had just covered. In that moment, I was doing what I set out here to do with these feats and this blog–to inspire people. I was living proof right in front of them that it is possible.
After eating and recovering a little bit, I made my way back down Mt. Evans, through the marshland, and back to my car. Proud, exhausted and humbled, I made my way back home with two more 14’ers checked off the list.