Preview: Mt. Lindsey

Unlike most of the 14’ers, Mt Lindsey is not very well know and a lot of people don’t really know it exists. Sitting Southeast of the Zapata Falls and Great Sand Dunes, Mt. Lindsey is often overlooked. From its initial geological survey until 1953, the peak was named “Mt. Baldy” because of how much of the peak is above the tree line. Later on the peak was renamed after Malcom Lindsey, a Colorado Mountain Club member and renowned mountaineer, because it was his favorite peak. After his passing in 1951 the club positioned to have the peak renamed and in 1953, the name was officially changed.

After doing the weather scouting and research on the peak, this looks to be a great climb to start the year on. Because of its high exposure, a lot of snow should have melted by now and I should have a mostly clear path. My only issue is a predicted storm that may or may not hit around 1pm. Fortunately, this 8 mile round trip trail should provide a great opportunity for Tuk to hit his 1st 14er and short enough that we get back to the car in time. But as always, safety first.

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Long Winter!

IMG_0004It has been a long winter of fun adventures, in particular learning how to ski and snowboard. No days of hiking 14ers meant a solid 70 days in on the slopes. As the resorts start to close and trees start to bloom, it means it is time to get back to the trails. With 21 of the 58 climbs to go and 2 months to complete it, the snow can’t melt fast enough. To keep my passion alive, I have been doing a lot more manageable winter hikes in addition to my snowboarding and skiing including Mt. Sanitas, Hanging Lake, Red Rocks, the Flatirons, and North and South Table mountains. These snowy and icy trails were a pleasant change of pace and provided some amazing winter wonderland views. This was a new experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone.

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The major news from this winter came a few short months ago in the form of a new hiking partner. Tuk is a Bernedoodle (50% Bernese Mountain dog and 50% Poodle) and his name derives from the Swahili term for adventurer “Tukio.” After a quick flight to Spokane, WA to meet the breeder and pick him up, we were on a flight back and ready to take on Colorado. He has taken to the snow and trails like a champ and I can’t wait to start bringing him along on some of these longer hikes.

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As I am trying to plan out the first set of hikes, however factoring in the weather is EXTREMELY important. It is very common in the spring and early summer months to have afternoon storms which means its even more critical that I get up early, hit the mountain hard, and keep my eyes on the skies. I still have not figured out which peak I will start with and the weather will be a determining factor in this decision. So keep an eye out as the preview post will most likely be less than 24 hours before the climb. I appreciate everyone who follows me (and now Tuk) as we look to complete the remaining 14’ers.

Completed: Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle

img_1790img_1823With a difficult 14 mile hike in front of me, I met up with some other hikers at 5am in order to hike together as a group. I snagged my trail map selfie the previous afternoon so light wasn’t an issue since as we started the trail, the sky was pitch black lighted only by thousands of tiny stars overhead. As we stared up the dark 4.5 mile trail to the ridge saddle, we passed along the icy “Broken Hand Pass” which challenged our route requiring us to find our balancing skills on the icy snow. As we made it to the ridge saddle, the sun was just peaking over the mountain line. This was just a tease because as we hiked down behind the mountain to Cottonwood Lake and into the shadows. img_1794

After the group stopped for a short snack break and spent some time skipping rocks on the iced-over lake, we pushed on to one of the more difficult sections of the Crestone Peak: the class 3 scramble up the 2,000 foot red gully. This part of the climb required us to climb on all fours, being extremely careful with each step. With fatigue setting in, it was important to focus and not slip on a rock. Sending a falling rock down the gully at my new friends or even slipping myself would start a dangerous slide. This part challenged my physical ability as well as my mental patience. It seemed like every time I looked up, I was not getting any closer to the top, yet every time I looked down, I was getting higher and higher. Finally, after all of the hard work, we all made it safely the to top of the gully and made a short ascent to the top of the mountain. img_1798The view was spectacularly gratifying and humbling at the same time. We just finished the class 3 climb of 7 miles to make it to the top of the first peak and we all showed serious signs of fatigue as we sat and refueled for the next part of the journey. In the background of our rest, the steep spike of the Crestone Needle loomed. Our next step was to traverse the ridge and free climb to the peak with no rope, no harness, and 2,000 foot falls on either side. There is a reason this is one of the hardest traverses possible and that it is not recommended if there is wind of any kind. We, however, had perfect weather as well as an encouraging and safe group to make the attempt. img_1800img_1802We set out and started our descent along the ridge and around the south face between the two mountains. As we hiked along narrow routes of the mountain, jumping from gully to gully, and slowly made our way over to Crestone Peak, it was difficult not to look around and appreciate the sheer wonderment of nature and how these wonderful structures were created. After assisting a fellow hiker who was lost, we regrouped and the five of us continued on the traverse approaching the Needle. Talking each other through some of the climbing sections and scrambling up the gully we found ourself at the base of the 100 or so foot free climb. This was just as intimidating as I imagined. It mimicked a slightly slanted wall that one would find at a local climbing gym, this rock face was littered with hand holds but lo ledges or reprieve until you reached the top. As I contemplated the climb, I volunteered to go first. Focusing on each point of contact, I slowly made my way up the wall and I instantly understood why this would be nearly impossible with any wind. One slip meant I was in for a very long fall. I fought through the fatigue and mental exhaustion, making it to the top.
img_1808img_1811I dropped my bag and went back to the edge to help out the rest of my group get to the top, each of us fighting the real and natural fears of slipping. One at a time, all five of us made it to the top and officially completed the Crestone Traverse. Proud and feeling like a large burden was off our backs, we rested and enjoyed the view all around from the Crestone Needle. Being able to look back and see the entire trail and path we had taken to get there gave us a lot of pride and encouragement as we ate and refueled for the descent back to the car. img_1816I want to especially thank Sean, Joel, and Brendan for hiking with me and accomplishing this great task with me. You were so great to get to know, trust, and enjoy an amazing day at 14,000 feet. As for Sara, I am very glad we found you and were able to help you complete the Crestone Needle. I think you taught us all a lesson that hopefully we will not have to learn firsthand ourselves.  img_1817

Completed: Humbolt Peak, Kit Carson Peak, and Challenger Point

Another early morning at the trailhead just as the sun was rising above the low hills that separated me from the East Colorado desert was a perfect start to the weekend. The curse of the two wheel drive vehicle struck again as I was forced to start at 8,000 feet and add an extra 2.7 miles of hiking to the trailhead and back. After hiking up the road from the parking lot, I quickly got warm and starting shedding layers thanks to the tree protection from the wind. As I hiked up the East ridge of Humbolt Peak, I luckily was able to enjoy the sun the entire time and a good amount of forest shelter from the wind that commonly blows West to East over the mountains. After blazing up the trail that was not yet covered by winter snow. I made it to the tree line and enjoyed my first real view–a look back to see what I had accomplished already.

Shortly after the tree line, I hit a false peak and then another false peak and once again, a false peak. Each peak took some physical and mental steam from me,  minimizing the motivation in me and making every step up a little bit harder. I took a break around 13,400 feet, looking back to see the work I had done. I was hiking the ridge which I realized was quite dangerous. Everything after the tree line was very steep. One wrong move could have sent me sliding down the mountain for a thousand feet. As I worked my way up the climb, the summit finally came in view. Gathering up some last energy and motivation, I was able to make it up to the summit for a wonderful view. It was quite strange to look behind me to the East to the plains and desert and then turn to the West to quite the opposite: the high mountains of the Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle, Kit Carson Peak, and Challenger Point. After a brief snack at the summit, I headed off down the ridge toward Kit Carson Peak. Along the way, I encountered a wake up call for what was in store for tomorrow. As I descended down the ridge, I had a magnificent view of Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle. This view continually haunted me as I climbed the .75 miles over to Kit Carson Peak and for the rest of the day. While I am confident in my climbing abilities, this peak challenges even the most secure of climbers. As I climbed up Kit Carson Peak, I started to feel the heaviness building in my legs. I was spending a lot of time above 14,000 feet which I knew could be very dangerous, especially with 25-30 degree temperatures at the summits. Becoming hypoxic, hyperthermic, and dehydrated are very common when climbing at this altitude and this temperature. I noticed that I was cold but not shivering, which calmed my worries about hypothermia. I took shelter for a few minutes as I loaded as many layers, calories, and water into my system as possible. Finally, I made it to the top of Kit Carson Peak. From there, I had a short and steep descent and climb up to Challenger Point to finish the day.
As I finished the short climb to Challenger Point, I realized that I had a perfect view of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs. After enjoying some time in the sun and blocked from the wind, I began the long hike back to the car. Fortunately I could bypass Kit Carson Peak and head straight down the gulch between a pair of peaks I just completed and the pair of peaks I had on the agenda for the next day. I was able to see what I had done to complete the three peaks. And I was humbled to find that they looked like a smooth highway overpass compared to the Crestone Peak to Crestone Needle traverse that I had yet to complete.  On my way down, I  was able to look back and take a mental snapshot of the exremely difficult individual hikes and the class 5 traverse between them, including the infamous 100+ foot free climb up Crestone Needle from Crestone Peak. I enjoyed the rest of my day knowing how easy I had it compared to what I had in store: the second most difficult climb in Colorado. I spent the evening relaxing but had the looming thought of the unknown wind conditions and other unknown variables I had in store. I, however, looked forward to pushing my personal boundaries and finding new heights to my achievements. 

Humbolt, Kit Carson, Challenger, Crestone Needle, and Crestone Peak

PREVIEW:

While growing up, I was always fascinated with space and the space program. Perhaps this fact is because I grew up in Orlando and was able to watch all of the launches. Perhaps it is because I viewed space as something to reach for in life–challenging the status quo and pushing the limits. Either way, I am honored that this weekend I get the opportunity to climb Challenger Peak which was named after the NASA Shuttle that exploded on January 28, 1986. The sacrifice those brave astronauts made in order to further scientific discovery is truly inspiring. While my sacrifice is not so life-threatening or impactful, I am proud to be challenging my body to do more than I think it can. This weekend I will be traveling south to take on 5 peaks in 2 days.

Saturday will be a long and most certainly exhausting day. My first, a 17 mile hike, will take me straight up the East side of Humbolt Peak on a similar route and path as Quandary Peak. Named after the German explorer and geographer, Humbolt Peak sits at 14,064 feet.  After starting at 8,000 feet, it is a straight up fight to the top. After the summit, I will travel down the west side to 12,800 feet and traverse the 2.5 miles over to Kit Carson Peak.

Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson was the most famous guide and scout of the Southern Rockies. Local legend holds that he actually lived in a cabin near the base of the peak for several years. As a Colonel in the U.S. Army, Kit Carson commanded Fort Garland at the southern base of Blanca Peak from 1866-1867 to keep the peace and negotiate with the Utes. His courage, character, and exploits are the subject of numerous myths and stories. In addition to his widely-acknowledged skills as an outdoorsman, Carson had the reputation of absolute truthfulness and honesty.

Climbing back up to the 14,165 feet summit will take me directly next to Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle for some magnificent views and a real preview for what I have in store. After the summit of Kit Carson I have a 3/4 mile trek and 650 feet of elevation change before I summit the final peak of the day, Challenger Point. After completing Challenger Point, I will hike just below Kit Carson and into the Gulch between Humbolt Peak and the Crestones as I hike along the river back to the car for the day.

Sunday will be a true test of power and stamina. I will climb my first class 5 trail, the Crestone Traverse. Getting an early start on this adventure is definitely a requirement as afternoon winds could make for an even more challenging climb. Crestone Needle was first named “The South East Spanish Crag” by the U.S. Land Office Survey of 1883. However, locals referred to the mountain as simply one of the Needles. In 1921, the Colorado Mountain Club named the mountain “Crestone Needle.” In 1923, the CMC officially accepted this name for its list of Colorado high points. This peak will definitely have some significant rock climbing as the last 100 or so feet of the traverse will be nearly straight up and considered “free climbing” because of the lack of harness and ropes. With cliffs on both sides of this rock face, it will challenge my mental awareness and toughness.

This traverse is only topped by the Maroon Bells traverse in difficulty and exposure. I am looking forward to a great weekend at 14,000 feet and am ready for the mental and physical challenges it brings. I will be further outside of my comfort zone than I will have ever been in my life. For that, I am eager to face the challenge head on.

Completed: Quandary Peak

img_1746img_1729After sleeping in a little bit, I woke with some fresh new energy and decided to tackle another climb. I left for Breckenridge and Quandary Peak after a big breakfast. With a cloudless, blue sky and relatively warm temperatures in the low 60s on my drive to the peak, the parking lot was full of cars when I arrived. I packed up and headed to the trail map on the only route up this commonly climbed trail. The trail is a simple one that goes almost directly up the mountain with only a few switchbacks. This meant that there would be no ridges or flat areas to rest on or  to recover while still gaining ground. Instead, I had to hike straight up.

As to be expected from the crowded parking lot, it was apparent that I would be seeing a lot of people on the trail. The muddy path through the snow with dozens of footprints going up and only a handful coming down was my second indicator. img_1730img_1734I jogged through
the wooded area hoping to make it to the tree line in good time. Fortunately for my legs, this trail is only 6.5 miles round trip. Even without completing the 6.5 miles, it was clearly a place that locals go to enjoy a hillside picnic or a short time outdoors. I encountered several people that just came to hike right past the tree line for a nice view while slowly conditioning to reach the goal of reaching the summit in the future. I admired their commitment and patience.
Past the tree line and up the extremely steep climb, I was able to enjoy the picturesque view of the residual snow sitting atop the surrounding mountains.  Timg_1749he ski and snowboard season is undoubtedly right around the corner. I continued to climb what felt like a ladder going up the face of this peak. As the dirt became pebbles, pebbles to rocks, and rocks to boulders, I learned that Quandary Peak was going to be more challenging than I initially gave it credit for. I continued to climb upwards, passing groups of people struggling to complete the climb and being passed by groups descending the slope trying to encourage my efforts as they empathized with my pain. I continued to climb, gritting my teeth to deal with the fatigue in my body when I glanced over to see img_1754three different pairs of mountain goats just snacking on the sparse vegetation at this altitude. They quietly strolled along at 13,600 feet looking for any tuft of grass or leftover snacks that hikers had dropped accidentally. What a pleasant surprise to see these guys on the mountain! Living creatures calling this place home caused me to feel a little more sane for attempting to ascend mountains like this. After taking a few moments to watch my new friends, grab a snack, and put down as much water as I could, I pressed on to the summit.

The general rule for climbing 14’ers is to summit by noon and get back to the tree line as soon as you can. On the cloudless sky the day was providing, I was able to track the weather and safely have a late afternoon summit. After climbing over a couple false peaks, Quandary Peak was complete. I successfully completed four peaks in three days.

I  was able to enjoy another weekend that continued to add wonderful life lessons, beautiful views, and physical accomplishment. I am writing this blog several days later due to work constraints and I can still remember the details of Quandary Peak. For that matter, I am able to recall each peak I have completed, its route, its wildlife, and their views. I have cherished every person I have met and every view I have been able to enjoy. I have been humbled by the number and depth of physical and mental barriers that I have been able to push through.

Thank you everyone who has been following and sending comments of encouragement as I have completed 30 of 53 peaks thus far. Perhaps I can squeeze 1 or 2 more climbs in before the snow really hits!
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Completed: Mt. Yale

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img_1731After the late night on Mt. Antero, I woke up with lead legs. After some foam rolling and stretching, I headed out and on to Mt. Yale. The parking lot was empty and the trail had no footprints. I know I was going up the more difficult and longer trail, but I figured someone would have started before me. Regardless, it was a pleasant surprise to be able to enjoy the powder snow and trail all to myself. I hiked through the dense trees and along a creek taking in all of the magnificent views, smells, and breathtaking sights. It was like artwork in a gallery with white mountain peaks, green trees covering the lower mountains, and rushing icy creeks making their way down the gulch.  The experience of  walking along, breathing the cold crisp air, knowing that I was the first hiker on the trail that morning, and listening the crunch of the snow as I walked through patches was a special experience that gave me a new sense of adventure. img_1737I could only imagine the old settlers and surveyors who climbed these peaks without trails and guides, just reading the land and figuring it out as they went.

Since it is rare to be able to see the actual summit of the mountain as you are approaching it, I enjoy looking at the peaks that I can see to either side of me. Based on tree line and current location they often look much higher than they are. Today, however, once I hit the ridge line, I was able to look at Mt. img_1743Oxford as a guide to tell how much further I had to go. As I climbed up along the trail past each false peak, I checked my Garmin to compare my actual altitude. By 13,500 feet, my legs were difficult to move. Each step felt like tackling a full flight of stairs and each time I had to hop a boulder, I felt like I had an extra 50 lbs on my shoulders. The two hikes the day before caught up with me on the third and were exacting their revenge on my body. Panting and gasping for breath I continued to put one foot in front of the other, trying to focus on the scenery around me instead of the path ahead of me. I was begging for the summit to come in to view and give me a light at the end of this painful tunnel. After reaching 13,800 feet, I took a break to elevate my feet and hopefully drain some of the soreness and throbbing out long enough for me to make it to the top.

I snacked on some energy gel and water which started kicking in as I crested the final false peak and could see the summit. With a new found energy and desire to accomplish the peak just from the sight of it, I forced my legs to lumber all the way up to the summit with a final burst of energy. Collapsing on the summit, all I could do was look around and realize I made it. I pushed through fatigue, sleep deprivation, and exhaustion to overcome a mental weakness and finish the climb to the summit. The sense of accomplishment  that followed was heartwarming. I thought about all of the people I have met so far who have found inspiration in my journey and who have continued to push through their own boundaries of success.

For everyone still fighting that fight, I applaud you. For me, on this day, I have succeeded. The feeling is great. Tomorrow I will fight again. I will continue to fight day in and day out to encourage and inspire as many people as I can.

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Completed: Mt. Princeton and Mt. Antero

img_1721Reawakened with a new sense of outdoor life, the Colorado weather, which I considered to be a closed book, opened back up with beautiful weather for a three day stretch.

I arrived at Mt. Princeton mid-morning. Before tackling my first of the three, I visited the historical area at the base of the mountain. Then I set out for the top with a renewed hope that I could get over half of my list done before dormancy. I was feeling encouraged by the cushion I was giving myself to complete this challenge with in the time frame I allotted myself.

Mt. Princeton reminded me a lot of Mt. Sherman because instead of hiking through woods and trails to start, my path was comprised of gravel road, img_1707scree, and boulders the entire time. This lack of vegetation made for great views of the valley and the flats to Buena Vista, CO all the way up the mountain. As I continue above the tree line along the face of the ridge, the silence was a unique and a welcomed surprise. After the difficulty of my most recent hikes, it was nice to have the odds in my favor–little to no wind, cool temperatures, and sunshine.

Even after twenty or so peaks, each time I start my approach, even as I am driving up, I find it humbling. Often when I hike for miles, it seems as though I have barely made progress on the path ahead of me (not to mention the distance I have to return as well). I fight through the mental breaking points to the summit. It is that place and its endless horizon that allow me perspective on the true difficulty of what I have just accomplished in the moment. Mt. Princeton was no different than the experience I just described.

I passed a rare sighting on the trail–a memorial to a hiker. The reality of these hikes is that they can be very dangerous even when you are prepared. Every year, Colorado sees just over 50 deaths of people who fall, get stuck in storms, lost, or other hiking related fatalities. These memorials are a reminder that while fitness and body awareness is a major part of successfully completing a 14’er, a portion of that completion comes from smart decisions and a bit of luck. img_1714

Once reaching the summit, I enjoyed lunch with a view while I sat with my thoughts of what I have accomplished and what the future may hold. With that, I had completed 27 of the 53 peaks–over the half way mark! With more img_1717climbing planned for the weekend, I was eager to see how much I could get done.

After a descent down the scree and boulder mountain face, I made my way back to the car for an early dinner in Buena Vista. Buena Vista is a gem located right on the Arkansas River with trails winding all around it, yet it holds a population of about 3,ooo people.

Another great aspect of hiking all over this beautiful state is exploring the small and often historic towns of the Colorado mountains. I hope to blog a little bit about my experiences during the upcoming months of hibernation.

After dinner, I walked along the river and enjoyed a beautiful sunset when I came across a group of six locals who decided to start their weekend with a little adventure. They planned a midnight hike up Mt. Antero beginning in a few short hours. I accepted their invitation to join and without unpacking from my first peak, I added to my bag more layers, my headlamp, and more snacks to handle the trip. fullsizeoutput_589After some instruction on how to play Ultimate Frisbee and taking in the last drops of sunset, we started the drive to Mt. Antero. We pulled into the icy and snow covered parking lot and gathered our things for a night hike.

I have some experience at night hikes, early morning hikes, and late night trail runs, so I have grown accustomed to exploring the trails with reduced sight. Nonetheless, the occasional twig snapping or noise in the distance still sent chills up my spine. As we got through the woods and ascended above the tree line, the wind started to pick up. We could see the lit town below but it wasn’t providing any residual light. Using our headlamps to locate cairns and guide us through the snowy path, we stopped frequently to regroup, making sure everyone was accounted for and also to enjoy the night’s sky.

While it is quite a bit harder to breathe at 14,000 feet, the sky is not littered with city lights and pollution. Millions of stars became visible as we made the ridge line and headed for the top. I found myself tripping and slipping more because I was looking at the stars instead of where I was stepping. We all made it to the summit successfully and spent some time without lights to just sit and be amazed at this unique view. Shooting stars that seemed close enough to touch occasionally streaked across the sky as we sat in the cold wind loving every moment.

While it is not advised to hike in the dark (because you cannot see incoming weather), this exceptional night brought a sight that only a rare few get to enjoy. I am lucky enough to have been able to enjoy that view and I hope that someday I will be able to do it again. For now, we made our way back down the trail to the cars before the sun touched the mountains again.

Mt. Princeton, Mt. Antero, and Mt. Yale

PREVIEW:

Just when I thought the high mountains were getting a little too frosty with snow and the season had shut its doors on me, a brief reprieve in the weather has allowed a perfect time for some climbs. With the resorts blowing snow and everyone getting ready for winter, it was easy for me to turn my attention to that. However, I noticed that Buena Vista is forecasted to have sunny days with little to no wind and temperatures in the high 60’s this weekend–a perfect opportunity to sneak in a couple more climbs. I have decided to finish off the collegiate mountains with Princeton, Antero, and Yale.

Starting Friday with a short steep climb of Mt. Princeton, the 6.5 mile climb will be steady climbing with promising views. Originally called the Chalk Mountain for its crumbling quartz bluffs, it was renamed in 1873 when surveyors renamed it for the prestigious Princeton University.

After a night camping under the stars, I’ll be tackling the long and grueling Mt. Antero. The 16 mile hike will take me up the final climb of the “Indian Mountains” which included Mt. Shavano and Tabaguache Peak. Mt. Antero was named for the peace-keeping chief of the Utah-based Uintah band of Utes. Antero was sometimes called Graceful Walker or Chief White Eye due to blindness in one eye. This route will take me along the gulch on winding steady paths before hitting the ridge with steep switchbacks and climbs. With no other peaks in the immediate vicinity, this summit will provide a great view of the entire Collegiate Peak range as well as the town of Buena Vista, Colorado.

Finally, I will be spending my Sunday to climb the final peak in the collegiate series, Mt. Yale. The first team to survey the mountain in 1869 consisted of Professor Josiah D. Whitney  and all six students in the first graduating class of the Harvard School of Mines, of which Whitney was the head. In his survey report, Whitney named the mountain “Mt. Yale” after the university from which he had graduated 30 years earlier. Yale was the first of the Collegiate Peaks to be named. As I start the 10 mile hike I should be able to see the peak from the very beginning and have a great view as I climb the ridge to the summit. It will be a great way to cap off an unexpected weekend of climbing, hiking, and camping before the big snows come and the resorts open for the winter.

Completed: Snowmass Mountain

 

img_1685Snowmass Mountain is a part of the Elk Mountains cluster. These particular mountains have brought me the toughest physical challenges thus far in my journey with Capitol Peak and the duo of Castle and Conundrum Peaks. It also includes some even tougher peaks that I have yet to face: Maroon Bell Traverse and Pyramid Peak. Taking on Snowmass was a difficult physical feat and an even tougher mental feat.

It is rare that I acknowledge in this forum the wear and tear that climbing these peaks (in addition to my other fitness commitments) has on my body. While I have plans to detail the difficulty, my preparation steps, and my recovery techniques in a future off-season blog, I will state here that tackling the first half of the 14’er list has evidenced how difficult this challenge is.

img_1686As I drove along I-70 under the stars, I attempted to brace myself for what was to come. I ran through the checklists of emergency gear in my pack and reran the timing I needed in order to safely complete the peak. Just as the sun started to rise, Snowmass Mountain came into view. Skirted with morning cloud cover, the peak beckoned me toward itself. I veered off the main road and wound my way though dirt roads and rocky terrain until I made it to the less popular trailhead.

One of the loveliest sights is the turning Aspen leaves as they brilliantly expose themselves among the aspens. Their fallen leaves covered the road, presenting a bit more challenge to finding and navigating the trail. Withoimg_1688ut a sign or distinguishing landmarks, I guessed my way along the hillside and straight up towards the saddle of the ridge. As I continued to climb, the cloud cover thickened. The coverage made me nervous, but the weather forecast predicted only a 10% chance of rain in the area. I continued to hike trusting the forecast a little too much. As I approached the tree line, I turned to see some of the last views of the sun for the day.

Since my chosen trail was the shorter 9 mile round, shortly in to my hike I hit the slopes of the mountain and encountered quite a bit of fog rolling in. I continued to follow the cairned path as the trail sights changed from img_1689trees to bushes to grass and then to only gravel. I looked back down the mountain once more before the clouds swallowed me whole. Quickly the climb became technical and soon after that, light snow flurries began to dance down, covering the ground. I layered with a down jacket, a rain jacket, and gloves before pressing on to the summit. I missed a couple of cairns in the thick fog and I took a few breaks to shelter myself from the precipitation, but I finally made it to the summit. I checked my GPS just to make sure. To no one’s surprise, I could not see more that about 20 feet in front of me. This made for a quick stay at the top before I began my descent.

The descent was a pleasant rush as the snow came down harder and harder. Pretty soon, I was walking on pure snow. Each step packed down 2-3 inches. Fortunately, I had my new hiking poles that helped stabilize me and relieve pressure on my knees. As I wound my way down each switchback, I had to remember where the trail was when I ascended. The occasional tall cairn reassured me that I was on the correct path. As I arrived back to my car, the snow wrapped my car half way up the wheels. After a short defrost and a breather, I drove down the rocky dirt road and back to civilization. It did not take long for the wickedness of the mountains to fall behind me and the sun reemerge. The beautiful color change on the mountains with the tail end of the storm right over the ridge in my rear view mirror represented the perfect conclusion to 14’er season (until Spring that is!). img_1692