Winter is still upon us but I am thinking about the hiking that I am going to do this spring and summer. I have a date with a mountain. A mountain that bested me in July of 2014.
It was a lofty goal. And I don’t mean for my kids. I was more worried about myself on the trip up a 14er.
Colorado 14ers are mountains that are above 14,000 feet. There are over 50 14ers in Colorado and they rank from a drive up the road to a rigorous hike to a mountain climb. We picked Mt. Bierstadt, a 14er that is known for being a great first timer hike.
And by first timer hike, they mean a hiker who hikes the heck out of trails but has never hit a 14er. Not a first time hiker.
We prepared well. We researched the heck out of it. We felt ready. We weren’t naive about this adventure. We knew it was going to take anywhere from 5-10 hours, depending on our speed. We knew that it was going to be a 7 mile hike round trip. We knew we were going to have to pack snacks, lunch, and enough water. We knew we were going to have to leave our house before the sun came up.
We also didn’t know much about this adventure. These are a few things I learned on my first hike up a 14er:
Only about 5% (okay, maybe 15%) of athletic people are still athletic at 14,000 feet. As we trudged up the trail, we saw everybody catching their breath and taking breaks. Once we hit a certain point, we started playing the passing game with people. We would pass a group and then that group would pass us a few feet later. You eventually get to a point where you are hiking with the same group. There were hundreds of people hiking Mt. Bierstadt at the same time we were. Sometimes, we felt pushed up the mountain.
Mt. Bierstadt is an easy 14er but that is an oxymoron because 14ers are not easy. This is not a leisurely stroll through the woods. It is quite possibly one of the most difficult things I have ever done. You are climbing up hill for at least three hours straight (maybe less if you are more athletic than I am). Then you have to climb all the way back down.
Be ready to turn around. The only competition you have is with yourself. You still have to hike all the way back down the mountain to your car. The trip down often proves to be more difficult. You can always go back and try again. Be safe and listen to your body.
When they say to be at the peak of the 14er by 11am, listen. The storms roll in at approximately 12:01pm like clockwork. We were about halfway back to the car when the storms came in and it was scary at times. Next time, we will leave much earlier in the morning so that we are done well before noon.
Altitude sickness is no joke and everybody in your group should be watched carefully for it. With the exception of my house hunting trip to Denver right before we moved here, I haven’t really experienced altitude sickness. We spend a lot of time in the Rocky Mountains and I haven’t experienced altitude sickness there. I was hit hard by it on our hike. I don’t know if it is the level of activity or if I wasn’t drinking enough water, but I was so dizzy at times that I had to stop and take a break.
This was eventually what led to my Mt. Bierstadt hiking demise. That, and my daughter decided she was done. We almost made it but we both knew that we had enough. We knew that the clock was catching up with us and we were worried that we wouldn’t make it back to the car before the dangerous storms came in. My daughter and I took a short break, had a snack, and started the hike back down. My son and husband continued up to the top and had just enough time to snap a quick picture and head back down. They were so fast that they actually caught up to us.
I am ready to conquer this mountain again come this summer.