14er

Semi-Hiking Mt. Huron

Although my bum old lady knees kept me from completing several of the hikes I wanted to this summer, that doesn’t mean I didn’t try. Well… at least it doesn’t mean that I didn’t go along for the ride. Late July Matt set his sites on Mt. Huron, at 14,003 foot peak just outside of Buena Vista and Granite, Colorado. While he got up at sunrise to set out for the summit, I slept in an extra two hours (maybe the only silver lining of these knee problems, if it can even be considered a silver lining) before attempting whatever portion of the hike I could do before my knees started to hurt.

I wasn’t sure how far I’d make it, but as it turns out, it wasn’t far. I got about a mile before the throbbing began and I made the decision to sit and wait in the sun until Matt started his decent and reached me. But, what I did get to see was absolutely breathtaking. What pains me so much about having to stop, is Matt reached the peak and told me it was the most beautiful view of any 14er he has climbed. #fomo #megafomo

When I’m sorted I’ll have to go back to see for myself.

Here’s the view we were met with driving in the night before:

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It was a gorgeous day – maybe the best weather I experienced all summer. Which obviously completely rubbed in the fact that I couldn’t fully participate. But I got to enjoy the coolness of the tree cover and climb over several creeks and brooks that lined the trail.

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I realize these just look like big rocks, but their colors and their imposing size were something to take in on a summer Saturday.

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Don’t let my smile fool you, I was saddened on the news of the views from the summit. But I guess it’s not a huge surprise. Fortunately my discovery of newly bloomed wildflowers and their bumble bee counterparts colored the mood. And then of course there’s the photo of the victor post mountain conquering.

It’s also worth noting that the drive to the trailhead is full of fantastic Colorado moments. From killer camp spots – to historical ghost towns that used to be booming mining metropolises – to a crystal blue lake that was incredible for hawk-spotting, the trek is worth the views.

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Mt. Elbert | The One and Only

Fall’s already here, which is hard to believe. This summer wasn’t nearly as mountain filled as I would have liked. Over fourth of July weekend, Matt and I headed about 10 miles southwest of Leadville to Mt. Elbert, the second highest peak in Colorado. From the trailhead to the peak we climbed 4,700 feet for a roundtrip distance of 9 miles. Last year while descending from Mt. Bross, I experienced some severe knee pain. Upon descending Mt. Elbert this year, I was in so much pain in both knees that for the last 1.5 miles of the trip, I literally dragged my feet behind me, hobbling back to the trailhead.

The hike was beautiful, and it felt incredible to be at the top of the second highest peak, but the damage done to both knees has been effecting me since, keeping me from joining Matt on several of his summer mountain adventures. I’m headed to the doctor in October to sort myself out before ski season, but in the meantime I wanted to share some of our photos from this trip to the top of Elbert, the one and only 14er I was able to complete this summer.

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Overall, the hike was incredibly well marked, and until you get above tree line, the path is clear and well maintained. That said, the 14er website rated this hike as one of the easiest 14ers to complete. I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s rated that way because of the constitution of the trail, but climbing 4,700 feet in 4.5 miles up to 14,433 feet was difficult for both Matt and I, and we encountered several climbers along the way who were unsuccessful in making it to the top. This is a hike that you must start early (we started at 6:00 a.m.) to complete before afternoon showers roll through.

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We made decent time, and motivated ourselves by trying to stay ahead of an older woman who seemed to be leisurely strolling along, eating her yogurt for breakfast and stopping every so often to take in the scenery. Although she was nearly twice our age and didn’t seem to be exerting herself whatsoever, she continued to catch up to us throughout the day, motivating us to stay ahead and push ourselves instead of taking breaks. She was definitely a certified badass and seasoned climber.

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The view from the top was spectacular, and although I spent a solid 1.5 hours limping in pain toward the bottom with shredded knees, I’m glad I have this memory of being on top of the world for a moment. It’s pretty incredible the kinds of places you can come across on a weekend trip in Colorado.

And for good measure, here’s a picture of Penny enjoying our camp spot at 5 a.m. Girl loves to get back to nature.

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Mount Massive & Mountain Goats

April and May this year were on the chilly side, and June was downright rainy. It’s an understatement to say the weather this summer has been off, and between wet weekends and some knee problems for Matteo, our summer hiking season is off to a late start. We hope to remedy that this weekend, with an aim to climb Mt. Elbert in the Sawatch Range on Friday.

The last 14er we conquered was also in the Sawatch Range: Mt. Massive. The peak of Mt. Massive actually overlooked Mt. Elbert, and if the views from Elbert – which I believe is the highest 14er peak in Colorado – are anything like Mt. Massive’s, then we have a reason to climb.

Massive was the last 14er we did last year in late August, and despite an early start we didn’t reach above tree line levels until after the early afternoon clouds began rolling in. Fortunately, they were something to look at.

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Unfortunately, they had the ability to throw us off completely on how close to the peak we actually were. Several breaks ensued.

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Mt. Massive is the second highest 14er, and the trail begins in the lush San Isabel National Forest. The trail is 8 miles round trip (climbing from the trailhead at 10,500 feet to the peak at 14,421 feet), and the first 1.25 miles you wander through bushes along a river through a peaceful forest. A scenic start to an all around scenic hike.

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The obligatory photo at the peak.

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This hike was a little unique compared to other 14ers I’ve done – specifically due to the amount of wildlife we encountered along the trail.

While resting and refueling at the peak I noticed that we were being approached by a mountain goat – I’m guessing it was a nanny lady-goat from the horn size, but what do I know – and her baby. Listen, I know pretty much all wildlife Hulks out when they have babies around, and I have to say, upon seeing these two bounding up the peak like it was no big deal and approaching us without fear, I was more than a little nervous. I mean, look how tiny the baby is.

Some folks from out of state were on the peak with us, and actually started moving toward the pair – which I tried to express wasn’t a great idea. They got the picture when momma goat juked at them full-speed as Matt and I cautiously were backing away. But not before we got a few pictures to document this special encounter.

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I never cease to be amazed at the things we get to do with our weekends in Colorado. Although incredibly unconditioned and starting my hiking season well into the year, the prospect of gorgeous views and encounters like this will hopefully propel me to the peak this weekend. God speed to myself and my fellow out-of-shape adventurers.

calibron

As I mentioned, last summer, I completed my first 14er when I hiked to the top of Mt. Democrat.

Democrat is part of the “Decalibron” trail – a trail that passes through the peaks of four 14ers: Mt. Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross. We went back this past weekend to tackle the rest of Decalibron. #Calibron

I have no idea how long it was, or how much elevation we gained, but I CAN tell you that I’ve slept soundly the last three nights, and my legs are just now recovered from being tired tired tired. I will also note that It’s a very strange feeling to be what I can only describe as “Mountain Hopping” – knocking out three in a day. A strange feeling, indeed.

1 - Cameron's Up there! 1 - Climbing Cameron 1 - View from Cameron1 - Cameron

View from the top of Mt. Cameron! Now, off to Lincoln. This particular hike is GREAT for anyone who easily loses their way on trails. The entire way the trail is very distinct and visible. See below – from the top of Cameron you can see your way all the way to the next peak!2 - Headed to Lincoln2 - trail to lincoln

2 - Mt Lincoln Seal

At the top of 14ers there SHOULD be geological markers (if you can find them). I was only able to track down the marker at the top of Lincoln. I love them so so much. It’s like finding a little piece of treasure where you’d least expect it. 2 - Lincoln Summit TWO! Summitted Lincoln! And off to Bross…

3 - Trail to Bross

Again, off to Bross following a totally defined trail. Check it out moving all the way off to the left.

photo-83 - BrossFinally made it, and not a moment too soon. Gorgeous. Exhausting.

3 - Mt Bross Summit3 - Bross Summit 4 - Long road down

The one really difficult portion of this hike was the way back down. Just when my legs thought they couldn’t take anymore, I forced them to do more. Returning to the base down the back of Mt. Bross you follow a trail that’s under reconstruction – i.e. you follow a trail that is loose rock, narrow, and pretty steep for a really, really long time. The dogs were barking.

4 - Nearing the bottomView from the bottom! Phew! Glorious glorious flat land!


mount sherman

Sunday we hiked Mt. Sherman. Knowledge gained: I am out of shape.

At one point near the top I swallowed an air bubble from my CamelBak and was pretty sure my lungs were filling with fluid and I was going to die. This, of course, was an extreme exaggeration and I was fine. But these are the excuses I was coming up with in order to take rest breaks.

Upon reaching the summit of a mountain you feel so incredible that you instantly have the energy to get back down. So at least there’s that. We made it to the top (14,036) just in time to see the afternoon thunderstorms blowing in, and made it to the bottom just in time for those thunderstorms to turn to heavy snow. Oh, Colorado – you continue to intrigue.

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Drought schmout! Lots of overflow outside of Fairplay.

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Scary abandoned mines littered the trail to the summit.

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Another mine site, complete with overturned mine cart. Totally reminded me of my Super Nintendo Donkey Kong days. Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about.

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The narrow, panic-inducing ridge. Nearing the top.

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Summit! Summer snow and all!

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Storm’s a brewin’!

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One heck of a beaver dam!

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Attempts at getting tetanus.

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Someone had a more American day than we did.