We began our second 14er of the season scouting for dispersed camping on Guanella pass road. There were a surprising number of clean, open spots so we settled in approximately 1 mile from the trail head. After a nice dinner of pasta and tuna, I curled up in a zero degree bag and slept without interruption! Given this, I can conclude that I have been wasting countless nights of camping in a measly 22 degree bag. The zero degree bag was floppy, average quality, and absolutely gigantic. I could have fit myself in there twice over and yet, I have never been warmer and less frantic about needing to go outside and pee at 3am. I was TOO WARM TO PEE. It was amazing. We (ok, mostly Colin) woke to a chilly 5:45am morning on the mountain. I burrito’ed around in my sleeping bag until coffee was ready. After a breakfast of our famous chocolate oatmeal (recipe: put chocolate in oatmeal, stir), we took down camp and drove up to the trailhead.
By 6:30, the area was packed with hikers and cars. In times like these, I have to actively squelch my judgmental tendencies — but seriously, who brings a Coach purse on a 14er? Conversely, does a 20-something really need a heart rate monitor? I guess it all works, even the group of Hiking Hipsters sporting jean cut-offs and coordinating flannel.
The hike is a short, steep 3 miles. After passing through the “very dangerous” high altitude willows (before there was a well marked trail, people kept getting lost and eaten by these plants), we crossed a creek and began the climb. I moved at my usual controlled, steady pace and passed a few groups, something which continues to amaze me. Colin moves very quickly uphill, so I had some time to myself to people watch. There were easily 300 people heading towards the summit that morning, and more like 700 heading up as we hiked back down About 3/4 mile from the summit, I hit a wall. There was a lot of steep uphill to go and I was tired. My feet were sweaty and swimming in my boots. I didn’t bring extra socks.
Thankfully, I was able to reorganize my brain and pay attention to more important things. There were dozens of super fluffy pikas collecting nesting materials and scurrying around the rocks. They are the cutest.
The summit push was a fun, short scramble and felt less exposed than the ridge hike on Massive. There was no trail, but I was grateful to use my hands to scurry up.
About two and a half hours later, we officially hit the summit. That means I climbed up over 1 mile/hour! Not too shabby.
The summit and entire hike of Mt. Bierstadt is beautiful. Aside from the view of Guanella pass parking lot, there is virtually no sign of human tinkering throughout the visible wilderness area.
The more ambitious can combo Bierdstadt with the Sawtooth ridge and proceed onto Evans. Exposed class III? Yikes. People die on this ridge every season. I told Colin last night that it’s not as if I doubt my climbing or scrambling skills, I just have no desire to feel that amount of panic and anxiety. I feel the same way about multi-pitch trad climbing, and jumping or rafting activities which combine angry-looking rocks and water.
I hope we can fit one combo in before the end of the season. Given that I haven’t done any 14er-specific training, it will most likely be Grays/Torreys in a couple of weekends. I can’t believe that the summer is almost over.