| Bierstadt - Straight from airport.
I've been reading reports and watching this site for about 6 months, so it's fantastic to finally be able to write one of my own! I was lucky enough to find out the American Chemical Society national conference was in Denver this year, and at the end of august on top of it, which meant only one thing: I was finally going to be in the Rockies (i.e. my lifelong dream – I am from eastern Canada…). I have friends joining me post-conference for 5 days of hiking / rockies fun, but since I couldn't wait, I got on a plane 1 day earlier, and decided to hike Bierstadt on my own pre-conference. I was lucky to have Wes, one of the rescuers of the front range region, seated next to me on my plane to Denver, and he was instrumental in answering some last minute concerns of mine.
I left from the airport at 6pm on friday, stopped by Walmart close to the airport to grab missing stuff (waiting for my friends for our first official REI visit). Got to Guanella pass road around 8h30 pm from the south, in the middle of a massive lightning storm. Being alone, sort of scared to death *and maybe for a few seconds a bit of wuss...*, I decided to sleep in my rented Mazda 5 in an area with no tall trees (not to be crushed by one...). Quick notes: 1. Low pressure at 10 000 feet can make a Pringles box of chips actually explode when opening it (toothpaste tubes and sunscreen as well…) didn’t know, laughed a whole figuring it out. 2. First injury is shown below, happened when I tripped on my luggage and fell while exiting the Enterprise shuttle in my hurry to get to the mountains.
First injury of the trip - Enterprise Shuttle
My first look ever at the rockies
Woke up at 5h10 am, and eventually drove to the trailhead (some 9 miles further), to meet a large crowd of cars already there on a clear sky'ed saturday morning. The views of the morning light over the mountains are just amazing
The morning light above Bierstadt and Sawtooth
After a quick breakfast and slow preparations for the rather cold weather, I finally hit the trail at 6h30 am. The hike up was extremely enjoyable, with a decent incline past the willows, even though I struggled plenty cardio-wise. In terms of difficulty, it was definitely on par, if not for large sections easier than some of the harder climbs I've had in the north-eastern US (Lafayette, Washington, Marcy, Algonquin). Maybe the intensity was indeed coming from the high altitude, as I could feel my lungs burning plenty. Hiking alone, btw, is kinda awesome. Easier to strike up conversations with plenty of people, plus the inherent added reflection time on your life and future is appreciated.
The sun finally rising over Sawtooth
A great view on Grays and Torreys - See you thursday
I was hiking with the early morning group of hikers (around 30 of us left the full parking lot within the same 20 minutes), and it didn’t feel too crowded. However, I could see once halfway up the mountain, long lines of cars extending both sides of the guanella pass road, explaining later on the descent the MASSIVE amount of people I saw going up (upwards of 120). The summit looked awesome getting close to it, and the final portion before the final ascent is relatively flat, a really nice break and moral boaster before the final push up a rather steep incline of big rocks.
The hump before the final push to the summit
Me and the summit
As I was ascending the final portion leading to the summit, I was feeling wonderful, and was getting really hyper, telling random people I was finally realizing one of my biggest dreams. They seemed to find it amusing, and one reassured me that if my euphoria was altitude sickness, I would know... I summited at 9h00 am (2h30 for the the ascent), and stayed on the summit for a while, appreciating the views and helping about 10 groups take summit pictures. About 30-40 people at the very least were on the summit at any time.
YEAH!!! - first 14er ever (for me)
A quick hello to Sarah, back in Ottawa.
At around 10h00 am, after careful consideration at doing or not Sawtooth and Evans, I decided that my day had been so far wonderful and I didn't want to jeopardize that (plus, the Evans sign I made can be kept for a subsequent trip YEAH!). The hike down Bierstadt was rather easy, very enjoyable (saw Aron Ralston on his way up, hiking with his kid asleep in his backpack - Awesome), and made it back to the car at noon.
A great view of Sawtooth taken on the way down.
All in all, it was an awesome day. I love Colorado. Big Time.
Until next week post-conference, this is all I have.
Final *somewhat personal* Question: Where do you pee in such an open space? I am used to trees sort of blocking you from fellow hikers… oh well…
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):