| Standard ascent
Thursday, 6/28, my wife, Jo, and I arrived a little later than planned for our first ascent of a 14er, Mt. Bierstadt. The parking lot had 16 cars when we arrived and the weather was warm with bright blue skies. A beautiful start for a couple of recently transplanted Illinois flatlanders.
We were approached by a woman who said "You look like well prepared hikers!" (little did she know that this was our first summit attempt) and requested a couple of band-aids. Her work shoes caused a few blisters; she and her friend were on the fast track to the top. Fortunately, we had attended a 14er's seminar at REI and during the presentation, the speaker told us to have a first aid kit – not for us, but for the other hikers you'd encounter who were a bit unprepared. We had the band-aids.
We began the trek about 8:25.
A BIG THANKS to the hard work and effort of those who put in the boardwalk through the willows. I cannot imagine how tough it must have been to slog through the dense growth and bogs before the path was established. Reading previous accounts, it apparently was a real pain!
I turned 64 in March and my wife turned 55 last January and although we are avid runners and hikers, we still had to take our time and puffed the way up toward the top. Altitude took precedence over conditioning.
The wild flowers were plentiful, colorful and beautiful along the path. We lost the trail near a middle snowfield but regained it after spotting a cairn on the opposite side of the snowfield which we had skirted on the wrong side. The clear blue sky added soft cumulus clouds.
"Band-aid" passed us coming down before we reached the talus field. We avoided the upper snowfield nearing the final rise and scrambled around it. In retrospect, the snow would have been easier. Jo had trouble in the talus…short legs vs. tall rocks.
We hit the summit at 11:45. The views were spectacular and we knew why we climbed. But the mixed clouds were gathering together. As we ate a PB & J lunch, we decided a brief stay was the best option. We headed down at 12:05. And just like this site (and everyone else advises), storms brew fast and heading down before noon is a must. At exactly, 12:19 the first sound of thunder rumbled and our feet started moving a little faster. (The "get-off-before-noon" warning bell had sounded!) We (and two other groups) still had to negotiate the remaining talus which we did as quickly and safely as possible. As we descended onto the tundra, the skies darkened. The thunder was still off in the distance but we felt exposed and uncomfortable. We leapfrogged with the other two groups on the way down.
Naturally, it started raining lightly and small soft hail (snow?) pelted us. We donned outerwear and pushed downward into the willows. Before we hit the boardwalk again, a cold, steady rain hit us. The temperatures dropped. A few bolts of lightning cracked nearby (thankfully, cloud to cloud).
Since we are older and slower, we were last to arrive in the parking area at 2:25. Once in the lot, Jo exclaimed "We need a beer!" (the one thing we hadn't prepared for) and the group in front of us laughingly provided a single spare beer. As we sat in the car warming up and sipping the suds, I asked Jo if she was ready for another 14er. She replied, not just yet but "it is probably like child birth, once you forget the pain, you're ready to try again!"
Summary: thankful for the boardwalk; great feeling of accomplishment; being prepared for everything (from band-aids to proper clothing); tiring (at our age) but rewarding; trekking poles provide a great assist but not in the big rocks; OBEY THE NOON WHISTLE!
Bring on the next one…but give us a few days rest!
(No photos - still in the dark ages and using film).