Peak(s):  Mt. Bierstadt  -  14,060 feet
Date Posted:  08/03/2013
Modified:  08/09/2013
Date Climbed:   08/03/2013
Author:  pjtighe
 First 14er  

Despite living in CO for eight years, I have managed to neglect a summit until now. I have historically had some altitude issues past 13,000' so have not prioritized a trip. I finally caught the bug to go, so I followed several recommendations to begin with Bierstadt. The weather was more than cooperative and we had a high of 50's and abundant sunshine, with only a 40% chance of afternoon t-storms. Plan was to summit by 9am, we managed to get it in by 8:20am.

My ascent went very smoothly, despite not doing any real hiking this summer. I just have not had the time. Feeling very good past my mental wall of 13,000', I pressed on strong to the summit, took pictures, signed the manifest, etc. Decided to sit and snack before the descent. After about 15 minutes, I stood up to a sudden bout of AMS. I became nauseated, disoriented and started hyperventilating a bit when I realized every leg muscle was locked up in cramps. I stood a bit helpless until my hiking partner and other good samaritans came to talk me down and help me regain some blood flow to my extremities. Hands were swollen, muscles cramped, but I knew the only way to relief was down. So down I went.

I was so thankful for the numerous amounts of people who offered me their water, gels, power bars, etc to endure the descent. It took me three hours and several stops to fight vomiting to return to the parking lot. Without my hiking partner's constant words of encouragement and the kindness of dozens of folks, I would not have made the descent. Anyone reading this who was there that day and recognizes my bright green vest, thank you! Special thanks to Ian and Michelle who really took some time with me descending the boulder field and made sure I didn't fall over.

Bierstadt offers some really fantastic reward at the summit. The views in every direction are just perfect and several other 14ers and ranges are in sight on a clear day like this one. We have had good moisture this summer, so the surroundings below tree line were quite green. Final homestretch and bouldering is well defined and easily accomplished by anyone in good physical condition. No real exposure and plenty of room at the top if you go early. I was blown away by the crowd ascending past 10am. We were in the first 50 people to summit at 8:20am and barely saw anyone descending until the final homestretch.

I plan to do several more 14ers and will come much better prepared for acclimation.

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