Peak(s):  Mt. Sneffels  -  14,150 feet
Longs Peak  -  14,255 feet
Maroon Peak  -  14,156 feet
Capitol Peak  -  14,130 feet
Mt. Bierstadt  -  14,060 feet
Mt. Evans  -  14,264 feet
Date Posted:  10/02/2019
Date Climbed:   08/12/2019
Author:  trentrrr
Additional Members:   broncosRZbest
 A Week of Freedom   

What a Week

I first visited Colorado in December 2018. I had four days to drive from California to Indiana, and Colorado just happened to be in my way. I was only able to spend one day in the state, but since that day I have been spellbound by everything Colorado. I became obsessed with the running, hiking, and climbing opportunities across the beautiful state. I spent my free time researching what I would do if I was able to get back to Colorado again. Lucky for me, in August 2019, I was able to spend two and half weeks in the state--bringing my daydreams to life.

Overall

I was in Colorado from August 3rd through August 19th. During this vacation, I spent about one week with my family, then the second week with friends or on my own. I spent nearly all of my time rock climbing, hiking, and running--what else could be better!

The 14ers that I climbed were:

  • Mt. Sneffels
  • Long's Peak
  • South Maroon Peak
  • Capitol Peak
  • Mt. Bierdstadt and Mt. Evans via the Sawtooth Traverse

Below are some details about these climbs. I hope that you enjoy the pure beauty of these peaks as much as I do, and maybe I'll be able to provide some helpful details about these scrambles!

Mt. Sneffels

This was my first Colorado fourteener! It was such a beautiful climb, and most importantly, I was able to complete this with both my dad and my brother, Ian, hiking with me. We spent the previous night in Telluride, leaving at about 5:00am. We were on the trail from the lower 4WD trailhead (at the pit toilet) at 7:00am. It then took us 2hr15min to reach the saddle. It was all class 1 hiking with easy routefinding to this point. We were hiking at about the same pace as most other groups around us.

19769_22
Ian sitting at the saddle, preparing for the climb up the couloir.

We took a break at the saddle and then continued ahead. This point is where the hiking up the couloir begins. The couloir itself was only class 2, but we hit it at rush hour, so it was packed with people. Additionally, there was still snow in the couloir, so it was one-way traffic for about a 30 meter stretch. Overall, though, very fun scrambling through this part.

19769_18
Ian scrambling up near the top of the couloir. Below him was the one-way traffic forced by the snowpatch. The saddle can be seen down at the bottom of the couloir.

Ian and I scrambled up the couloir fairly quickly, going from saddle to notch in only fifteen minutes. I would expect, however, that this section took most groups approximately thirty minutes. After reaching the top of the couloir, we took a hard left turn and the notch was ahead of us. The notch was surely the crux of this hike.

The notch certainly requires a couple of climbing moves, but nothing overly technical. It would be a very simple little piece of climbing if it weren't for the 100+ ft dropoff back and to the left of the notch. However, falling in that direction from the notch would be very unlikely--you are able to fully wedge yourself into a crack, making the couple moves up it very secure.

Ian went up the notch first, with me spotting him from behind. He killed it! I came up after him.

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Looking back down the notch from the top. As shown by this picture, you can lean into the crack in the center, making the whole thing very secure even if your foot or hand were to slip. The drop off is on the other side of the notch and to the right from this angle.

After gaining the notch, gaining the summit takes just a couple minutes of easy hiking. It took Ian and I 30 minutes to get from the Saddle to the Summit.

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Me on top of Sneffels. What a view!

Woohoo, Ian and I at the top of our first Colorado fourteener!

On the way down, be sure to follow the same route back to the notch that you followed on your way up. Ian and I took a wrong turn at one point and ended up at a cliff, then had to retrace our steps to figure out the easiest way to the notch. The way down through the notch can also be even more nerve wracking than the way up because you are forced to look down at the dropoff as you climb. Make sure to keep those nerves under control!

It was an incredible day, and the hike down was absolutely beautiful.

19769_19
Hi Dad! Picture taken in the Yankee Boy Basin, just above the uppermost 4WD trailhead.

The overall stats for the Day were:

  • 6.25 miles round trip
  • 3000' vertical gain
  • 2hr55min car to summit

Long's Peak

After climbing Sneffels, I spent a week touring different parts of Colorado with my family, and then meeting up with friends to go climbing in Clear Creek Canyon. Once my family and friends left, it was back to climbing 14ers for me! The next five peaks were climbed in four consecutive days.

The first day of this stretch I climbed Long's Peak. It is such an iconic peak, so I knew it was one that I needed to get done while I had the opportunity to do so.

I spent the night on a friend's couch in Boulder, and was on my way from Boulder to the trailhead by 4:30am. I arrived at the Long's Peak Trailhead, put my bag together, and was on the trail by 6:05am. The sun was just rising as I set out. I ran/walked my way through the beginning of this hike, and made it to the split for chasm lake by 7:00am.

19769_30
The diamond! What a beauty. Photo taken from the chasm lake junction.

The next part of the hike continued to be class 1 as the trail wandered through the open tundra. It got crazy windy here, with gusts up to 40mph.

19769_31
View of the diamond while traversing the alpine tundra.

I eventually made it to the boulderfield campsite just before 8:00am. It took me a little under two hours to complete the 6 miles and 3000' vertical to the campsite. Now it was on to the fun stuff!

19769_29
Looking towards the keyhole (right side of the image) and the diamond (wall on the left side of the image) from the boulderfield campsite. From here, continue towards the keyhole. There are cairns all over the place, but I would say that there is really no "correct" trail from here to the keyhole--just follow whichever boulders look best and head straight at it!

From here, an easy class1/2 scramle up to the keyhole...

19769_16
The other side of the keyhole! Incredibly beautiful here. The keyhole itself is on the right of the image, this image is taken just after crossing through the keyhole.

From the Keyhole to the top of the peak is an absolute blast, although it was a little bit crowded at places. I was having so much fun climbing this beautiful peak that I neglected to stop to take many pictures between the keyhole and the summit. I was just having too much fun! However, none of the climb besides the narrows really had much exposure.

19769_33
The narrows. You walk straight ahead across the rib. This is what it looks like from the far side. The exposure is certainly there, but there was never a point where I felt at all insecure--it really is just walking. There was even enough room for passing others!

After the narrows, its a quick class 3 move and a jaunt up some very low-angle slab up to the top.

And look, I made it!

19769_32
Me on top, taken looking west off of the summit. Crazy how flat the top is considering the sheer drops on essentially every side.

As usual for me, I stayed on top for about two hours, exploring the entire plateau and meeting new people on top. What a day!

There overall stats were:

  • 14.5 miles round trip
  • 5100' vertical
  • 2hr55min car to summit

South Maroon Peak

I entertained myself throughout my climb of Long's by thinking about what my next destination should be. I knew that I had the next two days to myself, and was trying to decide whether I should head down to the Crestones or over to Aspen and the Elk Range. I eventually decided that 1) I wanted to check out the town of Aspen, and 2) that the Elk Range looked insanely beautiful, so I decided to head towards Aspen for the night. I got back to my car, broke out my camp stove, cooked a quick lunch, and headed off towards South Maroon Peak.

I had hoped to score a spot in one of the Maroon Bells campground, but I didn't go looking for a campsite until around sunset, so unsurprisingly there were none remaining. I ended up sleeping in my car in a pullout just before the pay station to enter the Maroon Bells area--it actually worked out quite nicely, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a place to park for the night close to the trailhead.

3:15am rolled around before I knew it, and with that I was in my car and off to the day use parking lot to begin my hike. I got to the parking lot at 3:30am, got my gear together, made myself a sandwich, and was on the trail at 4:00am. The trail was simple to follow in the dark, and the full moon reflecting off of Crater Lake was incredibly beautiful. I made it to the large cairn and fork for the South Maroon Peak trail in just under one hour. From here, the trail continued to meander gently uphill for about half a mile, at which point it became seriously steep.

This steep section was by far the most physically demanding. It took me about an hour to get from the trail fork to the south ridge. The sun was rising as I did this, creating some of the most beautiful sights that I have ever seen in my life.

19769_39
Sun about to rise in east with moon setting in the west. Looking at Pyramid Peak in the center.
19769_38
Looking back at Crater Lake.
19769_42
Sunriisssseeeeeee
19769_40
Maroon Peak in the center, Pyramid Peak blocking the sun, Snowmass and Capitol just to the left of Maroon.
19769_41
Alpineglow on Maroon Peak. The rest of the route to the peak is visible from here.

After reaching the ridge, a quick hike up some loose class 1 terrain on the ridge leads to the beginning of the more technical section. It took me 2hr30min, moving at a very good pace, to get from the trailhead to the beginning of the technical section.

The route description and trip reports both said that routefinding on the final stretch of this climb is extremely hard and needs to be done in a very specific fashion. Because of this, I came into the day expecting to be turned around very often. I found, however, that the route was extremely well cairned and was fairly easy to follow. Additionally, there were cairns that followed multiple different routes, all of which looked to be of similar difficulty. I would still recommend that only those with significant route-finding experience attempt this route, but if you are confident in your ability to follow cairns and assess terrain, you'll be just fine!

Additionally, there were certainly loose spots on the way up the climb, but if you look for clean lines, there is some really fun scrambling to be had here! If you make smart decisions, there is really nowhere on this climb where you should feel at all insecure. I put a significant gap between myself and the other summit parties by hauling butt up the steep section of this climb, so it I had the entire beautiful mountain to myself, which was absolutely incredible!

19769_36
Hey look, it me! Capitol and Snowmass in the background
19769_35
Pano from the top. Prettiest view that I have ever had on a summit.

And just like that, I was on top! The technical part of this hike took me 50 minutes. I ended up having the summit all to myself for about an hour, and then shared it with two other guys for another 30 minutes. They were going to do the traverse to North Maroon, and I considered following them through it, but decided against it given my lack of preparation for that route.

After my two new friends left the top, I started back down. I ended up taking a very different route through the technical section on my way down. This is why I said earlier that there really are many different ways through the technical section if you use smart routefinding and stay in the general direction of the standard route.

19769_34
I was just up there! Back at Maroon Lake, day complete. What a day.

Overall Stats:

  • 12.6 miles roundtrip
  • 5000' vertical
  • 3hr30min car to summit

Capitol Peak

Going into my Maroon Peak day I had no idea what I wanted to do the next day. My class 3/4 experience leading into this trip was very minimal, so my plan was to use Maroon Peak as a gauge for what I could handle the following day. After feeling extremely comfortable on South Maroon, I decided that I would be able to attempt a class 4 peak on the following day. Additionally, the two friends that I made on top of Maroon told me that they had done Capitol Peak the previous day and relayed to me that they felt much more secure going up Capitol than they had going up Maroon. With that information, I made up my mind: I was going for Capitol.

After finishing South Maroon I drove to Aspen, bought myself a much-deserved sandwich, windowshopped for mountaineering gear I can't afford, made myself dinner, and then headed off to the Capitol Creek trailhead. I got to the trailhead at about 8:30pm, laid out my sleeping bag behind my car, and passed out for the night.

Once again, 3:15am rolled around waaayyyy too quickly. I got up, got ready, and hit the trail by 4:00am (since this was my third straight day up before 4:00am I wasn't moving too quickly while getting ready. Lol).

The approach to Capitol Lake was a grind. I was feeling my legs from the big efforts the past couple days, and the constant uphill was wearing me down. Because of that, I wasn't moving quite as fast as I had been the last two days, and it took me 1hr51min to make the 6.25 mile trek to the fork just before Capitol Lake.

At this point, the trail makes a hard right and begins going directly uphill towards a pass. From the fork to the pass is 0.75 miles and 1000' vertical gain. This took me 25min to complete. There are some stunning views of Capitol Lake and Capitol Peak on this part.

19769_09
Moon Reflection on Capitol Lake. Capitol Peak on the left of the image.
19769_10
Sunrise from the pass. At this point the trail traverses to the right, towards K2.

The pass marks the beginning of the more challenging section of this hike. After going over the pass the trail goes to the right for about 20 yards, then drops down a gully. There are very clear switchbacks going down this gully. The trail then cuts right once below the rock outcroppings on the right of the above picture. This is where the trail disappeared during my hike, as I started traversing snow fields. If the snow field was not present there still would be no trail because you enter a boulder field. The easiest way to complete this part of the hike is simply aim for the center of the cirque that is partially visible on the right of the above picture.

19769_43
View from the center of the cirque, looking back towards the pass. The pass is the lowest point visible to the left of the diamond-shaped peak in the center of the image.

K2 becomes visible at the top and center of the cirque once you reach the center of the cirque. Once K2 is visible, the easiest line is to just make a straight shot for the top of K2. The first class 3 section occurs just before reaching the top of K2. At this point, the route description lists that it is possible to traverse around the north side of K2 to avoid a class 4 section on the opposite side of the summit of K2. This looked much less secure and much more dangerous to me, so I opted to go to the top of K2.

19769_11
Capitol Peak from the top of K2.

The class 4 down-climb on the other side of the peak was also less intense than I was expecting. It was secure moves on very good rock, so I would absolutely recommend going over the top of K2 if you have any desire to do so. Once descending the other side of K2, the knife edge traverse lies just a couple hundred meters ahead.

As I reached the beginning of the knife edge, I ran into another individual who was just about to begin his traverse of this section. We discussed how we planned to get across, and then he went on his way. He opted to use the "schooch" method to get across the traverse. This is where the climber straddles the edge with on leg on either side. This is opposed to traversing the edge hand over hand, where the top of the edge is used as a handhold and feet are placed in crack or smeared along the rock at foot level.

19769_08
The Knife Edge itself.
19769_14
The "scooch" method
19769_07
Looking towards Capitol just before the traverse begins.

Now it was my turn to try the traverse. I, too, opted to use the "scooch" method during the sections that had only small footholds. Using this method, there was never any point when I felt at all insecure. The exposure was certainly exhilarating, but by straddling the ridge there was no chance that I was going anywhere.

The knife edge was somewhere between 100 meters and 200 meters long and was on beautiful rock the entire way. After reaching the other side of the edge, there was still some significant climbing on the east side of Capitol remaining. To me, this was by far the most difficult part of the climb, and the exposure was absolutely still present. Admittedly, I saw some lines that looked very fun to climb and made this section of the climb slightly harder than it needed to be, but even the standard route would have presented some challenge.

19769_12
The summit! It doesn't get much better than this....

After summiting, I hung out on top for nearly two hours, making friends with some of the other hikers and enjoying the incredible setting. I probably should have headed down slightly sooner because I had gotten so cold on top that I was shivering slightly as I descended some of the class 4 sections near the top.

When I reached the knife edge to return, I decided that it looked secure enough that I wanted to try returning via the knife edge using the hand over hand traverse method. Similar to using the scooch method, everything was very secure, despite the fact that many of the footholds were very very small. You've just got to trust your feet!

After reaching the peak of K2 on the way back, all that remained was some glissading and downhill trail running to return back to the car.

19769_13
Capitol from the Alpine Meadow just below Capitol Lake. Taken on my way down.

Overall Stats:

  • 17.3 miles round trip
  • 5100' vertical
  • 4hr 5min car to summit

The Sawtooth Traverse

After three straight days of climbing alone, it was once again time to meet up with a friend for some good old fashion human connection. Rick, a friend of mine who lives in Denver, said that he had been looking to do the Sawtooth Traverse between Bierdstadt and Evans and would love to give it a try with me. Of course, I was in, so I headed off to meet him. We spent the night at his place in Winter Park, cooked us some dinner, went to sleep, woke up early, and drove off to the Bierdstadt trailhead at Guanella Pass.

We were hiking by 6:15am, with the first light of the morning filling in the mountains around us. However, the number of people going up the trail at this time on a Sunday reminded me of the 405 freeway back home in LA. We made it to the summit of Bierdstadt in 1hr30min.

19769_06
Summit! Friendship! Yay!
19769_47
Top of Bierdstadt, looking towards the Sawtooth, Evans, and the route ahead.

After hanging around the summit for about 30 minutes, it was time to take on the traverse. This part of the hike got away from the crowds and was extremely peaceful. The downclimb to the gendarme guarding the traverse was easy class 2. Navigating around the gendarme required some fun class 3 moves.

19769_03
Rick going around the gendarme.

After going around the gendarme, you reach a slot that leads to the traverse across the face of the Sawtooth. The traverse itself is a ton of fun. You are on a very large rib that extends the length of the face of the sawtooth. There were no moves more difficult than class 2 on this part of the traverse itself, but there are times when the rib becomes a little thin, adding some fun exposure.

19769_04
On the Sawtooth Traverse
19769_05
Looking back at the traverse. Pretty awesome.

After finishing the traverse itself, the top of the Sawtooth is about half a mile up the ridge.

19769_45
Looking through a slot just below the top of the Sawtooth.

From the top of the Sawtooth, you then follow the ridge to the top of Mt. Evans. At this point, Rick and I decided to divert from the standard route in order to follow the ridge proper to the summit of Evans. This provided some really fun class 3 scrambling with some nice exposure to our north. I would highly recommend it if you are looking to spice up this route a little bit more between the top of the Sawtooth and the top of Mt. Evans.

19769_46
Rick spicing it up with some class 3.

Eventually the ridge ran out of easily climbable material, and we reconnnected with the original trail. From there it was a nice trail up to the top of Mt. Evans.

19769_02
Rick on top of Evans, his apartment waaayyyy off in the distance behind him.

We were on top for a little while, but it was a Sunday on top of Evans, so it was an absolute zoo. After watching a kid nearly wander off the north face, we decided it was time to get out of there. We headed back the same way we came towards the Sawtooth. After nearly reaching the peak of the Sawtooth once more, we cut right towards the gully described in the route description.

We followed the gully down, following a somewhat defined trail. After reaching the bottom of the gully, the trail cut left around the beaver ponds. At this point the trail got seriously muddy--prepare to get wet and dirty! Rick and I tried to avoid the mud for a little while, but we eventually decided to just give in and have fun with the mud!

19769_01
Jungle Pants and Mud. What a combo.

We followed the muddy trail for about an hour until reconnecting with the trail that we had been on in the morning for an easy mile back to the car. Another awesome day in the books!

19769_44
Back at the trailhead.

Overall Stats:

  • Roundtrip Distance: 10.25 miles
  • 3900' vertical
  • 1hr30min car to Bierdstadt. 3hr45min car to top of the Sawtooth. 4hr45min car to top of Evans.

At the End of it All

It has been nearly eight weeks since I climbed these peaks, but there still has not been a day that goes by where I am not reliving the thrill of each and every one of them. I love these mountains--they make me who I am. I absolutely cannot wait until the next time that I am able to escape the flat middle of the country for another week like this. Until then, I pray that each of us does everything in our power to spread the beauty of these places to those around us so that they may be protected and preserved for their intrinsic value to this incredible world.


"Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean."

-John Muir




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
broncosRZbest
Fun read
10/04/2019 17:18
Dude, great job getting on so many mountains in your limited time in CO! And props for not shirking from the big ones, either. (Heck, you seemed to seek them out!) Really fun read. I'll meet you at a trailhead when you're back in CO!


RUN_IT
Great report
10/08/2019 10:55
Really enjoyed reading about your adventures. Thanks for posting!



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