Mt. Bierstadt - 14,060 feet
Mt. Sherman - 14,036 feet
Mt. Princeton - 14,197 feet
"Tigger Pk" - 13,300 feet
Mt. Bierstadt - 14,060 feet
Mt. Sherman - 14,036 feet
Mt. Princeton - 14,197 feet
"Tigger Pk" - 13,300 feet
|A SPUR OF PEAKS TO START THE SEASON|
A Spur of 14er's to Start the Season
4/58 in 2020
Well, as I continue my quest of climbing all the CO 14er's in 2020 (but preferably before I head back to CU in August, if that even happens :/), I am just knocking off the easier, more popular peaks that are closer to Erie early in the hiking season. I climbed Quandary back in February and included a ski descent of that peak, which began my quest. Now that finals are over and I'm finally on summer vacation, I can focus on the task at hand and make steady, almost daily progress towards my goal. I'm a poor college student right now, which means that I was going to have a job this summer, but it got closed up until at least July 31st. As a result, now I'm operating on a very small budget, and I have to find another job. At least the gas prices are as low as my grades. That'll certainly help to save cash and successfully climb these 14ers.
All the trip reports I am writing for the summer is simply a byproduct of my thoughts, reactions, and experiences from my summer mountaineering project of climbing the 58 CO 14ers before I head back to CU in August. I hope that these trip reports help me to learn from mistakes, to document my experiences, and to help me to think and become a better person and mountaineer. Thank you for reading and for your support!
Mt Bierstadt, April 25, 2020
My family went and stayed up in our condo in Silverthorne for a few days, and I thought that maybe I should use the proximity of the condo to some 14ers to my advantage. I've been monitoring the weather and the avalanche reports for a good portion of the season, and I knew that it was warming up and the danger was rising, so I needed a 14er with a pretty safe route through some low angle terrain. I also needed the road out towards the trailhead to be plowed to within a reasonable distance. I had a few options but settled on Mt Bierstadt. I did a little recon on the drive from Erie to Silverthorne and checked out a couple trailheads and roads. Guanella Pass was plowed up to about 1.8 miles from the summer trailhead for Mt Bierstadt, which meant that it was pretty much perfect. Not to mention, my dad was going to be hiking with me, and he had never hiked in snow before, only in purely summer conditions, so this would be a good ice breaker (haha, get it?) for him. We also brought our touring setup, hoping to make a few good turns.
My dad's fellow pilot friend, Freedom Carlson, met us at the trailhead that morning for the hike.
The 3 of us skinned up the road, cut off and across the Guanella Valley, vaguely following the trail that the snowshoers were making, all the while looking up at the slope we were going to ascend. From below, it looked quite bare. Lots of rocks exposed, not to mention that we were gonna be hiking up the windward side where there is naturally less snowpack anyways. Though it had snowed just that morning and a couple of days before, we decided to ditch our skis and make a basic ascent. We would regret this later.
^^Left: I almost boot packed my skis up but then they convinced me to ditch mine as well. Middle: a picture of Freedom. Right: a picture of my Dad.^^
We hiked up, making good time, taking breaks every now and then. We kept looking across the beautiful, post-snow valley, dreaming of pillowy ski lines.
^^Left: Looking across Guanella Pass Valley. Middle: Freedom in the foreground, my Dad further ahead. Right: Just more hiking :)^^
It was on these slopes here that we realized that we had made a mistake leaving our skis. We weren't really post-holing at all, I was just having to kick steps in, but the snow was in great condition for climbing and for skiing! It wasn't too icy, too thin, too unstable. The snow was in great shape for skiing, on this slope. We ditched our skis at just under 12000 ft, which meant that we missed out on 2000 ft of great turns :( Oh well. I'll get the ski descent next spring.
^^Left: me in the foreground with an ice ax that was pretty unnecessary. Middle and Right: more hiking.^^
At about 13600 ft, Freedom developed a horrible cough and decided to turn back. He had already summited Bierstadt twice before, so he decided not to push it.
We started at about 7:30 AM and summited at 12:30. Another one for the books!
^^Left: Me next to one of the big cornices on the summit ridgeline. Right: Summit Picture!^^
As far as wind goes, it was almost nonexistent for the entire day. Even on the summit, it was quite still. I've never experienced this before; usually, there are pretty strong winds at the top of 14ers, but today was an anomaly. Who knows.
We tried to glissade down, but the snow was too soft by now to slide, and the slope wasn't quite steep enough, so we just downclimbed regularly. We got back to our skis in about an hour, then we were back to the car in like 30 minutes (cause we had to go back across the flat valley). All in all, it was a successful summit and a safely executed day, which is what matters!
Mt Sherman, May 6, 2020
Tuesday was my last day of finals, so I decided to celebrate. My dad said he was available on Wednesday to go hike, so I chose Mt Sherman. He hadn't skied a 14er yet, so we decided this could be his first. It would be my 2nd. I chose Mt Sherman due to its route length, hiking and skiing technicality, and it's avalanche danger. The route ended up being 6 miles to the summit from the winter closure, though we took an off the beaten path route, utilizing the snowfields to make a quick ascent. We did the South Slope route, which is a snow climb only. This still ended up being a pretty easy hike because the snow was pretty stiff, the slope not very steep, and the skiing was pretty lowkey, with no crazy sections requiring jump-turns or rock navigating (besides walking across a couple of rocky sections that had no snow left.) As for the avalanche risk, as I said, the slope was lower angle most of the time, so I was not very worried. We took the proper precautions and traveled safely, but the threat was quite low. It would be a good day!
We headed up to Silverthorne and stayed in our condo Tuesday night so that we could cut down on the drive time to the trailhead the next morning. Unfortunately, I didn't look at how long the drive from the condo to the trailhead would be, and we woke up a little too late. We got up at 5/5:30 and were driving by 6, but it was an hour and a half to the trailhead. This meant that we were just starting the hike at like 8, nearly 2 hours after sunrise. We should have gotten up at 3.
It took us a little over an hour to hike out close to the summer trailhead (which I still am not sure where exactly that is as we never saw it). We cut off of the road to the right into the woods and began our actual ascent. We figured it would be shorted to simply hike straight towards the summit, rather than follow the road around and then begin ascending. Since the snowfields were covering a lot of the ground still, this was a good decision since we weren't having to scramble over rocks and logs and stuff too much. Eventually, we made it above treeline, where we took a break and I took some pictures:
^^Left: my Dad boot packing. Middle: Mt Sherman. Right: Mt Sheridan, the 13er to the south of Sherman.^^
We tried to keep moving and not take too many breaks as we had a later start and needed to be off the snow by late afternoon when the wet slide danger is highest. Something I learned this trip is that I need to eat a bigger breakfast and then not eat any food on the mountain because I get drained of energy for a little while after I eat anything, and that is not a good feeling. Does anybody else experience this?
Here are some other hiking pictures:
^^Left: feeling drained of energy :/ Middle: skinning at some point. Right: Looking at the 4 Mile Creek Valley below.^^
Luckily my energy dry spell wore off and we reached the summit in one last push from about 13,550 ft. Another one checked off!
^^Left and right: Summit sign pics.^^
^^Left: during a transition on the peak. Right: my dad and I with some sawatches behind us.^^
Given the geographic location of Mt Sherman relative to other 14er's in Northern Colorado, there is a spectacular view of some other 14ers. Here are a few from the top of Mt Sherman:
^^This almost looks like a pano, but it's actually 3 different pictures! Left: Mt Elbert. Middle: Mt Massive. Right: Mt of the Holy Cross.^^
^^Me taking pictures.^^
It took us 5 and a half hours to summit. But it only took us 53 minutes to descend, which includes taking our skis off like 7 times to walk across rocks and bare spots on the road, and to pull ourselves on our skis along the nearly slushy road.
^^Left: At the Leavick site, putting skis back on. Right: what most of the road back looked like.^^
We had a little drama when we got back to the winter closure. Given that we were probably the last ones to get up to the parking, we were also one of the last to get back after hiking. There were some cars still there, though. Notably, there was a huge Tahoe parked there. When we skied up to the end of the snow, my car was nowhere in sight. We thought that someone had stolen my car! We were starting to panic, trying to figure what had happened. Why would someone steal my car? It wasn't that great of a car, a cheap 2009 Ford Escape. And why would someone steal it from here, a trailhead way out in the middle of nowhere? And what were we going to do? It was about 10 miles at least from the winter closure to the main highway, we had no cell service and certainly didn't have any type of winter camping equipment with us.
Luckily, my car and another little honda CRV or something was somehow hiding behind the Tahoe, completely invisible. No shadow was showing, no hint that my car was there. But it was there. That feeling of relief was amazing. You know it's a good day when your car hasn't been stolen from the trailhead.
Week of May 10, 2020
It would prove to be a long but enjoyable week! I had plans for the next 4 days to climb a bunch of 14er's back to back, starting with Mt Princeton. I would try Decalibron on Tuesday, Mt Yale on Wednesday, and Mt Shavano and Tabeguache Peak on Thursday. I was meeting different people each of these days and logistically it was kind of complicated, though I made it work. I brought a 3 man tent and a 6 man tent (even though I would only be in a tent with 2, 3, and 4 people at once.) I brought skis, cooking supplies, extra sleeping mats, some camp chairs, plus more. (See my next trip report, A Week of Mountains, to hear about the rest of the week of 5/11. I couldn't fit all the photos into one trip report, so I'm splitting it up.)
^^Above: almost all my gear laid out for the week.^^
Mt Princeton (+Tigger Peak), May 11, 2020
My friend Jamison and I caravaned up to the lower Mt Princeton Trailhead on Sunday night. We got there after dark and tried to find a decent camp spot. We ended up just putting our tent up in the dirt parking lot since there didn't seem to be another convenient spot anywhere else. Trying to sleep despite our excitement for the next day was quite a challenge since I was looking forward to the entire week I had ahead of me and Jamison hadn't climbed a 14er since the last summer and hadn't hiked at all due to Rona.
A good 7 hours later, my 5 AM alarm went off. It was still dark out, but the sun was rising quickly, so we tried to do everything as efficiently as possible. We broke down the tent, we made breakfast, we packed our bags, we loaded everything back into the car. At about 6:10 we were finished with the morning routine, and sunrise had started. It was overcast, and the sun only shone on us for about 30 minutes that morning.
^^Above: Tigger Peak, with the very summit of Mt Princeton peaking through to the right.^^
We drove up the rugged road in my car since it's a high(er) clearance AWD vehicle. This road was no match for my 2009 Ford Escape. After driving this road, I am quite confident that I'll be able to drive just about every single road in Colorado that leads to a 14er trailhead.
We were able to get up to the radio towers, but snow blocked the road from vehicles after that. This is where we started our hike.
After hiking about 10-ish minutes, I realized that I forgot to make the summit sign, so we turned around. A summit isn't worth it without the sign! After getting back to the car, making the sign, and beginning the hike again, we were officially starting our day at 6:50, a little later than I wanted, but it was still too early in the year to really be worried about thunderstorms.
^^Left: The upper trailhead where the actual trail leaves the road. Right: Looking up at Tigger Peak from the trail, just above the road.^^
Most of the trail was quite dry. Summer hiking conditions are on the horizon. That said, there were still a good number of snowfields we had to cross. I brought my ice axe with me and used it, though I never felt like I really needed it. The snow crossings were pretty lowkey and stable, and there weren't too many in the first place.
^^Above: Hiking over the small shoulder below Tigger Peak.^^
After getting up to the saddle between Tigger Peak and Mt Princeton, we decided to through in Tigger Peak to the hike because it was a simple ridge traverse that wouldn't add in too much extra elevation gain. It took us around 30 minutes to walk out to it's summit and back to the main trail. We forgot to take a picture, but we were in the clouds anyway and the visibility was about 30 meters, so there wasn't much to see.
We continued with the main objective, though we had no clue how much higher above us the summit was. We couldn't see anything. Probably the top 1500 ft of the mountain was in the clouds, and though Princeton probably doesn't really have false summits during clear conditions, we kept coming up on false summits one after another due to low visibility. We just kept grinding through.
The other problem is that the weather was steadily worsening. Winds were picking up, snowfall was getting a little thicker, and the temperature was dropping as we increased in altitude. After a season of backcountry skiing and a few winter hikes, I was able to deal with the cold and I was fairly confident in weathering the conditions, but Jamison was getting worried. I knew that the snow conditions on the mountain itself were safe for travel since up top there weren't any actual snowfields and all the snow that was present was freshly fallen while we were there. Jamison didn't have to experience to know that, so he kept worrying. I applaud his caution, but fear of the unknown causes unnecessary actions sometimes, like descending from a peak when you could only be like 200 ft below the summit with safe conditions. Weather-wise, the visibility wasn't changing, and everything was safe so I wasn't worried about a true whiteout. To ease his worry, I told him at 10:10 that if we weren't at the summit by 10:40, we would turn around, but I was pretty confident that we were like 10 minutes from the summit.
We both should have worn one more jacket because it was pretty cold, but we made it! We summited, took a picture really quick, and started the descent quickly because it was cold and windy. My body was a little cold but my head stayed warm even without a hat due to the fur coat I had been growing out for the last year.
^^Left: Summit picture! Middle: on the downclimb. Right Not sure where this is, but we never had to climb through this. This is what nearly all of the hike looked like, though.^^
It took us about 2.5 hours to get from the top back to the car. Naturally, conditions on the whole mountain cleared up a bit once we were pretty far below the summit.
^^Left and right: looking across the mountain.^^
^^Left: taking a short water break. Right: looking at the route back to the car.^^
^^Left: looking down to the gully. This would be an awesome ski descent. The gully goes up to the very top and goes pretty far down the mountain, further than you can see in the picture. Right: the top covered by clouds.^^
We were back at the car by like 1:45. It was a successful day.
Risk is for managing, not for chance.
|Comments or Questions|
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