Peak(s):  Grays Peak  -  14,270 feet
Mt. Bierstadt  -  14,060 feet
Mt. Democrat  -  14,148 feet
Mt. Lincoln  -  14,286 feet
Mt. Bross  -  14,172 feet
Missouri Mountain  -  14,067 feet
Mt. Belford  -  14,197 feet
Mt. Shavano  -  14,229 feet
Mt. Wilson  -  14,246 feet
Wetterhorn Peak  -  14,015 feet
Date Posted:  09/30/2020
Date Climbed:   09/14/2020
Author:  Kbrick
 14 14ers in 7 days   

Fourteen 14ers in Seven Days

In the beginning of the summer, my friend and I decided to set ourselves the goal of climbing fourteen 14ers in seven days. Why we set this exact goal is forgotten, but once we set it, we were committed.

Since the website only allows ten peaks per trip report, I left out some of the peaks that were part of combos from the official list: Torreys, Evans, Oxford, Tabeguache

Day 0

Left home base in the San Juans to drive up north for our first two peaks. Headed up to the Grays/Torreys 4wd trailhead. Arrived around 10PM and slept in the car overnight.

Day 1 (9/14) Grays/Torreys

An easy warm-up day for our adventure. Left the trailhead around 5:30am and summitted Grays by 7:30. Made it up Torreys less than an hour later. Overall obviously an easy hike, some packed snow/ice was moderately difficult before the sun came up but on our way down it had already softened up a bit. Both summits were relatively clear of snow.

Day 2 (9/15) Bierstadt/Evans

20747_07
M descending onto the ridgeline from Bierstadt.

Car camped about fifteen minutes away from Guanella Pass Trailhead. Started again around 5:30 and summitted Bierstadt at approximately 7:45. Some ice and snow packed on the trail but nothing serious. After Bierstadt we had our first real challenge of the trip- the ridgeline and Sawtooth circumnavigation. We ran into challenges pretty early here. We stuck right of the ridgeline like the route description says, but we went way too far right

and ended up in some trickier climbing than anticipated. Eventually we pushed back closer to the ridgeline, staying on it or a few feet to the right of it from there on. From there on the ridgeline was fairly easy. We passed the steeper outcrop then conversed with some other climbers about the best way to get around Sawtooth. A couple had been attempting for about an hour to traverse on the very steep, exposed upper section (we had been watching them go back and forth much of the time we spent on the traverse, they seemed to be struggling). As we were approaching, they opted to climb down to the looser, more dirt/scree like area. We also opted to go this way, which required us to climb down somewhat on the left side of the ridgeline. Given that this side was in the shade, the snow was more prevalent and icier. I ran into some trouble with a snowy/icy spot here where I was really struggling to get a grip and things were getting dicey. Eventually I was able to get down and then we scrambled easily across the dirt/scree to climb over onto Sawtooth. From there, we followed cairns across rocky ground to get to Evans. We were exhausted by the time we got there, and M was thoroughly displeased to discover a parking lot just below the summit.

We followed the combo descent down into the gully and back across the flatlands. We did not get back to the car until almost 4pm, making it one of our longer days. We then had to make a detour to pick up a watch charger for me, before heading towards Alma for the Decalibron loop.

20747_04

M celebrating (prematurely?) after completing most of the ridgeline, before the Sawtooth bit.

Day 3 (9/16) Democrat, Lincoln, Bross

Slept in the car about ten minutes from the trailhead. This one was busy, unsurprisingly. We were both tired and glad for a not-technically difficult day, though we did got lost and off-trail in the dark of the talus fields on our ascent up Democrat for a while. With a 5AM start, we snagged all three 14ers and returned to the car before 11am. Returning from Lincoln, we ran into a crew of mountain goats, who ambled past unconcerned with our presence.

There was still some mild smokiness in the air from nearby wildfires, but not too bad.

20747_02Goats!

Our day was not yet done. We zipped over to the Missouri Gulch Trailhead so we could hike in a few miles before attempting another 14er trio. Packed our bags and hiked in just under two miles to a designated campsite. A few folks at the trailhead came through looking exhausted, telling us they had only done Belford/Oxford. We decided to get a very early start the next day.

Day 4 (9/17) Missouri/Belford/Oxford

Woke up at 3:30, on the move by 4. We headed towards Missouri first based on information from trip reports here. (We would thoroughly second the advice to do Missouri first, unless you have a love of tons of tiny switchbacks in the pre-dawn hours, which is what you would have to do to in the other direction.) A few inches of packed snow on the way up to the ridgeline of Missouri. There were some moves that were borderline Class 3 on the ridgeline, but that's mostly because we're on the shorter side and some of the easier moves were obscured by snow.


20747_03
M trekking through the snow pre-dawn.

Headed back the way we came until we reached the trail intersection for Belford and Oxford. Headed East towards Oxford, passing less than half a mile from the Belford summit. M was hitting a low point in energy at this point and we struggled along the relatively easy traverse. The hardest part was the last half mile or so on the way back to Belford, which was steep. Summitted Belford and then powered through the switchbacks on the way to camp. We were both relieved we had made the call not to come up that way.

Good stream to use as water source/soaking for sore legs and feet at the trailhead. We refilled all our containers and then drove through BV to the Shavano/Tabeguache trailhead.

Day 5 (9/18) Shavano/Tabeguache

Lots of good spots to pull off for camping on the road. Slept about ten minutes from the trailhead and got a 5am start. We got lost less than a mile in and had to backtrack to the trail in the dark. I was struggling on this morning, feeling a bit sluggish and slow. After an hour or two and some trail mix, I started to come back. The last quarter mile of Shavano is very steep but all walkable.

The traverse over to Tabeguache looks more difficult from the Shavano summit than it is in reality. The shallower part of the dip in the traverse is obscured from view at the summit. It took us about an hour and a half round trip to Tabeguache and back to Shavano, not counting a rest at the top.

20747_10
Shavano summit seen from Tabeguache

We then headed off to the San Juans for the final two days of our challenge. Fall colors were starting on the way to the Wetterhorn trailhead. We stopped to sleep at a sign that said the trailhead was 0.1 miles away because the road looked more carved/narrow than we really cared for. It turns out the trailhead was actually closer to 0.75 miles away.

Day 6 (9/19) Wetterhorn

Woke up at 3AM with a long day ahead of us. I was slow to get moving and we didn't hit the trail until 3:45. We cruised over the mild grade/switchbacks until we reached the boulder field. (For some reason, I had a horrible feeling that there was an animal or something near/watching us the whole time. I jumped every time my headlamp caught something reflective. Unsettling, but the feeling disappeared by the boulder field.)

Reached the Wetterhorn ridgeline where it turns into more of a Class 3 scramble before dawn, so we opted to wait for more light. The wind was brutal on the ridgeline, but someone had constructed a makeshift wall of rocks for this reason that we crouched behind while we waited. Not exactly LNT, but oh well...

When there was enough grayish light to get moving again, we began our scramble. The trail was well-marked and the guide photos from 14ers.com helped too. We were able to find our way very easily and had a lot of fun on the way up. Neither of us had any trouble on this one, and we got to watch a very cold sunrise from the top.

Cruised back down to the car around 10AM and headed off to the Navajo Lake Trailhead outside Telluride for our final summit. We arrived at the trailhead by 3:30 and set off for our campsite at Navajo Lake. We made very good time on this one, partially due to the flatness of the majority of the route, save the switchbacks in the last half mile.

20747_14
M peeking around at the catwalk on Wetterhorn.


20747_05
Fall colors outside Lake City

Day 7 (9/20) Mount Wilson

Woke up at 3am to the sound of raindrops on the tent. We were anxious that our last day was about to be rained out, but when we got out of the tent the skies were clear, save one small cloud that had been hovering over our tent. Ominous. Navigated our way around the lake, getting a bit off-track in the talus fields once or twice.

Had a hard time finding our way up the first half mile of the standard route after departing the basin. There were not many cairns and it was still dark. We started to encounter deeper snow within a half mile of the Wilson summit which made route-finding even harder. We did get to pause and watch an awesome sunrise from our ascent.

20747_01
sunrise behind gladstone


20747_13
The snow begins

At one cairn, we went to the left side of a gully when we should have gone right. We ended up having to trudge right through a few feet of snow for a while, and then climb over a rocky outcrop that slanted backwards ever so slightly. Rock was very loose and at one point a handhold that had seemed secure came off the wall while I was holding it. Yikes. After that outcrop we were thankfully back on the main ridgeline route. The infamous last hundred feet didn't seem as bad as I'd thought it would be, though the wet and snowy spots added a layer of difficulty. If you are not very tall or wide, you can go through a hole to the right of the final move instead of stretching your legs to climb over it. Pretty fun to pop out of the hole and be at the summit.

After a conversation with some people at the summit, we opted to go down the Kilpacker route and navigate around El Diente back to camp. This added a decent amount of mileage but let us avoid any serious snow. The Kilpacker side was almost entirely clear. Despite the mileage added, we both felt it was the right choice to go the opposite way down.

An exhausting week, but fun to push ourselves and see what we could get done.




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
RJ_Greenhorn24

Nice work!!
09/30/2020 12:11
Very well done, and that sunrise shot is amazing!!



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