AN ADVENTURE TO THE SUMMIT OF MOUNT BIERSTADT AND BACK
Waking up at 2am sounded like a good idea that Thursday Madison invited me to hike Mount Bierstadt. To reach the top of the 14'er (mountain whose summit is between 14,000ft and 14,999ft) for sunrise on Sunday, we would have to leave the trail parking lot by 3am so that we would reach the summit in time. To my amazement I was up at the drop of a hat when my alarm went off. The evening before our hike, I stayed in Dillon - one hour west of the front range where Bierstadt was located - at a friends condo. It put me 30 minutes closer than had I stayed in Breckenridge, where I had spent the days leading up to our hike, mountain biking and boating with friends.
I met Madison and her friend, Amy in the parking lot of a Valero in Georgetown and followed them through the winding mountain pass until we arrived at the Mount Bierstadt trailhead at 3:30am. Madison had brought her brothers dog, Fin, and Amy brought her dog, Ranger. We were a few minutes behind schedule by the time we struck out, but confident we could make that lost time up.
The first mile of the trail took us through a long flat valley before starting the ascent. Just long enough and easy enough to give us a false sense of confidence. This whole hiking thing was going to be easy, I was beginning to think that I had finally developed "high altitude" lungs - capable of scraping every nanogram of oxygen from the air and efficiently running the well oiled machine I called “my body”. Seconds into the ascent I found myself doubled over and cursing the fast pace I thought I could keep. Maybe we could go just a little bit slower.
In the pitch black dark with only our headlamps to illuminate the way we continued our ascent. We found a comfortable pace and started to make up some lost time, until we made the mistake of letting Ranger off his leash - he bolted. When I say bolted I mean he took off down the side of the mountain at quite a quick pace, in the wrong direction and out of sight. Amy made her way back down the path call his name, Madison made a bee line in the direction Ranger went and I stood lookout up top watching for any movement that might be the dog. After a solid 30 minutes of panic and searching, Ranger was captured and re-leashed. He was banished from free-range of the land the rest of the hike.
Since Amy had captured the fugitive quite a ways down the path from Madison and I's location and since we still wanted to hustle to the summit to try and make it for sunrise, Madison and I made an executive decision to continue hiking to the top with Amy trailing a few minutes behind.
The further up the mountain we got the seemingly steeper the incline and larger the boulders became. Our hike had gone from a gradual decline at the beginning, to flat valley, to slight incline, to steep incline and then in an attempt to thwart our efforts of ever summiting, the trail became a steep incline with journeymen bouldering skills required. The icing on top of the cake was the slick snow that frozen, then melted, then froze again to create patches of snow-ice or what I like to call "not so sn-ice". Slick and steep, the sn-ice was like trying to walk up greased stairs in roller-skates - slow and steady.
Madison and I finally reached the top at 6:30 am, one hour after sunrise. Through our trials and tribulations we were happy to have made it to the top where the wind was gusting and the temperatures felt almost freezing. Madison brought signs to hold up to wish our dad's a happy Father's Day and once Amy arrived we popped a bottle of champagne, passed it around and laughed about all of the mishaps that happened along the way, which included me almost getting taken out by the champagne cork on its maiden voyage.
The hike was a great time and an awesome excuse to spend a Sunday morning with good friends. I was back in Breck by 10am and immediately passed out from exhaustion for two-and-a-half hours. I now have two out of fifty-three 14er's in Colorado under my belt - Quandary, and Bierstadt - and already have plans to knock a few others out before the snow hits in the winter. With a little more planning and hopefully less mishaps, we will summit our next mountain before sunrise and get to witness the beautiful surroundings as the sun pops its head up from behind the beautiful colorado scenery to start another day to be thankful for.