“I’m missing one of my hiking boots,” Kat says speaking towards my tent. I’m already bundled inside two sleeping bags. I can see my breath, we’re camping at about 11,000ft. Our plan: to double peak Bierstadt and Evans in just a few hours, first we must sleep.
But what do you say to your friend who’s forgotten a shoe? How does that happen? Don’t you grab your shoes together? They, her and her friend Heath, decide it must be in their jeep ten miles down, in Georgetown. They take my car. And return successful, the shoe was found. First problem solved: Our hike continues as planned.
We wake to 24 degrees, frozen tents and an enlightened sky, filled with stars. Looking up for a few minutes while making tea, the morning was started by a star wiggling loose and streaking, lighting the world!
We get to the trailhead, day has yet to break. Our headlamps and frozen exhales lead our way towards the peak. First, we must summit Bierstadt. It’s 3.5 miles to the top and not quite 3,000ft of elevation gain. Our lungs and legs are tested. We’re above tree-line most of the day. We keep a steady pace, trudging onto a snowy trail with about .5 mile left to the summit.
We reach Bierstadts peak in jubilation and with two other guys who want to scramble the Sawtooth ridge with us. You have to scramble from one peak along the Sawtooth to get on over to Mt Evans trail. We didn’t know what this entailed until we got to the top, looked over and saw it. If the other two guys wouldn’t have joined our group, I’m not sure we would have been confident enough to try. But party of 5 seems stronger than party of 3.
We started towards the Sawtooth, jumping over big boulders, sliding, slipping down along the snow, catching ourselves, legs shaking, body warming up from the full-body workout/adrenaline. I ask Kat and Heath “Do you know how to self-arrest?” They look at me inquisitively…”can you stop yourself if you start sliding down there?” (we all gaze down to the bottom, it’s not shear cliffs but pretty darn close.) We spend the next hour jumping, sliding, bouldering over the Class 3 section of the hike. This by far, was the best part, as it was something that put us all out of our comfort zone yet drew us together, working as a team to ‘slowly and steadily’ make it to the trail again and off the ridge/spine/ledges.
We part ways with the two guys after the Sawtooth and take off trouncing over the snow covered rock field towards Mt. Evans. Another hour and we see the real summit, as there are many false summits on this trail.
The views from the top of 14 er’s are extraordinary. Seeing for miles the turbulent rocky ridges covered in lush pine forests, golden aspen groves and the unimaginable landscapes that this region of the world has produced. Nothing is closer than you to the sky and whatever else floats above. Perspectives open, possibility is vivid, life is felt as your heart jumps through its’ restrictive cage, your eyes are filled with delight, maybe tears, as you see the vastness of this world and your spirit dances with elation as it feels the freer than the birds soaring in the thermals.
Our total hiking time was 10 hours. The work/sweat/blisters and resulting soreness is always worth it. Always.