I got to visit some of the most beautiful places in the state this year, and I feel very blessed to be able to experience the back country in this way. If you want to hike a lot of mountains, being an educator is your profession. 3 reasons we teach...June, July, and August . Jk. It is nice to have a change of pace for a few months though where the uphill battle is physical rather than mental and emotional. I was able to summit 30 13ers/14ers throughout the year. Here's the list of them in order climbed.
Quandary Peak (repeat) 14,265'
James Peak 13,294'
Hoosier Ridge 13,352'
Red Peak A 13,215'
Red Mountain C 13,229'
Mt. Sherman (x2) (3peat and 4peat) 14,036'
Mt. Sheridan 13,748'
Gemini Peak (x2) 13,951'
Mt. Buckskin 13,865'
Mt. Columbia - SE Ridge 14,073'
San Luis Peak 14,014'
Boreas Mountain 13,082'
Wilson Peak - Rock of Ages 14,017
Hesperus Mountain 13,232'
Crestone Peak 14,294'
"Old Baldy" 13,038'
South Arapahoe Peak 13,397'
Mt. Elbert (repeat) 14,433'
Mt. Sneffels 14,150'
Torreys Peak - Kelso Ridge (3peat) 14,267'
Uncompahgre Peak 14,309'
Wetterhorn Peak 14,015'
Matterhorn Peak 13,590'
Mt. Audubon 13,221'
Horseshoe Mountain 13,898'
Peerless Mountain 13,348'
Mt. Sniktau (Halloween Night Hike) 13,234'
Dyer Mountain 13,855'
WARMUP - James Peak
As soon as we could get out, I chose some shorter hikes to start with to get the knees, legs and lungs warmed up. At the beginning of the year my wife decided she wanted to attempt some more difficult peaks this summer. She went with me on some of these warmup hikes to get in shape too. James peak was a perfect place to begin.
St. Mary's Glacier
This is an "easy" walk up, but demands a bit more energy from you in the spring with snow on the ground and cold wind blowing. Cami and Friends made it to the summit with no problem!
We met a couple other guys at the top who were descending on skis. After chatting with them a bit, they dropped off the mountain and were back to the trailhead in like 3 seconds. This made us very jealous. I definitely want to try this in the near future.
SOLITUDE - San Luis Peak
The snowpack this winter was very low and we were able to start snow-free hiking more than a month ahead of previous years. This peak was Cami's goal for the year - 13 miles round trip. She had never hiked something this long before and wasn't sure if her legs had what it takes to summit this peak. It took us about 5 hours to drive down with about 30 miles of dirt roads to reach the trailhead. We started off on the standard trail in solitude early the next morning.
The route was very scenic. There were lots of small beaver ponds along the way.
The trail was pleasant and gradual, in fact, probably the most gradual of all the standard 14er routes. Cami found this much easier than anticipated. Part way up we reached the "crux" of this "climb". The route description calls it "THE SLOPE". Basically, it was a section of trail that was only slightly steeper than the rest of the route, but still not very steep at all. Actually quite enjoyable!
After "THE SLOPE"
We reached the summit and still had lots of energy! We learned that elevation gain isn't so tough when it's spread out over a long distances. San Luis is one of the lesser climbed 14ers. Few other times have I hiked and not met even one other person along the way. This trip was really fun and memorable!
Molly is such a camera hog!
WORK - Wilson Peak/Hesperus Mountain
At the end of June I was invited to tag along on a trip with Brad (Mountain Ninja) and Chris (ChrisinAZ). Their goal was 6 difficult peaks in 3 days. I figured I'd go and join them for 2 or 3 of those peaks and relax the rest of the time. These two guys are a little more ambitious than I am and enjoy climbing some routes that are a bit beyond my comfort level. Our plan was to carry our big packs up to the Rock of Ages saddle at 13k ft., stash them there, scramble to the summit of Wilson Peak and back, run over to tag Gladstone "real quick" (not real quick and not me), then descend and camp high in Navajo Basin so these guys could do the El Diente/Mt. Wilson traverse the next day.
Sun rising over Wilson Peak
Hiking up to the saddle was quite tiring with our packs on. My pack was square shaped and acted like a sail in the wind that threw me off balance a couple times. At one point, Brad left the trail and headed straight up the side of the mountain for no reason really. He's pretty hardcore, but that's to be expected coming from a ninja (literally). For some reason I'm never scared to camp or hike when I'm with Brad. I think to myself, "Maybe I should carry a gun for protection against bears or mountain lions in the wilderness." Then I remember that there's no need for any of that because Brad IS a lethal weapon.
Brad and Chris - Do we look tired?
Old ruined building on the way up
We reached the saddle quite exhausted and very happy to take off our heavy packs. We had a quick break, ate some food and started up toward the summit of Wilson Peak. The views were great and the climbing was fun.
Gladstone, Mt. Wilson, and El Diente Peak
Fun climbing toward the summit
Brad Climbing class 3 rock
We returned to the Rock of Ages saddle to find that the marmots had chewed on some of our gear. Punks! I'd always heard that the marmots are attracted to your sweaty packs and gear because of the salt in your sweat. Now I know it's true. Brad and Chris headed toward the nasty ridge of Gladstone, and I headed down to the basin to set up camp then take a nap. That night we enjoyed an interesting sunset with bright orange smoke filled skies. At the time there were some 12 or so wildfires burning up our state.
Smoke filled skies
I decided to skip out on the next day's climb because I was scared...and I do not say this with any shame. Brad and Chris ascended El Diente's 4th class North Buttress route, traversed over the sketchy ridge to Mt. Wilson, then descended Mt. Wilson's loose standard route. This was a little extreme for my taste. Here's a link of Brad's trip report on their traverse if you want to check it out:
I slept outside the tent under the stars that night so the guys wouldn't wake me when they woke up at 3am. I slept in till 8am the next morning glad the marmots had not chewed my face. Seeing as how I still had about 8 hours to kill before Chris and Brad got back, I took a leisurely stroll down the basin to check out Navajo Lake. I'm glad I did, because the lake was pretty neat! It was colorful and peaceful.
I was not looking forward to hauling our packs back to the 13k ft. saddle and wondered if my legs had what it takes. We ended up moving slow and steady, finally reaching the saddle in misery. As it got dark, Brad and Chris looked like zombies. I was pretty tired, so they must have been exhausted! Climbing 4 difficult peaks in 2 days was quite the feat. We finally reached the car well after dark. Happy with our accomplishments, we celebrated by driving till 1 am to hike Hesperus Mountain the next day. We were very tired and decided to sleep in till 6 the next morning. We actually felt good and energized the next day. I found that after a couple days of hiking, your body adjusts to the strenuous torture you put it through and gives you what you need to continue. Hesperus was a gorgeous mountain and entertaining climb.
On the way down below the saddle on Hesperus there was this strange line of steep soft black sand that we kind of glided down. It was a lot of fun!
The drive home was long (9hrs.) and stinky (4days without showers). A great time with some fun guys! We'll have to do it again sometime when I feel like pushing my body to the level of discomfort.
BEAUTY- Crestone Peak
My goal for the summer was Crestone Needle. I've wanted to summit this peak for years now. We finally made plans to head to the Sangre De Chriso Mountains. My brother-in-law Nathan, James and I backpacked in to camp near lower South Colony lake. It rained on us for part of the trip. Two summers ago, rain foiled a summit attempt on Kit Carson because a downpour left our clothes and gear totally soaked. We were prepared this time with ponchos and covers for our packs. In the morning, Nathan had a nasty sinus headache and chose to stay at camp. James and I started on the trail in the dark. We made it almost to Broken Hand Pass before the sun rose and painted the Needle.
The climb up to Broken Hand Pass was exciting. We soon realized that there would be no snow for us to cross, and we wouldn't need our ice axes so we stashed them on a rock. Unfortunately when we returned on the way down they were gone! I tried posting on 14ers.com to see if anyone had picked them up thinking they were lost. I received lots of entertaining, but unhelpful comments. BUMMER!
Broken Hand Pass
When we reached the top of the pass, James took one look at the route up the needle and said, "Nope!"
Guess I'll wait another year to get the Needle. We decided to head toward the less intimidating Crestone Peak instead. This meant a little longer distance and more elevation gain, but a safer route. It didn't matter to me. I hadn't climbed either one of these peaks and they both looked fun!
Crestolita from Broken Hand Pass
We descended more than 1000ft. to and around Cottonwood Lake to reach the base of Crestone Peak.
Soon we could see our climb on the peak called "The Red Gully". It's basically 1000ft. of climbing on this cool red colored solid rock. This is one of the most enjoyable scrambles I've ever done.
The Red Gully
On the summit. Crestone Needle is at center
Kit Carson from the summit
We raced the clouds back to camp. It started raining just as we returned. To our surprise, Nathan had cleaned and packed up camp for us! What a great guy! He was a little bummed about not going with us, but he returned to Colorado with his fianc....or uh....girlfriend to hike Torrey's Kelso Ridge with us a few weeks later.
ACCOMPLISHMENT - Mt. Sneffels
Since San Luis seemed too easy, Cami wanted to step it up a notch and try a moderately difficult peak. I still hadn't been down to check out Sneffels so we made a weekend hiking/fishing trip out of it. We drove the car to save on gas and had to park lower on the road before the trailhead as it was 4 wheel drive. It still was only supposed to be about 8 miles rt without driving up to the trailhead. We hiked into Yankee Boy Basin in the foggy morning. What a beautiful place! So green!
Yankee Boy Basin
We finally reached the true trailhead and started hiking up the steepish loose, gravelly stuff. Cami was doing very well and we were making good time. I definitely take pride in what I've been able to talk her into doing. For those of you that know her, she was quite a sissy when it comes to heights or anything that might get the adrenaline going. After hiking with me so many times she's starting to push herself and feel more comfortable with scrambling and exposure. So you can imagine my excitement when we reached the top of the rocky gully to the crux notch move. This "V" shaped notch move was a a bit uncomfortable/awkward for me and had exposure on the left side of it. I wasn't sure if she would give it a try. She was nervous, but gave it a go. I walked her through the moves by demonstrating, "put your left foot here, then your right hand here, then grab this rock with your left, etc. etc. Her first try she made it part way up, freaked out, and climbed back down. I was sure she was done at this point. But to my surprise a couple minutes later she wanted to try again. Cheered on by some other hikers, she slowly navigated her way into and past the notch! The rest of the short scramble to the summit was easy after that. Awesome! Way to go Cami!
Jagged rocks along the way
Blue Lakes Pass
Teakettle Mountain in the shadows
Cami being brave
Climbing up the gully
PIDDLE FARTING - Uncompahgre/Wetterhorn/Matterhorn Peak
Summer was almost over and we had time for one last multi-day trip. James and Brad and I had not climbed together as a group for a while. Years ago, the 3 of us had summited LaPlata as Brads first 14er. I was stoked to reunite and spend some more time with these guys.
Day 1 - we drove down to the Wetterhorn trailhead and camped.
Day 2 - we hiked Uncompahgre from the Wetterhorn trailhead. I still don't know why we hiked it from the wrong trailhead, but I'm glad we did because it was cool to see these mountains from this angle.
Orange colored river along the trail
It was fun visiting and goofing around with James and Brad as we hiked to the top. On the summit was one of the coolest cliffs I've seen. We walked over to the edge of it to glance down. It instantly gave me butterflies. It was quite a drop...and STRAIGHT down! If you fell from here you would not tumble or hit anything until you hit the very bottom 1000+ ft. below. So naturally Brad, being the karate instructor that he is, had to do a hand stand on the edge of the cliff to look cool. James couldn't watch as I snapped the photo.
Kids, don't try this at home
Clouds started moving in on our way back to the trailhead. Right before tree line we saw a bright flash and milliseconds later heard the loudest CRACK! I was carrying metal trekking poles and instantly decided to ditch them along the trail. I could always pick them up the next day right? (unless they get stolen too! I hid them a little better this time.) We reached the trees and took shelter till there was a break in the storm.
Wetterhorn and Matterhorn Peak - clouds moving in
Back at the camp we spent all afternoon wasting time huddled close in Brad's tent while it rained. Eating snacks and telling stories like a slumber party in the woods...quite the bonding experience. About as close emotionally and physically as three straight men can get Good times!
Day 3 - James was sore and stayed at camp. He wanted to save his energy as he was going to climb Longs a few days later. Brad and I headed up Wetterhorn and Matterhorn. Really fun climbing. I would totally return to bag these peaks again. The weather was much nicer this day so we took our sweet time.
Matterhorn early morning light
Video of Brad earning "extra credit" on the Prow before Wetterhorn's summit.
Scrambling on Wetterhorn
Wetterhorn Peak from Matterhorn's Summit
Talking with Dad after our last hike of the summer, he mentioned how he thought everyone should try to get out into God's country a couple times a year. It's an experience that helps put things in perspective and shows truly how small we are, how seemingly insignificant our worldly problems are in the grand scheme of things. Maybe the mountains are not about how small we are, but they help give us a glimpse of how big God is.
Thanks for reading!
"SOLI DEO GLORIA"