Our First 14er Summit!

Thursday’s Workout Wanda: The Father’s Day 1 Miler with Alex.
Friday’s Workout Wanda: A 7+ mile hike up Mt Bierstadt, our first 14er!

So, today was the day. The big day that didn’t happen a few weeks ago. We set out on a mission…to hike up a 14er, otherwise known as a Colorado mountain summiting above 14,000 feet of elevation. More importantly…we made it! But let’s start at the beginning.

Mt Bierstadt

We picked Mt Bierstadt because it was close enough to make the drive the morning of the hike and it was ranked as relatively easy and is popular. Meaning if we happened to suck at life or break a leg there would most likely be people around to rescue us. We left Denver around 5:30am this morning and made it up to the Guanella Pass Summit at 6:40am and off we went.


This time around it was easy peasy to tell which mountain we were headed up thanks to the Sawtooth right next to it. The first 1.5 miles were pretty easy and actually involved some downhill…great at the time, not so great at the end of the day.

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We spent some time leap frogging with a father/son duo from Minnesota. Turns out the father went to UW-Stout which basically neighbors UW-Eau Claire where I went to school. Small world! After the first 1.5 miles the trail started really heading up and we became good at using “can I have some jerky” as an excuse to take a breather.

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It wasn’t until about 2.25 miles into the hike that the trail got technically difficult and even then it wasn’t exactly hard, you just needed to pay attention to where you were stepping and there was some boulder climbing. This was about the point where Chris decided it would no longer be fun to mountain bike up a 14er. Smart choice!


This was also the point where my brain started to hate the lack of oxygen. I started to really notice a dull, throbbing headache around 13,000 feet and really sucked down water hoping it would help. Not so much, apparently I’m not super human and immune to the altitude. It was definitely more of an annoyance than pending death so we trekked on.

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I also learned the guzzling oodles of water when you are far above a tree line is not exactly favorable. Let’s just say I was super excited to find some massive boulders providing a perfect outcropping for some squat popping – my bladder was exploding! But really, who can complain about a quick pee break with views like this…

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By now we were almost to the top with stunning panoramic views. The last 250 feet or so up to the summit were the most difficult although I think they were the most fun. This is where some legitimate boulder climbing came into play and I got to pretend I was part mountain goat.

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Turns out my inner mountain goat really isn’t all that agile, but I tried. We made our way to the top, played the “ooh, scenery” tourist card and photographed our little hearts out then settled in for a gourmet meal of PB&J {or Nutella&J for the snob, aka me} because we are just that cool!

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Most importantly we made it to the top! We summited our first 14er! Go us! It was a gorgeous day, cool and sunny, very few clouds and essentially no wind. A great day for a hike, especially a hike up our first 14er which is kind of a big deal. We are now one step closer to being Colorado-ites, or whatever they are called!

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…at the summit…

The best part of entire hike was Chris’s reaction to seeing the road up to Mt Evans. Ha. We knew it was there but after hours of hiking up a freaking mountain the drive up Mt Evans seemed like a great plan. Can we still say we made it to the top if we just drive? I mean, our car had to do a lot of work…?

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…The Sawtooth & Mount Evans…

While we ate we listened to some people talk about their plans to make their way across the Sawtooth and then over to Mt Evans. Today the idea of that made me want to leap off the side of a mountain but it may be considered in the future…although the wimpy side of me would rather drive up Mt Evans for that. Apparently the Mt Bierstadt hike sucked all the badass-ary out of me!

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By about 11:00am we were headed back down. Turns out I didn’t learn my lesson about drinking large quantities of water and was winching with every bouncy step down the boulder field, could not wait to get to my precious little boulder out cropping!

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From there Chris decided to seriously channel his inner mountain goat and trek straight down the boulder field skipping out on all the switch back stuff. It looked shorter so I was game. And honestly, I don’t think it was much more difficult than the switch back through the boulders. The hike down the boulders was a heck of a lot easier than the hike down the rock-less trail. Something about the stepping rather than shuffling made it more bearable for our poor, abused quads!

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…the view as we headed back down the mountain…

All along the way were surrounded by pretty little flowers. And I literally mean “pretty little flowers”. They were al so tiny! Lena said it was a beautiful hike with all the mountain flowers and she was right…


Once we made it out to the open, smooth, not-so-flat trail we booked it downhill. Primarily because we now both had overfilled water balloons for bladders but also because some ominous clouds were rolling in over the western mountains.


My third bathroom stop came as soon as I found a suitable bunch of willows. Yes, you read that right – so far three pee stops in about 2 hours. My three liters of water were almost gone but my head was still pounding, guess it wasn’t something hydration could help. Of course that didn’t stop me from instinctively sucking down more water. So smart.

I was rather surprised to see how many people were headed up the mountain, even with the looming clouds rolling in. A few people were smart enough to turn around but others had me worried. I’m sure Chris and I were the idiots others were worrying about last year when we were headed up Twin Sisters Peak at 11am with storm clouds coming in…we were lucky and we are now smarter!

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Anywho, we kept on moving down the mountain. Once we hit the willows the trail was slightly less traumatizing to our quads and we even did some awkward running. Mostly because we could see the rain coming down just beyond our cars. We had rain jackets but still haven’t upgraded to legit hiking pants so avoiding the rain sounded like a good plan.

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Turns out it wasn’t rain after all. Instead we got snowed on. Little round balls of snow bounced off us and the ground for the last mile of the hike. It was actually kind of cool, getting snowed on in June with thunder rumbling overhead. As dangerous as the lightening can be I truly love the rumble of thunder up in the Rocky Mountains. It is so powerful!

…back at the trailhead, glad we hiked early enough for clear views…

We made it back to the car, fake stretched out the broken quads and headed back to lower elevation in hopes that our brains would stop hating us. No such luck. By the time we made it down to Denver we both felt like we were suffering from a massive hangover so the only logical thing to do was stop by Little Caesars for some greasy pizza. Totally hit the stop. Didn’t cure the headache but that is what naps are for!

So there you have it, our first hike up a 14er. We made it, all by our lonesome. And we learned a few things. Things like hydrate the day before, pack extra Kleenex for pee breaks, invest in some telescoping poles, pack snacks for along the hike {great to have!} and bring friends!

Oh, and don’t forget the SD card for your camera. I totally spaced and forgot to put the SD card back into our smaller camera. Then I got all excited when I realized I also brought along our bigger camera…which had a dead battery. All around fail in the land of cameras. Thankfully we both have phones that take decent photos! And the hazy mountains are for real, not malfunctioning cameras – there are about 5 wildfires wreaking havoc on Colorado at the moment and that haze is really smoke!

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I think we are both glad we managed to hike a 14er all on our own but I think it would be more fun to have other people with us, something our attempted La Plata hike taught us. Even if it isn’t the right mountain it can still be a lot of fun with the right people!

{Chris took his awesome-ness to the next level and took some video footage for full 360 views, once I get around to tossing those together and editing them I’ll post them, but right now it is bed time for me!}


Our First 14er Summit! — 19 Comments

    • Yah, that is all Chris. The first portion of Bierstadt would be pretty fun on a bike with the bridges and everything up to the boulder field would have been bearable with a fun downhill, but still, insanity!

  1. Your phones took some seriously awesome pictures! Who needs a ‘real’ camera? Sounds like a fantastic adventure…except for the headache part. I guess altitude can do that to you?
    XLMIC recently posted..Fun FiveMy Profile

    • Our phones dominate – although Chris’s is better than mine. At least they are good for something, I rarely use them to call people! And I’ve been told I’ll get used to the altitude even that high up and the headaches won’t bother me as much…I sure hope so!

    • Bierstadt is pretty easy…I mean, its all uphill, but not technical. And close to home. But then that is the only one I’ve done so I have zero knowledge beyond that! You should go for it, its really neat!

  2. Great job! 14ers are tough! I’ve only done Grays & Torreys and it was a tough hike. The only time I’ve experienced altitude sickness though is when we climbed South Boulder Peak. It was definitely not enjoyable so I’m impressed you muscled through to the top.
    Kathy recently posted..4th Annual Camping TripMy Profile

    • My poor brain. Not sure what I did wrong – probably something to do with not drinking BEFORE I got on the mountain. Oops. Grays and Torreys are on our list for this summer! Worth the hike?!

    • So excited for you! Have fun with it. All I can say is drink a ton of water the dayS BEFORE you head up – seriously helps prevent the altitude sickness. Just pretend you’re prepping for a big race. Last time I forgot to hydrate at all until on the mtn and hated 45% of the hike. I hydrated a ton for today’s 14er and although we went 3 miles longer with more climbing I felt SO much better!

  3. Pingback: Our Anniversary Tradition: Hiking a 14er! [Mt. Bierstadt] «

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