Saturday, 27 August 2011

Mt Bierstadt

Two weekends ago, my dad and I climbed Mt Bierstadt (14,060 ft), one of the easiest 14ers in the state. We had planned to climb the Bierstadt-Evans combo over a narrow ridge called the Sawtooth, but my dad took one look at it (which is a Class 3 hike), and said no way, so we just did Bierstadt. This turned out to be lucky because when we got back to the parking lot, our truck's battery was completely dead and trying to leave was quite an ordeal.

Here is sunrise, as we started the hike from the parking lot at the top of Guanella Pass. 

Here we've already crossed the marshy area known as "The Willows", which some helpful people from the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative thoughtfully built a boardwalk over. This is very lucky, because we could see thick, deep mud everywhere that wasn't the boardwalk. We also were lucky enough to see a fairly large (seven-eight) group of moose, including a young one, drinking water in the lake down there. 

Here, the sun has fully come up and we are at about 12,750 ft. You can see lots of people on the trail -- it was a Saturday morning, Bierstadt is only an hour or so from Denver, and it's known as one of the very easiest 14ers. So naturally there were a ton of people there. There were also a lot of people who were very overweight, or who were dressed terribly for hiking, or who were clearly very out of shape. One woman who we passed was insisting that she was going to throw up and another woman who I would describe as almost certainly obese in terms of BMI who left the parking lot at the same time as us was still below this point coming up when we were on our way back down. We saw many examples of people hiking who absolutely should not have been. Even though the hike is easy, it seems as if people are unprepared for altitude or for the chance of some weather event happening. Luckily the day remained gorgeous.

I should also note that we saw a ton of adorable dogs, including a very placid looking yellow lab retriever puppy in someone's backpack. ADORABLE.

Here is the view towards Evans from the summit of Bierstadt. Mt Evans is the first 14er I was ever on top of, as the highest paved road in North America goes to the top and my family used to drive up there regularly. I still haven't hiked it, sadly!

As we were sitting on the summit, we saw a flight for life helicopter come from the west (to the left/behind us in this photo), swoop along the ridge of Evans, and then hop over the summit. It was awesome. Later I learned from that someone had gotten badly dehydrated on the Sawtooth and people had called the helicopter for him to be rescued, but that the rescuers never found him (and that he made it down safely). 

Here's a view to the south from the summit.

Here's my dad on the summit, showing off the camelbak I gave him for Father's Day.

While on the summit we also overheard a really idiotic conversation from a group of guys who clearly fancied themselves tough and knowledgeable mountain men. First they talked about how they "totally could have cut off their arms" if they were in an Aron Rallston, 127 Hours-type situation. Uh huh. Then they started talking about tall mountains and one of them declared with absolute certainty that Mt Elbert is the highest mountain in America. First: Denali is 6000 ft taller. Second: Mt Elbert isn't even the highest mountain in the lower 48. Third: You're loud and dumb.

So here I am, laughing at them.

This is the view down the Sawtooth towards Evans. Everyone has told me that it looks a lot scarier than it really is. I was excited to do it as I found Bierstadt to be a REALLY easy hike and was looking for more of a challenge. However, my dad was eyeing the ridge and was absolutely not feeling it, so we headed back down Bierstadt.

Here's the view looking back towards the Sawtooth. Bierstadt summit is to the right. 

And a better view of the Sawtooth.

Looking north towards Longs Peak and Mt Meeker.

Some cool rock in the parking lot.

A close-up view of the Sawtooth.

And our sad Truckie, who was unfortunately not feeling well when we got back to him. It quickly became obvious that there was a problem with his battery. We tried to find tools, and then jumper cables, but no one had anything, and eventually we had to call my mom to come rescue us. Oops. I had to stand on the roof of the truck to get reception, but that didn't work well, and my mom didn't know how to get to where we were, so I had to hike a ways up to some high ground to get enough cell reception to tell her directions. After about an hour and a half, she arrived, and then we started a lengthy odyssey of using jumper cables, going to Bailey to buy new cables, coming back, new cables not working, and finally admitting that the battery was completely dead. My dad said that sometimes, when a battery is really old (as that one was), driving over a rough road -- like, oh, say, Guannella Pass on the southern side -- will destroy the inside of a battery so that it can't even be jumped. This seemed to be the problem, so, at that point, since it was 4:30 and we had gotten back from our hike at about 11, we elected to leave it overnight. My parents came back the next day with a new battery and installed it. After that, Truckie was perfectly happy and came back down the mountain to Denver just fine. 

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