Mount Bierstadt

Copyright 2019, Scott D. Murdock


After making the hike up to Baptiste Lookout two years in a row, I decided to train for a more local hike. Here in Colorado we have over fifty mountain peaks that top out above 14,000 feet -- fourteeners. I set my goal on one of the more accessible peaks, with a nice paved road to the parking lot at the trailhead, and within two hours of Denver. I decided to train for and hike to the summit of Mount Bierstadt from the Guanella Pass trailhead.

Friday, 26 Jul 2018

As I increased my local training hikes during the summer, I made a test hike from Guanella Pass to check my progress. I hiked up to the 13,000 feet point and was encouraged by my ability. The one thing I took away from this practice run was to increase the vertical gain of my practice hikes.

Tuesday, 4 Sep 2018

We left the house at 0353, arrived at the Guanella Pass trailhead about 0550, and I was on my way right about 0600. It was still pretty dark, so I used a headlamp for the first mile. Temperature was 31 at the trailhead so I wore a fleece jacket, gloves, and knit cap. About halfway up the mountain, the wind picked up and I put my rain jacket on over the fleece to stop the wind from chilling me to the bone.

A few stats from my Garmin watch: Time from start to summit was 3 hours 15 minutes Time enjoying the summit was 7 minutes (it was windy AF) Time from summit to finish was 2 hours 34 minutes. Calories burned 2,605 Steps 20,226 Distance 7.73 miles Elevation gain 2,838 and elevation loss 2,820

That gain is slightly over my calculation of 2,562 but the Garmin likely captured and counted the many small dips where you go down and back up again. My calculation is strictly subtracting a low point from a high point -- easy to defend, but not quite as accurate. For my records I will claim the 2,820 mark.

I drank only about .6 liter of water. It was cold and cloudy -- if the sun was beating down, I would have drunk lots more. Still, my experience is showing that the amount of 3 liters (posted on a warning sign near the trailhead) is likely a bit much for my needs. Which means I'm carrying more weight than I need to. I ate three Cliff bars on the hike, about 750 calories. Back at the car I chugged about .3 liter of Gatorade, slammed down a couple of Pop Tarts, then enjoyed a cup of coffee from the Thermos as Debbie drove us into town for lunch.

When I made my practice hike up to the 13,000-foot point, I underestimated the difficulty of that final 1,065 feet. The hike gets steeper for about the last 7/10 of a mile, and the final 2/10 of a mile is a horrifying scramble up a huge pile of jagged boulders. Luckily, I had gloves as hands were needed for this. My big injury for the day was while raising up to assess the "trail" and knocking my forehead against a protruding boulder. It didn't knock me out and I didn't see stars, but it hurt and left a mark. Other than that, I fell down (loose sand and grit on boulders) several times with no apparent injuries though I was sore for a few days. My knees took a beating on the downhill. My feet took a beating doing all the boulder hopping near the summit. I could tell my feet were bruised and man did they hurt.

It was the least-crowded I have seen the mountain, which was delightful. And no kids at all! I spoke with quite a few hikers (they are a friendly bunch) and got some high fives for my first fourteener. "Which one is next?" was the quick question from one young lady.

Time will tell if I return to Bierstadt, or decide to tackle any different fourteeners. I was quite pleased to hike my first fourteener at age 59!


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