Yesterday's hiking adventure took Kenny, Carl and me 14,264 feet above sea level. (Ion didn't make it because he was back in SC, he's not just lazy.) In case you didn't put two and two together from the title of this post, that's about 2.7 miles high. This was the first fourteener for all three of us and even though Mt. Evans is more like "fourteener-light" because you can drive to the top, we were still pretty proud of ourselves.
Fun Fact: The Mount Evans Scenic Byway is America's highest paved auto road.
This was a bit of an impulse hike. Kenny and I have been wanting to do a fourteener for awhile now but Saturday was going to be a bit of a time crunch since we needed to be back in Denver to pick up a friend from the airport by 2:40 (still sorry for being late Blaker!). So we decided that even though Mt. Evans is kind of like cheating compared to the rest of Colorado's 54 fourteeners, again, because you can drive to the top, it would be a good starter hike for us.
We took I-70 to Idaho Springs and then drove on the Byway up the first 10 miles (cheating) to Summit Lake at 12,850 feet. It was a BEAUTIFUL drive and I was extra nervous due to the narrow roads and lack of guard rails.
This is a picture of the view from the road (on the way down when Kenny was driving. This was not the place for multitasking behind the wheel).
So we parked at Summit lake around 8:30am and it was a brisk 50 degrees out - bliss. Have I mentioned that I am so ready for fall?
View of Mt. Evans from Summit Lake
You can see our route on the map below if you're into logistics and such, we headed up the road a bit (0.6 miles to be exact) and ascended (<-- makes it sound extra impressive and serious doesn't it? It was, be impressed) the northeast face. Can you say steep? Ouch.
This was pretty much straight up (not really, it was only a class two, but it was steep) and that combined with this fun fact - at 14,000 feet air pressure is about 60% of what it is at sea level, so you have 40% less oxygen on a fourteener - made for a slow climb with a
fair excessive amount of huffing and puffing. At one point I told Carl and Kenny that my legs weren't hurting I just had to catch my breath every three steps. This was another reason why we decided to start with a cheater shorter hike for our first venture up this high.
So after a good bit of heavy breathing and mental pep talks (there were quite a few "I think I can, I think I can..." moments, gotta love those life lessons from children's books) we made it the 0.9 miles (from the trail head, after we walked up the road 0.6 miles, I want to make sure you know just how steep it was so you can be extra impressed) and 1,350 feet to the top of the face and then hopped on the tourist trail for the last few hundred feet to the summit.
On the northeast face
Proof that I'm not being too overly dramatic about the incline
"I think I can, I think I can..."
Just below the tourist trail
Proof that I trip. A lot. So hiking poles = necessity for descending (and this wasn't even a steep part, don't judge.)
View of Summit Lake from the summit - you can see my how tiny the cars are and how steep the drop off was!
Kenny and I standing on the highest point! (and all the people...I almost got knocked off that rock by car driving photo takers)
Views from the summit
Kenny climbing down to sit on this crazy scary overhanging rock at the summit. Please note his crazy antics, this is why when later he told me I might die if I tried to touch the snow I listened.
Rock jumping at 14,000 feet. Genius.
It was beautiful but the crazy amount of people at the summit quickly became annoying. My friend Bret had warned me that Mt. Evans can be a bit of a downer because you work so hard to get there and then there are all these people getting out of cars with kids and cameras. It also made the summit experience much less appealing. Even on the smaller hikes we've done, like Bear Peak, there is this awesome sense of camaraderie at the top. Everyone there has worked hard and is pretty exhausted and very considerate and friendly. This was not the case at Mt. Evans so we hung out for a few minutes, snapped some photos and then started our trek back via summit ridge.
The was a longer route at about 2.5 miles that took us along the west ridge with gorgeous view of Mt. Bierstadt, anther fourteener. The trail was rocky and easy to lose, there were quite a few parts that needed hands and feet the get down. We scrambled down and the trail eased up at the Evans-Spalding saddle (13,600 feet).
Coming down the west ridge
Ahhh flatish trail - a welcome break for my ankles!
Here we saw snow where I of course wanted to touch it but since Kenny, whose crazy antics I referenced above) warned that I might die if I tried to climb down to it, I just decided to take a picture. I know there is lots of snow all year in Colorado but come on people, I'm still from South Carolina and snow in August is an crazy concept to me no matter how high the altitude.
Snow at 13,600 feet
Snow view from Summit Lake (the one on the left if you want to get all specific)
Then there was some more "uphill" to the top of Mt. Spalding where we encountered some wild goats and great views of Mt. Evans. We followed the trail along some steep edges and through some rocky patches down Spalding's east ridge and eventually back to the lake.
Views from Mt. Spalding
Kenny and me almost all the way back down
All told it was only a 4.5 hour hike but at that altitude it did a number on us. Kenny and I both got crazy headaches but we made it! It was tough and I have a pretty sweet hiking boots/sock tan and clear large white circles on my now red face from the aviators I was wearing. Note to self: wear more sunscreen and smaller sunglasses when hiking above the tree line.
I survived my first fourteener and only needed one redbull to make it out last night. That's success in my book for sure.