I drove for 12 hours before I started to get close to Denver. I remember the exact moment I drove over a hill and saw the front range of the Rocky Mountains. It’s gonna be a good life. I arrived at the house that I am temporarily occupying, and I was there less than 30 min. I threw most of my stuff in a closet and drove to Snowmass to meet the Knappe family and Nick Hulett to climb Capitol Peak. So, when I finally arrived at the hotel in Snowmass I had been traveling for 18 hours. Capitol peak is a 14er (a 14er is a mountain that is 14,000 ft. in elevation), and Colorado has a total of 54 14ers. The Capitol trip was going to be a four day trek in the Elk range starting at Snowmass, continuing up to the Pierre Lakes, and then summiting Capitol. I anticipated this trip to be pretty rough on me considering my altitude situation. On Monday I was near sea level in Quincy, IL, and I drove to Snowmass (8,000 ft.). The next day we hiked 8 miles and gained another 4,000 ft. And the next day we woke up at 5:00 A.M. and scrambled up the final 2,000 ft. to the summit. So, from sea-level to 14,000 ft. in a couple of days.
Capitol is also considered the hardest of Colorado’s 14ers and it’s also one of the most dangerous. It is considered a class 4 climb, but I felt like some of the climbing that we did towards the end of the climb would go at lower class 5. The “trail” starts with a climb up a steep boulder field to a keyhole.
Then we traversed under the summit of a K2 (a 13er). Here’s where the real climbing started. After K2 we had to cross a narrow exposed section of rock called the knife’s edge. You pretty much have to straddle this rock and scoot across it with a 1,000 foot drop on either side.
And then from there it was pretty exposed all the way to the summit. Coming from sea level and climbing this mountain was no joke for me I felt like I was dying , and Nick and Jared flew past me on the ascent and the descent. When I finally arrived at the summit, another climber gave me an extra pack of Skittles to give me some energy. Skittles, at sea level, are worth ninety nine cents. Skittles, at 14,000 ft., are worth at least five hundred dollars. I was grateful.
After Capitol we just camped and rested in the mountains for a day.
I continued to learn the ways of the mountains from Nicholas as we climbed Mt. Bierstadt the next week.
Me and Nicholas made quick work of Bierstadt, and I continued to traverse across the class 3 “Sawtooth Ridge” to Mt. Evans.
So, thinking I would make quick work of the Sawtooth and Evans, I left all of my gear with Nicholas on the summit of Bierstadt and left for Evans. That was at 10:30. By the time I traversed the Sawtooth summited Evans and got back to Bierstadt it was 3:00, and Nicholas was not there. So, by the time I got back to the trailhead it was 4:30 which made 6 hours of hiking at elevation without food or water. I’m never going to make that mistake again.
After Capitol, Bierstadt, and Evans I hit:
Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, Bross, Sherman, Quandary, Gray’s, Torrey’s, and Pike’s Peak.
Almost sunrise on the way to the mosquito range
Sunrise picture taken from a town at near 10,000 ft.
Summit Marker for Mt. Lincoln
The trail up Mt. Sherman is littered with abandoned gold mining operations
This chipmunk was running along an embankment next to my car, and I took the shot on the go.
Mountain Goat on Quandary
A cairn marking the descent of Mt. Bross
Me and Sarah on the Summit of Pikes
Summit marker of Mt. Sherman
One of the things that I have found to be most interesting about climbing mountains is the people that I have met along the way. Most of the people on these mountains are not Coloradoans. They are from all over the country and all over the world. They all come to this state to experience the climbs. There is also a mutual understanding between people climbing a mountain. Everyone knows where you’re coming from in that moment because we are all climbing the mountain together. And because of this mutual understanding a dozen miniature friendships come into existence every time you climb. You meet people on the ascent, get to know them on the summit, and say goodbye on the descent. It’s interesting to see so many snapshots of so many different people’s lives.
One of the best conversations I had was with a woman on the summit of Gray’s. We shared mountain stories, and talked for around thirty minutes. As she was leaving she said, “be safe climbing these mountains, and don’t forget who put them there.”
A couple of people have asked me why I like climbing mountains so much. There are a lot of reasons. There is something to be said for struggling for a goal, or working hard for a summit. But the thing that really makes me want to continue is the fact that when I’m climbing mountains I see such a clear reflection of the one that put them there.