Hiking Our First 14er
Happy Monday out there! Who's motivated to get shit done today??
I'm on a high after we hiked Mount Spalding and OUR FIRST 14ER, Mt. Evans, on Saturday morning. If you are wondering WTF a 14er is, don't worry, I had zero clue when I first got here either. It's hiking code for mountain summits that reach 14,000 plus feet of elevation. Apparently, it's the freaking thing to do on this side of the country.
To be honest, I was wondering what the big deal was. I've done a ton of hikes since we've been here and seen a lot of really spectacular views, so how much better could it really be from a few thousand more feet? Um...
There is a pretty big difference in the amount of oxygen present in the air between 11,000 feet, which was our previous highest peak, and 14,000 feet. Getting close to the top, I was huffing and puffing like I'd been a smoker for most of my life. Ya girl was on the struggle bus.
On top of the lack of oxygen, it is mother freaking COLD up there. I knew it was going to be chilly, but I was not prepared for that.
Literally, but mainly my hands. No joke, I could not feel my fingers for a solid two hours of that hike. Note to self: bring gloves next time, you dummy!
We started just after sunrise, from the trail head parking lot which began at around 12,850 feet. Thank goodness we got there as early as we did, because that parking lot was PACKED. We essentially had to create our own spot in the lot. When we came back down, people were parked all down the road. Getting there early is key. Since the total hike was only around 4 miles, my ignorant butt thought, "Four miles? That's nothing!" HA! Jokes on me. Three hours later, I was like, "WTF just happened?"
From the parking lot, we hiked up to the top of Mt. Evans's neighboring peak, Mt. Spalding, first. The summit there is 13,842 feet. This part was super challenging for me, because the first mile was basically straight incline. That coupled with the difficulty of breathing, feeling super dizzy at times, and going back and forth between freezing from the wind and hot from exertion, made for quite the experience. It took us almost a full hour to get to the top of the first mountain.
We celebrated with sandwiches at the top:
Every time I look out from the top of a mountain, I feel like I can't believe my eyes. It feels like you can see forever from up there. It just keeps getting more and more beautiful each time. You also have a special appreciation after a tough hike like that, as well. That view was worth every feeling of dizziness and cold I felt going up.
After our celebration meal and pictures at the top of Spalding, we hiked across the ridge a ways to start the climb to Mt. Evans. We met this super cool dude named Steve on the way, that basically became our tour guide on the way up. Without him, we probably would have gotten totally off course, and we definitely would have been less entertained. I was amused by his total potty mouth (my spirit animal in that sense), his obsession with the Keto diet, and his love for hiking (he's over 70, just battled colon cancer, has done about 25 different 14ers, and has completed Evans over 25 times...you go Steve). Steve, who's a vet, pointed out the wildlife on the way and introduced me to the marmot:
Hooray for new friends. That little dude was a total camera ham.
The last bit of the climb to summit at Mt. Evans is a tricky little rock scramble that I was caught totally off guard by. You basically make your own way up this sucker by climbing up and over these big ass boulders. This was legitimately both the worst part and the best part for me. My fingers were completely numb, which made it super hard for me to grip anything, but the rock climbing was, honestly, so fun! I really enjoyed pulling myself up and over the large rocks (being careful to choose routes where I didn't feel like I was going to fall off the side of the mountain). Because the whole side of the mountain we were on was shaded, it made it so much colder, and each time I stopped to catch my breath (or for Steve to tell us another story), I thought I might freeze to death. After what felt like a damn eternity, we made it to the top!
We took some obligatory summit pictures with a sign someone brought and left at the top (thanks, bro!).
Then we started our decent back to that tiny little parking lot at the bottom.
Hiking down this shit was the worst. At least we saw some mountain goats!
They literally came right up to us. It made me a little nervous, because some people have reported that the goats have been getting more aggressive with hikers who come to close to them, but these guys seemed totally unfazed by us humans. Total sweethearts if you ask me. That made our hike down so much better. Well, that and Steve's endless stories and cursing. I'm gonna miss that guy on our next hike.
After basically sliding down rocks for a mile, we finally made it back down to the road. I wish this picture did it more justice, because that hill was a bitch. I nearly busted my ass 27 times, twisted my ankles in all sorts of unnatural ways, and almost fell on my face several times as well. The good news was that we were back in the sun and I was no longer wondering if I'd soon become a human popsicle. We made it, friends, near death experiences and all!
Looking back, I freaking loved it. I HATE being cold. It's probably my least favorite thing in the whole world. The things we saw and the experience of doing such a cool thing with my husband made every second of being cold 100% worth it.
Overall, this first 14er was a great learning experience. We packed tons of water and snacks, which were super clutch during the 3 hour hike (plus an additional 3 hours of round-trip drive time). One major negative was that I ended the hike with a massive headache that got worse as the day went on, despite chugging mass amounts of water and taking a long nap. It was, however, gone by the next morning. I'm hoping that I'm starting to acclimate to the altitude now and that the next one will be better. Also, I could have been better prepared gear-wise, and next time I will be. For the next one, I'll pack gloves, a headband, thicker socks, a wind breaking jacket, and chapstick (that wind does a number on your lips)! Lessons freaking learned.
I'll be gearing up this week, because we're planning to hit another 14er on Sunday. I cannot wait.
Enjoy the week out there, fitness peeps! Go do something cool!