2017 Hiking Preview

2017 Hiking Preview

July and August are coming soon and it’s that time of the year to really start planning any alpine adventures in Colorado’s highest mountains. I’ve climbed something like 120 mountains in Colorado but I’ve been really slacking lately and need to aim high for this summer. I’m keeping it simple this year, though, and only have two mountaineering goals:

1. An ambitious hikathon that would result in summiting one 12,000-foot and three 13,000-foot mountains all in one day. I plan on doing this solo.

2. Climb a 14er, specifically Missouri Mountain at 14,075-feet. This will mark my 27th peak above 14,000 feet. I am ashamed to say it hasn’t been since 2010 that I have gone that high. 14ers can be a pain in the ass. They are very long and strenuous and it just is not practical doing one without setting aside a couple days, allowing for drive time, and starting early enough to get on and off the summit quickly to avoid brewing afternoon storms. Of course that is good advice for any Colorado mountain, but is especially true for 14ers, as round trip distances are typically longer than other shorter mountains. This will also complete my clean sweep of all the 14ers in the Collegiate Peaks Range, which also include Princeton, Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Oxford, Belford, and Huron. This is a sub range that is a part of the greater Sawatch Range, of which I have climbed all but one peak (Mt. of the Holy Cross). Missouri and Holy Cross would accomplish all 14ers in the north half of the state, as I have also climbed all the 14ers within the Front Range, Tenmile Range, and Mosquito Range.

Regarding The Hikathon:

It is not recommended, nor do I endorse going on back country adventures by yourself. However, I believe it is also in our mind, body, and spirit’s best interest to spend quality time in the wilderness, and nothing will bring nature closer to your soul than experiencing it alone. Coupled with that are those times in a person’s life where you need to be challenged and not always play it conservatively safe. It is important to bear in mind that bad things can happen to anyone anywhere, but I believe with the proper level of fitness, experience, sound judgement, and never sacrificing safety just to appease the ego, there is a great ability to minimize risks.

“Reaching the summit is optional. Getting down is mandatory.”  -Ed Viesturs  (The only mountaineer from the U.S. to climb all 14 of the Earth’s highest peaks -all above 8,000 meters or 26,247 feet- and one of only five who have done so without supplemental oxygen.)

Back in 1998 a friend and I spent a very long day in Rocky Mountain National Park climbing 13ers Mummy Mountain and Hagues Peak. These were the northernmost summits of the Mummy Range. The approach via the Long Lake Trailhead made for a very long hike (6.25 miles just to the lake), which does not include the challenging ascent and descent of each mountain that surround it, and of course the return hike out. These were the highest mountains we had ever climbed at the time and they literally took our breaths away. I remember having to stop every ten steps or so to catch my breath. When you are not acclimatized to the altitude it can really do a number on you. Today such an elevation wouldn’t affect me, but it was an ass kicker going up that first mountain. After a long hike back to the truck mostly in the dark we had every intention of returning over the next years and climbing the other four mountains in the range, namely Fairchild Mountain (13,508′), Ypsilon Mountain (13,520′), Mt. Chiquita (13,075′), and Mt. Chapin (12,454′). Obviously, nearly twenty years later that never happened.

Two years ago my wife and I were on vacation in and around the park and I found a road that drove right along the south flank of this range. I then had the idea that by starting from this road I could eliminate the long hike into the area to Lawn Lake, and just start climbing mountains. A little research later I found a trailhead to do just that. Thus a goal was born. I don’t know how much longer I will be living in Colorado, so I feel a sense of urgency to finally bag this entire range this summer. When the thought came up of who I’d be partnering with to accomplish this I realized that I was long due some serious me time, away from the rat race and every responsibility that comes with middle age adult life. I considered my friend for a moment, but that hiking relationship is full of a history of bad experiences. I feel like I have a better chance of accomplishing the task on my own and not be held back by anyone else’s drama -for there will be no room for any drama besides the natural one four mountains will be giving me. Plus, this is a well-traveled route in the summer, and I will be above tree line for pretty much the entire hike. With my map reading skills, knowledge of the area, and hiking experience I should be in good shape. The primary obstacle will be the endurance required to accomplish the entire route. I will come prepared but will not hesitate to turn back should the safety risks outweigh the potential glory. I won’t even think of going on a day with a good chance of thunderstorms, and since there is always a possibility of one during a Colorado summer, I intend on getting off all the summits before 1pm.

In the meantime I have a lot of training to do. I’ve been hitting the weights fairly hard all year, but the best training for mountaineering is mountaineering. The route I will be using is hardly a technical one, but it still will be an 11 mile round trip. Other than a short stretch of lowest difficulty climbing not requiring gear between Ypsilon and Fairchild the route is basically just a hike. The difficult part is the up and down endurance of climbing four mountains all above 12,000 feet. My wife and I walk the dogs a mile or so up and down the neighborhood hills every day at an average altitude of about 8,800 feet. I think that has given me a decent baseline of fitness to start from, but I really need to get a few mountains under my belt before the hikathon. Stay tuned!

“There is nothing else in life like getting to the summit. What’s more, I’ve always felt that the greater the challenge, the greater the reward.” -Ed Viesturs

Not impressive, but have to start somewhere. Here I am on top of an unnamed summit at 10,192', southwest of my neighborhood. It didn't require much effort to get to the top, but it came with a 6.5 mile round trip hike. Good exercise!