It’s known as Colorado’s easiest 14er, but it’s still a 7-mile round-trip with a climb from about 11,400 to 14,000. You actually have to descend a couple hundred feet before climbing back up, but who’s counting. If you really care, see the map here:
Three months ago Missus Fender Bunny, in her early 50’s, was released from an 11-day stay at the hospital weighing 98 lbs and unable to climb a set of stairs. Since then she’s been doing about 30 minutes of weight lifting three times a week plus some calisthenics now and then. Not what you’d call rigorous preparation for high-altitude trekking.
Here she is on the part of the trail that descends from the road to the marshes. Mt Bierstadt is the round mound on the top right of the picture. The map said it was 3.5 miles away, but it felt a lot longer. I googled “altitude factor” to see if there was a way to multiply mileage by elevation and ruggedness of terrain, and found this:
It reads more like a gut-level multiplier than anything scientific, but made me feel better.
The lower part of the hike is a pleasant stroll through marshlands.
After what feels like a mile but is probably less, you cross this stream …
… and begin the ascent. While climbing we met some really nice locals.
We met a ship’s captain from Virginia who was recovering from open heart surgery. He’d prepared quite a bit at sea level, and was having a blast hiking up the mountain with his son. One couple kept me in stitches. The guy was from Japan and full of exuberance, his companion was an American woman with a wicked sense of humor. I heard the term “Coloradans” for the first time, but I assured her it was not a widespread trait. We met more than one couple on their first date, which left Missus Fender Bunny in shock:
Are you kidding me???
One couple was hiking up with their 5 month old baby!
When’d you bag your first 14er, George?
The dogs were cool. Lots and lots of dogs, but hikers were great about picking up after them.
The vistas from the other side of the river were cool. Here’s a view across the marshes and the road:
Missus Fender Bunny and I stopped for breakfast at a midway point that felt like it was another mile up the road, so it was probably just another 1/2 mile up the road.
We stopped for secondsies a little higher up the trail. And 11sies beyond that.
After a long zig-zag up the shoulder, you reach a large field of tundra scratching out such a meager living between the rocks that it would have made the Koch Brothers weep with joy.
This part of the hike feels kinda long since it keeps going and going. Suddenly, you get to the ridge line and can look over the other side.
At that point, if you have any sense of self-preservation, you take a Left and hike along the ridge line to the foot of the summit, where you are met with a wall of rock:
This is one of the spots where your imagination takes over with vivid images of broken ankles, arms fractured backward at the elbow a la Steven Segal, and other reasons to turn back. Which Missus Fender Bunny considered doing for a moment or two:
But she’s a tough broad, and in spite of feeling a little queazy about scrambling up the bone-breaking, spine-shattering, skull-crushing rocks, she made it the rest of the way.
The summit is loads of fun because it’s full of friendly, happy people:
We agreed to take photos of the couples up there only if they promised to flex. They insisted on returning the favor:
The hike down in the afternoon was spectacular, too:
Given our level of conditioning, if we hadn’t stopped to take pictures or stop for meals or to chat with all the friendly people on the trail, we probably would have hated the climb, LOL. It took us about four hours to get to the top, and about 3 to get back down. Anyone who hikes regularly at altitude could cut down that time by quite a bit. If they wanted to. But why hurry?
It was a real treat, and Missus Fender Bunny is already planning our 2nd 14er!