Conquering Colorado’s Mt. Bierstadt, A 14,000 Foot Challenge
There's nothing particularly special about Colorado's Mount Bierstadt, but it's special to me because I have conquered all 14,065 feet of it.
Most people have never even seen Mount Bierstadt, let alone making the hike.
It's most accessible from Guanella Pass, about 12 miles above Georgetown, which makes it a very popular destination for hikers. It is also considered an "easy" hike, which makes it attractive to novice hikers such as myself.
First of all, let me say, "easy" is a relative term. There in nothing easy about this particular hike, which I believe would be true of any of Colorado's 53 fourteeners. What makes it "easy," I suppose, is the fact that there is a well-groomed trail to within 300 feet of the summit. There are no harrowing ledges or exposures to deal with that may provide the possibility of plummeting to your death or serious injury.
Once the trail begins its ascent, it doesn't give you a break. It's up, up, up, and more up. Your legs will burn, your heart will pound. I think there is a reason why the vast majority of the more than 200 hikers we encountered were under the age of 35.
With any mountain climb, the weather is going to be a factor, and you best be prepared. The temperature was 26-degrees when we began at 7:30 in the morning. It was an absolutely wonderful morning in the mountains, but before long we began to encounter some pretty steady winds. This mandated a handful of wardrobe adjustments, from peeling off or adding of layers, to changes our ear and head coverings.
People will say it's always harder coming down. That's not true. Going up is always harder, it's just that coming down tends to be a bit painful on the joints, especially if they have been on this earth for 50+ years. I definitely recommend a walking stick, which helps cushion some of those blows coming down. It can also help provide some leverage on the way up, occasionally taking some of the pressure off of your leg muscles and joints.
This sort of a hike requires a great deal of patience. Looking ahead to see how far you have to go can be a bit discouraging. It's just one foot in front of the other, pressing on and enjoying the journey.
Reaching the top is definitely exhilarating and gives you a sense of accomplishment, and a view of the Rocky Mountains that most people have never seen. I never had any doubt that I would make it to the top because I'm not a quitter, but it was a good feeling to know that I was up to the 14,065 foot challenge of Colorado's Mt. Bierstadt.
Be sure and check out the photo gallery above for some highlights of the hike.