We Failed Our First Fourteener: Mount Bierstadt, Colorado

We had been living in Colorado for almost two years and I would bring up attempting our first fourteener at least once a month to Cory. Her usual response was “Thanks, but no thanks” and I would spend the rest of the conversation trying to convince her it wouldn’t be that bad. Quick definition a fourteener: a fourteener is a mountain peak with an elevation of at least 14,000 feet (4267 meters). I did all the research and had the perfect first fourteener picked out. When we got the call that would set into motion us moving to Orlando, Florida in two weeks I knew we had to do it now or we never would. It was time to climb that damn mountain.

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“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” – Jack Kerouac

We checked the weather, geared up and checked the weather again the night before. The alarm went off at 4:00 AM and we headed to the trailhead. One of the closest fourteeners to our apartment in Denver was Mt. Bierstadt. In our blog post, “Your First High In Colorado: Hiking In Rocky Mountain National Park” we mentioned all the gear we typically bring on day hikes and I would suggest the same for hiking a fourteener. We arrived at the trail head around 5:15AM and had to park on the road because the parking lot was already filled. The line to the bathroom was already very long, but we decided to use it one last time before starting the climb (we highly recommend you do so too!). The hike started out at a decent elevation and the trail was mellow at first. We walked through some nice meadows and eventually got to a creek. The snow melt had made the water so high that it was over the bridge. We walked down the creek and eventually found a spot to jump across and luckily our feet stayed dry! We made our way back to the trail and continued the climb. After the meadow we started to feel the altitude and the trail only got harder from there.

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“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” – John Muir

Eventually we were out of the brush and up on the mountain. We were surrounded by wilderness and more mountains. Even though I was about to have a heart attack from all the walking, I was in my happy place. While sitting at 13,000 ft trying to catch our breath we talked about how different life would be once we moved to Florida. We wondered if we would miss these mountains and how different our weekends would be. Climbing above 12,000 ft you feel the altitude and even after living in Colorado for 2 years it was incredibly tough. Getting close to 13,500 ft we were stopping every 5 minutes to catch our breath and take a break. We eventually decided around 13,650 ft that lunch sounded better than marking our first fourteener off the bucket list. The total length of this hike according to alltrails.com is 6.9 round trip and has total elevation gain of 2,729ft. We ended this day grabbing some food and beers at Smokin Yard’s BBQ.

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“It’s a heavy burden to look up at the mountain and want to start the climb.” – Abby Wambach

I feel like way too many people think fourteeners are too extreme for them or think it’s something they cannot do. I don’t think this is true. We failed climbing our first fourteener and it was still a wonderful experience. We made it to around 13,650ft and decided to turn back. I would recommend attempting a fourteener or any mountain to anyone. Just do your research and properly prepare for everything. It’s an experience you will remember for the rest of your life. We are not in any kind of shape or even consider ourselves that outdoorsy. Our biggest thing is that we embrace getting out of our comfort zones and experiencing life. It may not work out the way you planned but it will be one hell of an adventure!

 

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