Distance: 7.5 miles
Weather: Sunny & Cool
For the better part of 2010, CP, my nine-year-old daughter, and I have been talking about climbing a fourteener. She professed to be ready to tackle the challenge and I'm up for any excuse to get out into them thar hills. So, with the summer racing season drawn to a close and perfect weather at hand, we set off from the house at about 6:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, bound for the Mt. Bierstadt trailhead atop Guanella Pass.
|Mt. Bierstadt and the Sawtooth|
As one would expect, the parking lot was full and teeming with humanity as we hit Forest Service Trail 711 and began the 200-foot descent down to Scott Gomer Creek. Once across the creek, I was on the look-out for some boardwalk I helped build 10 or so years ago through a boggy willow area as part of a Colorado Fourteeners Initiative project. The boardwalk is still in good shape and the willows have nicely rebounded now that thousands of hikers aren't forced to find new ways through the underbrush and around the mud.
|CP navigates a section of boardwalk on the Mt. Bierstadt Trail|
CP was in fine form, passing people, pausing now and then to rest (good pacing!), retrieving the water bottle from my pack and downing several mouthfuls (hydrating!) and noshing on banana bread I made the night before (sticking to her nutrition plan!).
After gaining the first ridge, we traipsed up the long trail ahead of us until we hit the steeps. From here, we went cairn to cairn, pausing to catch our breath and add a rock to the piles. The pikas served as welcome distractions and reason to stop and observe (and snap a few pics).
|Pika near the saddle before the final ascent.|
Time went quickly as we chatted, gazed at the amazing scenery, including Squaretop Mountain across the valley and the beautiful blogs of yellow aspens far down below us. Soon, we were at the saddle before the final scramble up the double pile of rocks that is Bierstadt's summit. With Caroline leading and route-finding (and seemingly effortlessly hoping from rock to rock and across sizable gaps), we soon stood with 30 or so others at the apex of Mt. Bierstadt, 14,060 feet high.
|Looking west over Guanella Pass Road to 13,794-foot Squaretop Mountain|
We spent a good 15 minutes at the summit taking in the 360-degree views, gazing down at the Sawtooth that links Mt. Bierstadt to Mt. Evans, looking over at the observatory atop Mt. Evans and looking down at Chasm Lake below us. The weather was perfect, albeit a wee bit chilly, so we weren't in a hurry to head back down.
|The USGS summit marker.|
|Obligatory summit photo.|
|CP signs the summit register. In the "comments" section, she wrote: "Only in CO!"|
Alas, all good things must come to an end, so we loaded up and retraced our steps back to Guanella Pass Road, where the truck was parked.
By the time we got back to the car, we both were tuckered out. She crashed out as I drove home. We both spent the rest of the day lazing around, napping and reading. A perfect fall weekend day.