June usually brings the first reliable weather for climbing 14ers. So as Spring turned officially into Summer the Platinum Team struck out to hit the high country and prepare for another season. Wanting to do something logistically easy and still fun we chose to climb Mt. Bierstadt on Saturday, June 21.
The weather forecast looked great for Saturday. The team, most of the team, chose to camp near the trailhead so we didn't have to wake up heinously early. I drove up to Guanella Pass Friday afternoon after the rest of the team had arrived, arriving around 8:30PM to a couple of huge thunderheads towering over Bierstadt at sunset. It was an amazing sight. I pulled in the West parking lot next to Mike and his daughters Erin and Lauren.
The next morning we began hiking about 6:30am and were surprised to see several other hikers already on the trail. Typically, for this mountain, folks get started later but for some reason on Saturday it was already getting a bit crowded early.
The hike through the willows and up the alpine slopes was beautiful with great weather and little wind. This was going to be Mike's daughter Lauren's first 14er and she cruised along with nary a complaint. Mike, training for Whitney, hiked out ahead while Erin, Lauren, and I stayed together at a somewhat slower pace.
As we pulled up onto the shoulder just below the final summit push we were very pleasantly surprised to see that a great portion of the usual tedious 250 vertical feet boulder-hopping to the summit could be avoided by an easy walk up some well consolidated snow. This made the final push much easier and more interesting. It always feels more "mountainy" when there is some snow involved. Mike, Erin, and Lauren pulled up ahead as I stayed below for a while shooting pictures.
I continued on to the summit a few minutes after the O'Hearns. The weather was perfect. Great comfy temps, a slight breeze, and no clouds. A typical Colorado Bluebird day.
Nearing the summit I could see there were a few people already there. Actually a lot of people. More like a crowd really. It appeared as if a Broncos game had just let out. I am guessing there were 50ish people already on the summit with some starting back down and others arriving. But, as is usually the case, all were pleasant and it was fun if not a somewhat sereal scene to have this collection of people at 14,060 feet.
Oddly. Inexplicably, I thought I heard someone in the crowd say "Ohio University" So I asked. It turns out there was a group of about 5 graduates (2004) from Ohio University in this throng. I myself completed my undergraduate from Ohio U in 1984. So naturally I though it improbable to meet fellow alumni on top of Mt. Bierstadt. Yet there they were. And if there is any doubt, they posed for a summit shot forming the word, "OHIO." You have to be a Buckeye to do something like that in public.
Me, Lauren, Erin, Mike, and Cooper (the Beagle) from left to right, posed for our own slightly more dignified summit shot. We were on the summit by 9:30am. While we had started out a bit slow we all perked up a bit as we climbed up into the high 12s and kept on pushing fueled by various revolting gu's, jells, bars, and various other performance foods. But hey, they are all natural so how bad can they be?
The trip down was uneventful. The weather continued to hold and it was relaxing and filled with interesting conversations.
Lauren became a 14er Platinum Team visiting member as a result of this hike. Hopefully she will continue on to other 14ers and become an official member.
As for the remainder of the team. Ben and Don (not on this hike) will be joining up to climb Humboldt Peak on the 4th while Mike and Erin attempt to tackle Mt. Whitney in California over the 4th as well.
Good hiking all!...
Below is the GPS track from the Bierstadt hike:
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