Monday, May 10, 2010

The Longest 12 Miles

Saturday I hiked up Mt. Evans, which turned out to be a 12 mile round trip with 4,000 feet of elevation gain.  This was about 4 miles further than my body would have liked for this trip to have been.  Out of the four 14ers I have done, this one was the toughest.  I don't know that the climb itself was that bad, my body just wasn't cooperating. 

The day began at 2:00 am, which is by coincidence the exact same time that many people's Friday evening was ending, or what I like to refer to as the middle of the night.  After showering (yes, I shower before a day-long hike; I hate going without a morning shower) and eating, or more accurately, drinking, breakfast (Carnation instant style) I hit the road for the 1.5 hour drive to meet my hiking partner near Denver.  I don't like driving at 3 in the morning, partially because I have terrible night vision, and partially because all those people who's Friday evening just ended tend to be intoxicated, but I survived the drive and met up with Sandy, who drove the last hour to the mountain.  We started just before 6:00, summited at noon, and were back at the car at 4:00 pm.

We parked on the access road where it was closed and walked the last mile to the trailhead, which we passed so we could walk to the bathrooms, which probably added another mile overall to the hike.  In hindsight I don't think we would have done that again, considering how exhausted we were by the end and the number of times we had to find rock outcroppings for make-shift porta-potties throughout the day (any one who knows me knows that I pee more than a pregnant woman, and there's no way to make it 10 hours holding it, even if your bladder is normal, and not the size of a walnut like mine.

The road leading up to the trail head

Still feeling good.  This is just the beginning.

Mt. Bierstadt on the right, Mt. Spalding on the left, and the Sawtooth between the two.  About halfway between Mt. Spalding and the Sawtooth is the gulley we ascended on the way up. Coming down we went down a ridge on the left side to avoid the gulley.  I prefer the more direct approach.

The snow was well packed, and we didn't find snowshoes necessary until the last three miles on the way back, once it was warm enough that the snow was getting slushy.  A couple of wooden bridges were about all of the trail that we saw. 

Mt. Bierstadt, which will have to wait for another day.

Just before the gulley. We steered left, then ascended the upper portion of it.

Coming up the gulley.  Where we've been...

and where we're headed.

After the gulley we had some less intimidating moonscape to climb.  We mistook the false summit ahead for the actual summit, causing us to do a lot more climbing than necessary as we went up and down a lot of the top of the ridgeline instead of along the side.

A nice view of Mt. Bierstadt and the Sawtooth looking back and to the right.

Had we gone along the rockline below we would have been safer and saved a lot of energy.

This is a small portion of the ridgeline we travelled.
We did a lot of scrambling.  This was both Sandy and my favorite part, although it wore us out.

Some nice views from the top.

Sandy was a better poser than I am

This is how I like to think of myself, having conquered the mountain, standing on the summit.

This is how I felt: victorious but beaten down by the mountain.  Gathering my strength for the climb down.
Thankfully we left our packs at the beginning of the ridgeline, so we didn't have to carry the extra weight for what turned out to be much further than we anticipated.  However, by the time we got back to the packs about an hour later we were exhausted, famished and dehydrated.  We ate lunch and rested for about 20 minutes, then started back down with more energy.  We avoided the gulley and took the ridgeline opposite of Bierstadt.  This route was less steep than the gulley, but longer, and forced us to make our way through some dense bushes for several hundred yards before we got back to the bottom.

The descent down the ridgeline

The section of bushes is the brown swath below the rocks.  We descended from right to left as seen from this picture.

My right heel began hurting as we started climbing.  When I got home I found out why: a blister from my last climb had torn.  I'm glad it didn't hurt enough to force me to stop, although it made the climb fairly uncomfortable.  Definitely need to pack moleskin and medical tape.  The climb could have been much less uncomfortable had I used some.

The weather was good for a climb.  It started out sunny, then got cloudy midway through the day, and dropped a few snow flurries.  Temps were mid-thirties.  The wind was neglibible, except in the gulley and along the ridgeline. 

Sandy's camelbak started leaking on the way back, so she dumped it, then we shared my water.  We ran dry about a mile and a half from the finish, and were both dehydrated and exhausted by the time we were finished.  We were very happy to get back to the car, and I drove Sandy's car back to Morrison where my car was parked, as I'm better at avoiding potholes. 

I must say, Volkswagen has moved up my list of possible next cars.   If there's one thing Germans are good at, it is conquering large swaths of Europe only to lose it.  But if there's two things the Germans are good at, the second is building fine cars.  It drove very smoothly, although everything was arranged differently than in American and  Japanese cars.  German engineers refer to this as "verwirren nichteinleiblich bruder", or, roughly translated, "confuse non-Germans". 

After missing a turn (apparently a requirement on my 14er trips) I got to drive past the same cop giving two different people tickets (at least I knew where to find him on my way backtracking), got some noursihment at a Burger King (I love their funnel cake sticks), and finally made it home about 8:00 and layed on the couch with Heather for a while before crawling into bed and sleeping for 11 blissful hours.