If you follow my blog or you know me personally you know how much I enjoy climbing mountains. It’s not only the physical and mental challenge, but the feeling of having a definitive goal, that when you reach it, provides expansive views, often complete solitude and a reminder of how many new adventures and experiences surround us on all sides. A few weeks ago a friend asked me how many Colorado 14ers I had yet to climb, to which I responded “I don’t know?”. Upon looking this up I realized I only had 12 left, all of which could probably be done in 6 separate day trips, not bad. For many years I’ve said I’m in no rush to climb all the Colorado 14ers, while nothing has changed, I think its nice to have goals to keep oneself motivated. So with Hardrock quickly becoming a ‘maybe’ on the summer event list, I’ve decided to keep myself motivated by enjoying all the other fun things that my training has made me capable of doing.
Now the Colorado 14ers are not always the most interesting of peaks, but each one does have its own character. This weekend’s summits were great examples of the variety one gets when climbing Colorado’s highest peaks. On Saturday, while many friends were off running the San Juan Solstice, I headed out from LakeCity to run Redcloud and Sunshine. The trail up Silver Creek started out nice and smooth, runnable in fact, but once I took off up the peak proper I ran into 1000s of feet of gravel and talus, until finally reaching the reddish orange non-descript summit of Redcloud, Sunshine was much of the same. The redeeming factor is the 360 degree panoramic views of craggy peaks and lush green valleys that surround one on all sides and the thin clear air at 14000ft. While the routes were nothing too exciting, the reward on top was worth the trek, 3h31min round trip for 8.9miles, 4700ft of gain, two 14ers, and one 13er (Sundog).
Sunday found me again up early, this time headed for Matterhorn Creek and Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn, two of Colorado’s most aesthetic 14ers. The Matterhorn Creek trail was another beautifully smooth path, allowing me to slow jog my way uphill, before the long traverse over to Uncompahgre. Both Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn rise strikingly from the high plateau, their summits guarded by several sets of ominous cliffs, but making for a very picturesque scene. I was amazed at how smooth the trail up Uncompahgre was, more like some nice forest single track than high alpine 14er running. I topped out on Uncompahgre 2h27min into my day, and took in the clear skies and the rare occasion of having one of Colorado’s finest peaks completely to myself. I was able to blast down the smooth single track trail, making my way back over to the base of Wetterhorn in an hour.
Wetterhorn is a much different peak, where Uncompahgre’s cliffs are broken by a little rock hopping and a smooth trail, Wetterhorn requires the intrepid mountaineer to pick one’s way through the cliff bands, scramble over a few rocky ribs and finally to ascend a steep exposed staircase of rock to the summit. The class 3 scrambling on Wetterhorn was incredibly solid and very enjoyable, a nice break from the talus and scree of the day before. Before I knew it I was standing atop Wetterhorn, admiring the open meadows of Matterhorn Creek on one side and the rocky knife edge ridge leading over to Matterhorn Peak on the other. I quickly scrambled my way back down to the trail and cruised back to my car, making the descent in just under an hour. Today’s mountain run was one of the strongest I’ve had in a long time; 18miles, 6700ft elevation gain and two 14ers in 5h32min46sec, a time that might be an FKT (Fastest Known Time) as I can’t find any records online of anything faster.
Then there were 8; Mt Wilson, Wilson Peak, San Luis, Culebra, Pyramid, Little Bear, Blanca and Ellingwood. Unfortunately all except Pyramid require a lengthy drive from Boulder, so when I squeeze them in depends on Hardrock. I’ve also got another 14er project in the works for later this summer and maybe another big one next summer, stay tuned. Special thanks to my sponsors Hind clothing and VFuel for keeping me on track for all these 14ers. Run fast, run healthy, but mostly run happy.