TRIP REPORT: Mount Bierstadt (14,065′)

This was hands down the easiest 14er I have done so far. I spent more time driving to and from this mountain than actually climbing it. Mount Bierstadt is located on the front range and is known as the most populated 14er due to its close proximity to Denver and “easy” trail.

I left my family cabin in Estes Park around 4am or so. I took me a little less than 2 1/2 hours to get to the trailhead which was a bit quicker than I expected. I started my hike in the dark just as twilight was making itself known. It was cold, and I knew it would only get colder as I made my way up on the shady side of the mountain. I passed the lake in the dark but could tell it was there, and worked my way up the switchbacks from the willows. Once I came up over the hill, I got a spectacular view of sawtooth ridge. I was around roughly 13,000′ when the sunrise began to light up the mountains across the valley.

From here it was just slow and steady up to the saddle. The last 250′ vertical or so is the most difficult part, not technically but navigationally. This is an EASY class 2 so if you feel like you are scrambling over boulders you are actually too far off route. There are at least 3 or 4 paths that weave through the rocks to the summit from the saddle. there are cairns, and dirt path through the rocks it is just difficult to keep track of which cairn goes to which route. they all sort of weave in and out of each other so as long as you always have a cairn in line of sight aiming for the summit, you should be good. Typically routes like this are easier to see going down…. in this case, I actually felt like going up was easier to keep track of!

Summit had 360 views. Evans directly to the East, and could see the connection with Sawtooth ridge from the top. Mosquito Range to the Southwest, Greys and Torreys to the West, and Long’s was hiding in the smoke to the North. I can definitely understand why this is the most popular 14er. I got lucky on this fall Thursday and had it all to myself on the summit!

Once returning to the saddle, the rest of the way down was a breeze and I was actually able to jog quite a bit of the descent. The final mile or so at the bottom where it goes back uphill to the car was the worst part of the entire hike honestly. But overall this was a good one! Car to Car was 4 hours, 15 min. Marked my 5th 14er this summer, and 11th overall!

TRIP REPORT: Pikes Peak (14,115′)

Pikes Peak is known as “America’s Mountain” and is the most popular fourteener in the US (mostly because you can drive up it).

However it is typically known to be one of the harder hikes due to distance and gain. There are 2 main routes. The Barr Trail starts in Manitou Springs and is the standard route. It tracks 26 miles round trip and about 7,600′ of gain but is only a class 1 hike and is not technical. The shorter route is the North West Slopes route outside of Divide, CO at 14 miles round trip and 4,300′ of gain but is a bit more difficult to navigate as it is class 2 near the summit.

This particular report follows the upper portion of the NW Slopes route. The trail parallels Pikes Peak highway one you come out above tree line. My husband and I were celebrating our anniversary this particular weekend and we planned for him to meet me at the summit so for the sake of time and consideration of my husband, I decided to start my hike from Devil’s Playground at around 12,900′, while he shuttled to the top to wait for me. Some might call this cheating, however that is up to you and your preference on how you would like to climb this mountain.

***NOTE on 14er “rules”***

There are a few different “rules” some people consider to count as an official 14er summit. One is that you must climb at least 3,000′ of gain for it to count, another is that you must summit and descend on foot. THIS IS UP TO YOU AND YOUR OWN LEVEL OF PRIDE. There are a handful of 14ers that have high trailheads and less than 3,000′ of gain as their standard route. This is a separate level of achievement some people strive for and one I have zero interest in. The other “rule” is also just a matter of pride for people. When I took my husband up Mount Evans several years ago, we hitched a ride back to our car from the summit because he was suffering from altitude sickness. I still felt we both earned the summit because we did the hard work of the uphill climb to the top.

In the case of Pikes Peak, I had every intention of shuttling back to the car with my husband when I planned this climb. This was probably one of the 14ers I cared least about. I figured if I at least did the work to summit and check it off my list, that is enough for me. Out of 58 14ers, Evans and Pikes are the only two with roads to the summit. I have to do the hard work on every other mountain, I personally don’t feel the need to do the full ascent/descent on this particular peak.

FROM DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND:

The NW slopes route is 7 miles to the summit. Reaching Devil’s playground marks 2.5 miles left to go. From the parking lot you cross the street to the trail on the other side of the road. (DO NOT HIKE ON THE ROAD. It is not allowed and is dangerous due to traffic) The first stretch of trail from Devil’s Playground is fairly flat and parallels the road until a hairpin turn near some cliffs.

Stay on the road side of the turn wall because walking below the turn wall is VERY shallow and exposed. The trail then does up and over the hill to an open area next to point 13,363′. Follow the trail straight on through this area back to the road’s switchback up ahead.

From here you have about 600′ vert to the summit. The trail steepens and the trail gets more difficult to follow. Keep a careful eye out for cairns as the official trial switchbacks in the rocks and is easy to lose. As you top out the ridge at 14,000′ you can see the final road turn. stay to the left of the road and aim for the weather station on the summit.

This is a LARGE summit area to explore! Current conditions when we were on top had construction blocking off areas of the summit but the new summit house is nearly complete, and the Cog Train should be running again May of next year according to their website. The old summit house was still open so we were able to enjoy the famous pikes peak donuts.

It was a beautiful day and I am glad I got to share the top with my husband (even if he didn’t hike it).