36 Hours In Denver
Prior to this trip, we knew we wouldn't have much time to acclimatize since it was only a 4 day trip. We did want to do a 14’er though so we began taking supplements a week prior. We used First Endurance Optygen HP and this seemed to help. I normally have issues when I go to high altitude too quickly. I felt pretty good on this trip, even with the short acclimatization period.
We arrived in Denver on Thursday night. Friday morning we did a short, easy 4 mile run around the neighborhood to get the blood moving. Spent the day doing a few brewery tours and sampling. (Really liked New Belgium the best). We got to bed fairly early since we had a long day ahead.
Guanella Pass Trailhead
Early 0330 wake up gave us time to get ready and get to the trailhead. We had a 90 minute drive to Guanella Pass from Broomfield. Very little traffic this early in the morning. The road up to the trailhead from Georgetown was in great shape. We did about 12 miles of slow switchbacks. We were pretty surprised when we got the last spot in the lower parking lot. Wow. Lots of people already on the trail. We could see headlamps flashing in the dark.
By the time we finished getting our gear together, the sun was coming up so we were able to ditch the headlamps. It was 0600 when we left the parking lot. The trail started out going slightly downhill for about .7 of a mile. The trail goes through some very marshy areas, but wooden walkways have been built to make it an easy traverse through this section. We did notice that there was a lot of old hail lying on the wood and on the ground. Must have been a storm Friday. At Scott GomerCreek, there are a few places you can cross. We chose to go the eastern crossing and had no problems. The other crossing point was crowded and people were waiting in line to cross.
The trail starts climbing after the creek crossing. Switchbacks up through the willows until you’re above tree line. The trail continues to climb steeply from there. We were treated to a spectacular sunrise coming up over Mt. Evans & The Sawtooth and some nice alpenglow on Square Top Mountain.
Once above 12,000 feet, I really started feeling the altitude with a shortness of breath. We took lots of little mini breaks to get our heart rates back down and that helped immensely.
We finally made it up onto the ridge after 2 hours. It felt like forever. The last 250 feet of elevation was no problem. The trail was really hard to find so mostly we just hopped from boulder to boulder making our way up. It took us about 3 hours total to make the summit. By this time the trail was overloaded with people and pets. I was pretty surprised at some of the dog breeds. I saw Pug, Whippet, Mini Aussie and lots of Border Collies & Shepherds. The most dogs I have ever seen on a mountain top.
We signed the climbers log, took our summit photos, had a snack, and chatted with other hikers for about 45 minutes. The weather was fantastic. Just a slight breeze with the clouds staying off in the distance.
It wasn't until an hour later, when we stopped for lunch /beer @ Tommyknockers in Idaho Springs, that my friend discovered that her wallet was missing. It had been in her back pocket during the hike. We looked all through her gear and in the car. No wallet. OMG!! We wanted to turn around and go back to the mountain but it had started to rain on our way out. We decided to go home and look at the video / photo footage to see if we could determine an approximate location of where the wallet came up missing. I was just praying that it wasn't dropped on the summit. (That would mean another summit trip to to search for it)! Once back at the house, I put the video and picture files on my PC and we started analyzing. We were able to see that the wallet was clearly visible through her pocket at the summit. It wasn't until we were in the willows, on the switchbacks, that her pocket was noticeably empty! Ok, so we had an approximate location. That meant it was somewhere between the willow switchbacks and the summit. We made a plan to drive back out to Guanella Pass the next morning.
All in all, even with the little extra hiking to hunt for the wallet, we had an excellent time. Bierstadt was really a good choice for us given the short amount of time we had to acclimatize. For one of my co-hikers, this was her very first 14’er and we couldn't have been more proud of her!! This was my 5th. I'm not sure when I'll make it back out to Colorado, but when I do, I'll be planning another 14'er.