July 17, 2013 – I made the summit of my first 14er Mount Bierstadt (14,060 ft.) with my Dad Jerry McDowell. My Uncle Keith McDowell was unable to make the summit.
Stats from Garmin GPSMap 62s:
*GPS has slight skew
Distance: 7.42 miles
Avg Speed: 1.0 mph
Avg Moving Speed: 1.8 mph
Elevation Gain: 2,888 ft
Min Elevation: 11,472 ft
Max Elevation: 14,060 ft
After flying into CO the day before from Raleigh (officially at 315 ft.), we got our start on this 14er at 6:44AM with the sun barely popping up over the ridge ahead of us. We’re crossing a lowland area covered in willows, but fortunately a path has been blazed through. A few of the lowest parts had raised wooden walkways to keep us out of the marsh. Dad has a bear bell on his pack. A friend of mine sent me something that says, well, if you see a bear bell in bear scat, you know there are grizzlies around.
After going a couple miles away from the parking lot and finally rising above 12,000 ft. I could already feel the thing air and was sucking wind for breaths. My Dad and Uncle were falling behind already. I took my first sit down break at 13,400 ft. and Dad and Uncle were no where to be seen. The view was already really cool! I also had my first real glimpse of the rocky summit ahead.
Soon enough (and what felt like forever) I finally made it to be base of the rocky summit, the last bit to the top. My Dad and Uncle are long gone behind me. This rocky terrain meant it was time to pack the poles out of the way and use 3 points of balance to keep steady
About 1/3 of the way up the rocky part of the summit I took a spill backwards and landed on the point of a rock with my left glute. Oh boy did I bruise it deep. Fortunately there were no broken bones and only a few scrapes. A young gal behind me caught my pack strap or I may have rolled 10 ft. further down. I got my feet under me and settled to try stepping up again. Fortunately below me had I rolled was a small flat area, so my stumble could have been much worse. In my video after I compose myself, you can see I don’t even realize my extra water bottle and solar panel are all discombobulated and need to be set back in place. My description is the only time I recall slurring my speech at altitude. I had barely been in CO for 24 hours, so it’s no wonder I haven’t really acclimated yet!
A little while longer and a slower pace of crawling through the rocks and I made the summit of Mount Bierstadt at 14,060 ft.! I can see the Grays/Torreys double combo off in the distance (Saturday’s challenge) and Mount Evans directly beside us (tomorrow’s challenge). I was at the top for quite a while and wondered if my Dad or Uncle were going to show. Eventually I turned and there was Dad, plodding along. I said, “hey Dad, get on up here” or something to that effect. Dad was pleased to hear my voice and was encouraged that he had made it to the top! He looks really whipped in the photo. My Uncle never made the summit, he bombed out early.
The way down was fairly treacherous getting through the rocky part. It took a while. I decided I would slow down my pace and go down with Dad. I would get ahead, then stop and wait. The trek turned out to be longer than expected as well. My Uncle said it was about 6 miles round trip. It turns out it was 7.42 miles. By the time Dad and I made it back to the parking lot, we were completely wiped out.