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Mt. Bierstadt, A Colorado 14er

Mt. Bierstadt, a 14,060-ft mountain, one of more than 50 of Colorado’s peaks that surpass 14,000 feet in elevation, receives a lot of smack in reviews.

A tourist’s hike. 
Too many people!
Soooo crowded.
Easiest 14er.


To say the least, many people are not too impressed with Mt. Bierstadt in comparison to other 14er experiences. One of the biggest complaints is that the trail is overpopulated, especially during the weekends of its peak season, and for those who seek quiet and solitude in nature, this hike, believe it or not, is a disappointment.

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Fields of alpine meadow flowers beneath Sawtooth Ridge, the connection between Mt. Bierstadt and Mt. Evans’ summits, two of Colorado’s fourteeners.

Except, that almost everyone and anyone who attempts to summit a 14er is looking for exactly the same thing: a wilderness experience, a day that wrenches you from the ordinary, and challenges your body and your mind. So, in my opinion, it’s unfair to punish the mountain for so many people who wish to experience it. Maybe as a native New Englander, I am more easily impressed, but this experience, to hike a 14er, let alone to summit it, is a privilege and an accomplishment, and deserves all of our appreciation and respect.

Recently, I had the incredible opportunity to summit the mountain with some of the best company. This was a unique experience because it was the first time that I hiked with a couple of talented artists. Daryl Love is a wonderful friend and photographer in Fort Collins, Colorado, and Alathea Cantrell is a painter and fiber artist at the Fort Collins Downtown Artery.

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Photo by Daryl Love Photography

 

This was our first outdoor adventure as a trio though it felt like we had been on dozens together, and Alathea’s first fourteener journey, despite growing up in Colorado!

The summit trail began right at the trailhead parking lot. For many high altitude hikes where the beginning of the trail is a bit of a hike in itself to find, this was an efficient and welcoming start when our journey began between four and six a.m., and followed a few hours’ drive in the middle of the night. The sunrise was the first breathtaking moment on a hike that would literally take our breaths away.

After some switchback through the softest, greenest brush and blooming cacti, the landscape opened up to the alpine.

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Photo by Daryl Love Photography

We made a lot of stops for photos, for snacks, for catching our breath, and for taking it all in.

Mt. Bierstadt receives an incredible amount of visitors a year, which has led to significant trail erosion. We didn’t notice it much on our ascent, but coming down from the summit was especially difficult on the fine, steep, sandy slope. A group of trail workers, however, were working hard to repair and rebuild the trail during our visit, selecting large rocks for trail steps, fitting them to size and setting them in place. “Thanks for your work!” we said as we passed.

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Photo by Daryl Love Photography

My favorite part of this trail was its fields of wildflowers.

After a steep, straight-up climb, we came to the final leg our journey: some boulder scrambling over and up to the summit.

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Photo by Daryl Love Photography

Here we are! At the top!

I was pretty excited to have carried with me an art print to the summit by Fort Collins designer, Patrick Richardson, who creates these awesome topographical prints of Colorado’s Fourteeners. (His tumblr The Woods are Wild features some of his illustrations and t-shirt designs.) I must have been a little woozy from the elevation because I completely forgot to take the print out of its protective sleeve for the picture!

Alathea and Daryl took naps at 14,060 feet.

This whole trip was a real accomplishment, because if you remember, Madison and I had attempted this mountain back in June, and we ended up wandering around in a snowstorm! Check out that Wander Chronicle, here!

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