I had been wanting to hike a 14er since I very first moved to Colorado and heard about how cool and challenging they are. The forecast for Saturday was sun, sun and more sun without a chance of thunderstorms. No thunderstorms? Not even in the mountains? What a perfect opportunity for a hike! So we headed up to the mountains to hike Mt. Bierstadt – a 14er. What’s a 14er? A 14’er is a mountain with a summit higher than 14,000 feet. The 14ers in Colorado (there are 54 of them) are some of the highest mountains in the world.
Mt. Bierstadt – one of the easier 14ers in the state
Length – 7 miles round trip
Trailhead – sits at 11,669 feet
Summit of the Mountain – 14, 060
Elevation Gain – Roughly 2,850
It was a difficult day. Hiking a 14er is very hard. It’s not so much the climb because, well, if you’re in shape you can complete it. It’s the elevation change, the way the thin air takes your breath away, how close you are to the sun when you’re up that high. I was out of breath much of the harder parts of the climb. Huffing and puffing my way up the mountain. We took quite a few breaks to catch our breathe and drink water. I drank 2 liters of water on the hike, ate a bit & used trekking poles. Trekking poles may look geeky to some people but I absolutely love them. They were such a great help in getting me up the mountain when my legs began to tire! Also – the trail was rocky and slippery at times and the poles really made me feel comfortable and helped me keep a grip while walking/hiking/climbing.
The hardest part of the hike was the final 30 minutes. In order to actually summit the mountain you have to scramble up the rocks at the top of Mt. Bierstadt. This involves using your hands and feet and taking pretty good sized steps up the big rocks. But once you reach the top, you will be so satisfied. I promise, it’s worth it. The view from the top isn’t totally different from the view on the way up but still – there is an amazing sense of accomplishment once you reach the summit.
During our trip, we did have a few problems. One of us flirted with Altitude Sickness and Heat Exhaustion & ended up getting sick. I don’t want to go into details because I don’t feel like re-living some of the bad moments from the trip, but I must warn: if you hike a 14er – drink a lot of water before hand. And I don’t mean the morning of. I mean days before hand. Get hydrated! Eat well the day of the hike – you’re going to need the energy. Drink AT LEAST 2 liters of water during the hike. Bring a Gatorade or something that will help your fluid balance. If you know your body is prone to altitude issues or heat issues — YOU NEED TO PREPARE MORE THAN THE AVERAGE PERSON. You do NOT want to get sick on the mountain. Or on the way down. Or in the car on the way back.
With that being said – if you’re in good shape and hydrated – a 14er is completely manageable.