In addition to trail running, I have another very important hobby…crossing all of the Colorado 14ers (and hopefully a few more) off of my list. Between work, life, and other hobbies, I’m usually able to “tag” five to six mountains a year. Hopefully it goes without saying, but this number is by no means impressive (some people have done them all in one summer), but it will get me to coveted 54 crown in under a decade!
A couple of weeks ago, I was up in Leadville doing pacer training for the upcoming Leadville 100! This was exciting in itself as I actually got to run the section of the course I will be pacing (up and over Hope Pass from the town of Winfield to Twin Lakes), but I was also extremely close to several 14ers (mountains 14,000’ or taller). Now whenever, I get into the high-er country I get this feeling that I can’t explain, a feeling that makes me anxious, and have the desire to conquer everything around me. It was this feeling that drove me to summit La Plata Peak the day following my training run!
It was Sunday morning, and Jay and I had to get an early start so I could be off the mountain and in Denver by 4:00. According to the Colorado Mountain Club book, this hike should take us about nine hours. Doing some backwards math, I quick figured that we needed to be on the trailhead by 5:00AM, which meant a wake up time of 4:00. The rest of our running crew was still going to be training the next day, so we had to be quick and quiet when packing up our gear.
We arrived at the trail head at 5:15, and by the time we had our bags packed it was 5:30AM. Perfect timing…the sun was just starting to come out, which was beautiful and meant there was no need for headlamps. Here we go; 9.25 miles of nothing but steep slopes and beautiful scenery! After about 30 minutes of hiking we arrived in a meadow with lots of trees; the smell was amazing and the view was even better. After taking a quick water break, we looked up and saw a series of switchbacks that looked never ending up a very steep slope! I had looked on 14ers.com before our climb and knew that we were sitting at about 11,000’. Jay and I looked at each other, and one of us finally said it, “well there’s only one way up!”
We began our climb up the steep switch backs, which brought us to a ridge line with even more breath taking views. In addition, we got our first glimpse of La Plata Peak, still towering over us at this point. After we crossed the ridgeline we had to maneuver a series of boulder fields in order to finally reach the top. This process still took us about 45 minutes to an hour; however, I will say we summited the mountain in three hours flat!
Upon reaching the top, we sat down, ate breakfast number two, and soaked in the views. It was a clear and calm morning to be at 14,336’! I told Jay, okay we have 15 more minutes and then we better get going if I’m going to be in Denver by 4:00. Jay took this opportunity to do yoga, in perfect form I might add, while I relaxed and mentally crossed another 14er off of my list. I did it; I conquered one more mountain and am that much closer to achieving my goal!
Total hike time; 5 hours 45 minutes, and I made it to Denver with a half hour to spare in no thanks to the I-70 traffic that day!