Sue Wolber, Bob Proulx, Betsy White, Juliet, Lisa, Lori, Ken, Paul, Joel & "Little Girl", and organizers Emily and Andy
Sue had run into Betsy at work while donating blood Thursday and Betsy mentioned she was hiking a 14er Sunday, so Sue invited herself and Bob along :-) Fortunately the Mosaic Outdoor Mountain Club group organizers didn't mind a couple heathens joining them, and we met up with them Sunday morning and headed up I-70 to Georgetown to the Guanella Pass road. The mountains to the west were showing plenty of cloud cover and obscuration -- not good at 6am!
The road to Guanella Pass is pot-holed pavement then a decent dirt road, 2wd passable with care. The parking lot at the trailhead is dead obvious, actually there are 2 parking lots to the same trailhead, with plenty of parking. Bierstadt was obscured in the clouds and the trip leaders Emily and Andy were concerned about weather and lightning, and we almost gave up on Bierstadt and hiked a small peak on the west side of the road... when we discovered Joel's dog "Little Girl" was missing. She loved to hike and had been playing with another group's dog... and that group had just left a few minutes ago, hiking up the Bierstadt trail.
So the decision was made that we would hike a little way up Bierstadt, at least to the creek crossing, hopefully find the dog, and decide from there. We followed the well-maintained trail through the willows, and want to give huge thanks to those who created that trail and put in the wonderful boardwalks through the swampy areas -- it had rained up there the night before and there were some deep muddy spots that would have been no fun to try to hike through!
Little Girl was duly found, and all of us wished to try to continue up the green (and full of wildflowers) north shoulder of Bierstadt and re-evaluate half-way up. A discussion ensued with trip leader Andy who is a pilot, and Sue and Bob who are both instrument-rated pilots as to the nature of the cloud cover -- that this was a fairly stable cloud layer which was not likely to result in heavy rain or lightning. Also part way up we met a couple guys coming down who had summited, who confirmed wind and clouds at the summit but no precipitation.
We continued up the excellent trail, stopping to re-evaluate a couple times. About half-way Betsy started feeling dizzy, and she and I were further razzed for giving blood on Thursday and trying to hike a 14er on Sunday! Oh well. Emily stayed with Betsy and the rest of us continued on up. I was the slowest one on the uphill, but everyone was very nice in doing frequent stops to let me catch up. Not sure how much of my slowness was due to the blood donation?
It was quite cold and windy once we got to the rocky section above the tundra, and silly me didn't have wind pants, only shorts. The gloves had been on since the parking lot, and the gore-tex jacket since the wind started, so only my legs were cold. As long as I kept moving I was ok, so we kept going on up, to the sharp left turn before the final summit climb. There was a clear view off to the south here and the clouds on the summit lifted just long enough for us to see how beautiful it is up there!
There is a cairned trail most of the way through the final section, with only a little boulder-hopping. The nine of us made the summit, signed the register, Bob took some more pictures, and we all turned around to hoof it off. A few minutes later the clouds rolled in again and visibility went way down but the trail was obvious enough that it wasn't a problem.
The north wind made it pretty chilly on the way down. I found if I stayed close behind the group it helped to cut the wind. We stopped partway down the shoulder for lunch, then as soon as we continued down the clouds suddenly burned off and it was sunny and warm and wow what a difference! I finally warmed up enough to take off the gloves that I'd had on the entire trip.
We all made it back to the parking lot, thanked Little Girl for leading the hike and causing us to even try to make Bierstadt, congratulated ourselves on bagging another 14er, commiserated with Betsy who was feeling better and Emily who had stayed with her, and loaded up the cars for the drive back to the meeting place at the Red Rocks exit. Bob and I had been up till 1am the night before, so with only 3 hours sleep we barely stayed awake for the drive down, so upon reaching the meeting place we drove to a quiet end of the parking lot to close our eyes for a few minutes... and woke up 90 minutes later when a motorcycle revved behind us. We decided that was enough of a nap and headed back to Fort Collins...
decided I will never hike a 14er without wind pants again, and I was very
grateful to Bob for reminding me to bring gloves this time. Next time I
won't give blood 2 days before the hike either :-)
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