We took a trip to hike our first 14er.
Some facts about where we went:
- Grays = 14,270’ (9th highest in Colorado)
- Time: about 6 1/2 hours total from leaving the car until Tia got back to the car
- Distance - According to directions, 6 miles. No way to verify this.
Our first trip, so here are the things we had, things we needed, and things we wanted.
- Water - 1 gallon per person. We drink a lot of water and were a little short. I’d bring at least this much and for us, I’d have another gallon in the car waiting.
- T-shirt, shorts, sweatshirt, jacket - For each of us. It’s cold at the top. We went in August, and the sky was clear. It was 100F in Denver and probably 50F at the top in the wind. Be sure you have a variety of clothes.
- Running shoes - Not a great choice. We were thinking of the cushioning. On the north side this probably would have been fine. I wished for hiking boots on our trail.
- Food - It’s going to be a 5-7 hour trip if you are in shape. We eat every 2-3 hours, and took basically 4 meals, just in case. Plan ahead here.
- Maps - We had a book as well as printed directions. Get something.
- Camera - We had the digital, but don’t forget to document your trip, at least for yourself.
- bandages - For blisters.
- Sunglasses - It’s Colorado, enough said
- Dog Boots - If you’re taking a dog, get some. It is rocky on the south side. Should be ok on the north side. more water
- Altimeter - Most of our directions referenced an altitude. Plus it’s cool.
- Film Camera - Would have been nice to have high quality 4mm shots
- Walking sticks - Woud make it easier, plus in case one of us would have sprained an ankle, this would have made the difference.
- Gauze and tape - would have helped with Boo, but always a good idea.
- Small tripod - It’s a busy peak, but you might not have someone else handy when you want them
Some thoughts on our trip.
Not out loud of course, but definitely in my mind. Kendall is slightly awake and rolling around, making sure she gives me a good kick here and there. An arm around her helps. She pulls and pinches on it, slipping her hand into the sleeve to give a good yank on my hair.
Finally she’s settled down. A quick glance at my watch.
@#%#%#$^%$%$ kids. Almost time to get up.
I can’t sleep, so I lay there for awhile, probably dropped off, but I’m definitely awake at
The alarm goes off and I quickly smash my hand on it. It’s been a couple years since I used one, but I remember how to turn it off. This little Sony has imprinted it’s instructions on my brain for easy access. I lay there for a minute, but I don’t want to drift off. A quick look at Tia.
She’s motionless. Figures. I get up and start to dress, figuring I’ll get Tia in a minute. Right now it be co-oo-old!
I dress and turn around, Tia’s getting up. Slow, but moving. A sweatshirt is needed here. Haven’t worn one in months, but it’s getting cold at night. I get downstairs and grab a few things and drop them by the front door. Stuff I knew we needed last night, but didn’t want the kids, dogs, whoever messing with.
Tia’s up and downstairs. She’s got extra clothes and asks me if I need pants. Hmmmmm, my brain’s fuzzy. Supposed to be warm, but we will be at 13000+ feet. “yes” I answer and run upstairs to get some. I come down, pack them in the backpack that Boo will wear. She can carry this stuff, it’s light.
I drop bread, protein bars, goo sacks in a backpack for me. I see Tia’s packing her backpack as well. Slowly this is taking shape. Boy I could use some coffee. 5-6 hours of broken sleep do not cut it. I know I’ll be hurting later, but what the heck. It’s not everyday we go climb (hike) a mountain. It’s getting exciting!!!! Whoops, can’t forget Boo’s bowl. She’s going to need water as much as us.
Like clockwork Lia arrives. She’s our nanny and agreed to come early to watch the kids. We’re running up and down getting everything ready. Eventually we realize Tia grabbed me pants already, but screw it, we go. Boo’s jumping around, ready to bark if we take our hands off her. She’s excited and can see a leash. Freak! We try to keep her quiet, hoping the kids won’t wake up. A few quick words for Lia so she’s ready for the day and …
Here’s the stuff at 5:45am.
to the gas station of course. Coffee is needed. “Need gas?” What’s gas? I wonder, dreaming of a hot steaming cup of coffee. I look down, 1/4 tank, yeah I guess I should get gas as well.
We get gas, coffee and two gallons of water. We’ll each carry one.
Getting close. We’re getting excited as we get closer. On the way the directions weren’t that clear and we passed the dirt road turnoff and ended up in the town (town?) of Montezuma. Not sure it’s a town, more like a block of old houses, but it has a sign, so I guess it’s a town. We turn around, find the turnoff and bounce, literally bounce, down an old dirt road.
“Is this what 4 wheeling is like?” Tia asks. Well yes, I answer. No appeal for Tia. It is a little bouncy and the Trooper is no jeep. Still I’m glad it’s a 4 wheel drive and not a car. We got directions from a book we have as well as a website. The guy mentions that passenger cars would be a bad idea. No sh**!
We find the end of the road. Well not the end, but the place where the directions say to start walking. We unpile, not a soul in site. I lost the bet. Being this is Colorado and a place where people like to stay in shape I said there would be a couple cars. None. Fortunately it’s my wife on the other side of the bet and I didn’t shake hands.
Plus I have no money. Maybe my allowance will be reduced next week?
We get everyone loaded with their backpacks. I had to put my sweatshirt back on. It is COLD!!!!! Of course, we’re in a valley between two moutain ranges. The sun hasn’t gotten high enough so we’re in shade. And I’m hungry. I want to eat, but Tia wants to get into the sun (which we can see up the road further where the valley widens. But I’m hungry!!!
We forgot film for the film camera (we have the digital). Note to self: use the checklist.
So we hike for a 1/2 mile of so until we get into the sunshine. We stop ten feet past the shade line and I open our stash. Mmmmmmm, crushed wheat bread and a warm chicken breast. At least there’s a tiny smattering of BBQ sauce that didn’t get shaken off the breast. I use my bread tongs (Tia coined that term) to scoop up my sandwich and avoid getting my hands dirty. A hike in the back woods of Colorado and I’m trying to keep my hands clean. Well, I didn’t bring wet wipes, so what should I do?
I finish eating, drinking some water and we’re off. We were feeling some tightness in our heads, so we took some Orudis (like Motrin) to ward off any altitude sickness. Boo got one as well. She wasn’t thrilled, but after Tia crammed the pill down her throat, she swallowed it without incident. We’re hiking and the directions keep mentioning turns and altitudes, like at 12,100ft we should see some sign. Hmmmm, we didn’t bring an altimeter. There’s a sign and this feels like 12,100. I’m not thrilled with these directions, but they’re better than nothing. Besides, after mentioning we should see the sign with a road to the left, it says to stay on this road. I can do that.
Another note to self: get an altimeter.
After an hour and a mile or so, we get to a place and stop. It’s a good view from here, so Tia wants to take a picture of all of us. I assume Boo’s included since she can’t hold the camera anyways. I’m looking around, but there’s no one to help. As a matter of fact, other than the guy we bounced by on the road who was coming out of his tent a couple miles ago, we haven’t seen anyone.
Luckily technology comes to the rescue. The camera has a timer, so we prop it on some rocks and try a couple pictures. I think this one to the side is the best one.
Another note to self: bring a small tripod for good pictures.
More hiking. This is pretty cool. Fresh air, it’s getting warm, so I tie my sweatshirt on my waist. Not too stressful.
But definitely work. We run into sections where we have to work up a pretty good hill. Not sure of the incline, but it’s about twenty-huffy-puffy degrees or some similar measurement. We even ran into one section where the trail seemed to end and we had to scramble on rocks, hands and feet. Luckily no knees. I was surprised, but Boo made it right up. The funny thing at this altitude is that we can walk and be really out of breath, heart pounding, blood in your ears. Then we’ll stop for a minute and be back to normal. Feeling great.
At least for the first ten steps. Then my heart starts going again. I’m not a wimp. I checked with Tia and she agreed.
The funniest part about this is that as we near the top of each little hill or ridge, Tia will inform me “it get’s easier after this”. And it does for about 30 or 40 ft. After a couple rounds of this I’m not falling for it anymore.
I take a break for some Goo and Tia takes some pictures. It is beautiful up here.
Off to the southwest, slightly to our left, there’s a pretty tall peak. I’m pretty sure Gray’s is the one to the right, but of course there’s no signs up here. We’ll assume it’s to the right. It looks taller.
We finally get to the base of the last push. I’m assuming this is the 13,100ft mark in our directions. However from here it’s a rock pile. A really, really big rock pile. Not looking fun.
We start up and 15 minutes later we’re struggling and moving on our hands and feet again. I’m amazed Boo is keeping up. I’d think these little rocks would be hurting her feet. They’re not hurting mine, but I’ve got shoes.
I’m taking notes on an audio recorder as we do this. Hopefully the sound will get up here one day.
So we’re going and I start angling to the north (right). There’s an outcropping of rock, not large, maybe 6 or 7 feet sticking out from the mountain. I end up on one side and Tia the other. I can’t see her and as I find out soon, I can’t hear her. I press one, resting for ten seconds, taking a step or two and repeating. Eventually I’m a good ways up the mountain.
At least until I look up. Then I’m not very far. After another 15 minutes, I see Tia off the the left. We’re above the outcropping, but Boo is stuck below us. She can’t climb on these rocks. We’re not doing to well. We’re trying to decide what to do, but the anxiety kicked in and Boo didn’t wait. She worked her way further south and got up above us. We cheer and press on so she won’t come down.
It’s nasty on these rocks. Some are 1 foot or more in diameter, but many are pebble sized. Which means they’re not stuck in the mountain and shift under your feet. Not much fun.
Nearly 3 hours and we’re well below the summit. But we see someone on top. Finally! Our first person. We keep pressing and reach a ridgeline. Now we’re cooking. It’s more time that we thought, but there’s a trail up here and we follow it. It’s not much more than a worn spot, not even consistent in places and I’m amazed at the human brain’s ability to discern the trail.
The top!!!! We finally get there and it is worth it!!!!! We stopped on the top and ate some sandwiches. Boo defended us successfully against a lab trying to come smell us. Or maybe beg for sandwiches. I’m sure she would have defended us better if Tia hadn’t been holding her. After not seeing anyone for 3 hours, all of a sudden there’s a dozen or so people up here and a few dogs. They came from the easy, north side. Hmmmm I think we missed something.
We had someone take a couple pictures for us, and then Tia and Boo wanted one. We couldn’t get Boo to jump up, she must have been tired. That didn’t stop Tia from lifting her.
Not much of a break, but we want to get back. After a 1/2 hour and a short, 10 minute, half hearted attempt at Torrey’s we decide to save that for another day. We head back down our cliff.
I walk ahead a little and try to find an easy path down. There isn’t one.
So we start scrambling down. It’s easy on the lungs, but hard on the ankles. Especially mine. The right one starts to hurt. My knee takes some strain as well. It’s slow going and a little hairy in places. Not really any grass anywhere, it’s all rocks downhill. We’re trying for the easy route, but there really isn’t one.
We’re mostly down from the rockpile, but a long way from the car. We press one, moving through the rocky grass, trying to avoid holes. I’m just praying neither of us sprains an ankle. That would suck!
New note to self: Bring a walking stick, just in case.
I stop a couple times and bandage some growing blisters. Eventually we see Boo limping and check her out. Her paws are bleeding a little, but we have no choice. We keep going.
Finally, we’re down to the road. Not that it’s much better, but at least it’s fairly flat. Boo is really limping at this point, so we stop to check her out. Not good. Her pads are pretty shredded and she collapses onto the ground, glad we stopped. I give up my T-shirt and we tear it into strips and bandage her feet. Since both her and I are moving slow, Tia decides to run ahead and get the car. I finish Boo up and we start going. At first it’s a struggle to get her going. She’s got no inclination to move. Finally we go about 10 feet, one bandage off. Another 10 feet and a second.
Allright. Enough’s enough. I get her to stop. I’m trying to get her to lay down and she won’t. All of a sudden she perks up and I grab her collar before she leaves. We look down the hill and Tia is back in view. After a couple minutes, I take off my sweatshirt, baring my chest for, well no one to see, but I put it down and get Boo to lay on it. I rebandage her feet and we sit there. Me next to her, fanning her with my hat and trying to relax.
15 minutes, 20 go past. We saw Tia in the distance go around the bend, where I thought the car was. 10 minutes later we’re still waiting.
Oh Sh**! I wonder if I left the lights on. All sorts of horrible scenarios go through my head. finally after another 10 minutes or so, I see a car start back up the road.
Really slowly, in fact, I’m guessing she’s moving at about 5mph. Every so often the car disappears around a bend and it’s a lllloooooonnnnnggggg time to reappear.
Finally Tia get’s up to us. I’ve watched my Trooper bounce and bend across this road and it wasn’t pretty. I lift Boo in and we start back. Tia somehow manages to make a 5 point U-ey on the edge of this hill and we slowly bounce back. I cringe everytime we scrape bottom or go over a pothole. After 20 minutes, we’ve covered the 5 miles to the road and we head back.
Ready to suck down a big diet coke and burger from that Wendy’s right over there.