When checking out our planned Colorado hike the night before it was to take place, we had driven past another trail head, Guanella Pass, several miles from our campground. Once we had determined the hike we had planned was not possible due to the construction that would prevent us from making a timely start, we headed back to check out this option. The Guanella Pass Trail accessed a climb to another 14,000 foot peak: Mt. Bierstadt. While this is a less spectacular peak, barely a 14’er at a mere 14,060 feet, and a single summit, rather than a pair, we decided to shelve our plans for Gray’s and Torrey’s and settle for Bierstadt due to the circumstances beyond our control and that we could not have been aware of when planning our trip from the comfort of our home.
Thankfully I had remembered to pack our guide to the fourteeners, Colorado’s Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs, by Gerry Roach, before leaving on our trip. We had downloaded much information about our intended hike from the internet but nothing about any other peaks. We were now able to read up on Mt. Bierstadt and the description of the hike and determined this was a possibility for us.
This was the second major change in plans we had been required to make on this trip; a fact that was making me a bit uneasy and left me wondering what else might need to change. However, many years of road trips have taught us that, in spite of the best-laid plans, we needed to stay aware and re-evaluate our plans when circumstances warranted it rather than taking foolish and unnecessary chances. Therefore, Bierstadt it would be.
There was also a slight opportunity to do a second peak as well, as Mt. Evans, 14,264 feet, considered the “parent” peak of Mt. Bierstadt, was close enough to access via a rocky “path” about a half mile long for the not-too-faint-of-heart. While Ryan was disappointed about the change to Bierstadt, he was excited about this possibility of the dual and more challenging climb. I, however, was quite intimidated by both the photos of the link between the two peaks and the trip descriptions I managed to locate in the guidebook. I remember thinking as we set out that I may just let the guys go on alone for that portion if they were determined to do so and I would head back down on my own, but still remained a bit open to the possibility that the descriptions were over-rated. We would see.
We relaxed a bit, reading descriptions of the Mt. Bierstadt hike from our guidebook, before turning in early. We planned to rise before the sun to make our way to our new trail head destination, now a mere three miles away. It is 6:36 am the next morning that we leave our campsite, arriving at the Guanella Pass trail head via the bumpy road less than 20 minutes later.
We use the facilities at the trail head in preparation for the hike. Luckily, previous experience had helped me to remember to bring along toilet paper, which we were only to happy to share with other hikers in need. At 7:10 we begin our climb, pleased with our timing. We are also in good company as many other eager and hearty souls are joining us on this journey. It is 55 degrees as we leave the trail head.
To read more about camping areas in Colorado, browse Woodall’s listings of Colorado camping.