Best taper ever.

My taper this week has consisted of running Chimney Gulch past the top of Lookout, time trialing Lookout on my bike, and hiking a 14er.  Sometimes being unconstrained by a training plan is more fun!  Although, I’m not sure this counts as resting… more on that later.

We decided it was time for an adventure in the mountains, and, inspired by a trip report from some CSM students who did a sunrise hike of Mt. Bierstadt and were back in time for class at 9AM, we decided to do a sunrise Bierstadt hike as well.  Here’s the difference between Caltech and CSM: we emailed 6 people about this trip (4 grad students, plus me and Toberer), and every single one of them said yes.  And they all actually showed up.  We decided to leave Friday night and camp near the trailhead to minimize the getting up early (stay tuned to find out how this bites me in the ass), and also because it’s more fun that way, but after exploring the available camp sites along the road, we discovered a very stoned group of people with a very, very large campfire surrounded by chopped down wood and forest.  Since we currently have a state-wide fire ban, an enormous wildfire that is still uncontained near Fort Collins, about six other fires across the state, and are in the middle of a record-breaking heat wave as well as a very low snowpack year, it seemed like a good idea to get above treeline.  So we decided to hike in a bit and then camp.  No one had exactly brought backpacking gear (Lauren only had a small day pack, and we brought our ginormous car-camping tent because we had both dogs, and no bear barrels), but that’s OK, we wanted to turn Colorado’s second-easiest 14er into an adventure.

As we hiked in, we saw a dark spot in the distance and debated whether it was a bear, deer, elk, or moose.  As we came close, it definitely took on a moose shape.  While I was relieved it wasn’t a bear, moose are actually more dangerous.  Luckily, it was not mating season, and it seemed pretty relaxed as we approached.  As we got closer, we realized there were actually two moose. They didn’t seem to care at all that we were there, so it was pretty cool.

We continued to hike up through sunset and in the dark for a while until we found a nice flat spot to camp, about 2 miles in and at 12,400 ft.  Anders and Gaute, being crazy Europeans, decided to hike all the way to the top and camp there, but being the practical person I am, I wanted to camp lower, where is should be less windy, warmer, and I’d be able to sleep better because of the lower altitude.  Lauren and Mike were going to sleep out, and Toberer and I would sleep in the tent with the dogs.  It quickly got colder, and since Lauren hadn’t packed the warmest clothes or sleeping bag, they joined us in the tent.  Then it got windy, and Toberer and Mike moved back out where they wouldn’t have to be subjected to the loud flapping of the car-camping tent all night.  That was smart, as it turned out, because the wind picked up more and more throughout the night, causing the tent to collapse on us completely about every 30 seconds.  I spent most of the night trying desperately to hold the tent up and at least keep it off of my face and Chester and Boris’s faces, but it turns out I only have two arms so that’s pretty hard.  Lauren somehow slept through this.  The dogs, however, were not happy about it, and alternated between pacing around looking confused and cuddling up underneath me for protection.  Chester actually tried to bite the tent at one point.  Around 2AM, I took them for a walk because I was bored, and the stars were amazing.  We stayed out there, wandering around, until Chester and I got too cold and were willing to go back in.  I’m pretty sure Boris could have slept out all night, but I didn’t trust him not to wander off, so we all went back in and continued our collapsing tent dance until our alarms went off at 3:30 and it was time to hike.  It turns out it’s much easier to get up for an alpine start if you haven’t actually been asleep.

We hiked up in the dark, which soon became a faint alpenglow, making our headlamps unnecessary.  The remainder of the hike (another two miles or less, and about 1500 ft of gain) was much steeper, as whoever built the trail apparently does not believe in switchbacks.  The boys quickly made their way up the mountain, while Lauren and I, feeling the altitude a bit more, stopped frequently to pant.  We agreed that 13,000 ft is fine, but above that is painful, and maybe we should do 13ers from now on.  We got to the top and met the Euros for sunrise, Lauren, Anders, and I huddling in sleeping bags for warmth.  It was strange to be that cold, only a few hours from home, where we knew it would be back to >100º weather when we got back.

 At the top, Gaute reminded us that’s it was a Scandinavian holiday- Midsummer.  He had packed in a bottle of Aquavit all the way from Norway, which he shared for some sunrise shots.  Luckily, I was feeling enough altitude sickness that I had no desire to partake in the early morning drinking.

Or the summit cake, sadly.

We enjoyed some nice light over the mountains on the way down, and by the time we got back to camp to take the tent down, it was downright nice out and I could even eat a little bit.

But like any good adventure, this one ended with a trip to the emergency room.  We made it almost all the way down the mountain, and were hiking in the daylight for once, and just had one final stream crossing before reaching the car.  Anders slipped on a rock and turned his ankle, which immediately swelled up hugely and was really painful.  He managed to use some trekking poles as crutches and hike the remaining mile or so unassisted, so that was hardcore.  It’s apparently just a bad sprain, nothing broken, but probably not how he wanted to spend his remaining month in the U.S., especially with no car.  Hopefully it was worth it!

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