That is mountains climbed!!! I have climbed 9 mountains but three of them I have stood on top of more than once! So the number changes depending on who you ask - me or Dan!!! This 4th of July I knocked Mt. Yale off my list!!! And let me tell you... that was a butt-kicker!!
We had planned to hit the trail by 5 a.m., take 4 hours to reach the summit and 2 hours to get back down. It is 8 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 4,300 feet. This would be the toughest we had ever done. We tried it about 3 years ago and reached treeline but turned back when storm approached and we were not prepared to continue. This would be a great 4th of July if we could conquer it.
We woke at 5 a.m. when the alarm wasn't heard and rushed to hit the trail by 5:20 a mile up the road! Not bad! The hike through the forest was steady, especially with several flat areas, which just told us the elevation ahead was going to get worse. (We knew already that it was over 1,000 feet of elevation gain for every mile!) But our pace up to treeline would still get us to the top in 4 hours. Once we hit treeline though, things went from steady to slow!!!
The trail was dirt and loose gravel and just went straight UP! Not many switchbacks to alleviate the incline. I was lucky if I could go 50 paces at times, much less the 200 paces Dan challenged me to before I had to rest for a minute to get my breath. The knee was not the problem, it was my beating little heart!!! Many times I wasn't so sure I was going to make it. I had touches of altitude sickness along the way. Finally we reached the boulders towards the top and we collapsed for a rest! (pic 1)
We kept plugging along though and finally 5 hours and 20 minutes after we left the parking lot we reached the summit at 14,196 feet!!! Mountain #6, Summit #9 reached!!! What an awesome feeling! What a way to spend the 4th of July!!! From the top, you could see not only the mountains in the Collegiate Range where we were, but you could see all the way to Gunnison and Crested Butte to the West! So far this was the most beautiful summit I have made! Once rested, we felt great! Boy were we in for a wicked trip down....
Yep, that loose dirt and gravel going straight down were a killer on both of us! It took a lot longer for us to get down than ever expected - about 3 .5 hours. We had to go slow because I fell 4 times in the upper section and Dan fell 3 times in the lower section. It was scary. Neither of us brought much food (we expected to be back by lunchtime) and we were weak from hunger, dehydrated and tired. Thankfully neither of us got hurt badly but we were overall just exhausted. I think the only part of my body that didn't hurt was the knee that was operated on! It was barely swollen - thank heavens!!!
This by far is one of my favorite 4th of July's EVER!!!