Until a few days ago, I had never hiked a fourteener. Just a few months ago, I didn’t even know what that word meant. But as of three days ago, I can officially say that I have hiked Bierstadt Mountain, a peak of 14,065 feet located in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.
The hike was about three miles to the summit, a trek that does not seem like it would be too much of a hardship. However, the altitude and rocky terrain changed the game quite drastically.
After taking my first steps on the trail, the only thing I could pay attention to was the beauty that surrounded me, although I was slightly concerned by the fact that I had only taken two steps and could already feel the lack of oxygen. Breathing was not important though because I was standing in the middle of a vast field of greenery and life, staring up at the snow-capped, rocky peak of Bierstadt.
Not one mile into the hike, I began to notice the surrounding vegetation thinning. Snow was now covering the ground all around me, the temperature was dropping and the top was getting closer and closer. Despite the fact that I was feeling a noticeable change in heart rate, my only real focus was conquering the mountain.
Once I reached the final stretch, it turned from a hike into more of a climb on the ridge of Bierstadt. There was no longer a designated trail, large rocks peeked out from the snow and it was everyone for their own. A fellow hiker even commented on the treachery of the terrain saying “it’s safety first, then teamwork.” And he was right. At this point, the only logical thing to do was to keep moving forward and try not to fall.
Finally, after nearly three hours of hiking, I reached the top. I had never seen a view like that, nor had my hands ever been so cold because of snow in the middle of August, but everything that I was seeing and feeling added to what I consider to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I could not breathe, but I felt invincible.
I never imagined that I would ever stand on top of a mountain that high, knowing that I got there on my own two feet. After having done it once, I would do it all a million times over. While I can not say that I will conquer all 58 fourteeners in the state of Colorado, I do know that many more of them will see my footprints in the future.