Colorado 14ers Fall 2014 (Mt. Elbert and Mt. Beirstadt)

"The righteous keep moving forward..." Job 17:9

As I was making my way up and down the mountains, I crossed paths with the same type of hiker...that is...the tired one. The meetings were the same...a tired but friendly smile, a simple greeting, and a few words of encouragement. And more often than not, the exchange sounded like this,"

Us: Good Morning....
Hiker: Morning...
(eye acknowledgement of each other's toil)
Us: Slowly but surely...
(another smile)
Hiker: Yup...

Hiker: Just gotta keep moving...
Us: It's all you can do...
(nod of the head...acknowledgement for even being up there when you don't have to be)
After the intital excitement of being on the mountain...things seem to slow down and become repetitive. Look up, look down. One step after another. Stop, catch breath, sip water. Look up, look down. Every once in a while...I take a longer break to stop and enjoy. But then...its back to looking down. Amazing enough...even being in the beauty of the mountains...things become routine. For instance, my couple days in the mountain went as followed:
-alarm goes off
-wake up...tired
-get going in the dark and cold...need to warm up
-starting off day with uphill climb
-"oh wow, cool!" as the sky lights up and I get my first views around me
-still going up
-another view, take a few seconds to take things in
-continue to climb
-slowly making my way up...progress, slowly but surely...
-more headache
-pain...knee hurts, back hurts
-doubt, "Why am I doing this again?"
-delirious...I laugh, I smile, I'm pissed, I don't care, I want to talk, then I don't
-hot again
-"Sweet!, There's the close!"
-"How much longer?...I don't get it...Why aren't we closer!"
-Windchapped, windburned, sunburned...just feeling burned
-NOTHING...I'm feeling nothing. I'm thinking nothing...I'm just there.
-...wait...yup, this is great. Im having a great day.
-So close...I can see it...I can feel it...excitement brewing.
-"Man, Im so stinkin tired..."
-SUMMIT!!!!! WOOOHOOOO! Top of the world baby!
-Congratulations to all around...we did it...MILESTONES!
-" we go...back down."
-burning up
-close to camp...reflection, "it has been great! Today is great...this is awesome!"
-how far is it? "Where did we camp? This sucks...God I'm tired!"
-"Let's do it again tomorrow..."
-alarm goes off...AGAIN!
Huh? This sounds all too familiar. The more I think of it...yeah,...yup...this sounds like Mondays...and Tuesdays...and Wednes-Sundays. This sounds like everyday. To some everyday feels the same way...
-wake up...tired
-"Where are my keys?"
-good meetings, bad meetings
-policies, emails..."Oh crap...What did I forget?"
-"What's for lunch?"
-my back hurts
-"I'm tired, dont want to work out today"
-jokes, laughter, smiles
-tears, hurt, sadness
-"Who did I please...who did I hurt?"
-its a great day, a bad day...its up, its down...its black, its white...
-kids homework
-few minutes of down time with wife
-reflection..."Today's good!...been alright...girls (Hannah and Pia) are so funny!"
-back to bed
-alarm goes off...AGAIN!!!!!
I know my life is much, much more than this. There have been and are incredible moments...moments of joy, wonder, and love. Moments I cherish and adore. And there are incredible moments of anguish, hurt, and loss. Moments I crawl up and just want to cry. And its these moments...we carry with us...that we remember forever...that we call life.

However, those other moments...the everyday moments. We live those as well. And sometimes, life feels like groundhog day. What's the saying..."Same story, different day..." Yeah, the rat race of everyday. Some of us have it worse than others...but for the most part...we all experience the funk. This is the in-between stuff that we live through: Work, bills, soccer practice, obligations, responsibilities, blah, blah, blah...We all go through this...ALL THE TIME.
And unfortunately I have no answers in this post for the monotony. But I do know it makes us tired. I do know that it makes us doubt...question...and reconsider what we are doing. I do know it makes us confused...lost...and frustrated. I oftens feels like the same old...same old. And it's TIRING.

I also know that God wants you to "Give all your worries and cares to (Him), for he cares about you." 1 Peter 5:7 

Regardless of big or change or in and day out...God wants to know your burdens. All of them. There's nothing too big, too small, to mundane...He sees us. He knows. Matter of fact...this is how the conversation would go:

Random Tuesday morning

Us: Good morning.
God: Morning!
(we both pause...He sees us with a concerned smile...acknowledges our toil)
Us: Slowly but surely...
(a tired smile)
God: are.
(He sees the pain)

Us: Just gotta keep moving...
God: The Righteous do...
(God nods in admiration...acknowledges our pain, our work week, our families, our obligations...and prepares to strengthen us...then he radiantly, confidently smiles at us...)

We have no clue why He looks at us so proudly...

God: WELL DONE! Good and Faithful Servant!
Like I said...I dont have any answers for you. But I do know that God is proud of us. I know that he sees us making our way up and down this world. He sees the pain, the hurt, the hunger, and the thirst. He sees the joys, the excitement, the milestones, and the success. He sees the range of emotions...the good, the bad, and the ugly.

We just keep moving forward!!

God: It's what the Righteous do!
Trip Report
What: Mt. Elbert
Who: Aaron "Lu" Lawler, Me
When: 10/4/14
Route: East Ridge, class 1
RT mileage: 11.7 miles
Camp elevation: 9700' (0.4 miles past lower TH)
Summit 14,433' (Highest point in Colorado!)
Elevation gain: 4733'
Start: 5:20 a.m.
Summit 11:15 a.m.
(30 minutes on summit)
Back at camp: 3:20 p.m.
Time: 10 hours
My flight out of DFW airport was at 2pm...arrived in Denver at 3pm. We picked up rental and headed into the mountains. Lu and I stopped at a brewhouse in ourselves to one beer...then moved on to Mt. Elbert to make camp...
There you go. Camp. We slept out of the car for the next three nights. Once on Mt Elbert TH, Beirdstadt TH, and the best...Flying J's truck stop in East Denver amongst the truckers and their hired companions.

Mt. Elbert has two trailheads to start from. The lower TH at 9630' and the upper TH, another 1.8 miles and close to 1000' above which requires a high clearance vehicle and a legit water crossing. Lu and I rented one of those jacked up, high clearance, monster 4X4 Nissan Altimas to do the job. Unfortunately for us...we only got 0.4 miles up the road before bottoming out real bad...we pulled over and decided it was best to stop here.
We started out at 5:20 a.m....and made our way in the dark. The water crossing on the rough road up was up to low to mid calf and required us to cross carefully. We first attempted to go over the logs but they were iced over and to slippery. We chose to cross on the left side and find stones that were just barely submerged to safely cross. Honestly, I thought this was the crux of the entire day. That and fighting through the long day ahead.
Mt. Elbert is a class 1 hike. Nothing technical, nothing too difficult. Just super long. We went up the East Ridge which is 8.5 miles roundtrip from upper TH and 12.5 miles from lower TH. Our day ended up being 11.7 miles roundtrip. You are also looking at near 5000' of elevation gain from the lower TH. So be prepared for a long day on the mountain.
Mt. Elbert is the highest mountain on Colorado. It's size is also deceiving to the eye. When you see the mountain from can see the feel like is close enough. BUT ITS NOT!!! I swear there were times when I would look up...hike 10-15 minutes, look up again and feel like I have not moved on the mountain. The summit did not get closer.
As you made your way up the East Ridge line...the summit disappeared. However you did get closer looks at the Box Creek Couloirs...
and you can imagine how much fun the chutes are for a winter climb. The Box Creek Couloirs are class 3 snow climbs.
You also get a good view of the NE ridge. The NE ridge is the standard route up to the summit. Its also a class 1 hike.
There's no real crux on this route. Trail is straighforward, constant uphill hike. On this day, there was snow around 12,000'....few inches thick, but microspikes weren't needed. More than anything, we fought presistent winds. We estimated anywhere between 15-25 mph sustained winds with occasional gusts that would make you stumble (however strong that may be). Personally, my biggest battle was my psyche...I had a small tear in my Popleteus muscle behind the left knee in March, and a mild left knee sprain when I twisted it in the Chicago Basin in August. So I have a very weak left knee right now. I was slow...and lacking confidence on that leg. Every once in a while, I would feel a sharp discomfort run up my leg when I stepped on something funny...Anyways, I was discouraged...I can't get past this mental hurdle. Ok, enough with that...
We finally summited 11:15 a.m. What I was most proud of is our ability to acclimatize. Less than 24 hours before the summit...both Lu and I were back home, at 600' our work DFW. Now here we were, highest point in CO and the second highest point in the lower 48 (behind Mt. Whitney in CA). All in all...not bad.
Trip Report
What: Mt. Bierstadt
Who: Aaron "Lu" Lawler, Me
When: 10/5/14
Route: West Slopes, class 2
RT mileage: 7
Camp elevation: 11,699' (parking lot)
Summit 14,069
Elevation gain: 28750'
Start: 6:00 a.m.
Summit 8:45 a.m.
(30 minutes on summit)
Back at camp: 11:45 a.m.
Time: 5 hours 45 minutes

This map is the Bierstadt/Evans combo...We did not tag Evans. So the line on the right is the route up Biestadt.

Bierstadt is significantly shorter day than Elbert. Almonst half less. This 14er is probably one of the shortest distance 14ers to bag. Although shorter, and not as's still so worth doing. The 360 panorama is incredible and the basin below is beautiful. From the TH, you drop 100' into basin and hike across it over a mile before you start ot make your way up the moutain. It almost like this mountain gives you a warm-up to get started.
Again, there's not much to routefinding on this moutain. The trail is obvious...starts out going over the basin on wooden planks...on easy class 1 trail...then switchbacks through willows, but again...trail is wide and easy. Around 12,200' you crest over the first headwall and you get close up views of the Sawtooth, the side ridge and Bierstadt (pictured above, in that order).
Bierstadt did have more snow than Elbert. And we definitely used our microspikes on the West slope. Conditions were icy and traction made it easier to go up. There were people making there way up without traction, but it was noticebly more difficult without...but not a deal breaker. Winds were similar to Elbert on this day. However, our climb stayed in the shade until we hit the ridge above...which resulted in a really cold morning. I think bot Lu and I could not feel our fingers for a while. Another thing to note...the final pitch is longer than you might think. When you reach the thin you are close to summit. And you are...kinda. You still have another 0.25 miles and close to 250' of climbing to go on class 2 terrain. And this last pitch seemed to go on...felt like false summits after another. Bit defeating. But just keep moving.
We hung out on the summit for half an hour...views of Evans to the NE, and...
looked down Sawtooth and...made excuses to turnaround and go back. Which we did. We were done.
It was a great weekend getaway. Bagged a couple of 14ers...enjoyed the mountain air, had a few IPAs...enjoyed each other's company...complained about American Airlines...avoided Flying J prostitutes, ate a huge burger at Cherry Cricket in Denver...pumpkin lattes (Lu insisted) because it's fall and everything October in America is now pumpkin spice...and once again, enjoyed my good bud Lu's company. Everything but Lu's altitooties was a a great welcome...Now, if Beano cam make an extra strength dose for my bud...


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