Next weekend, I take the plunge...or, to be more appropriate, the climb. I am climbing one of Colorado's 53 mountains that have a summit of over 14,000 feet, Mt. Bierstadt. It is one of the "easier" mountains to hike, or so they tell me. There is a significant amount of snow on the ground, which means climbing this mountain in mid March is waaaay different than climbing it in July.
I am taking the hike with several experienced winter hikers - that is a good thing. They have already suggested what to wear, what to bring, and what to expect when climbing in the winter. But it's also intimidating, since they are going to have to look out for me as I trudge up the mountain.
I am doing my best to train my body for the 10/11-mile round-trip hike that I'm going to endure. I'm breaking in my new boots. I'm going on the treadmill and walking with a steep grade. I'm expanding my regular walks. I'm also investing in some new clothing that is non-cotton, breathable, and sweat-wicking while still keeping me warm as I go higher and higher. At this point, Denver is supposed to be 67 degrees on Saturday, but Georgetown (near Bierstadt) is forecasted at 54, and the summit would be far colder.
I am starting to realize that living in this state requires a lot of equipment. If I want to hike, I need boots, layers of clothes, water, food, hiking sticks?, sunscreen, hat, gloves, with possible spikes, Yaktrax (look it up), or snowshoes. Plus a bunch more. Hopefully I'll have enough room to pack a camera to take some good pictures.
I believe I am more nervous because my last hike up a mountain wasn't the greatest experience of my life. Four and a half years ago, I was teaching in China and took a fall trip with some fellow teachers to Xi'an. One day we took a train to Huayin and climbed Mt. Hua, one of the Five Great Mountains in China. I was probably the most out of shape I'd been in my life, and hadn't done any training beforehand. There was the promise of a gondola ride down from the East Peak back down to the city, but that didn't happen. We didn't even reach the very peak. Old ladies in heels were climbing better than I was. So the whole experience was exhausting and pretty negative. Plus the elevation of the East Peak was only 6877 ft.
I am hoping that my climb next week will leave a better taste of mountain hiking in my mouth. I would like to climb many more fourteeners in the future - and completing this hike in the winter would make me feel like I could climb anything!
Once I have tried the hike, I'll be sure to post my hike report, regardless of whether or not I make it to the top.