Rocky Mountain Front Range, CO: Mt Bierstadt Hike (and big news!)

The main thing we had on our to-do list for our Colorado trip was to hike some fourteeners. When we bought our plane tickets a few months ago, we weren't concerned about the weather or that there would be too much snow on the ground to go hiking. We had been to Colorado previously around the same time in May and hadn't seen any snow. (Eric had actually hiked a couple 14ers back in 2009 and the weather and snow situation had both been fine.) But that's what we get for going to Colorado in mid-to-late May and making assumptions -- it had snowed in Denver just the week before we were due out there, and the roads were all still being cleared to the trailheads in the mountains. So around 6am on May 22nd, we found ourselves looking at a roadblock still almost 2.5 miles from our trailhead.


We had decided to hike Mt Bierstadt for our anniversary ("official" 4 year anniversary, although we've been dating about 7 months longer than that), about an hour and a half west of Denver, because we wanted a doable 14er for our trip. Bierstadt is the "easiest" 14er to do in summer, but was pretty darn hard to do in winter. You'll see what I mean later. In the picture below, Bierstadt is the one on the right, then in the middle is the Sawtooth, then the one on the left next to the Sawtooth is Mt Evans. (Mt Evans has a road you can drive to, when it is not closed for winter.) Eric's friend Bryan, who we were staying with in Denver, took the day off to come hike this with us. So anytime you see both Eric and I in a photo, it's because Bryan was awesome and took it.



We parked at a parking lot next to the closed road (a parking lot for a different trailhead), and set out on our road around 6:20am. You can see it was perfectly clear. There was a little ice as we got further up since it was a cold morning, but otherwise...plowed and ready to go. I guess we just needed a warm up :)


We made it to our trailhead around 7am. The bathrooms were unlocked but were (literally, all the way to the back) completely full of snow. Next winter they should probably lock them because that might not melt before then.


We started on our path through what is called the willows. In summer, this would be a nice dirt path with some bushes by the trail. In winter, it was four-foot deep snow that we post-holed through for 3 miles. At this point we all thought we were kind of crazy (read: I was already exhausted), but wanted to press on. I had never done a 14er before and I really wanted to get to the summit.


I spent a lot of time in the snow. I had my GoPro strapped to my chest taking a photo every minute, and there are several photos staring at the snow while I try to get up :) At one point I got completely stuck and Eric and Bryan had to come dig me out.




Eventually, somehow, we made it out of the willows and began our 3,000 vertical ascent to the summit. It was beautiful.








6 hours later, we made it to the top! We summitted at 12:05pm, just in time. Some massive black clouds had been threatening us for almost an hour (see the photo 3 up to see just how dark they were) but had held off their wrath. I was so tired on the way up and moving very slowly. At some point about 20 minutes from the top Eric encouraged me to keep moving without stopping, and even took my bag and poles so I could get up easier. (How sweet, right? He was worried we wouldn't make it because of the impending storm.) Here's Eric holding the canister that tells you you've reached the top. Bierstadt is at 14,060 feet.



Once at the top, Eric asked me to take a 360 degree video with narration of the top of the mountain. So here I am exhaustedly fiddling with the GoPro, trying to change the dead battery so I can take video.


Eric had other plans for our time at the top. I was completely clueless of his actions while I took video of our surroundings.


Bryan is a pretty great friend for doing this hike and capturing all of these photos. It means so much to me to have these! Eric had told him before we got to the trailhead what his plans were, and asked Bryan to take photos.


My reaction included a very loud yes, a lot of crying, and maybe a swear word. All of it is on video because Eric is brilliant. I was not expecting it and was in shock :)


It was the most perfect proposal imaginable...


...on our anniversary on top of the world!



We spent just a few surreal minutes at the top before needing to head back down (those storm clouds looked really bad). Luckily we could get down the mountain a lot faster, thanks to the snow and steepness. We went glisading for quite a bit of the way down (it was the best thing ever, and it was good that I was sitting down because every so often I would think, "We're engaged!" and my knees would think about giving out).


The trip back down the mountain looked a lot like the trip up, until about halfway through the willows. Those storm clouds turned out to be a blizzard instead of a thunderstorm! (The snow was preferable, so we lucked out that way.) Eric borrowed Bryan's snowshoes to tramp down snow through the willows for the two of us to climb through. Usually, the snow gets softer as the day goes on since the sun warms it up. In our case, the day got colder, so we wound up with a slightly easier time getting back out to the trailhead.



Unfortunately for us, getting to the trailhead wasn't the end of our journey, and we still had to get back to the car 2.5 miles down the plowed road :) The snow stopped about halfway there. It was much easier to get back since it was all downhill and blessedly flat (no more post-holing). It took us about 4 hours to get back to the car from the summit, and we arrived around 4:30pm.


Hiking my first fourteener was the best hike of my life, despite all the crazy weather, post-holing for around 6 miles, and how extremely tired it made me. Eric made the whole thing 1000000% worthwhile :) Our total hike was around 13 miles total and about 10 hours total hike time. It was awesome!

We didn't do another 14er while we were out there. For one, the weather failed to cooperate (lots of tornadoes and hail and mountain snow) and there weren't any other 14ers that seemed feasible. And for two, how can you beat a ring at the top?! We did the important one and have a fantastic engagement story out of it (and pictures and video!). Thank you for such an amazing proposal, Eric. I love you!


Rocky Mountain Front Range, CO: Mt Bierstadt Hike (and big news!) Rocky Mountain Front Range, CO: Mt Bierstadt Hike (and big news!) Reviewed by Maria on 3:00:00 PM Rating: 5

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