There are no easy fourteeners

August 21, 2012 § 1 Comment

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My parents have recently retired to Colorado, which makes for a great hiking opportunity each time I visit.  My father (Steve) and I climbed Quandary Peak, at 14,265 feet.  Hiking guides call Quandary an “easy” fourteener, but as the title implies, and a trail sign implored, “there are no easy fourteeners.”

The trail begins with a moderate climb through sub-alpine spruce forest, with a comfortable dirt trail.  At this point, I asked to try my dad’s new trekking poles, but when I adjusted them, a hinge pin fell into the grass, not to be recovered.  My dad – MacGuyver – had a paper clip in his backpack, which we used to replace the hinge pin.  This has only reinforced his pack-rat tendencies!  Once you break above tree-line (roughly 11,700 ft.), the trail immediately gets rocky.  On the way up, I didn’t notice how rocky it was… hiking back down was another story.

There is a lengthy shoulder before climbing the peak.  As the air thinned, I quickly developed a migraine headache, for which my prescription Imitrex did very little.  There was a family of mountain goats hanging out near the trail, very photogenic.  They seemed accustomed to humans, which seemed surreal to me… I’ve always been taught to give wild animals a wide berth.

I reached the summit, and spent nearly 45 minutes there… probably way too long.  I ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich, which didn’t sit well with the migraine-induced nausea.  Until I reached tree-line on the way down, I didn’t feel well, and wasn’t able to eat.  Finally, my headache eased up and when I reached the car, where I enjoyed the best Shasta lemon-lime soda that I have ever had.

So why all this headache misery to achieve a peak over 14,000 feet?  One hell of a climb.  I have never been up so high, and the view was spectacular.  Next time I climb up this high, I will have to acclimatize a little more before hand.  But this was a great way to see some of the beauty of Colorado’s interior high points.

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