I conquered my second 14er last Tuesday: Mt. Bierstadt, the mountain that conquered me this past January. I went up maybe a third of the way with Courtney Schaffer and a few other friends, but the snow, cold, and need to slog through two miles of fresh powder along what, in summer, is just the road up to the parking area, made things a little hairy.

When it’s not freezing cold and snowy as hell, Bierstadt is no big deal:

Bierstadt is the mountain on the right. If you click on that picture you can see a little protuberance on the left-ish side of that big round mountain; that’s the summit. It’s a short hike (maybe 7 miles round-trip), and it’s essential in the summer to get up early to do it. Bierstadt’s closeness to Denver and relative ease makes it very popular, and the threat of thunderstorms in the summer means it’s much safer to start early. My hiking partner Jesse and I met up at four thirty A.M. and hit the trail at six thirty. We were not the first up there by any means.

To hike Bierstadt, you go through that valley on a series of bridges over the marshland, then wind up the ridge that’s in the sunlight in that picture. After that you head up up up but the ascent is never particularly dramatic. You do, however, reach one heck of a false summit:

Neither of those bumps is the top. Bwahaha!

Still, the absence of any hard or technical climbing to the summit makes it a breeze to get up that final ascent. You just kind of find patches of dirt and stable rocks to mountain-goat/scrabble up the whole way. I managed it easily in my Vibrams (the hiking kind).

Then you’re at the top! Someone had brought a poster to document their trip, and were passing it around:

Here’s the view from the top of where we’d come from. If you look to the right of the lake you can see a little loop of road. That’s the parking lot!

The back of Bierstadt:

Epic, amiright? That’s why people do 14ers if they’re not into the machismo aspect of the sport.

So then you go back down. No big deal, right? Well, it wouldn’t have been except that I misstepped and sprained my friggin’ ankle about a quarter of the way down. Well, I think I sprained it; it might be a bone bruise. Whatever it is, it’s still hurting. Whatever, anyways, the injury meant I had to hike about three miles back to the car. Here’s about where I sprained it:

That looks far, but it’s really just off the summit. 14ering makes for weird perspective.

The injury was not comfortable, and yet … it’s kind of awesome knowing the amount of pain I can endure and still get myself to safety, if things ever got really real on a hike. It was a hell of a lot easier with Jesse’s help though, mad props to him for tolerantly inching his way down the mountain with me in my hobbled state.

I’m off to Florida, and sea-level tomorrow, where I will continue rehabilitating my ankle!