Hitting our Stride – Week 4

14ers this Summer: 22 peaks
Miles this Summer: 167 miles
Elevation Gained this Summer: 67,000 ft

After the Wilson group, we headed to Lake City to climb the 5 peaks nearby.  We knew we had a long 3-day break with family (and a room in a hotel!) to look forward to afterwards, but we needed to finish the week strong to stay on schedule.

We started with Redcloud and Sunshine, which are two nondescript peaks whose only notable feature is that the pile of rocks that they are happen to rise above 14,000 feet.  We made quick work of the loop, fully appreciating an ‘easy’ walk-up (Class 1) trail.  We had been getting behind on sleep the past couple of days, so that afternoon back at the car we took advantage of rain storms by taking full 2-hour naps!

The next morning we climbed picturesque Handies Peak.  The lush green valleys leading up to the ridges are quite a sight to see.  We saw our first Ptarmigan of the summer on our way up.  The summit came quickly, but it was a cold and cloudy morning with 20 mph winds, so we didn’t stay long.  That afternoon we drove back to Lake City, ate a big lunch at a restaurant, then drove up to the Uncompahgre Pk trailhead.  It rained off and on that afternoon as well, so we deeded the best course of action was to take naps again!

We woke up the next morning at 5:45 to a cold and drizzly morning, and let me tell you: it is hard to get out of the car in the morning when all you have to look forward to is hiking in the cold rain.  I (James) was leaning towards taking a day off, but Kirsten was rightfully optimistic that the morning drizzle would clear and wouldn’t be a lightning risk for several hours.  On the way up, at around 12,500 feet, we heard what sounded from a distance like a large crowd of people.  We rounded a corner and came upon a huge herd of sheep.  Scattered throughout the herd of dirty-white sheep, were several bright-white sheep dogs; the dogs were doing their job of blending in and keeping a sharp eye on us as we walked the trail that lead straight through the herd.  The clouds were low, and from about 13,000 feet on, we walking through them, the water vapor condensing on us as we passed through it.  Just as we reached the summit — Colorado’s 6th highest — the clouds broke apart, unveiling a clear blue sky and some of the most beautiful views offered on any 14er.  On the way down, we came across the sheep herder on horseback with his Border Collie, Anna, who was following his every command.  Since we enjoyed our lunch so much the day before, once we got back to the car, we headed back to Lake City to the same restaurant before driving up to the Wetterhorn Pk trailhead.  This afternoon it didn’t rain, but we continued our streak of naps to three, convincing ourselves that we were preparing for the siestas of South America!

We got up the next morning and made the trek up to the base of Wetterhorn, passing through the same herd of sheep, which had been herded two valleys west since the previous day.  Wetterhorn was a return to Class 3 climbing, with a steep pitch necessary to gain the summit.  The rock was solid and we made it up quickly.  After safely descending the Class 3 pitch, we enjoyed in the feeling of having completed 5 peaks in 4 days and having nothing on the agenda but rest and time with Kirsten’s family in Farmington, NM.

Our weekend with the family was great — we were spoiled by Kirsten’s parents, who used their Marriott points to put us and Kirsten’s brother, Konrad, in a hotel for a few nights. With hot showers, a pool, and free breakfast, we felt like we were living the life of luxury. It was great to see the extended family.

James

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