Camping at 11,000 feet was amazing. We enjoyed hot chocolate and the sharp scent of pine before we settled into our sleeping bags to rise at 3AM. On the advice of a nutritionist, we ate hard-boiled eggs, bread and jelly(okay, the jelly was our idea) and headed up to the trailhead at the top of Guanella Pass. Leaving the 95 degree days on the plains, it never occurred to me to bring anything long sleeved-luckily, Elaine and I had a role-reversal moment as she’d packed extras just like I used to do on pack trips. She also had a head lamp, because, it is pitch dark with no moon on a trail at 4AM.
I know we were hiking through willows, sometimes on dirt/mud and sometimes on
board walks, but all I could see were Elaine’s heels. I had to concentrate on them in order to see the next step or rock. It was quiet. We could tell there were a couple of people ahead of us because we could see their headlamps glowing higher up on the trail.
By pre-dawn, we’d come to the steepest part of the trail and had to take short stops to steady our breathing. The landscape around us began to come into focus and we could see the outline of The Sawtooth ridge we planned to scramble across from Bierstadt to Evans. I glanced up at it, but preferred to concentrate on the first task, the 14,000 plus feet of Mount Bierstadt.
When we came to the boulder field in the homestretch, three mountain goats were just above us ambling along and gazing down at us poor oxygen deprived bipeds. They didn’t gloat, just stood there shedding great sheets of fur and watching us. We clambered our way over and around rocks and boulders to finally reach the summit about 7:30. The whole world was spilled out before us as we sat and shivered in the 34 degrees and made ourselves eat our peanut butter sandwiches for energy.
Breathtaking, rugged beauty surrounded us and the few other people who’d ventured up so early. One couple was getting ready to “do The Sawtooth” over to Evans and we discussed strategy with them. However, looking down at what we had to do to get over to Evans, was intimidating to both of us. The only way I’d be able to do it would be to follow Elaine and keep her boots only in my vision because I suffer from terrible vertigo when vast fields of nothing come into my vision.
In the end, we decided together that going back down the trail we came up would be the safest decision and we’d still have eight miles under our belts and a fourteener to boot. The day was hard in the best possible way and full of the blessings that come from close friendship, and a Salted Nut Roll Fairy.