Quandary is a Bitch. There, I said it.

Some of us honest folk even shout it while we curse the never-ending scramble and shale of this delightful 14er.

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14er #4: Mt. Democrat for Clean Water

Last Saturday, we finished another 14er. This one was especially awesome as it completed our Colorado 54 Campaign to fund clean water solutions for families in Nicaragua.

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The DenverSpeax Team on top of Mount Democrat, Aug 2nd, 2014. Photo Credit: Steve Mercer, Aug 2014

Mount Democrat (14,148′) is considered a Class 2 (Difficult Class 2, depending on route) and links to other peaks:

Unfortunately, with 2 hours of sleep because of freezing weather (that we were ill-prepared to sleep in), we only made it to Mount Democrat. Hopefully, we can crush the other three peaks before the end of Summer 2014!

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Kirsten hiking up Democrat – Aug 2nd, 2014. Photo Credit: Steve Mercer, Aug 2014.

 

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Steve and Kirsten holding the Democrat sign at the top! Photo Credit: Jeff Doorn, Aug 2014

 

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Steve checking out the view from how far we had all come. Photo Credit: Jeff Doorn, Aug 2014

 

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Kirsten and Jeff checking out the beautiful view from the top of Mount Democrat. Photo Credit: Steve Mercer, Aug 2014

 

We had a blast, and (collectively) ended up raising over $1k+ for families in need of clean water. We’d like to thank all of our contributors from the bottom of our hearts:

Michael Moore & Shawna Jones

I GET DOWN Clothing & Apparel

Robyn Lamson

Ashley & Jason Minard

John Cooke

Jessica Finley

Phil DiTirro

Blake Forslund

Cassy Huidobro

Allie & Dan Price

Hans Smits

Jackie & Tom Lindrup

Katie Braun

Mark Lohman

Barb & George Davis

 

Please check out The Colorado 54 as well as Second Mile Water to find out ways to help & get involved.

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What 14ers or hikes are you looking at conquering before the end of summer? Can you recommend any? There are just SO MANY great ones here in our beautiful state. Also, you may have noticed that we “skipped” 14er #3… can you guess which one it was?? Updates coming soon on more hikes and awesome local places to visit in Denver.

Come hang out with us on Facebook and Twitter!

 

14er #2: Mount Bierstadt

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Trailhead sign for Mount Bierstadt. Photo Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2014.

Last Friday, a few co-workers and I received a random day off. With summer coming quickly to an end, we decided to hike Mount Bierstadt, a Class 2 difficulty, 14,060′ mountain in Colorado. This only being my second 14er, I was just as anxious as the first!

Out of the three of us who hiked, 2 of us were on our second 14er and for one of us, Bierstadt was the first. I would definitely recommend Bierstadt for first-time 14ers for a few reasons: 1) lower class of difficulty, 2) no incredibly steep inclines, 3) the trail is clearly defined and consists of wooden planking (beginning), dirt, and boulders – you get a taste of everything! 4) if you can park in, or close to, the parking lot at the trailhead, it is only about a 7.5 round trip. For directions to Bierstadt, click here.

 

Luckily, the weather last Friday was incredible! We had a few scary clouds once we hit summit, but no rain or hail the entire afternoon. Amazing, right?! It was nice to hike on a Friday and beat the weekend crowds also – if you have the chance to go on a weekday, take it!

 

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A hidden lake during mile 1 of Bierstadt. Photo Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2014

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Sunshine and a two-track trail – how beautiful is that view?! Photo Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2014

 

We began hiking the trail at about 7 am and made our way across the two-track path; wooden decking also consumed a portion of the trail early on in the first mile, leading us over marshy land and through tall grass.

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Beautiful meadows and wildlife. Photo Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2014

 

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Beautiful meadows and wildlife. Photo Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2014

 

The views of the valleys  and meadows were breath-taking. Beautiful wildflowers are present along the majority of the trail until about the 3rd mile (guess-timate). Marmots and little chipmunks were everywhere! It was really fun to see wildlife in addition to the beautiful plant life on our hike this time.

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Check out how far we’d come! Looking back at the trailhead below somewhere between mile 2 and 3. Photo Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2014

 

Although the trail is pretty tame, the last mile or two are definitely more rough. The higher up, the rockier it gets!

 

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View from somewhere around mile 3. Photo Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2014

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Rough terrain in the last mile. Photo Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2014

Check out the sweet “Stairway to Heaven” pic from summit:

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Cassy summitting Bierstadt. Photo Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2014

 

The views from the top were incredible, but with the clouds rolling in we were only able to stay up there for about 10 minutes.

 

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View from the top of Mount Bierdstadt. Photo Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2014

Just enough time to get a picture with the conveniently placed, home-made signs that are waiting for you at the top!

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Kirsten at the top of Mount Bierstadt. Photo Credit: Cassy H., July 2014

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Lonely backpack at the top. Photo Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2014

Something we need to mention – 14ers are hard. They truly test your physical and mental abilities to the max. When I hear people say “It’s an easy 14er” or, “Hey, that one’s an easy one!”, it annoys us as this is not necessarily true for you and your abilities. Know your limits. Yes, the 14ers are classified, and this is a good guide in order to pick out which mountains to start on and which mountains will be more challenging than others; however there are no “easy 14ers”.

Research your mountain before you go – 14ers.com is an amazing site with a TON of information including classifications, directions, trailheads, and pictures. Figure out which mountain is going to be right for your skill level. There are 54 to choose from! We definitely recommend Bierstadt as a first-time 14er, but remember that it is still a physical feat to accomplish! There’s no doubt in our mind that you can do it. 🙂

Have any questions or want to accompany DenverSpeax on an upcoming 14er? Comment below, or email us at denverspeax@gmail.com.

 

 

14er #1: Grays Peak

On Saturday, Jeff, Ashley, and I (Kirsten) set out at 5 am to conquer Grays Peak in Arapaho National Park, an 8 mile trail round trip. The peak sits at 14,278 vertical feet, atop multiple, winding switchbacks and rocky trails. The scenery is beautiful, and ended up being perfect for Ashley and I’s first “14er”. Luckily, we had Jeff there for support – this was his 3rd 14er since moving to Colorado one year ago!

Early Morning Set clouds

The morning sky, 2 miles away from the trailhead. Photo Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2014

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The beginning of the trail. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2014

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Looking back on how far we’d come. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2014

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The rocky trail ahead. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2014

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Making our way along the trail which is 8 miles long. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2014

 

Grays Peak is ranked 9th of the 54 Colorado 14ers, and is considered a Class 1 difficulty. This is a great peak for beginners with an extra challenge (if you’re up for it) with Torrey’s being the neighboring peak. From the top of Grays, you can slide on down and back up to Torreys to hit two peaks in one afternoon- both are “14ers” as both peaks are above 14,000 vertical feet. Because of the weather, we did not make it to Torreys, but look forward to going back and trying it before the end of summer!

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Lemoore Effect on our beautiful view while hiking. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2014

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The ridge to Torrey’s – we will be back for that one soon! Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2014

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Holding the sign for my first 14er. Credit: Ashley or Jeff must’ve taken this picture – July 2014

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Ashley holding the sign for her first 14er! Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2014

Jeff Sign Raise

Jeff holding up the sign of his 3rd 14er completed. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2014

Rockpile at the top

The beautiful view from 14,278 feet. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2014

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Our reward for completing the 14er – this amazing view. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2014

What I learned on my first 14er:

  1. Start earlier so that more breaks can be taken, and more time can be spent at the top! It’s important to check out the weather conditions before going, and make sure to pay attention to the clouds while on the hike. Listen to what the weather is telling you!
  2. Bring two liters of water, minimum. Staying hydrated is going to battle the altitude sickness that many experience while climbing and hiking 14ers. Gaining 4,000 feet in the span of a few hours can be rough on the body – treat it well!
  3. Buy and bring poles. Not only will you burn more calories, you will also see less harsh impact on your bones and joints. Jeff let me borrow his the entire hike, which was a life saver!
  4. Dress in layers. I went with long-legged, thick yoga pants, a tank top, a short-sleeved shirt, a hoodie, and a light rain coat. I also had an extra long-sleeved shirt in my backpack just in case! If you’re too warm, take it off and stuff it in your backpack. Too cold? Bundle up. At that high of altitude, the weather changes quickly and often.
  5. SUNSCREEN, SUNSCREEN, SUNSCREEN. Protect your skin with sunscreen as there isn’t shade past the treeline. Set an alarm on your phone for every 30 minutes to lather up again. Don’t forget your scalp and ears – my scalp hates me right now as I type this.
  6. FOOD: Bring at least a salty snack and a carb snack. As you slam those 2 whole liters of water, the salt in your body needs to be replenished. I brought Gardetto’s and ended up eating half of the bag. I also brought some dried cranberry trail mix with seeds and yogurt raisins mixed. Lastly, I brought a few Cliff Bars to regenerate with. A lot of hikers on the trail brought sandwiches and ate them at the top. I saw a few with some fine Colorado Craft brews also!
  7. Slow and steady wins the race. Know your limits and know your pace – it’s okay to take more breaks, just make sure the weather is permitting and you have time to do so. Don’t overdo it and hurt yourself- that’s silly. You can count your steps to decide how often to break and keep yourself on pace. For example, I would count 60 steps and see if I needed a 10 second break; if I didn’t need a break after 60 steps, I would count 60 more and again gauge where I was.

 

In two weeks, we are looking forward to conquering Mt. Elbert for Steve’s first 14er. This is also in preparation for the Colorado 54 event for Clean Water where we will ascend Mount Democrat and hopefully 3 other neighboring peaks! The rush you feel when completing something this strenuous is amazing, and incredibly addicting.

Climbing Grays Peak was the hardest thing I’ve ever physically done to my body. I have been told that there are no actual “EASY” 14ers. Many websites and personalities will rank them, but because of the stress level that you are causing your body, it’s important to be safe and research before you go: research the hike, good shoes, the weather, poles, timing of sunrise and sunset, etc. Also make sure you go with someone, or in a group. If this isn’t possible, take a screenshot of the map you followed in on your phone and send it to someone. Hiking in general can be dangerous – imagine the possibilities at 13,000 feet with no support and terrible weather!

Check out rankings and tons of other helpful information about 14ers here.

For great gear at sweet prices, we use either Amazon or The Clymb.

 

Windy Saddle Park & Lookout Mountain

As part of the June Hike Challenge, we’ve been scouring the area for hikes that are both challenging and beautiful. Windy Saddle is a part of the Jefferson County in Lookout Mountain. It takes about 35 minutes to get there from downtown Denver after rush hour has past (this is when we went for cooler temperatures, and great sunset shots!).

Also connecting with Windy Saddle is Buffalo Bill Trail as well as Lookout Mountain Trail. The park provides hikes of all skill levels, and includes some pretty spectacular views at approximately 7200 feet. Here are some of our favorite shots from the few times we’ve visited Windy Saddle in the last 2 weeks:

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Looking down at how far we had come. Photo Credit: Kirsten Ebey, June 2014.

 

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Exploring Windy Saddle Park. Photo Credit: Kirsten Ebey, June 2014.

Try taking different trails and paths for different perspectives and views. Also, give your body a great workout by stepping it up to trail running.

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Check out this cool mule deer that was hanging out by the Windy Saddle Park parking lot. Photo Credit: Kirsten Ebey, June 2014

The wildlife and plantlife are aplenty! We saw this mule deer leaving the park one night after a 3 mile loop. Wildflowers have bloomed all over the trails in an array of colors.

Make sure you know ahead of time when the sun will be setting; make smart decisions, regardless of your skill level. We made sure we were in the parking lot or extremely close for each sunset. Here are our favorite shots of the beautiful sunsets from Windy Saddle Park:

 

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Lookout Mountain Sunset. Photo Credit: Kirsten Ebey, June 2014

 

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Lookout Mountain Sunset. Photo Credit: Kirsten Ebey, June 2014

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Lookout Mountain Sunset. Photo Credit: Kirsten Ebey, June 2014

 

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Lookout Mountain Sunset. Photo Credit: Kirsten Ebey, June 2014

 

For more great photos, check out DenverSpeax on Instagram & Facebook. Happy trails, friends.