Friday, August 13, 2010

Mount Evans 2010-08-13

Although about a half-continent away from the Adirondacks, and I didn't even hike it, here are a few thoughts and photos of my recent trip to Mount Evans in Colorado.

Last week, August 9-13, I was in Denver on a business trip. Although I packed some gear, time constraints prevented me from hiking in the Rockies. However, on the final day, my colleague and I had a few spare hours and we drove to the 14,000 foot summit of Mount Evans

Topo Map

Up to that point, the highest altitude I ever experienced was atop the Aiguille du Midi near Chamonix in 1986 (3842m/12604ft). I didn't climb that either; I ascended via the awesome Téléphérique. Mount Evans offered me the chance to easily experience a higher elevation.

The town of Idaho Springs is a short drive west of Denver and that's where route 103 leads to Arapahoe National Forest and route 5, the road to Mounts Evans. After paying a ten dollar entrance fee (per carload), we noted the sign indicating the summit temperature is 39 F and 20 F with the windchill. It was 90 F in Denver. The paved road winds through beautiful stands of tall conifers. The first views of the forested valleys are spectacular and only get better as you ascend.

As we approached the treeline, we entered into rain clouds and lightning. As we passed Summit Lake, the rain turned to slush on the windshield and it didn't look promising for views from the summit. Fortunately, the clouds moved on, the rainbows appeared, and the sky cleared. After numerous hairpin curves, we arrived at the summit parking lot (14100ft).

Summit parking area (14, 100')
Except for a stiff breeze that nipped exposed fingers and ears, you couldn't ask for better weather at 14000 feet. The views were awe-inspiring. I followed a switchbacked trail to the rocky summit and found myself breathing heavily. As an Easterner, accustomed to hiking mountains whose summits are lower than Denver, I've developed great respect for hikers persuing  Fourteeners status. 

Spectacular view of Summit Lake.
There's a sign on the summit warning of altitude sickness and its symptoms. I had an empty feeling in my stomach and a some tingling in the fingertips but no headaches or nausea. The eye-opener was how hard I had to breathe while walking on the trail.

During the descent, and not far from the summit, a herd of mountain goats crossed the road. The young kids were playing with another, jumping straight in the air, twirling 180 degrees, and landing squarely on their hooves. I could've watched them for hours.
Local residents.
Summit Lake.


See all photos.