I’ve always said that when you live in Colorado you’re assured to never be the craziest outdoor enthusiast. No matter what there is usually someone who ran farther than you, biked a crazier trail or hiked a more extreme route. At least that’s what I thought until this past weekend, when I very well may have began my journey toward craziness.
Ever since last summer when my cousin and I passed a couple returning from a sunrise summit at the Mount Harvard trailhead I have been dying to do a sunrise 14er. I finally got my chance this past weekend when my friend Chrissy let me tag along on a hike with one of her friends from college. I thought it was extreme a few weeks ago when I left for a 14er at 4:00 a.m. The sunrise 14er took early to an entirely new level as we left Denver at 12:45 a.m. I basically didn’t go to sleep, unless you count a completely unsatisfactory one hour nap. I did find time to go for a six mile run the evening before we left, which as you’ll find out I greatly regretted. It could have been much worse though, and the 14ers that we chose to hike were Grays and Torreys Peaks, which are two of the closest peaks to Denver. We made it to the start of the trailhead at 2:45 a.m., headlamps and gear in hand.
The first two miles of the trail were kind of a blur for me. I was struggling, probably due to a combination of lack of sleep and the poor decision that I had made to go running six hours before the hike. However, even as I was hurting, I have to admit hiking at night was an amazing experience. We ended up turning our headlamps off for most of the initial ascent, hiking instead under the quiet half-full moon and glowing Milky Way. I saw at least three shooting stars. It was kind of magical.
After a water break, I took off ahead of the group, since I had been struggling so much during the early part of the hike. Luckily at this point, my body finally seemed to accept the fact that I indeed was not going to go to sleep, and I got a major second wind. We made it to the top of Grays with plenty of time to watch the sunrise. We were officially the first and only people on the summit. A little crazy.
The summit of Grays was pretty cold. It was a little after 5:00 a.m. at above 14,000 feet, so I’m sure you can imagine. We toughed it out for about 45 minutes and then finally headed over the saddle to Torreys. While we were hiking the saddle, the sun finally crested, and I stopped every five seconds to admire the view because it kept getting prettier by the moment.
By the time we got down from Torreys, the sun was out in full force, and we suddenly started to see trains of hikers on the trail. Admittedly we had been completely spoiled by having the entire mountain to ourselves up to that point. The hike on the way down was definitely congested, and there was an excellent reason that we dubbed Grays and Torreys the I-70 of 14ers. I have to confess that I did love the incredulous looks we were given when people asked us, “Did you guys already summit? Both peaks?” We were those people. When we finally made it back to the parking lot, we celebrated by grilling some hot dogs and having a few brewskis. It was probably the best breakfast of champions ever.
How could I possibly spend the rest of my weekend after the sunrise 14er? I began by taking a much deserved nap on Saturday! Then, on Sunday my friend Jonathan and I journeyed to Keystone for my first real downhill mountain biking experience ever. I only thought I was maybe going to die about five times. Naturally I had a blast.
I may be well on my way to becoming a Colorado crazy, I accept this. It was definitely one of those epic This is why I live in Colorado weekends. I also may well be on my way to becoming a dog owner. I fell in love with two chocolate labs on Saturday and Sunday, which I think was definitely a sign from the universe.