I have a policy about working on birthdays – I don’t. I have another policy about how I spend my time on birthdays – hiking in the mountains! It’s sort of becoming a tradition for me to hike 14ers on my birthday; last year I hiked Mount Elbert the weekend before my birthday.
At this point, I have almost done all of the “easy” 14ers near Denver (with the exception of Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln and Bross), and so I am now branching out a little further for my summit attempts. After doing some research (mad love for 14ers.com), I set my sights on Huron Peak for my birthday. I made my friend Cayce also take the day off, and at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning we were on our way.
To get to the Huron Peak trailhead from Denver the fastest route is to head to Leadville and then continue on Highway 24 West just past the Twin Lakes turnoff. Then you take a dirt road that turns into a 4WD road through Winfield, an old mining town. Going through Winfield was really cool, as I am a bit obsessed with old mining buildings. In its heyday, Winfield was home to about 1,500 people. Today it’s home to whatever people happen to be camping across the bridge.
Winfield School Museum.
As part of my quarter life celebration, I recently got a more mountainous vehicle, an SUV that I have named Xena. Thanks goodness because the road to the trailhead past Winfield definitely required 4WD. I had a lot of fun driving Xena, and I think Cayce mostly trusted my abilities!
When we got to the trailhead, we were one of eight or nine other cars in the parking area. It always amazes me how many people are out hiking on random weekdays. Who are these people that don’t have to work on Wednesdays? Mostly I’m just jealous! Anyway, the first mile and a half of so headed up through the forest. Just near treeline, there was an awesome view of the Three Apostles.
Like any 14er, the view above treeline was somewhat incredible. However, what made the hike to Huron Peak extra special was its proximity to the mountains. While other 14ers have nice views, these views can sometimes be distant. The trail to Huron Peak is nestled next to several other mountains, and I almost felt like I could reach out and touch the mountains in the horizon.
Just after treeline, the trail headed into this beautiful valley before the scree field. There were tons of wildflowers and it was a little magical. I decided Huron Peak was definitely on my top five favorite 14er list.
From the valley, the trail became steep and full of switchbacks. Cayce had only gotten one hour of sleep the night before, and he was a serious trooper as I dragged him up the side of the mountain. Still, one look at the mountains behind us made it all worth it.
There are few things I wouldn’t do for that view.
Nearing the summit.
The final part of the climb was a bit of a scramble over some scree, but since I now compare everything in life on a scale of 1 to Mount Princeton, it was probably a 2.5. I pushed through to the top and had a few minutes to myself on the summit while I waited for Cayce to summit. When I was finally able to take in the 360 view at the summit, Huron Peak quickly made its way on my top 3 list.
This summer I’ve had the lucky opportunity to become very familiar with thunderstorms at altitude, and I have actually become pretty decent at reading the clouds. By the time Cayce summited, the clouds weren’t looking dangerous, but they also weren’t looking like we should hang out on the summit for too long. We quickly took some pictures and descended just as it started to lightly hail on us.
Huron Peak, 14,003 feet. 14er #12!
Don’t worry, once we made it back down into the valley, the clouds quickly cleared. We had to forego the birthday champagne toast that we had planned for the summit because of the hail, but I am a big believer in safety first. Poor Cayce had to carry to full champagne bottle and ice pack all the way back down to the trailhead! Anyway, by the time we were back in the valley, I had decided that all things considered Huron Peak was officially my favorite 14er.
There was really no other way I would have wanted to spend my birthday. Except for possibly skiing in Chile. I miss snow!