When I brought up the idea of climbing four 14-ers in one day to my local hiking group I wasn’t sure if it would be something that anyone else would be interested in attempting.
My post on our facebook page read “Alright, prep your husbands, schedule this on your calendars and do something crazy with me…”
After it was posted I waited for replies. I was determined that I was going to summit Mt Democrat, Mt Cameron, Mt Lincoln and Mt Bross, even if I had to do it alone.
Some friends jumped right in, rescheduling family vacations and one even spent her anniversary with us on the mountain instead of with her husband.
A few friends let me know that I was nuts but still joined in on the trip.
Others took a few more weeks to make up their minds.
Suddenly I knew that I wouldn’t be attempting to summit Mt Democrat, Mt Cameron, Mt Lincoln and Mt Bross alone, and I couldn’t stop smiling.
I spent the next few months throwing together plans, pouring over maps and reading trip reports as our group slowly grew from four intrepid women to eleven. Some women who I didn’t even know joined in on the trip, and two women a decade younger than most of us joined in adding some fun and diversity to the mix.
Most of the Moms amongst us felt like this was going to be one of the most epic things we had done since labor and delivery.
*The Adventure Begins*
Eventually, the big day arrived and my children were devastated to find out that I was going camping without them. They got over it once my husband promised that they could order pizza for dinner.
Our group broke up into two. An early group headed to Kite Lake Campground on Friday morning with our gear to secure a campsite, set up tents, and see what kind of information they could find out about the route from other hikers.
A later group headed out after work. We arrived at the campsite well after dark and we were so thankful that the early group had set up our tents. We crawled right into our sleeping bags and attempted to sleep, although I don’t think any of us really slept.
Throughout the night the campground transformed into a mini tent city as cars full of hikers arrived. They either set up a tent to sleep for a few hours or just turned on their headlamps and started hiking.
The Kite Lake Campground is right at the trailhead for Mt. Democrat, Mt. Cameron, Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Bross making it the perfect staging area for the climb.
We woke up at 4 am, ate breakfast, hydrated after a night at 12,000 feet and started our ascent on Mt. Democrat around 5:30 am.
Our group was diverse and large. So, smaller groups quickly formed based off different hiking speeds by the time we summited Democrat (if you do this hike beware the false summit). We paused at the top of the mountain, wondered why it wasn’t windy, and got a good view of our next climb along a ridgeline to Mt. Cameron.
On the way down Democrat, it seemed as if we were suddenly sharing the trail with the entire city of Denver. I found myself getting frustrated with the crowds of people going up as we were descending. I was thankful that we got an early start, I was also thankful that I live in Wyoming and rarely have to deal with crowded trails.
Maybe it was the altitude or my frustration with the crowds, or I was starting to get tired, but the ascent up Mt. Cameron is where I had to work hard to keep my head in the game. I could look down and see our tents set up by the lake and suddenly I didn’t want to bag any more peaks, it would have been so easy to turn back and go sit in the sunshine and relax with my book at the campsite.
“Why are we doing this?”
I called out while I was gasping for breath and trying to ignore the screams coming from my quads.
“Because we can,” replied someone on the mountain with a big smile and a thick German accent.
The group that I was with eventually found our rhythm, we decided to just take it 50 steps at a time and then give ourselves permission to stop, catch our breath and look at the views.
50 steps…one step at a time.
Surprisingly we stayed ahead of the crowds, made it onto Mt. Cameron, paused for the obligatory photo and then decided that while Cameron doesn’t technically meet the guidelines to be called a 14er it was still one brutal climb and we were going to count it anyway.
From the top of Cameron the morning improved significantly. The crowds dispersed and the trail got easier.
It didn’t take us long to summit Mt. Lincoln where the views literally took our breath away and I had the amazing feeling like I was just one tiny speck in a big, big amazing world. By this time, I had been sufficiently humbled by the trek and was in a zen-like state of euphoria.
We stopped to eat between Lincoln and Mt. Bross and wondered if we were really on private land and speculated about whether or not we’d be smacked with a fine or run off the mountain by a crazy redneck with a shotgun as we summited Bross.
At the top of Bross we felt euphoric and happy to have met our goal of conquering four 14ers in one day. We were also glad that the clouds we had seen rolling in seemed to not pose much of a threat.
Our jubilation was short-lived, however.
As we looked down at Kite Lake we were met with a class 2 scree descent. By then we were really tired, hungry, our legs felt like jelly and the last thing that we wanted to do was navigate such difficult terrain.
There was a lot of profanity as we gained a healthy respect for our trekking poles and thanked Mother Nature for challenging us once again. At one point we tried to distract ourselves by thinking about chocolate milkshakes and talking about disposable underwear.
Eventually, Kite Lake came closer and closer and our tents within reaching distance. We paused for a few minutes to take in a waterfall as the rock turned to vegetation but I was anxious to get back to the campsite and shove food into my face.
Back at the campsite we watched the rest of our group come down the back side of Bross, we may or may not have sipped libations, broke camp and headed to town in search of pizza.
So what does this long (and probably boring) trip report have to do with my friends?
10 out of the 11 of us summited all 4 peaks. The one who didn’t make it got injured on her way up Democrat, but she’s itching to try it again.
We’re already planning next year’s adventure.
I learned a lot about myself and my friends at 14,000 feet.
I learned that while motherhood sometimes defines us it does not stop us from being bold and adventurous.
Maybe the best thing we can do for ourselves every once in a while is to take a few hours away from being wives and mothers and do something hard, like climb mountains.
After all, in doing so we’re showing our children the importance of setting a goal and then crushing the hell out of it.
When I look at my mountain climbing friends I see bold beauty and awesomeness. We don’t all agree on politics or religion, of even what age a child should start kindergarten but we all agree that Moms should climb mountains.
Those are exactly the kind of women that I want and need in my life.
So to my crazy friends, I say thanks for the “nar, nar” trip and epic adventure.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve done this summer? Did you bag a peak or conquer a mountain? Did you climb with friends?