Ryan and I have now stood atop eleven 14ers, and with our 2015 goal of achieving fourteen 14ers by the end of the summer, we decided that we should use this weekend to continue adding to our list. However, after our previous exhausting weekend spent summiting Mt. Oxford and Mt. Belford (see last blog post), Ryan and I decided that a single (easier) peak would be best. Since we love camping along Chaffee County Road 390 between Buena Vita and Leadville, we chose Mt. Huron as our next 14er.
Standing at 14, 003ft, the summit of Mt. Huron is not too far (in 14er terms, of course..) from the actual trailhead which sits around 10,000 or 11,000ft. We packed up the night before with our hiking as well as camping gear, and drove to the trailhead after work on Friday. We were planning on sleeping in the car, so we took Ryan’s trusty Subaru Outback.
Little did we know, the road to the trailhead quickly turns rugged; required both 4WD and high clearance. In summer tires, the subie has less than ideal traction. We slipped a few times on steep inclines, got stuck while attempting to pass over some larger rocks, and at one point, wobbled on two wheels as we dropped down at an angle to cross a river embankment. While not necessarily the most ideal vehicle for the job (we were both regretting the decision to leave my Nissan Xterra with tough, chunky tires at home), we made it safe and sound with the exception of a minor scratch under the front bumper. Talk about giving Ryan’s new car a run for his money!
Once we picked our way through the rough road, we found ourselves a semi-flat spot to park at the trailhead and climbed into the back of our car for the night. We were fast asleep with our sleeping bags, pillows, and blankets when the alarm went off at 3:30am.. time to go! It was bitterly cold this morning– probably due to our high elevation. We dressed in the car, had some breakfast (Noosa yogurt with granola and sliced almonds; perfect breakfast that is light enough to stomach at 3:30am but nutritious enough to sustain us on the beginning of our hike), and started up the mountain.
This night was the Blue Moon; it isn’t actually blue, however it is the second full moon in the same month and at 11,000ft.. it was BRIGHT! We only needed to use our headlamps in the beginning when we were hiking through the dense forest. Once we broke tree line (around 5am), we put our headlamps back in our packs and hiked using only the moonlight and the early dawn.
As the day got brighter, the beauty of our surroundings was becoming more and more apparent. Huge mountains and cliffs looming in the distance, grassy fields filled with wildflowers alongside the trail, and no one else on the trail.
We summited Mt. Huron around 7:30am, putting us a 2.5hrs of hiking time so far that morning. The summit was a harsh reality of what the weather is like at these altitudes; freezing temperatures, even colder wind gusts, and with the sun hiding behind some clouds it did not take long for my and Ryan’s hands to begin hurting. So, we took our pictures, ate our summit donuts, and headed back down.
Once out of the wind, we were able to find a sunny spot on the side of the mountain where we took a break in our descent. This was the first trip that I can remember where I DIDN’T suffer from altitude sickness, which had me in a great mood. With good company and good conversation, we continued back down to the trailhead.
One of the perks of beginning our hike in the dark is being able to take in all of the beauty on the way back down. Hiking up is always a mystery; its cold, dark, and you’re simply trying to make it uphill without getting too tired. Hiking down is the fun part; it’s sunny, warmer, beautiful, and you’re finally able to take it all in.
We were back at the car by noon; making our morning about 8hrs round trip with minimal elevation gain (aka minimal joint/muscle aches) and a thoroughly enjoyable accomplishment. Mt. Huron, thank you for the trip.
Twelve 14ers down, forty-two to go!