Saturday, August 12, 2006

Colorado Hike & Wheel

We have been running our Colorado Skating Adventure for years. Last summer, four of our High Rollers (repeat customers with at least 20 Zephyr trip days) asked us to add hiking to the itinerary. Happy to oblige, we created our Colorado Hike & Wheel Adventure that ran from July 30 through August 3.

The trip was structured to have alternating activities: hiking in the Colorado mountains and either skating or biking on some of Colorado's best paved trails. 18 people joined guide Terry Lynch and myself on this tour.

The trip took place in Summit County, Leadville, Aspen, and Glenwood Springs. All are great areas with incredible mountain views and fantastic trails, both dirt and paved.

I won't go over the five-day trip in detail but wanted to write about one highlight. The best hiking day was near Breckenridge when we had two distinct options. The "easy" option was a six-mile round trip hike to Mohawk Lake. The group who did this hike came back with raving reviews about the trail, the scenery, and the bag lunch everyone enjoyed sitting at the base of an alpine waterfall.

I led the second group on the harder option, a climb up 14,265-foot Quandry Peak. While the hike itself is not long (6.75 miles and 3400 feet of elevation gain) and requires no technical skills, hiking at altitude is always much more taxing than hiking at sea level. We discussed this at length the night before the hike and the nine people who chose to attempt Quandry knew they all had the option to turn around part way up the trail.

The ten of us quickly spread out on the trail as we each found a comfortable walking pace. We soon rose above the treeline and could see the long, uphill trail in front of us. The secret to hiking at this type of altitude is to go slowly; at the same time, we were very aware that we needed to make progress before the afternoon thunderstorms arrived. Starting in the back and working my way forward, I tried to make sure each member of our group had a realistic understanding of his or her chances of reaching the summit. I was also constantly watching the thunderclouds on the horizon, checking to see if they were headed our direction.

I eventually made my way to the front of our group where two members (Kirk and Tina) looked very strong. Tina was even hiking in open-toed sandals! By the time we reached about 13,500 feet, however, Kirk and Tina were discussing whether they would continue. I asked to take the lead, slowed down the pace, and the three of us continued steadily to the summit. It felt great to be on top! Eventually, two other hikers (Rick and Tony) also summited and I celebrated with them as we took photos and signed the register on top.

While four made the summit, the rest turned around at one point or another. Neither they nor I saw this as a failure, however. Instead, I think each person who attempted Quandry Peak that day learned something about high altitude hiking - and perhaps about himself or herself individually. It was a great experience that I know others would love to have. We'll leave Quandry Peak or another 14,000-foot mountain on the itinerary.

Overall, I thought the trip went extremely well. The mix of activities was fun and Colorado is the perfect state to host an adventure tour, with its amazing scenery, towns, and recreation.

1 comment:

Rick said...

And it's the last +/- 300 feet that are the challenge.