The Hike That Did Us In

For those of us from Colorado, “fourteener” is a common term.  In fact, there’s likely one or even a few of those fourteeners on our Summer bucket list each year.

A fourteener is just a peak that is over fourteen thousand feet {go figure, right?}.   In Colorado, there are 53 of these peaks.  I just so happen to be married to a man that wants to climb all of them.  A true Coloradan at heart, that boy.

Yesterday we set out to the mountains  to tackle of first fourteener of the Summer this morning{we’ve been busy, late start}.   To put things into perspective, last year we did three summits in one day:  Democrat, Cameron and Bross.   This is one example of the few peaks in the Colorado area that you can summit multiple peaks in one day.  The only peak we didn’t hit that day in the range was Lincoln.   From our views on those summits, we could see that Lincoln seemed like a mean man.  {Spoiler alert: we were correct}.  We never put  much more thought into Lincoln and went along our merry way.

Until a few weeks ago, when Zach and I started talking about potential summits we could hit before the season got completely away from us.  To seal the deal, I have a friend who was kind enough to let us stay in her cabin in the small town of Fairplay, which was less than a 20 minute drive from the trailhead of Lincoln.

Zach did research, as he always does, and found that Lincoln was somewhere around a 5mile trip, which gives you around 3400 feet of elevation gain.  Five mile seems short, right?

That should have been a sign.  3400 feet of elevation in 2.5 miles?

The Hike

Zach and I were on the road from our cabin in Fairplay before 8 AM and hiking before 830.   While that isn’t super early, we’ve been in a cooler trend this Summer and the mornings are COLD at high elevation.  At this point it was still in the 40’s, so I wasn’t rushing to get out of the warm car.  With that said, we could have probably used to get on the mountain a little earlier.

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Let me tell you a little something about me and hiking.  I’m the kind of person that prefers going up to coming down, and often think about the descent as I’m still ascending.   Within the first tenth of a mile on this hike, I was already anxious.  Within a quarter of a mile, we hit portions that Zach was already having to lift Gus over because they were too tall for him to climb.

Now don’t get me wrong, climbing this is fun, coming down is not.  Within less than a half mile, we hit a point that Gus could literally not get over, and that Zach could not boost him over.  This was the first moment that we began to think we may not make the summit.  Conditions were very washed out due to the monsoon rain we’ve been having, and the trail IS THIN.  Very little room for error.  With that said, we kept trucking along, finding a route that Gus could navigate.

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The hike was gorgeous.  Both Zach and I can agree that the views offered on this hike were some of the best that we’ve ever seen.  Worth the struggle, but don’t be fooled they come at a cost.

One way or another Zach and I managed to keep moving.  Within about an hour and a half, and probably a little over a mile into the hike, we saw what we thought was the summit.  Within our sights.  This kept our spirits a little high that, even though we were moving much slower than we would normally, we could make it.

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After about 1.5 hours, we reached what is called the Amphitheater.  An amazing and beautiful section of the hike that is very clearly mapped out how to navigate in directions due to it’s difficulty.   “Loose dangerous rocks” was mentioned on multiple occasions so we did our best to slowly treck through the area as it isn’t clearly marked by a trail of any kind.

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I’ve done a lot of hiking in my day, and this hike was like nothing I have ever done before.  It wasn’t really scaling, it was more like rock climbing at points, except in very loose, shale rock (not exaggerating, you’ll find out why it felt this way soon).

At about 2.5 hours in, we really started to question ourselves.  We were both suckin’ wind, and felt like we had just scaled an entire cliff without gear.  At this point we could see what looked to be the road that got us to the last 400 feet of elevation (right at 13,800 ft) about 500 feet higher than the point we were at, so we decided to go for it.  And go for it we did. It was also at this point that we noticed what we had THOUGHT was the summit was in fact, a false summit.

Somehow, the two of us made it to the road that leads you to the REAL summit (road is a term used loosely, still very big rocks but finally something that at least resembles a trail again).   By this point it was nearing 1130 and we were both moving way slower than we’ve ever moved on a hike.  We began our treck up the road, but knew we’d be moving slow and saw that the rain cloud that was over us was NOT moving slow.

As we felt a few raindrops, our decision was made for us.  Less than 400 feet from the summit, we had to turn around.

Now if you know Zach and I, you know this was NOT an easy decision for either of us.  We are stubborn as hell and do NOT give up.  But safety was a legitimate concern at this point.  You never want to be stuck on a mountain in a storm, and definitely not a fourteener like Lincoln.

To make matters worse:  We found the trail for the hike coming down.  Come to find out, Zach and I had completely missed the trail coming up through the amphitheater and literally scaled the wall that the directions told us directly NOT TO DO.   In true Jara style, we had made what would already been a challenging hike nearly impossible by blazing our own trail (at least for us).

Thankfully, this made the entire situation even easier for the two of us to laugh at.  We both agreed that had we done the actual hike as trailed, we would have been able to summit, but with the looming rain storms and shot legs due to scaling, it wasn’t worth it.

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Let’s just say I’m glad we didn’t push it.  The hike down was still over 2 hours of (at times) tear educing terrain.  By the time we made it to our car at about 130, I could have burst into song I was so happy to be down.

I’ve never had an experience hiking that I did today, and am completely humbled but proud that the three of us made it through.   Today was a reminder that activities like hiking a fourtneener are NEVER to be taken lightly, and sometimes your stubborn nature needs to get put to the wayside.

Don’t be fooled though, Zach and I have plans to attack it again  :).  This time, without our four legged friend and sticking to the trail.  But Lincoln, know that you haven’t seen the last of us!