Tuesday, July 19, 2022

My Name is Blue Sky, and I'm Bluer Than all of You...

 Hey guys!

Reporting in that I completed my THIRD 14’er (this is a hike over 14,000 feet - that’s 2.7 miles above the ocean) the weekend before last (and since moving to Colorado in 2020).  I'm averaging one 14er per year!  Although I'm hoping to tackle another one before the summer is over (the weather starts getting inclement into the Fall and it could be icy and you could die), and because there's no physical fitness "high" quite like it.  This, hands down, was my favorite 14'er and I'm super excited to share my pictures!  

So, I decided for my 3rd 14'er to tackle Mt. Evans, since Mt. Evans basically dominates the city of Denver's skyline (which is already a mile high), the prominence being over 9,000 feet.  It's hard to believe this 14'er is only 35 miles west of Denver "as the crow flies."  Mt. Evans can be seen from as far as Castle Rock and Fort Collins (over 100 miles away)!  Also, my first 14’er was Mt. Bierstadt (which means “beer city” in German) which connects over to Mt. Evans on a ridge line.  So, I've been itching to go back and get to the top of this bad boy.

Every single shot had the sun creeping in (which is known as a  lens flare or scattered flare in photo shhhcience)...it was glorious to be that close to the sun!

First, it's classified as a Class 2 which simply means it's progressively harder than, say a Class 1 14'er.  A Class 1 has a walking path all the way to the top.  Whereas, a Class 2 has A LOT of scrambling, climbing/where you have to use your hands quite often (which is why I don't hike these with poles - they just get in my way).

So, Mt. Evans was originally known as Mount Rosa (named after a gorgeous mountain range in Switzerland, translates to “red mountain,” and also Albert Bierstadt allegedly named it after the wife of Fitz Hugh Ludlow).  However, the mountain was renamed to Mount Evans, after a very territorial governor, John Evans (he apparently decided to borrow this land from the “Indians” - a term Columbus coined this term because he initially thought he was in India - for few centuries).  Additionally, Evans was connected to the Sand Creek Massacre where several indigenous peoples were victim (and we’ll never really know the real number because how to reconstruct something that wasn’t popular to write about then, because people thought so little of the natives to our country).  

So, on March 2022, Clear Creek County approved a proposal to rename the mountain to Mount Blue Sky due to the negative history.  The new name was gifted by the modern Cheyenne and Arapahoe nations.  This erasure of history is controversial, and while I can see both sides of the story here, I just caution totally erasing every shameful or bad part of history.  It's there to learn from - even if you don’t like, ESPECIALLY if you don’t like it.  The best example is a bad example.  You’re more likely to pay attention to these dark moments in history.  We should never forget these stories were part of our history as a Nation.  My $0.02, take it or leave it.  How will people judge us 50 years from now when we cannot even determine what a woman is!?!

We started our trek at the trailhead at 5 a.m (also known as the butt crack of dawn)., so naturally we were able to catch some gorgeous sunrise shots on Mt. Evans.  Also, here is some theme music from Widespread Panic called "The Waker" which is where I got the title to this blog:

Below the treeline

This one is going in a frame on my wall...this was the lower tundra below the treeline.  There are so many cool wildflowers!  You'll see sunflowers and Rocky Mountain Columbine (which is our state flower) and these guys, dwarf willows.

Thinking this is a framer too!

This will probably be wall art...it's meeeee.  Weeeeeee.  This was zoomed in a bit. 

There's a little puddle hopping at one point.  I'm assuming from snowmelt...

These little guys were growing all over the upper tundra above the treeline.  The vegetation becomes SPARSE!  So, you'll see these compact little "green cusions" of joy which love to grow out of the cracks of rocks.  These are called Alpine Forget-me-nots.  


This guy is Sawtooth...a topographic landmark you’ll see in the panoramic views to the top. 

So, the climate can be extreme.  The mean annual temperature on the summit (which I'm about half way there in this pic) is 18 degrees Fahrenheit.  So, again, there are only a few months out of the year to do 14’ers unless you’re either really good or have a death wish and want to come up second best to Mother Nature’s unadulterated fury where they find you nine months later frozen with your cardboard sign and empty oxygen bottle wearing boots that were obviously last year’s model (a little passe tongue in cheek jab at Colorado tourists).  And, temperatures often fall below zero...like, alot.  Brrrrr.  Occassionally temps will even fall to negative forty (-40) degrees.  Yes, folks negative forty.  The highest ever temp recorded on the summit was a balmy 65 degrees.  Additionally, below freezing temps can occur on just about any day of the year.  So you have to dress accordingly, and the technique is to layer your clothing so you can adjust on the fly.  On one 14’er you could experience all 4 seasons.  I had hail and snow blow in on me while climbing Bierstadt, like bee stings would be another analogy.  And, it feels like little pellets of hell hitting your face.  Also helicopter rescue is treacherous because air is so thin.  Helicopters work by pounding air to get lift.  Which means it can’t lift the air craft and crew faithfully and operate safely.   

So, above the treeline like in this picture, the landscape is mostly "alpine tundra."

I'm starting to feel winded here and my heart is beating much faster to compensate for the low oxygen levels.  I’m entering anaerobic state.  When your muscles operate they need oxygen and expel co2.  So my heart was overcompensating for thin air.  

This is the daunting view pretty much for the majority of the upper tundra.

Lots of scrambling and bouldering...


Matt, who led our hike, awarded me with this coin for my attitude and endurance.  I started my menses at 2 a.m. that morning.  Hahah!  Yup great timing, no?

Christine feeling the win!

The Department of the Interior is responsible for these  US geographical survey markers.  

Matt raising awareness on the peak.  22 veterans take their lives per day in the U.S.!

A cuddly marmot peek-a-boo'ing.  Their official name is "Yellow bellied marmots" and they are so common to see on your way up above the tree line.  Marmot is also a French brand of hiking gear.  

Check out the rocks!  “sometimes I guess there just aren’t enough rocks.”  What movie?  Leave it in the comments. 

Mountain goats frolicking!

Mom and baby goat...they blend SO well!

The top predators below the tree lines on Evans are mountain lions and black bears.  They prey on these Big Horn Sheep and Mountain Goats.  Bahhhhh.

This is one of my prouder snaps and may end up on my wall...sheep booty...Ewwwwwe, speaking of, what do sheep wear to the beach?   A bahhhhkini.  And I’m the marching band they play the tubahhhhh.  

For those who know me, I have like super skinny fingers and would have made a great dentist.  This is called "sausage fingers" which is a common side effect of high altitudes.  Things expand at high altitudes.  So, don't wear any rings or tight bracelets or watches.  Your wrists will also swell.

We also saw a bald eagle.  However, it's common to see brown-capped rosy finches and rock wrens.  However, I was unable to get my phone out in time for bird shots.  So here are some pastoral views instead.  


We are so close to the CAR!  I'm pretty fatigued in this photo.  My legs are about to give out and at this point I want a cold shower and a longggg nap and maybe a gigantic juicy burger.

Here's something really cool and unique about Mt. Evans.  Like Pike's Peak you can drive to the top!  So, if you're pregnant or in a cast from a broken bone or just not up for the challenge, you can still drive to the summit and nobody will take your man card!  And only you will feel like shit internally.  And while my muscles ached for days, only your ego will need recovery.  This is a 5.2 mile in and out and takes anywhere from 4 hours to even longer.  

By the way, permits for parking sell out quickly so don’t wait too late!!!

 And, there's some really cool stuff up there besides a super short switchback trail to the peak of Mt. Blue Skies, there’s also what looks like remnants of an ancient city or ruins.  And, there's a ...

(drumroll please)


This dome-like object is kinda a big deal.  This is the Denver University Observatory (Denver University is a private exclusive, expensive, prestigious, select private school that nobody knows about because they don’t have a football team).  Yes, it's hard to believe Mount Evans is less than an HOUR from Denver, right?  So, this guy is the WORLD'S HIGHEST observatory at 14,260 feet above sea level!!  Bucket list, check!  Have you ever wondered why most observatories are located atop mountain tops?  I thought it's to avoid light pollution; however, here are a few facts about this super high star gazing dome (source: "Science at the Summit" signage at Mt. Evans' summit area):

1)  Telescopes at high elevation look through less haze in the atmosphere than those at sea level, providing a clearer view of the "cosmic wilderness."

2)  Astronomers from Denver University use the telescope within this observatory to study the life cycle of stars, from their birth in cold interstellar clouds to their fiery death as a supernova.  When you’re looking into the cosmos you’re looking light from wayyyy off, so we are looking back in time!

3) Cosmic ray research has been conducted at Mount Evans since the 1930s.  Cosmic rays are charged particles that are constantly raining down on Earth at nearly the speed of light with a tremendous amount of energy.  The rays can shatter atoms in the upper atmosphere.  The by-products of these collisions reach the earth resulting in charged air or biological mutations!  So, dense atmosphere at sea level protect against cosmic rays.  Whereas elevations like Mt. Evans offer little to  no protections.

Here's a shot of my footnotes...

The Mount Evans visitor center - which got a wee bit charred in a wild fire (it looks like ancient ruins to me).  Not sure the story, but honestly just trying to get this blog finally posted (so if you're mildly curious - Google it.)

Thanks for stopping by!  And, definitely add a Colorado 14’er to your fitness goals!  It's a great sense of accomplishment!  And I’m dedicating this blog to my cousin recovering from a knee replacement surgery.  She's recovering so well!  Also, I’m dedicating this post to this fine, physically fit group of human beings (picture below) - The 22 Peakers!  Find Matt and his lovely wife Christine on IG - "The 22 Peak Project"...they raise awareness for Veteran Suicide in our country.  It is estimated 22 veterans take their lives in America PER DAY!  Matt will gladly share his story about how physical fitness and 14’ers have transformed his life for the better and improved his mental health.  He is off opiates, antidepressants and quit drinking!  Also, their attitude and energy is straight contagious.  I recommend doing a 14’er with them any day of the week and twice on Sunday.  Matt will definitely give you some great pointers for training and how to better your techniques.  He and his wife are pros!

Closing'r out with a tune from one of the best bands of all time and dedicating to everyone in this pic who made this 14’er so very memorable and fun, Blue Sky by The Allman Brothers Band...

Dueces, CK

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