We know we need to be in shape for our Kamchatka trip. We will be climbing several volcanos, each requiring up to 3,000 or more feet in elevation gain. So, as soon as the snow started melting in Colorado, it was time to hit the trails. Our challenge this year was finding hikes in our nearby mountains that offered sufficient elevation gain for us to get a good workout while avoiding the record snowfall that had accumulated during the winter and spring and was still clinging to the hills well into the summer. This meant that our early season training climbs had to be closer to the Denver area so we could avoid hiking on a lot of snow.
1. Our first hike took us to Roxborough Park, just to the southwest of Denver, where we climbed Carpenter Peak. This hike didn’t involve much elevation gain but we did manage to get an eight-mile hike in. We were lucky to see this fox and several deer on the hike.
2. Our second hike took us to Golden Gate State Park, always a good bet for a nice hike close to Denver. We took the long loop to Windy Peak and managed to get in 1,700 feet in elevation gain and seven miles.
3. The third hike took us up Bear Peak in the Boulder Flatirons. Starting near Eldorado Springs, the trail climbs very steeply up Shadow Canyon to the summit of the peak. From the top, we were rewarded with an outstanding view of the Flatirons, the city of Boulder, and way off in the distance: downtown Denver. The steepness and length of this hike (3,000 feet and eight miles) was challenging and resulted in a few sore muscles the next day. Most of the hike is on a trail but there is some rock scrambling required to reach the summit of the peak.
4. Fourth, we journeyed a bit further from Denver and climbed the Twin Sisters Peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). We had incredible views of Longs Peak on the way to the summit and had a great view of Estes Park down below. Our favorite part of this and any other trip to RMNP is stopping by Shakes Alive, our favorite frozen yogurt shop in Estes Park, for an after-hike “Cherry Chocolate” Shake – yum.
5. By now it’s mid-July and the snow is finally starting to loosen its grip on the high mountains. Next up on the training schedule was Square Top Mountain. The climb begins from the top of Guanella Pass, the same spot where multitudes of “14er baggers” park to climb nearby Mount Bierstadt. Hundreds of people headed up Mt. Bierstadt while we went the other direction towards Square Top and encountered only a few people. The summit is just below 14,000 feet, so it’s almost a 14er and much nicer since you don’t have to share the trail with a lot of other people. Even though we’re now into July, there was an amazing amount of snow still on the ground. Fortunately, we were able to either avoid the snow fields or comfortably walk on top of them. One advantage of having snow: we had a great glissade on the way down.
6. Mount Parnassus (13,574 feet) was the chosen hike for the next week. The weather was looking less than optimal, so we hurried up and down the trail with a short break on the way down for lunch. We gained 3,300 feet of elevation and managed to complete the hike in a quick five hours. By this time, the record snowpack was disappearing rapidly, so our boots barely touched any snow to get to the top. The most challenging part of the climb was getting across a very swollen Watrous Creek. There was a partially submerged board that a previous visitor had thrown in the water which provided a barely passable bridge. Fortunately, we found a much better bridge just a few yards upstream that we took advantage of on the way down.
Look for more training hikes to come in Part 2.