We’ve conquered our first fourteener in Colorado. Or anywhere for that matter. 1 down (or rather up), and only 53 more to go. You have to love the imperial system. 14 thousand feet sounds so much more impressive than mere 4300 meters. SI is of course just a failed French conspiracy to make American mountains appear smaller.
The trail description promises imagining oneself at the base camp on Everest. And sure enough we’ve met two older ladies (sixty five and seventy four years old - that’s older, right?) preparing for trekking in Nepal. Looks like we still have a little time to conquer remaining fourteeners. And to go to Nepal.
Mt. Democrat is at the end of a short trail: 4 miles round trip, which sounds easy. Until you consider elevation gain of 2300ft (700m). At some point every step becomes a struggle and you have to come up with various justifications of why it’s a good idea to continue hiking. Damian started with an ambitious plan of 1 minute rest per 9 minutes of hiking. It degenerated first into 8 to 2 system and then into 4 to 1. My system was to catch up with Damian as he rests, drink offered water, admire the view and press on.
Surprisingly we’ve made it all the way to the top in just two hours. Better than several older and one younger (big ego boost) couple that we’ve passed along the way. But they were handicapped: they were all using trekking poles. I can imagine them relating the adventure to their friends: we were passed by a pair without poles. Can you imagine calling yourself a hiker just because you have sturdy boots?
I consider trekking poles to be a skiing industry ploy to increase their market share. I have to say a collapsible pole or two would come handy when I find myself up the hill on a snowboard and Damian is nowhere near to pull me. Or when an inexperienced snowboarder decides to turn right in front of me. Wouldn’t work with skiers though as they have their weapon. Maybe this is why they give each other a wide berth experienced or not?
Hiking in Colorado usually involves passing a disused mine or two. This one was memorable because on the way down we’ve heard loud kaboom and spotted smoke rushing out of the mountain. We don’t know what it was, but it gave us a taste of how the mountains were when mining operation was in a full swing at the turn of the century.