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Climbed to 11,428 ft – What I Learned on My First “Real” Hike

1/31/15 may have been one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. A hard hike and beautiful views followed up by some delicious barbecue, what could be better?!

Hiking to the top of Twin Sisters Peak was not originally on the schedule. I woke up planning to run, but just didn’t feel it so turned to Wookie (my boyfriend) and asked if he wanted to go on a hike instead. We started off the day watching a PBS special on the National Parks which led to some inspiration and by 11:30 we were out the door ready to grab some gear and lunch and head out to the Rockies to hike up the mountain.

I have done some hiking before but never this “rustic”, never this high, and never in snow. I had read a lot about hiking up this high and heard tales of it but as with everything, until you actually experience it, you have no idea.

Where there is fresh snow, there is time for a snow angel!

Let’s do this!  

Saturday’s hike: Twin Sisters Peak

This trail zigzags up the mountain to the peak and crosses into Roosevelt National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. It is narrow as it winds through pine trees but as you climb up you get clearings in the tress with truly spectacular views of the mountains leading into the great plains as you look east. At the peak, you can see far west and east and it was truly amazing.

See that clearing right there? Yep, that’s the flood/landslide we crossed.

However, being my first hike of this difficulty and height I learned quite a bit.

Hiking at altitude is tough

 – This may sound like a “well, duh, Katherine” but I seriously didn’t think it would take such a toll. Once we got higher than 10,000 ft or so, I was huffing and puffing as if I had been doing 400m sprints and I was just… walking… slowly. I bent down to pick something off my boot and when I stood up, got a head rush. Being a runner and generally fit person, I always assume that these types of environments won’t affect me but it definitely did and, well, now I know.

Having a confident climber is key

– Wookie (my boyfriend) has done a lot more hiking, camping, and climbing than me and having him lead was perfect. At one point about 100ft of path had been completely washed out my floods and landslides and if I had been by myself, I wouldn’t have wanted to cross. Loose dirt and trees and no clear sight of the path on the other side would’ve stopped me in my tracks. Having Wookie there though, we forged across and continued on our way. It felt pretty crazy to me. There were a lot of points where we had to rediscover the paths and having someone more confident with me made it fun, not scary.

I probably look silly

 – I tend to be a very careful person which makes hiking in snow a bit slow as I carefully place my feet. This gets annoying and tedious so I started doing 2 things. First, scrambling up on all fours when it probably wasn’t 100% necessary. Second, crab walking down, careful to keep my butt lifted off the ground. Doing this made me quicker and more confident, and while I looked ridiculous, I don’t care. It got me up and down safely even if it has left me with sore arms today.

It is absolutely beautiful

 – I’ve hiked before but there is something about hiking that high and seeing that much and feeling physically taxed that is so rewarding. We got to see beautiful vistas and we could see for miles. Miles and miles. We could see other peaks and snow clouds moving across the mountain tops. Being above the tree line was amazing. A little scary with the wind and cold, but so worth it.

No words.

Until my marathon training starts really ratcheting up again and the paths clear a bit more outside, I think more hikes are in my future. I like the idea of this being my cross training on the weekends. One long run and one hike on the weekend sounds like a perfect balance of running and enjoying everything Colorado has to offer!

Couldn’t have said it better.

Time to chow down!

I learned a lot and I can’t wait to scramble up another hiking trail to the top of another vista. I have my Yaktrax and my other gear, let’s do this!

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