Sometimes climbs can be thought of in three catagories:
social, skills and stress. Our climb of Huron Peak on Sunday,
August 7 2005 demonstrated all three. I met up with my regular
climbing partner Patrick, his son Jonathan and two friends, Shari
and Nora on county road 390 between Buena Vista and Leadville
early that morning. This would be the first 14'er for Jonathan,
Shari and Nora.
We took the dirt road to old restored ghost town of Winfield
and then the final 2 miles to the end of the wickedly rough
The trailhead started at 10,600'. We enjoyed the steady
rising trail through a series of switchbacks to treeline
around 11,800'. Stopping several times to enjoy the view
of Three Apostles and Ice Mountain, we soon broke through the trees
and saw our goal for the first time.
Huron is an impressive sight for someone's first 14'er. It
towers above a serene meadow with her rocky summit defining a cone
mountain. Our first timers began to question their skills required
to stand on top. But we pressed on taking the very well worn trail
to the east of the mountain. It was a partly cloudy August day so the
sun was not too hot but we still applied sunblock liberally.
Stopping every hour or so to
make sure everyone was drinking and having some snacks
we paused around the 13,000' level. Shari was not feeling well due
to an ear infection and it was getting worse as we gained altitude.
She made the decision to return to the car and Patrick accompanied
her back to meadow. Jonathan, Nora and I continued the climb towards
The route took the east slopes and became less grassy and
more rocky as we approached 13,500'. At a rather large outcropping,
the ground was scree with a small dirt trail that switchbacked towards
the summit. As we climbed, Jonathan kept looking back for his dad.
Nora kept looking up thinking about the return trip. Patrick made sure
Shari was good, gave her the other radio so he could stay in touch
and and began a swift paced return back up the mountainside. We sat
on some rocks about 100' below the summit and watched him quickly close
the gap. Soon, he arrived huffing and puffing but glad to back.
We soon made the summit and smiles abounded as Nora and Jonathan
celebrated their first 14'er with a sandwich, pictures, videos and
more. Well actually they sat down heavily as Patrick and I took pictures,
shook hands, gave hugs and picked out the 14'ers of the Sawatch range.
Since it was getting late we left the summit. Patrick and
Jonathan bounded down but soon stress became the dominate feeling for
Nora. Not comfortable with the loose dirt, sharp rocks and steep angles
she carefully picked her way down from the summit. The stress was building
but so were the skills. Soon we were back to the flatter sections with
more secure footing. We paused at the outcropping to look back up where
we had just come. Nora let it sink in that she had overcame some fears
was now a true 14'er!
The rest of the journey was uneventful and we met back up
with Shari at the car. She was feeling better but still not 100%.
As a social climb it was great to see two
young climbers make their first 14'er. They were stressed at
times but gained skills and confidence throughout the day. In
the end they finished with a summit and tired feet! But it was
fantastic to see Patrick and Jonathan on their first summit together.
I am sure there will be many more.
So Huron is one of the "easy" 14'ers. I found it a nice day hike with
some wonderful views. This August, the grass was green
up high and the lack of snow allowed the thousands of wild flowers
to show their heads. The route was clear and well marked. It is good
first 14'er but the last section can be a little tough for some climbers.
Maybe Bierstadt or Quandary would an easier "easy" first 14'er.