Trails traveled: Mount Sniktau Trail, Difficulty: Double Black (VERY Difficult)
Out-and-Back, 9.4 miles round-trip, 4,921ft elevation gain, Summit elevation: 14,275ft.
Time: 8 hours, 30 minutes
Weather: Clear, Partly Cloudy
- Above the treeline
- Loveland Pass
- Cupid Peak
- Grizzly Peak
- Torrey’s Peak
- Pushing Myself to the Limit
This was the hardest hike I’ve ever done.
It might be the hardest thing (athletically) I have ever done.
Now, I am in pretty good shape. When I hike, my pace is better than 20 minutes/mile on a moderately difficult hike. My legs are strong. My endurance is pretty good.
That being said, this hike kicked my butt.
This is a long, rollercoaster route that never dips below 12,000 feet (or treeline, for that matter), and it gains more than a mile of vertical elevation. A good portion of the elevation gain is on the return, so it truly gives meaning to the phrase, “When you make the summit you’re only halfway done.”
This was my third fourteener. I took it peak by peak without any expectations. I read about this hike and didn’t really believe people when they said how hard it was. I feel like I have done this before. See Goat Mountain.
I got up to the trailhead late.
Most people start hiking at elevation in the Rockies at 5 or 6 am and are heading back to the car by about 1 pm, when the afternoon lightning rolls in. I got to the trailhead at 10:30 am. That was not too smart. I would not recommend it.
However, I did go peak by peak, like I mentioned before. Prior to attacking each summit, I checked the skies. Almost the entire afternoon there wasn’t any weather or clouds in the sky. The conditions at altitude, anything over 10,000 feet, is no joke.
Cupid Peak, the first thirteener on the hike was not bad. It’s elevation 13,117 feet, was the shortest peak I climbed.
Next, was the hardest peak on the trail, Grizzly Peak D. There are three higher “Grizzly Peaks” in Colorado. This one is 13,433 feet tall. Ascending Grizzly Peak from the South approach is easier. It is straight up, however, there is a well-defined route up with a path. On the North side of Grizzly is a steep face. Along the ridge of the peak are death-defying vertical walls of rock to the West side and more forgiving slopes of jagged rocks and boulders on the East side. Grizzly is what stands between you and a Western summit of Torrey’s Peak. Going down the less-steep Eastern face of Grizzly Peak involves some scrambling and navigating through some huge boulders and sharp rocks, but it is easier going down than coming back up.
After leaving Grizzly Peak, I was looking up at Torrey’s Peak wondering what I had left in the tank. I had a prayer conversation with God about my recent interest in summiting fourteeners the night before.
Why climb these massive peaks?
Was it for a sense of accomplishment?
Was it to prove something to myself or others?
Everyone has their reasons. They are personal to each individual. To me, those reasons seemed hollow.
When I prayed asking God, “Why?” I felt like it was something He was doing in me. He wanted to show me what I am capable of. He wanted me to see that with His power, there is still so much untapped potential. It was about overcoming fear. It was about pushing myself to my limits. It was about doing something new that I have never even attempted before.
When I stared up at that mountain, I heard myself say, “You can’t do it. It’s too hard. It’s too far. It’s too much.”
Another voice told me, “You can do this. I am with you. Keep going.”
As I stood on the top of Torrey’s Peak at least an hour later, I was euphoric. I did it! If I could do a hike like this, the hardest hike I’d ever attempted, what else could I do?
My next thought was, I have to go do most of that AGAIN!
In order to get back to the car, I needed to cross over the hard side of Grizzly Peak, back over Cupid Peak, and then back to my car. I was in for another almost five more miles of hiking at elevation: scrambling, strenuous hiking, and scrapes and cuts from jagged rocks.
I made it to the car before 7:00 pm. When I looked up at the sky as I got to the car, the sky above me was blue with very few clouds. Everywhere else in the mountains around me was dark with threatening skies. Another way God took care of me on the hike.
He is so good!