Mad Hiker, Part 3
(5 Days, 6 Peaks + Grand Canyon Crossing, 72 Miles, 24,000 Vertical Feet)

Following the tradition I've set for myself during the fateful summer of 2002, this is the third installment of my Mad Hiker Journal. I call it the Mad Hiker Journal because most people think these trips of mine are literally mad. Terms like "crazy" and "on crack" were also mentioned, but I tend to prefer "mad" because it embodies the essence of the drive I felt inside. You see, I made two solo trips to Colorado in 2002 to bag as many fourteeners as I can. That year, I capped 16 peaks in two week-long trips and a total of 10 days of hiking (See Part 1 and Part 2). Quite a promising start to my Colorado fourteener quest, but with 54 total fourteeners, I have a lot of work yet to do. Not living in Colorado makes my quest a bit difficult, but I'm working on them surely but not so slowly either.

Even though I also made two week-long trips to Colorado in 2003, they weren't as productive as I would have liked because on both trips I had others with me. That coupled with a bout of bad weather during Labor Day week 2003, I was able to capture only 3 peaks in 2003. This result disappointed and haunted me for a whole year. To compound matters, I wasn't able to come to Colorado in June of 2004 because of hiking trips to Yosemite's Half Dome and Mount Whitney in California. Though checking off those long-time wishlist items were important to me, my longing for Colorado's fourteeners grew throughout the summer. As Labor Day neared, I felt anxious and excited to return once again on a solo quest for more fourteeners.

One more "complication" fell in the way of the mad hiking this year. My friend Mandar had organized a Grand Canyon rim-to-rim hike during the Labor Day weekend, the same weekend I had planned to embark on my fourteener binge. I say "complication" only in the sense the timing is inopportune, not that I don't enjoy the Grand Canyon. It's one of my favorite places to hike, and I relish any opportunity to do so. So I satisfied myself by rationalizing the rim-to-rim as a warm-up for the fourteener trip. Quite a warm-up you'd say, and you'd be right. On paper and in practice, the rim-to-rim is more grueling than any of the fourteener hikes I'd embark on during this trip.

The rim-to-rim hike was originally supposed to be a rim-to-rim-to-rim, and I even had grand delusions of doing that in one day. Fortunately common sense stopped me from attempting such a feat in September when the temperatures around the Grand Canyon can still reach into the 100's. The hike itself went off smoothly on Saturday September 4 with only a minor hitch in that I over exerted my leg muscles on the way up the North Rim. The day of rest on Sunday and the driving day on Monday helped me recover just in time.

I've gotten the routine down pat now, having made four previous hiking trips to Colorado. The only chore is to figure out which hikes to do. Researching the Dawson's Guides I shamelessly stole from my friend Scott, I quickly decided on Lake City as a final destination due to its proximity to 5 fourteeners. As luck would have it, a sixth fourteener is nearby in the town of Creede. The grand plan is beginning to take shape in my head. I would aim to knock off all the peaks in the north San Juans, and perhaps go back to the Sawatch Range to finish some of those off.

The only concern is my car. I've done just about all the hikes I can get to with a 2WD low-slung passenger car. So I'm wary of driving it over those nasty backcountry roads. However, as luck would have it, most of the trails near Lake City do not require 4WD. Though I would have saved 2-3 hours of driving time by cutting through Cinnamon Pass from Silverton to Lake City with a 4x4, the extra driving time easily justified the savings in renting or even buying a truck or SUV. As it turns out, I had to ask for a ride on one of the hikes, but overall the passenger car was not a major hinderance.

The table below shows the hikes I did during this trip in chronological order. Each one has a story of its own and many photos to accompany and corroborate the story. Even though weather prevented me from going to the Sawatch Range and bagging more peaks on this trip, I felt content to have finished the peaks in northern San Juans and to have now reached the summits of half of the fourteeners in Colorado. Feel free to browse among them and enjoy the hikes vicariously. If you see an error in fact or format, please let me know so I can fix it for the next reader. Enjoy!

Oh, one more thing. If you are a GPS nut, here are the track and waypoint data for this trip:
Garmin format, DeLorme format.

Hike Date Distance Gain
Grand Canyon South Rim to North Rim 2004-09-04 22.5 mi 6,200 ft
San Luis Peak (14,014') Creede, Colorado 2004-09-07 14 mi 4,214 ft
Redcloud Peak (14,034') / Sunshine Peak (14,001') Sherman, Colorado 2004-09-08 12 mi 4,834 ft
Wetterhorn Peak (14,015') / Uncompahgre Peak (14,309') Capitol City, Colorado 2004-09-09 16.5 mi 6,000 ft
Handies Peak (14,048') Eureka, Colorado 2004-09-10 7 mi 2,748 ft
Grand Total:     5 of 7 days 72 mi 24,000 ft