I Said I’d Never Climb A 14er Again

And yet here we are.

There’s a reason this blog is called Approachable Outdoors because I would certainly not consider myself outdoorsy. I like a nice easy hike with a killer view or waterfall, then I like to be back in Denver in time for Happy Hour. There’s nothing approachable about climbing a 14er.

For those not familiar, a 14er is summiting a mountain that has an elevation of 14,000ft or higher. Colorado has 58 of them and it’s a point of pride to say you’ve done one.

I climbed my first 14er, Mt. Elbert, in college. I physically prepared in no way other than not going out the night before. I went with two friends, one of whom was a pretty avid hiker so he acted as our guide and even more importantly our distraction the whole hike up. Elbert is the tallest peak in Colorado, so it seemed like the perfect one to do. While I am so glad I made it up the mountain & got that picture, the whole way down when we were running from a hail storm I vowed never again. I also thought this a lot on the way up when I had to stop to catch my breath every few steps.

Here’s baby Kylie on her first 14er:

Then this summer when I had been hiking a lot it came up a couple of times and each time was like, nope. I’ve already done it, it was incredibly hard and I have no desire to do it again. Then my friend Rima, who has Cystic Fibrosis and is three years out of a lung transplant, asked if I wanted to do one. I reluctantly agreed and we decided on Mt. Bierstadt, generally considered to be one of the ‘easier’ ones.

Honestly, I spent the days leading up to the hike dreading it. I had some things going on in my personal life (I am the queen of getting my heart broken) and the idea of climbing to the top of the mountain sounded miserable. I really just wanted to curl up in bed and stay there until I felt better.

But for some reason the morning of the hike I woke up excited. I had just come off of 7 days in a row of morning show shifts and was expecting my body to completely reject my attempt to again wake up before the sun, but it didn’t. It felt strong and my legs felt ready to move.

The hike itself started out incredible – gorgeous views amidst a smoky sunrise. The first mile is even relatively flat! We stopped for snacks & water a ton, we were on no one’s time frame so we took it slow and I was surprised how much I was enjoying it!

Then came the fourth mile, which starts right when you hit 13,000 ft in elevation, and to say its difficult would be an understatement. You’re climbing nearly straight up so at one point, so we set a goal of walking 10 or 20 steps then we get another break. After the steep climb, you literally now have to climb up boulders the last few hundred feet to make it to the summit.

At this point it’s not just the breathing that’s hard, my whole body is exhausted and absolutely does not want to keep climbing. Hiking for me is as much mental as it is physical, maybe even more so sometimes.  And honestly, I wanted to stop. I wanted to turn around and go back down that mountain. Did I swear a lot? Yes. Did I threaten to push sweet Rima off the mountain? Multiple times. Did I genuinely wish I was anywhere but on top of that mountain? Yes.

Here’s me looking angry at poor Rima:

A hundred feet from the top we sat down again for another break. And then we pushed the last few steps to take in the 360 views from the top of Mt. Bierstadt.

When you’re sitting on the summit, taking in the views and trying to catch your breath a funny thing happens: 14ers have this way of making you forget just how awful things were only a few minutes ago. Maybe it’s the lack of oxygen, maybe it’s the view. Maybe it’s the summit beer that hits you a little differently than it would back in the city. When you’re literally sitting on top of a mountain, you feel like you’re on top of the world.

On our way down, Rima said something to me that really stuck with me.

“How lucky are we that we were physically able to do that just now.”

I don’t have a chronic illness and have been unbelievably blessed my whole life with relatively good health and to be honest, it’s so easy to take for granted. I spent most of my time climbing that mountain complaining and whining in my head (and let’s be honest, out loud) about how much I hated it and how terrible it made me feel — I didn’t even stop to think about how incredible it was that my 31-year-old body is healthy enough to climb a freaking mountain.

Rima has Cystic Fibrosis which is a disease that impacts the lungs and digestive system, three years ago she had a lung transplant. At 9am exactly on our hikes every week her alarm goes off and we stop as she pulls out her pills that keep her alive and keep her body from rejecting her new lungs. She’s been forced to sit in hospital beds for days or weeks at a time and here I was this morning almost willingly staying in mine.

So now instead of saying never again will I climb a 14er, I think about how grateful I am for my body and my health for that experience not just once, but twice. And hell, if I’m lucky enough to get to do one again that would be absolutely incredible.

Also, you should follow Rima because she’s amazing on a million different levels!

Kylie Bearse

Kylie Bearse

When I’m not exploring the trails, I’m a Meteorologist! You can see me every weekday morning on Fox31 KDVR from 4:30-10am! Have a weather question? Don’t hesitate to ask!

Kylie Bearse

Kylie Bearse

When I’m not exploring the trails, I’m a Meteorologist! You can see me every weekday morning on Fox31 KDVR from 4:30-10am! Have a weather question? Don’t hesitate to ask!

Join Kylie On YouTube!

Click HERE to get subscribed and join our YouTube community!

Kylie Bearse

Kylie Bearse

When I’m not exploring the trails, I’m a Meteorologist! You can see me every weekday morning on Fox31 KDVR from 4:30-10am! Have a weather question? Don’t hesitate to ask!

More From Kylie

Missouri Road Trip

Missouri Road Trip

I’ve always been a big city girl, but lately there’s something about small towns that have been absolutely stealing my heart - so a road trip bopping from one cute town to another cute town made for the perfect getaway. Not only were these places beautiful with...

Gear Review: 2024 Nemo Launch

Gear Review: 2024 Nemo Launch

I bought the NEMO Stargazer back when everyone was spending money on tie-dye sweat suits during 2019, before I even had one solo camping trip under my belt, much less a tent, a bag or any other camping essentials. What I did know was that whoever said that ‘money...

Dog-Friendly Moab Weekend

Dog-Friendly Moab Weekend

Moab is one of my favorite road trips from Denver - the drive is only 5 hours and the hiking, biking & off-roading trails are seemingly endless. However, with the National Parks it can be a little tough to find a way to find hikes that are dog friendly but it's...

Weekend in Snowmass, Colorado

Weekend in Snowmass, Colorado

Snowmass is one of my favorite spots in Colorado and every time I go I fall more in love. On the slopes I had one of my best ski days ever (long, spacious runs without the crowds but incredible powder.)  To visit in the summer was an absolute delight. It has all...

Weekend in Frisco, Colorado

Weekend in Frisco, Colorado

I almost hate to tell anyone about Frisco because it's one of my favorite towns in Colorado and I feel like it's a little overlooked by visitors coming in for the resort towns nearby. Located just off I-70 nestled in between the mountains and Lake Dillon, it's the...

What Hiking Boots Should I Wear?

What Hiking Boots Should I Wear?

Finding the right pair of hiking boots can be a challenge. Everyone's feet are different so what works well for one person may not for another. I've worn $400 boots that hurt my feet terribly and $30 outlet boots that I wore until there were literal holes. I...

3 Hikes You Must Do In Maui

3 Hikes You Must Do In Maui

Like everyone who steps foot on the island of Maui, I have absolutely fallen in love. Of course there are the pristine beaches where sea turtles sunbathe, the delicious and impossibly fresh local food but then there's the hiking and like the rest, it's in a league...

Keep In Touch!

To keep up with the latest hikes & posts sign up for the Approachable Outdoors newsletter!

You have Successfully Subscribed!