The grind is finally over, and now it's time for business! The serious hiking starts here at the Great Sand Dunes National Park, the location of the highest sand dunes in North America.
From the park, the route is quite simple. Abutting the sand dunes is the Sangres de Cristo Range aka the "Blood of Christ." I gain and run the ridge for a week and, hopefully, not get Harry Potter'd.
The traverse stays on the ridge the entire time except for skirting the Crestones, two 14ers in the way. The only thing is, 31 13ers are in the way instead! And if I ain't having enough fun yet, 15 more 13ers are within striking distance on the side.
Yep, it's a peak bagging extravaganza!
In typically Colorado fashion, fucking denied. On my first peak and less than half a mile from the summit, I already had to bail. No surprise this will probably become a reoccurring theme, but thunderstorms are no joke and are a fact of life in the Colorado mountains.
After hiding on the side of Pikes Peak for an hour, I was finally able to drop elevation and make camp. A bit of a disappointing way to end the day.
That was until the city beneath me lit up. Wow! There was just something special in how the city lights twinkled underneath a towering mountain. I couldn't help but feel mesmerized by the Springs at night while eating chicken wings and drinking soda in my tent. Made today's snafu totally worth it!
I've been quite fortunate in recent years to be living the so-called dream. Traveling and backpacking across some of the most beautiful places in the world. Not working much and surviving on my multimillion-dollar trust fund alone.
Yeah, I wish.
But as I've been making the world smaller on foot, I realized something. I don't need to travel far to find some of the best hiking in the world. The mountains in my backyard are a hiker's paradise. Providing what I consider that quintessential hiking experience.
This year, I've decided to explore more of my home turf with an ambitious route through the Colorado Rockies. Hitting what seems like all of the mountains - or about 100+ 13ers and some 14ers. The route stays as high as possible to get the best scenic views and also for a major ass kicking.
I've had this project on my mind for years now. From looking at maps of Colorado, I always knew an epic route could be drawn up. Finally, it's taking fruition - the Colorado Loop.
I really didn't want to camp this high on my first day. At 15,000 feet. This is the highest I've ever been in my life! And I'm not even at the pass yet.
What a brutal way to start a hike. An immediate 5,600 feet of vert. The thing is, I know this is not even the hard part. My plans have me going a lot higher and doing it over and over again 35 times.
But I like to look at the bright side. This traverse is just a warm-up for the ass kicking coming later this year.
Talk about going out of my comfort zone. Here I am alone in Peru. On a super long bus ride about to be dropped off in some small mountain town after dark. The stops are not announced, and I can't make out much.
It definitely would help if I could speak the local language but nope. Unsurprisingly, I know more Spanish than the locals know English, which ain't much because I know maybe ten words or so.
But why worry? Let my first adventure in South America begin!