A three-day weekend in Denver opens up a world of possibilities, from road tripping around National Parks to barbecuing at some nice spots in your own neighborhood. My friends and I wanted to get out of town, away from the crowds, but not spend the entire weekend on the road. So we loaded up our cars with bags of salty snacks, dirt covered packs brimming with gear, one very fluffy puppy, and drove the just over five hours into the San Juans to find our campsite. After pitching our homes for the night and filling our bellies with dinners warmed by the fire, we crawl into our sleeping bags for a good night’s rest. Next morning we’ll be conquering the class 3, seven-mile trail to Wetterhorn Peak.

1

Lindsay traces the intricacies of the distance ridgeline that will be part of our route. As a 14er finisher, she is a wealth of knowledge that we constantly bombard with questions ranging from trail conditions to favorite whiskey for the trail. It’s helpful to look to all sources when planning your route, from websites to books to the humans who have actually been there.

2

Dillon stares intently at my breakfast as I munch during an early morning stop. Furry companions are a common sight on the trails in Colorado, and it’s important to research the regulations of any particular area when hiking with your pup. Dillon has hiked over forty peaks, and he provided ample laughter and encouragement as he forged ahead of the group for the majority of the hike.

3

Being a short hike, the trail to Wetterhorn Peak allowed us to begin later than our typical alpine start. Still on the easy class 2 portion of the trail, the early morning sun warms our bodies and the landscape around us, causing us to delayer early in our journey.

4

Collette dangles her feet off of a rocky ledge while taking in the view. Situated in the San Juan range of the Rocky Mountains, Wetterhorn Peak quickly rises above its surrounding landscape. Besides a furry marmots call or the footsteps of our boots over shifting rocks, the world is quite still above treeline.

5

The mountains are unforgiving, and —regardless of difficulty— every trail requires proper preparation. It is important to surround yourself with people you trust, constantly check weather reports, study the route, and determine the proper equipment needed for your adventure of choice. Summit in sight and helmet on, Lindsay makes her way up a small section of scramble.

6

The hills and peaks behind us seem endless as we make our way up the mountainside. Often, we become so consumed in the task at hand, we forget to take a moment and truly observe the surroundings.

7

Lindsay eyes our surroundings as we scramble toward the summit of Wetterhorn Peak. A few loose rocks make for a fun climb as the familiar feeling of helmets clipping around our chins, reminds us of climbs in the past and stirs excitement for those in the future.

8

After making their way up a class 3 section, Lindsay and Dillon maneuver themselves to make room for the others climbers. Tiny, bright spots on a colorful cliffside, I look up at them as we wait to make our ascent, and remember how tiny I am in the wake of mother nature.

9

A final push brings us to the summit. The landscape here is different from the rest of Colorado. The jagged ridges around us protrude from the vibrant hillsides with every shade of green like skin stretching across each vertebra of a hunching spine.

10

After summit yoga, slices of pizza, and way too many photos, we begin the 3.5 miles back to the car. The descent is full of smiles as we get ready to sway in our hammocks and scarf down dinner and whiskey as we tell stories around a roaring fire.

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