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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Mount Evans

August 30th, 2015 · No Comments

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This summer I have been going higher and higher in the mountains of Colorado. I’ve also made sure to get up early so I could reach the trailheads at sunrise. Today I reached both of my limits.

​I climbed to the summit of Mount Evans. At 14,264 feet, it is the highest of the Chicago Peaks in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains and is 70 miles southwest of my home in Boulder. The highest paved road in North America took me up to 14,127 feet, so I only had to hike about a quarter of a mile to the summit.

At the Summit of Mount Evans

At the Summit of Mount Evans

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​Colorado has 11 mountains that are even higher that Mount Evans, starting with Mount Elbert, which is 176 feet more. But none of them have roads that will take me most of the way there.

I also reached my limit in early rising today. I had to get out of my warm bed at 3:15 a.m. to get to the trailhead by sunrise. And it sure wasn’t warm at the summit, where the temperature was 36 degrees when I arrived at 6:06.

Climbing to the summit was only one of my goals on this trip. The other was to see Mountain Goats. I saw two of them near the summit, including this one with a long tongue.

​This Mountain Goat Wasn't Sticking Its Tongue Out at Me

This Mountain Goat Wasn't Sticking Its Tongue Out at Me

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​As I returned, I stopped to photograph some alpine plants in the tundra. Just then a flock of birds flew over, and one stopped right where I was looking.

An American Pipit Also Enjoyed the Tundra

An American Pipit Also Enjoyed the Tundra

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When I pulled off the road a little further down, I noticed this animal resting on a rock.

This Yellow-bellied Marmot Looks Ready for Winter

This Yellow-bellied Marmot Looks Ready for Winter

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​It’s still amazing to me that anything lives all year at such high altitude. Almost all birds there are migrants, of course, visiting for the brief growing season. I don’t know of any birds except the White-tailed Ptarmigan (like those I saw a few days ago on Niwot Ridge) that live all year in the tundra.​

The thick coats of the Mountain Goats help them withstand winter temperatures as low as -50 degrees and winds of 100 mph, not extreme weather by Mount Evans standards, where 123 mph has been recorded. The Mountain Goats do sometimes have to descend into the trees of the alpine region.

The Yellow-bellied Marmots remain all year in the tundra, but they will start their long hibernation soon. I’ve heard that they have the longest hibernation of any animal, almost two-thirds of the year.

While the Mount Evans Scenic Byway takes us so easily to near the top of this Fourteener (as we call these mountains in Colorado), the season that we can spend here is brief. In 28 miles this road climbs 7,000 feet and is normally open only from Memorial Day to Labor Day. But this year the Colorado Department of Transportation wasn’t able to open the road until August 4 because of unusually heavy snowfall this winter, spring, and early summer. It even snowed there early this week, so I am glad that I was finally able to get back to the really high country this year.

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