We're all smiles as we cruise the nearly flat trail through the aspens.
I had my good camera and couldn't help but take a lot of photos. The curve of the aspens mesmerized me. They bend like this because winter snows weigh down their trunks.
A bit farther on we tried for a group photo, although the timer barely gave us enough time to get into position! The 13,063 foot peak still looks far away.
As we cruised up to treeline, we paused to take a look at Stella Lake. By this point it was already looking pretty small.
We hit patches of snow and had some snow ball fights.
Soon we were above treeline and seeing more snow on the edge of the ridge.
The forecast was for a windy day, and as we hiked up the ridge, we felt it. We promised the kids that once we got to the big flattish ridge we would stop for lunch.
We found a huge wind shelter and plopped down. It took us about 2.5 hours to get here, and I remembered that this spot was about half-way time-wise to the top.
We put on extra layers as it was getting colder. We knew it was 90 degrees down in the valley, so it was nice to be somewhere cool.
After lunch the trail got much steeper as we started gaining elevation faster.
Desert Boy had been whining quite a lot on the hike, so finally I asked him about his video games. Wow, what a switch! He suddenly was full of all sorts of information about them and kept talking and talking while he was climbing and climbing, and then all of a sudden we were at the western summit. The last part of the trail was covered in snow, so we had to just scramble up the ridge.
We carefully made our way along the snow and enjoyed the views to the south.
The kids signed us into the trail register.
Hurray for moms! One hiker (in shorts and Chacos) had turned back because of all the snow and high winds, but we persisted and made it. The wind wasn't particularly strong at the summit, but I got knocked down a couple times on the ridge right before it. The weather forecast was calling for afternoon gusts of 50 mph.
We decided to savor the top and take some photos. Here I am with Desert Boy. He kept saying he was never going to climb the peak again. (Now he says he will, but in a few years.)
Can you spot the three lakes? Stella and Teresa are blue, but Brown Lake is, well, brown. It's not a cirque lake, but in the moraine and very shallow.
We left the kids by the mailbox and hiked down the summit ridge towards Jeff Davis Peak. Here's Jenny hanging out over the edge.
Down below to the north we could see the rock glacier.
When we got back to the kids, Desert Boy was feeling some altitude sickness. So we started descending right away. Next time it would be better if we camped the night before at Wheeler Peak campground (about 10,000 ft) so he would have more time to acclimatize.
We couldn't hear each other talk on the way down because the wind was so strong. So we kept going with very short breaks for the next hour and a half. Finally we reached treeline and Desert Boy felt better.
He started talking up a storm.
As we were back in the meadows, we looked at the faraway peak. Had we really climbed it?