Stanley Mountain.

Stanley Mountain from Berthoud Pass
Class 1 with a tiny bit of simple class 2
7.9 miles round trip
1,944ft of elevation gain
Hike time: 2hrs 30min

This beautiful mountain peaks at 12,521ft and the trail is predominately above treeline. It is also part of the Continental Divide Trail, which of course runs from Mexico to Canada.

I chose Stanley Mountain because I had a day to myself. So I wanted something with good distance, moderate elevation gain and a lesser chance of predator sightings. Because I'm still not super comfortable with the idea of saying hello to a bear. I started at the trail head at 5:45am and was so delighted by the alpenglow and very colorful sunrise. This unfortunately was in part due to the forest fires in Breck. But it was lovely nonetheless. There was one other car in the lot- there always is. It's always one old man who has been doing this his whole life. He's come for solitude and sunrise photos. And he'll start earlier than even the earliest early bird. Someday I will be this old man.

Within ten minutes I was struck by amazing views, clean scents and crisp mountain air. It was warmer than I had expected- about 45 degrees when I hit the trail. Throughout the hike it became a bit windy, but I don't think it ever got cooler as my elevation rose. Just one of those magical days. I was above treeline after about twenty five/thirty minutes. And with the alpenglow still shadowing everything in pinks and oranges, I felt like I was in a fairytale.

On this whole trail, the only steep part is what I have photographed above. Some very sharp switchbacks. This is where a good majority of the elevation gain happens. Once you get to the top, the rest of the hike is sweet, sweet tundra.

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Marmot Bill was waiting for me. I'm fairly certain of two things in this life. I will never stop being SO excited to see marmots. And I will always name them. They are the cutest animal in the world and I love them.

At about this point, I crossed paths with a woman who had all the backpacking gear a lady could want. I asked her if she was thru-hiking the CDT and as it turns out, she was! She had started in Mexico and was making her way north. We chatted for a bit and even though the conversation was brief, I felt so inspired. She was doing this huge hike solo, and she looked to be in her 40's or 50's. What a rad woman. What a rad human. I dearly hope that in my buncha years left on this earth, a handful of them are thru-hikes.

From this point, I could look left and see the shadows of rolling mountains. To the right, high alpine peaks. And right in front of me, the summit of Stanley. Very unassuming. Unmarked. A slope with a giant rock pile on top. The trail stopped right before the rock pile and I crunched my way to the top. Another summit with solitude.

I hung out for a while. Wondering which mountains I'd summit this year, within view from Stanley. Very content to be alone. Still soaking up that last bit of alpenglow. It crossed my mind briefly; what if I just kept hiking... someday I will :)