As black as the skies appeared, perhaps it wasnít such a wise move to attempt 14,060-foot Mt. Bierstadt so late in the morning. Afternoon thunderstorms are fairly predictable this time of year in Colorado, but todayís storm was developing significantly ahead of schedule. I reassured myself that it was a straightforward climb and that, being so close to Denver, I would have plenty of company along the way. So with a marmot-chewed hiking pole in the grip of one hand and a stout spruce branch held in the other, I launched myself up the mountain, hoping I could reach the summit before conditions grew too dangerous to continue.
The bulk of the traffic was descending rather than climbing, and it didnít take long before thunder began contributing a baritone chorus of discouragement. Darkness intensified behind Mt. Bierstdt, and a few prudent souls reversed direction and retreated downhill. I surged ahead as fast as I could until, out-of-breath and physically spent, I won access to the rocky summit, where I could stare into the heart of the storm.
A black cloud mass hung over the neighboring Fourteener, Mt. Evans, and its dark tendrils had nearly enveloped the skies overhead. My intention to traverse the jagged Sawtooth Ridge and reach Mt. Evans was now out of the question. A 53-year old man had died while attempting that crossing just two weeks ago.