Well, you definitely never know how things will turn out with a 9 month old on just about any outdoor adventure much less taking her to over 14,000′. You just got to be very flexible as parents and go with the flow. Sometimes we do have to turn around on a hike or leave the climbing crag because she is over tired or because of any one of a number of other reasons. Sometimes she is very happy and can stretch her awake time without getting too fussy. One thing we do know is that there is no predictability 🙂 Nevertheless, we wanted to give a 14er a go with Sawyer. Make it a nice family outing on a shorter 14er so even Rainie could go. We thought of the easy and very accessible 14ers above Kite Lake in the Mosquito Range south of Breckenridge & Quandary Peak and figured Mt. Democrat would fit the bill nicely. In addition to only being 4 miles roundtrip and 2,250′ of elevation gain, there was Kite Lake at the trailhead so Rainie could go swimming before/after to stay cool. I had never seen so many cars (even a tour bus!) at a trailhead (well, except for Longs Peak, I guess) and we had to park 1/4 mile down the Kite Lake road at about 11,800′.
Sawyer didn’t nap much on the way to the Kite Lake trailhead, so she was a little unhappy at the beginning of the hike. But, she fell asleep on the gradual hike maybe 20-30 minutes from the trailhead. This was a BIG relief to Kristine & myself.
Sawyer slept for 45 minutes or so and woke up right as we crested the 13,400′ saddle between Democrat and Cameron. Hikers kept commenting to us upon seeing Sawyer in Kristine’s Ergo carrier, “Wow, there is a baby in there?” Funny stuff. We all took a break and snacked for 15-20 minutes at the saddle.
Having had a good nap, we transitioned Sawyer to the backpack and loaded it up on my back. We love this Kelty backpack – it fits Sawyer very well. One observation that we had were the number of folks on these 14ers. Even on a Friday, the masses were astounding. I mean I know these 14ers are some of the easiest and most accessible and thus most popular 14ers in the state, but all I could think was just “wow”. I honestly haven’t been on of these popular 14ers in the summer in over a decade and the crowds these days are sure different than they were in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The weather (cloud building) was a little intimidating and obviously we didn’t want to be caught out in a storm with a baby, but the weather held off just fine as we made our way to the summit. We sort of got off the trail and climbed the east ridge direct in order to avoid the crowds coming down the main trail consisting of loose scree/boulders. Rainie did wonderful on the off-trail boulder hopping and I believe people were equally impressed with 12-1/2 year old Rainie making her way up another 14er as they were with us having a 9 month old in the backpack.
We crested the summit maybe an hour and 45 minutes after leaving the trailhead. Not bad at all. The weather was holding and we got a few pics. Sawyer was really a trooper and not very much did I even hear a fuss from her – mainly just her squeals and laughs. She seems the happiest in the outdoors just like the rest of her family.
Being on the summit reminded me of the last time I was on Democrat with Rainier and Kristine in the winter of 2004.
We then motored down the summit ridge and back onto the standard east ridge trail and back down to the saddle.
Sawyer again had a snack as I gave the dogs some food once we got well below the saddle and then she really did well in the backpack all the way back down to Kite Lake. She was a happy camper back down in the meadows on the shores of Kite lake while Rainie swam again.
It was a very memorable day for Kristine and myself and we were/are so proud of Sawyer for being a trooper up a 14er. Not that we’d want to attempt a 14er every weekend with her, but maybe another one is in the cards before the snows come. Not that Sawyer will remember anything about this day, but we are hopeful she’ll look back at these pictures and say “wow, my parents carried me up a 14er when I was 9 months old”.