Sleep Deprivation in Summiting Mount Bierstadt

Jackson Nielsen

After having completed so many solo adventures to the great Rocky Mountains of Colorado, an idea began to materialize within my youthful mind. An idea in which I would attempt to drive to Colorado, summit a 14,000 foot peak, and then drive back to Kearney in as little time as I could. This adventure speedrun remained as only an idea in my head until one cool summer night in which my idea would finally come to fruition. 

Packing my car with all of the necessary gear I would need for the endeavor ahead, I pulled out of my driveway at 10pm on a Friday night. With an energy drink in my cup holder, I cruised down the empty streets of Kearney, Nebraska blasting Radiohead’s “Creep” as I felt the brisk night air flow between my fingers as I stuck my hand out the window. The drive was going as expected until the first wave of drowsiness began to hit me with the force of an 18-wheeled truck. I cracked open my energy drink and continued making headway down the interstate towards the Colorado-Nebraska border. But the night had other ideas. My body yearned for sleep but my spirit for adventure wouldn’t be suppressed so easily. At a stop for gas, I resorted to buying another energy drink in an attempt to arrive at the trailhead safely. As I continued my trek west, my eyelids felt as though they weighed three tons each. At one point, as I slowly nodded off, a wild animal ran across the road, scaring me half to death and reminding me how dangerous it is to drive while drowsy. After many hours in the dark car and many self-inflicted slaps to the face in order to stay conscious, I arrived to the trailhead of Mount Bierstadt, which is right off of Guanella Pass near Georgetown, Colorado. 

It felt nice to stand up and stretch my legs and the cold, mountain air awakened my senses and pushed the drowsiness away. With my headlamp on my head, I began my hike at three in the morning, mountain time that is. Hiking through that dark valley, the stars lit up overhead. More than I had ever seen, I had to take a moment and just gaze up at the heavens, admiring the handiwork of our great creator. As I hiked, shooting stars shot across the sky over my head. The sun had just begun to crest the horizon as I reached the boulder field above the vegetation line. I willed my sleep deprived body to the summit where I was able to take in the views of the mountains basked in the early morning light. With no time to waste in my adventure speedrun, I quickly turned around and began my descent back to my car. The hike down went faster than the way up and I made great time getting to my vehicle. After a quick bathroom break, I began the six hour drive back home. With my legs and body aching from the lack of sleep and from the strenuous hike I had just completed, I was doing everything in my power to try to remain comfortable. This six hour drive was one of the worst commutes I had ever done. My body was hurting so bad and it was such a relief when I finally pulled back into my driveway at my house. Another solo adventure under my belt.