Loveland Pass is the highest mountain pass in the state of Colorado. It sits on the continental divide as it reaches 11,990 feet in elevation with summits for avid hikers. I had the pleasure of enjoying a hike up the Mount Sniktau summit with my boyfriend in late April. It was the very first time I would hike anything this high up in elevation toward this beautiful summit.
My boyfriend mentioned that there might be snow, but I was not prepared to see endless sights of white. Driving up to Loveland Pass created a sensation that it was Christmas time on Easter weekend! I was breathless the entire way up and the turns made the drive even more exciting. The way up from the main highway only took about twenty minutes, but the view was worth every minute of the drive.
Once we got up to the spot at Mount Sniktau, we saw many people taking pictures by the Loveland Pass sign with the elevation numbers while others were getting ready to hike up and ski down the summit. I was nervous at the sight of the people with their layers and hiking gear. I felt unprepared, but thank goodness I found the same pair of work jeans that my boyfriend found the day before at Wal-Mart on our drive to the mountain. It kept my leggings from breathing in the cold. The pants and the headband that I found at the clearance section of Wal-Mart (surprisingly all their winter clothes were out of season in an area where tourists go hiking, go figure!) kept me warm for the entire day. The sun was high, but the wind was chilly which was good for me since I was fighting a cold since the weekend before.
I looked up at Mount Sniktau, but it did not seem that challenging from home base. However, my boyfriend then enlightened me that the peak I saw was the only the first peak. I could not see the second peek from our car that was parked in front of the beginning of the trail. It was exciting, yet frightening seeing people seem like ants on a small hill.
We each got our backpacks filled with our gear: selfie stick, Polaroid camera, protein snacks, emergency clothes, insulated water bottle, sunglasses, and scarfs. We put sunscreen on our faces and then we went off up to Mount Sniktau. Our goal was to reach the very top of the summit. That goal changed as we started going up.
I braced myself as I looked up at the trail. There were people coming up and coming back down ever so often. The hike did not feel as scary when I saw dogs. Owners would walk their dog while others let their spirits run freely around me. It was awesome seeing the dogs be excited about running anywhere they wanted. One dog kept running the same route over and over again just because they could.
I have not known what it is like to breath in such high elevation, especially with a cold. It was really tough for me to say the least. I focused on hiking up the summit piece by piece. My boyfriend was incredibly patient with me as we hiked up. We stopped about what it felt was 20 feet or so every time I needed a break. I could feel my heart rate increase over a small distance and had to allow myself to catch my breath before I continued. What really kept me going was the protein cookie and the protein gummies that I found from REI. Those were the only protein food I could find that seemed to taste like normal food without compromising the taste. I had to constantly keep taking bites from them due to the feeling of hunger I felt from the hike. It was really awesome enjoying a cookie while hiking up a mountain. The snow was pretty dense on the way up. There was a spot in which my leg suddenly went into to a huge pile of snow that reached all the way up my waist! And it was only the beginning of the hike.
The wind was strong, but not too cold that day. The sun was high, but not too hot over us. It was a good day to hike despite the lower oxygen levels that I was not used to experiencing. As we got higher and higher the view kept getting better and better by the step. It was exciting to feel that your own energy and effort is getting you somewhere new and beautiful.
We finally started ascending the last part of the first peak of Mount Sniktau. One we reached the peak the wind picked up so quickly. I could feel little ice particles hit the exposed skin on my face. The wind could have knocked me down if I let it. The view behind the peak showed a cliff descending behind the shadows of the peaks. The view was incredible! We faced the trail we had just followed and could not believe what we had just accomplished! The clouds above the mountains were moving fast. They seemed as though they could be touched with a jump. I could understand now the reasons people would hike up crazy destinations. Once you accomplish something that feels challenging you feel like you can do the next bigger challenge. It instills a confidence that keeps you going to do fearless decisions about frightening goals. Who else wouldn’t want to feel that?
We stayed at the top enjoying the view and of course also took the opportunity to take numerous pictures. I saw a shirtless guy at the top with us with skis on his back. I did not think people also ski down the summit, but that would be amazing to try out. However, the wind picked up a withing maybe the ten minutes we of reaching the peak, we had to start the hike back down. The hike down was also a bit challenging. The ice had patches where the snow was tightly packed and other patches that created a slippery slope in which I slid down twice.
The scenery was beautiful as we hiked down. We could not stop staring or taking pictures which slowed us down, but it was worth it. It took about 40 minutes to hike back down with more pictures in our phone. We reached the bottom and the feeling of accomplishing at least one peak was fulfilling. We wished we could have reached to the final peak, but we were starving and still had a two hour drive back to out Airbnb in Denver.
This was an amazing hiking experience. I would recommend the hike to anyone starting their journey with hikes. The trail is open and clean. The best part about it is the scenery at the top and on the drive there. Let’s not forget about the snow! I will definitely go back and reach the final peak one day!