Wilson Peak is featured on the Coors LIght and Coors Banquet cans. // © 2017 Michelle Juergen
Feature image (above): The routes on fourteeners have been classified by difficulty level. // © 2017 Michelle Juergen
I inhaled a few short puffs from my recreational oxygen canister and took a long sip of my electrolyte-powder-laced water. As I leaned against my trekking poles and caught my breath, a marmot ran by, scrambling up a nearly vertical wall of jagged rocks and causing scree to careen downward. I readjusted my helmet, tightened my harness, glanced backward into the valley that was now far below me, and trudged on.
This wasn’t a distant planet I was traversing, but it may as well have been. I had begun hiking Wilson Peak, located just outside Telluride, Colo., when the sky was still pitch-black and the Milky Way was out in full force — a rare sighting for an Angeleno. Now, it was sunny and warm, and my hiking group was making its way to the 14,017-foot summit.
As one of Colorado’s 58 mountain peaks that exceed 14,000 feet — known as fourteeners — Wilson Peak is popular with “peak baggers,” mountaineer types who aim to summit a collection of peaks. While I can’t name myself among them, I was determined to make it to at least this one apex — altitude, fatigue and risk of injury be damned.
What I didn’t count on was my escalating anxiety as we scrambled over loose, sharp rocks that clattered down startlingly vertical drops. Thankfully, I had an expert leader to quell my unease: the calm and ever-patient Josh Butson, owner of San Juan Outdoor Adventures.
In addition to their everyday guiding, Butson and his staff lead novice and expert hikers up the mountain each summer as part of The Hotel Telluride’s “Crack a Coors on Wilson Peak” package. The offering includes a three-night stay, breakfast, a guided tour to the summit and much-needed post-hike spa services. (Rates begin at $2,159, based on double occupancy.) And, of course, to celebrate their journey, clients sip on a Coors Banquet or a Coors Light — both beers feature the iconic peak on their labels.
The annual package is available from July 1 to Sept. 15 (dates are weather-dependent), but it’s never too early to start booking. As the trek encompasses Class 3 and 4 climbing grades — which means scrambling and lots of exposure — clients must be in good physical (and mental) shape.
Indeed, the hike benched some members of our group at various points before the summit (myself included thanks to my fear of heights). But after enjoying hours of stunning panoramas at nearly every turn, I still felt as though I had finished on a high note.