|Peak:||Mt. Bierstadt (14er)|
|Route:||Bierstadt, Sawtooth, Evans|
|Date of Information:||06/18/2011|
Completed the Combo route solo up the Bierstadt West Slopes, across the Sawtooth, up the Mt. Evans west ridge and then back down the gully starting from the saddle between Mt Spalding and the Sawtooth.
The route up Bierstadt at 8:00 am was mostly dry with occasional mud and small snowfields. Everything was passable with only hiking boots.
I began the descent onto the Sawtooth ridge at 10:30 am after a short break. The route crossed five moderate to steep snowfields mixed in with dry rock and boulder fields. This was my first time attempting the route and I felt the 14ers.com description and scattered cairns along the way made route finding pretty obvious as long as I paid attention. The first two snowfields were relatively solid and I was able to kick in supportive foot holds sinking 4-8 inches. The remaining fields became slushy around 11:30 am with moderate postholing up to waist deep at times. All snow was passable in hiking boots only but snowshoes or crampons may help less experienced climbers. I used trekking poles while on the snow but hands or an ice axe would also work depending on your comfort level. The ramp past the gendarme was dry/easy terrain. The hike to Evans was also dry and in good shape allowing me to summit by 1:30 pm.
The first 3/4 of the descent gully was loose, dry, and steep rock following a small trail. The bottom 1/4 of the gully was deep snow that was soft by the early afternoon causing waist to chest deep postholing so I decided to glissade down the snow sliding on my butt and using by heels to control speed. Overall there was probably 300 meters of sliding. You could hike down the snow easily with snowshoes but with only hiking boots today, glissading was the only good option.
Exiting the snow filled gully was a small game trail that crossed soggy marshes, thick willow fields, and countless snowfields. For the next few weeks, the bottom stretch of the gully back to the main trail to the parking lot will be a frustrating slog through cold water, deep snow, and lots of mud. You will give up on all attempts to stay dry and will willingly accept walking through mud and streams to avoid the thick snow filled willows. After passing the last of the large beaver ponds on your right, find a game trail that meanders through the willows towards the start of the Bierstadt trail and finish the last ½ mile on the well travelled and muddy trail to the parking lot. I finished at 4:30 pm without any major difficulties except for navigating through the willows and mud. Overall the route was in good shape with just enough difficulty and snow to make for a very enjoyable day despite constant winds in the 20-40 MPH range. I recommend bringing 2-3 pairs of socks and gaitors to keep your feet dryer.