| Muddy Bierstadt - West Slope
My friend Dan and I camped up on Guanella Pass Friday night (6-10) with our dogs Oz and Molly and temps didn't get much below 35 degrees at close to 10,800'. With a late arrival to the campsite and some fireworks going off in the valley till pretty late that night, we had a slow start to the trailhead of Bierstadt on Saturday morning.
There were about 12 or so cars already at the trailhead parking lot and some guys we met on the way up said they started just after 5am. We got on the trail about 8:20 with the sun already up over the Sawtooth.
There was plenty of snow at the trailhead and along the first mile or so of the trail.
Many of those in the parking lot were packing snowshoes. Looking at the mountain from here, you might think snowshoes were needed but we decided to forgo carrying them and didn't regret this one bit.
The climb through the willows was only slowed by the occasional post-holing and attempts to stay out of the mud. Once out of the willows, there were a handful of snow patches that required crossing as the trail grew steeper. It would've been nearly impossible to avoid the snow all together but there were certainly places we made efforts to do so just to avoid the inevitable post-holing and sliding.
You can even avoid snow at this point up the final ridge, as did our new friends Katrina and Lindsey. Dan, Oz, Molly, and myself chose to stay in the snow closest to the exposed rocks without problem.
We arrived at the summit about 10:45am making our assent time about 2.5 hours.
It was Oz's first 14er, Dan's 3rd or 4th.
And Molly and my 4th.
Molly Dorkus at the top
At any one time, we were four of about twelve people and dogs on the summit...definitely no chance for solitude up there this time of the morning on a Saturday. For some that morning, Bierstadt was their first 14er. Others were relative veterans and headed for the Sawtooth and on to Evans after a break on Bierstadt's summit. Still others were celebrating college graduation with another 14er. For newbies, veterans, and everyone in between, this was a beautiful day for hiking the Front Range.
There's obviously some snow still at the top but the wind held off for the most part, actually making it warmer on the summit than most of the trail just below the ridge. But Frozen Lake is...still frozen.
After some relaxation and snacks on top, we headed down because I had to make it back to Denver by 3:30pm. Snagged some pictures of the Front Range to the west with Grays and Torreys to make this panorama before heading back down.
Lindsey, (another) Dan, Molly and myself headed down the steep west face of Bierstadt instead of going back the way we came, taking a bit of a shortcut.
This probably wasn't the best idea as there were plenty of loose rocks, making it slow going. We met back up with (my) Dan, Oz, and Katrina after taking a (purposeful) sweet slide down one of the long snow banks just beneath the west ridge.
From there, the hike back to the car was much, much wetter than the hike up. At some points, the trail was a small creek of melted snow. Other sections were pure slush. The dogs didn't mind, but without gaiters on, our feet couldn't help getting cold wet. The trail's gonna be wet for a while but there's definitely no need for snowshoes at this point. Just be prepared to get wet and muddy. I think gaiters would be a good idea for the next couple of weeks at least.
The bridge across the creek near the trailhead was still covered with several feet of snow and proved no problem crossing either time.
Made it back to the car just after 1pm for a total trip time just under 5 hours. All in all, a great day on one of Colorado's least demanding 14ers! Bierstadt looks like it will make a great backcountry skiing destination next winter, for sure
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):