My friend and I hiked Mt. Evans yesterday. It was my 6th 14er summit and my friend's (and his dog's) first. Certainly all of our hardest hikes ever.
We drove up to Guanella Pass and started on the Bierstadt trail at 5:30am. I was prepared for the valley with great waterproof boots and gaiters; my friend was not. Even with the bridges on the Bierstadt trail, there was still a lot of mud. Then after heading off of the trail to follow the west ridge route to Evans it's all in marshlands/lakes/streams depending on how much you're paying attention to the line you're taking. The willow bashing wasn't bad, there are tiny paths you can follow so you're not completely paving the way. My poor friend had very cold and very wet feet. Luckily I had told him to bring extra socks.
off Bierstadt trail looking back towards the parking lot
You then head up the gulley between Spalding and the Sawtooth. I'm in good shape but an admittedly slow hiker and I thought it was hard enough. My friend and his dog mostly followed the scree paths on the side with a lot of slipping and sliding. I've taken a pretty big fall on scree so I opted to just climb the boulders in the middle. It was steep enough that I put my trekking poles in one hand so I could use my hands to climb. Definitely not steep enough to warrant ropes or anything, but it was steeper than I had assumed. To put it in perspective, I've only done 14ers that were classes 1 and 2. While this route is a class 2 as well, it is quite different than the trail to Grays and Torreys…
up the gully looking back, we had come through the trees
Above the gulley, the terrain is rocky but opens up and of course flattens out more.
Sawtooth/Bierstadt are to your right, Spalding to your left, and the "hump" the route tells you to look for is more than obvious as you keep walking. You just stay towards the right side of the hump and the cairns lead you along the west ridge towards Evans. It was pretty easy to follow even though it's not an obvious trail. I wasn't sure where the summit was supposed to be at that point because you’re hiking along the side of the ridge but finally looked up to see Mt. Evans road and the parking lot. At that point we picked up the trail that had started from the parking lot to reach the summit. It’s a little bittersweet sharing the summit with people who had driven up and walked 5 minutes to the top when we had just hiked 5 hours. Then again, I’ve been to the top of Pike’s Peak in a car so who am I to talk.
view from the summit
Grays and Torreys I believe
Our way down was uneventful (though it was windy on the ridge) until we got back to that gulley. My shoe got wedged between boulders as I was slipping and I twisted my knee. My kneecaps were already sore because they always hurt on descents but this made me actually sit down for a minute. Not that I really had any other choice, but I decided to ignore the pain and just keep going. (Fortunately it actually didn’t cause too much discomfort on the way down – today’s a different story though). So anyway, we were slow going down and the time was escaping us quickly, this route taking much longer than I had anticipated. I just wanted to get down in the valley before any weather hit because we could at least take some cover in the trees. My friend decided to scout us a “dry route” back to the car which consisted of staying to the right of the lake/marshes on the way back (which from our view the route tells you to stay to the left). I told him we should still stay to the left because I was uncomfortable straying from the route like that but we could take a higher line towards the hill to avoid the marshes more. Unfortunately he was persuasive enough to allow me to make a stupid decision and agree to his stupid decision. Though we didn’t encounter anything too dangerous, let’s just say I’ll never stray from the route again. Between boulder fields that even his big dog couldn’t get across without us carrying him and being wacked in the face too many times by the overgrown willows we had to completely bash through, I had had enough and made him cross to the other side and deal with the marshes again. He still had 1 clean/dry pair of socks for the drive home.
By the time we met back up with the Bierstadt trail, we were in slightly poor spirits from the difficulty of the day. An 8.5 mile hike took us 9 hours. I didn’t mean for his first 14ers to be so hard, but the other class 2 hikes I had done were nothing like this so I didn’t know any better. Looking on the bright side, we did completely luck out with the weather. We didn’t get back to the car until 3:30, hours after I had planned, and could’ve gotten caught in a lightning storm. It started to rain in the first mile driving home. Much appreciated.
Gully as seen from the parking lot
Though not my greatest 14er hike, I still had a blast and it definitely won’t change my plans for many more this summer. Hopefully for my friend, in a week or two the miserable parts will fade away and the accomplishment and excitement will take over and this won’t be his first and only 14er liked he vowed yesterday.
Hardly any snow on this route, just a few drifts left that we postholed through in the afternoon. Sidenote: dogs postholing is probably one of the funniest things ever.