Buying Gear?  Click Here
Buying gear? Please use these links to help 14ers.com:

More info...

Other ways to help...
 Peak(s):  Mt. Evans  -  14,264 feet
 Post Date:  08/16/2011 Modified: 08/31/2011
 Date Climbed:   08/01/2001
 Posted By:  polaris

 In the Hall of the Mountain King   

... the Mountain King keeps watch over his castle of stone...
In the summer of 2009, your flatlander narrator, polaris, contemplated crossing the terrible teeth of the Bierstadt Sawtooth (see "River of Doubt" by polaris on 14ers) to gain the summit of Mt. Evans. I settled for the virtually unexplored Quandary instead. Now 2 years later the summit of Evans via the Sawtooth lay on my laptop. I researched and assessed all existing pics, videos, and testimony regarding the exact width of that ledge and the exact vertical drop for one who might fall from it. I matched these assessments to my 56 year old capabilities and insecurities and came to the same conclusion. I'm too old, too weak, too poorly acclimatized, and way too acrophobic. My brother-in-law Gary and I will attempt Evans from Echo Lake, up and over Spalding, and then crawl around Evans to the top. This route is 8 miles long and gains 5600 feet; very little of which can be seen from Echo Lake. A trail fit for a King!

Image
Echo Lake Lodge a little Shaky



Echo Lake Lodge is known for its excellent pan fried trout and pie. I believe that a victory today will certainly include this treat!

We left bright and early from Idaho Springs and parked at the lodge. We saw one guy unloading his bike there for an unimaginable ride up and horrifying ride back down. The 14ers trail guide has one take the wheelchair trail around the south side of Echo Lake then down into the Chicago Creek Basin. I feel very comfortable here. The artistry in this picture is evidently metaphorical.

Image
polaris on wheel chair accessible trail (shaky)


This morning is crisp, the trail soft from the downpour of the previous eve. The nose is rewarded; the eye is appeased. The trail drops about 400 feet through a soft forest on a decent trail to Chicago Creek. Gushing water has made the little bridge a little slick, but not too bad. Gary skittles across like a school kid. So far we are the only creatures on two legs up and about.

Image
Dawn's arisin' from trail into Chicago Creek


After a little trail hiking and little road walking, Idaho Springs Reservoir comes into view. A careful observer will find a tree with bronze memorials dedicated to man's best friend.

Image
Idaho Springs Reservoir


Near the south end of Idaho Springs Reservoir are a couple of cabins and the sign-in book for the Mount Evans Wilderness. What has been a walk (empty of others and completely beautiful) quickly becomes a hike! We are about 2 miles into the trek and I am thinking about that 5 hour energy drink already! Hang on polaris there is much more ahead. Fire and elevation have thinned the forest to a few young spruce. The meadows, nourished by this year's abundant moisture and ash, explode in wildflowers!

Image
Fire and Flower


Image
Indian Paintbrush


Oh my it is beautiful here! Gary and I are the only humans up here. I believe I touched the face of God just as the sun broke in Chicago Creek. We stir up a few muley's from their rest. Those included in the "we" will soon come into question.

Image
Wildflowers in Abundance



Chicago Creek Basin opens above timberline and the first Chicago Lake, a glacial tarn is ahead. So is the dead end at Mt. Spalding. We are starting to get some good looks at the wall that must be scaled at the end of the basin. Gary, a local and mountain goat, is starting to trail ahead of me. He is somewhat concerned about what's in front of us.

Image
Gary


... towers of stone in the Hall of the Mountain King...

Image
Hall of the Mountain King


Holy Crap we spot the track of the Mountain King!!! It is fresh and almost as wide as my clumsy 12.5W Keen's at 3.5 inches. This is amazing and somewhat terrifying. We saw an inconclusive track but very similar about an hour earlier. This big cat knows we are here. I believe he might have had the muley's moving around just ahead of us. Anyway we remember the rule: look big, scary, and unintimidated no matter how freaking scared one might be to encounter a snarling mountain lion.

Image
Mountain King


We crawl through a twisted grove of forest and cave. This is wilderness defined! No people, big cats, no way here except on foot, no way out except on foot; this is a dream!

Image
What Lives in Here?


Image
Crawl Space


We bust through the crawl space and out into full view of the headwall we must climb, Mt. Spalding. A large herd of bighorn sheep and their babies are frolicking in the snow. The "kids" seem to be especially joyous as they do their Herky's from a rock outcrop 15 feet above and down to a snow field. Oh my, will the wonders of this hike cease!

Image
Mt. Spalding


Just ahead lies the wall! Let's down that 5 hour energy drink polaris. You're about 3 miles from the summit now. I heard that these Chicago Lakes are full of cutthroat trout. Why don't I just stop here and fish? These thoughts are contemplated seriously. This is going to kick my 56 year old oxygen starved butt. We must climb up toward the V. This is about a 1000 foot elevation gain over 1/2 mile. There are numerous mountain goats up there including Gary about half way up already.

Image
Dead End


Marmots demand their respect and permit those with adequate humility to pass. Gasping for every breath and becoming increasingly humiliated, I am permitted to pass. (I could be hallucinating a bit) I leave a little pile of nuts from my trail mix. Seriously, maybe two or three, I know one shouldn't feed wildlife.

Image
Guardians of the Trail


Looking back at the Upper Chicago Lake. Leaving the Hall of the Mountain King! Glad I didn't run into him!

Image
Upper Chicago Lake


After 5.5 miles we reach Summit Lake and civilization. We spot our first humans of the day. (Pretty nice compared to other 14er Conga lines) I feel pretty good. The weather is holding fairly well, but I still have 2.5 miles to go mostly around 14000 feet give or take a couple hundred. We are going to get picked up on top. Thank God someone made that call! We could get picked up at Summit Lake and call it quits. One foot, one breath, one stone, many stones and it can be accomplished. I need to find a sustainable speed to get off the mountain, in the car and back to Echo Lake Lodge for trout and pie.

Image
Summit Lake Civilization


The elevation of Summit Lake is 12850. The elevation of Mt. Spalding is 13842. We have 1000 vertical feet to summit this. Many hikers have left their cars at Summit Lake to take this trail to the top. They stream past old polaris like I'm standing still. I admire their youth and strength. From the top of Spalding you can really appreciate the Chicago Basin with it's two upper glacial tarns and long draining valley. What an amazing sight!

Image
Chicago Creek from Atop Spalding


Speaking of strength, my brother-in-law, Gary, who is somewhere around 10 years older than me, is racing toward the summit just like the kids. I admire his strength, patience, and his love of the outdoors. Grays and Torreys arise like two perfect mountain tops. There is still a ton of snow for the first day of August. The mountains are very green this year! Grays was my first 14er and Torreys my third. You can read about them under my name, polaris, "Unfinished Business, Youthful Vitality, and Pine Beetle Infestation". Parenthetically, and of no consequence to mountaineering knowledge, the beautiful girl in my previous reports is now my wife and will meet us at the top.

Image
Grays and Torreys


Okay back to business. One must make a horseshoe like turn from Spalding, across the connecting saddle adjoining Evans and the Sawtooth, and scramble around a LONG boulder field to gain the Summit.

Image
Evans on the other side of the Horseshoe


I am really slowing down now and the clouds are really speeding up. I dig out one of those energy bars and take about a 5 minute siesta. The saddle is just ahead and I can see people coming off the Sawtooth. I am going to need to interview them about their experience.

Image
Bierstadt and its Terrible Teeth


Image
Sawtooth


The other side of the horseshoe greets the mountaineer with a very long pile of boulders to scramble through. It is marked pretty decently with cairns. There is a lot of crawling, scooting, hopping, and general snaking through there. It would have really been a gas to do this if I hadn't run out of it, and I am hearing distant thunder. Honestly, the exposure to the weather would not be good here. Might be able to crawl in a hole, but these boulders would be much less fun if wet and electrified. Need a little gut check here but there is nowhere else to go but get my tail over to the summit, take a pic, and beat cheeks to the car.

Image
polaris


I met a hiker who had summited Bierstadt, crossed the Sawtooth, and was racing past me. I slowed him down long enough to get some information about my nightmares. This young athletic dude said the ledge wasn't too bad, maybe 18 inches at it's narrowest and maybe a thousand foot drop (enough said for me), but the gendarme or last tooth was trickier than he thought it would be. He said it was loose and steep on that pitch and one had better not take it for granted. In fact, a woman died earlier this summer losing her footing on a snowfield on the east side of the Sawtooth and fell to her death. People are moving pretty fast now and the thunder is a little closer. I move from cairn to cairn taking quick breathers. Finally I see my wife on the tourist trail just up ahead. She sees my red tuke and waves enthusiastically. This is a great sight. I limp up the tourist trail with the same feelings every other writer has penned about sharing the summit with those who came from the parking lot. We find a day old piece of paper naming the summit hidden in the boulders.

Image
Summit with Day Old Sign


When one is alone and confronts their fears, one feels very much alive. When one shares the trail with a creature that can and has killed humans, one feels very much alive. Compared to the span of human life, this huge glaciated massif Mt Evans and it's brothers Spalding, Warren, and Bierstadt are eternal. Walking the halls of the Mountain King erases our fear of being insignificant. Fearing and fighting reassures that on this day one is very much alive. In the Hall of the Mountain King one admires the beauty of youth, fears the fang of death, feels the sting of the fight, and touches the face of God.



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
 


  • Comments or Questions
tjroberts79

Mountain Keen     2011-08-30 22:33:10
In less than a week, I will follow the trail you cut so bravely, but I suspect the mountain king may have fled in fear of the animal whose slightly larger paws left slightly larger tracks. The mountain Keen (12.5w) is crowned.

Great report!



   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here


Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. 14ers.com and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless 14ers.com and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the 14ers.com Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2014 14ers.com®, 14ers Inc.