| Bierstadt Evans combo
I'd been watching the weather and my schedule for a couple weeks, and they finally seemed to match up yesterday. Weather was supposed to be 28F, clear, and windy - which was pretty accurate.
I headed up to Georgetown, and drove up to the winter closure - got there around 7pm Friday evening. Parked in the lot, and slept in the car. I woke up at 0345, and started hiking up to the TH (1.75 miles) at about 0415, reaching the TH just before 0500. The moon was very bright, so I didn't need my headlamp at all.
After reaching the Guanella Pass TH, I started heading out on the trail to Mt Bierstadt. The trail was well packed and easy to follow up until about 13000ft. I took the more direct route up the mountain, pretty close to the North Face Gully route. The west and north faces of Bierstadt were relatively free of snow, and whatever snow was there was very compacted from the wind. I got to see a beautiful CO sunrise as I neared the top. I reached the summit at 0830.
After taking a break, I headed across the Sawtooth. I think that I could have handled it without too much of a problem during the summer, but I definitely overstepped my skill level by attempting it during the winter. There was some packed snow and ice - not a lot, but enough to make some footing a little treacherous. I stayed on the east side of the ridge as long as possible to shield myself from the wind, which was gusting around 50mph. It took almost 2 hours to get across the Sawtooth, and I was very grateful for the small cairns along the way.
I then headed towards Evans. The relatively level hiking was a welcome break, but I was going pretty slow by this point. I reached Little Evans at 1300, and made the tough decision not to continue on to Evans, in hindsight, a good choice. I was very tired, and the additional hour or so would have been tough.
I headed back down the path, looking to go down the gully between the Sawtooth and Mt Spalding. This, although better than going back across the Sawtooth, was still tricky. Plenty of loose rock near the top, and then lots of soft snow the rest of the way down. I had to be very careful of my footing here, since I couldn't tell where the rocks were under all the snow. After finally reaching the bottom of the gully, I realized that trail during the summer as covered in snow. I tried to find packed snow, but it was all thigh-deep powder. At this point, I really wished that I had brought snowshoes.
I waded through the snow, hooking around the base of Bierstadt, knowing that I'd have to run into the first trail at some point. I finally ran into the trail at 1700, right as the sun was setting. I followed it back to the TH, and then walked back to my car, reaching it at 1800.
I had trekking poles, yaktrax, crampons, an ice axe, and a helmet. I could have used the crampons in a couple places, but the yaktrax were sufficient and I didn't feel like going through all the hassle of putting crampons on. The poles and ice axe were good to have. The only other piece of equipment I wished I had was snowshoes. If you are just hiking Bierstadt though, snowshoes are not needed at all. I only wanted them for that miserable stretch along Scott Gomer creek.
All in all, it was a great experience, and I had a good time. Yes, it was a long and exhausting day, but that's part of what makes it worth it! Lesson learned - don't overestimate your skill, especially during the winter.
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