| Evans and Spalding Combo from Guanella Pass
Some nine years ago, I had made an unsuccessful attempt at summiting Evans from Guanella pass. My partners in crime then had wisely chosen to ascend Bierstadt while I, in my infinite wisdom, made a solo attempt for Evans. It was a cold, damp autumn morning and I quickly found myself somewhat wet and quite lost in the never-ending willows, and eventually tried to climb the tree-covered hill that was destined to nowhere. An hour into the hike, I threw in the towel and retraced the muddy path to the main trail, drenched and defeated, but still persevered to climb Bierstadt in what would end up being a long, painful and humbling day.
On this day, I had the rare (for me) opportunity of hiking with a group that included a highly experienced hiker, Mark, who was quite familiar with the trail. Our hike started rather late in the morning but we knew the weather would not be a factor given the recent hot, dry spell and the forecast for more of the same. The trail to Mt. Evan breaks off at this fork.
As we bushwhacked through the willows, we caught our first glimpse of the sawtooth and the scree gully that offers a steep climber’s trail to the summit.
Sawtooth and Gully
We, upon Mark’s recommendation, had made the decision to avoid the gully and instead skirt to the left of Mt. Spalding and climb the grassy meadow to the ridge. Bill describes the ascent up the gully as the standard route while Roach’s latest edition highlights the traverse to the left as the main route and the gully as a variation.
We soon found a good spot to cross the stream but, in my eagerness, I stepped on a loose rock and landed one foot in the water. Not a whole lot that Gore-Tex can do once you’ve immersed your entire boot in the wet stuff!
The trail was faint at best but we knew the general direction. Here is a lone cairn marking the route up the meadow.
This is a view of the trail we had just traversed.
View of trail behind
Did I mention bushwhacking? Apparently, we weren’t through with that stuff yet! This shot looks back at the dense willows decorating the trail.
Next order of business was ascending the grassy hill which, though not steep, seemed to stretch for a lot longer than it would've led us to believe.
An interesting landmark on the lea was this massive balancing rock.
Looking back at the trail behind with two of our fellow hikers in view, one can get a sense of the vastness of the landscape and the distance covered from the trailhead (marked by the parking lot in the distance). The distinctive Twin peaks of Grays and Torreys loom in the distance to the right.
As we trudged up the never-ending meadow, Bierstadt soon came into view along with the magnificent sawtooth.
Bierstadt and Sawtooth
Our traverse up to the ridge put Mt. Spalding squarely in our sights, so we decided to summit the 13,842’ peak for extra credit.
Picture taken from atop Mt. Spalding shows the ridge trail up Mt. Evans, while Bierstadt covers the backdrop to the right.
View from atop Mt. Spaulding
After a brief respite to get the team together, we scurried down to the saddle and began the final ascent along the now cairn-studded trail from Summit Lake.
View of Summit Lake
What had been a relatively solitary traverse for us until that point quickly morphed into a populous procession to the peak. I broke into a slow jog weaving through hikers, partly because Mark had someone managed to give me the slip and partly because the adrenalin was calling the shots now! As the trail skirted to the right of the serrated ridge, the last couple of hundred feet of ascent stretched over what seemed like half a mile, making the final pitch somewhat anticlimactic. Even more anticlimactic was the sight at the top – after all, Mt. Evans does boast the highest paved road in the country!
The views from the summit, however, didn’t disappoint.
View to the Northwest
This clearly wasn’t going to be an occasion where the weary hikers would have the peak to themselves, but that didn’t prevent me from getting my obligatory mug shot at the top!
Fires raging in the distance to the north and southeast were disconcerting to say the least and a grim reminder of the brutality of this dry summer.
Fire to the Southeast
Fire to the North
We spent the better part of an hour at the top basking in the sun and savoring goodies that I would religiously avoid on any other occasion except on an all-day trek such as this.
The return trip was quite uneventful and as we descended into the plains, I took one long look at the gully and wondered if I might come back another day to ascend it.
Last look at gully
Too many trails and not enough time!
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