| Mt. Evans - West Ridge via Mt. Spalding
Mt. Evans from Summit Lake, via Mt. Spalding
Arrived at Summit Lake around 7:45 AM with the sun already well on its way across the sky. I started my approach along the north-eastern shore of Summit Lake. I could hear the ice cracking as it was starting to warm up, which made it feel like the lake was alive in the middle of all that rock and scarce vegetation.
Mt. Evans above Summit Lake
I stopped to grab a picture of my destination across the lake before starting the climb up towards Mt. Spalding. My fitness level is not quite ideal, yet I found the next 1000 feet surprisingly easy and enjoyable. The terrain kept it interesting, with just the right amount of exposure, and a couple of small scrambles. Around 13,200' the ridge widens and the slope decreases, it was also a great spot to turn around and get a look at the Chicago Lakes. Before long I was just below the summit of Mt. Spalding (13,842').
Looking back down at Summit Lake and the parking lot.
Looking down on the Chicago Lakes
As I came around the summit I got a good view of Bierstadt across the Sawtooth. I started my way down the 200' to the saddle. The trail going down was not clear due to the remaining snow, but I could see cairns on the other side so I picked my way across, sometimes on the trail, sometimes not. So far I had experienced very little wind, really just enough to keep me cool in my layers, but as soon as I started down the saddle, it picked up significantly, to the point of being hard to breath if I was facing into it.
As I started my way up Evan's western ridge I was forced to slow down a bit. A couple hundred feet above the saddle, the terrain changes from a mix of tundra and exposed rock to pure moraine, with boulders ranging in size from coffee table to refrigerator size. The trail was not that hard to follow, thanks to frequent cairns, but numerous patches of steep snow meant either slowly kicking my way through or finding another way around. A more experienced mountaineer would probably laugh at my deliberation in finding routes across, but I'm more comfortable taking my time and limiting the level of risk, especially when I am alone.
After slowly working my way along the southern face, the trail led me up on top of the ridge where things got a lot easier. I could see cars on the road coming up, reminding me that after all this solitude and hard work, I would probably be sharing the summit with a crowd. After joining the switchbacks leading up from the parking lot, I made the summit and was pleasantly surprised to be one of two people on top. Compared to the 8 other 14ers I've hiked, that's about as close to having the summit to myself as I could ask for.
The view from the top.
This route was awesome, I would recommend it over driving up any day. I don't understand the moderate difficulty rating. In my opinion this was the easiest 14er I've done. Thanks for reading. Happy trails!
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