This is my first trip report and I really wanted to make it because I know that many people look for info on the Bierstadt/Evans combo via Sawtooth. So here is my take:
I have been wanting to do the sawtooth for quite sometime now and the plan was to traverse it last friday (July 12th) but the 70% chance of thunderstorms after nine a.m. was enough to keep us restricted to rock climbing for the weekend in Boulder canyon. Although not a bad alternative I was disappointed and this past week seemed to eternally drag on until finally I got out of chemistry class on thursday afternoon. We could have driven up Friday morning but I really like camping so we found a home for the night on the side of Guanella Pass. And it rained on and off and on and off all night (the tent is in fact waterproof...go REI!) The alarm went off at 3:30 a.m. and we were in the parking lot by 4:15 a.m. (such ass draggers we are). There were only two cars in the parking lot and I chose to park right in between them (because I am totally uncool like that). To our right was a father/son duo from Oklahoma who we chatted with for a few minutes. They had the same intentions for the day as we did. The other car I am pretty sure was still sleeping (sorry if my urge to park in between the only two cars in the parking lot woke you.) We have no idea what time we actually started because we accidentally left all time telling devices in the car, but it was probably around 4:30 a.m. ish'.
This was my second time up Bierstadt's standard route and my boyfriends seventh, yes seventh, because he is just amazing like that and if any newbie friend of his wants to climb a 14er he will take them up Bierstadt. It was cold, then I was sweating and shedding layers, and then I was freezing again. The clouds already concerned my boyfriend but I told him to turn that frown upside down because the sun was going to come up and burn them all away (and it did exactly that). We took our time on the way up because well who wants to traverse the sawtooth in the dark. We ended up reaching the summit with father/son (Doug and Nick) and taking pictures, talking some more, and I enjoyed rejuvenating coconut water #1. I was pretty excited about it just being the four of us on top of one of the most populated 14ers, so excited that I almost forgot how populated it was until I looked down and saw trash everywhere. I picked it up feeling sad that there are people who don't care but happy knowing that there are people like myself who will pick it up. This was a trend for the day. We had almost a full rite-aid size bag of trash at the end of the day.
The suns super radiant powers will take care of these clouds.
So it was sawtooth time. I was absolutely frantically giddy with excitement as the sun hit what lie ahead. Doug and Nick joined us and Andrew lead the way. And a fantastic leader he was. There was nothing NOT fun about this ridge traverse. Even typing about it I am getting that feeling of excitement in my stomach and I sit here with a big smile on my face. The rock was GOOD and SOLID. I have mostly encountered sketch rock on class 3 and 4 climbs and oh what a difference it makes when your hand holds don't fall out of the mountain side or crumble in your palm. There were spots where Andrew told us we could go around or we could take a more challenging class 4 up and over. (Don't hold me to this classification because this system still perplexes me, I have felt far more unsafe descending loose dirt and rock labeled class 2 than I have ascending labeled class 4). Either way I chose the latter and it was fun!!!!!!!! It took us about an 1 hour and 45 minutes to cross the sawtooth and to be honest it was over too fast. I wish it was 4 times as long. Doug and Nick did such a great job and they came from flat land the day before and slept in the car at the trailhead. Most impressive.
The Sawtooth in all of its glory.
Off roading on the Sawtooth.
Our new friends taking a breather on the Sawtooth.
Almost finished with the Sawtooth, sad face ) :
We all took a break together once we were safely across the sawtooth. Andrew and I decided to continue on to Evans and Doug and Nick decided it would be in their best interest to return to their car. They had plans to climb Sneffels the next day and were a bit tuckered out. It was a good decision on their part. My mind was insisting that Mount Evans was just "right there," it is not. If you ever do this route understand that Evans is still a ways away from where the sawtooth pops you out unless well you break out into a light jog like we did. There were some super cereal clouds building and I was not about to be denied by Mount Evans. I think maybe it was around 9:30 a.m. at this point. On the trek to the ridge of Evans we saw some White Tailed Ptarmigan which allegedly according to a bird expert at the summit of Evans are extremely rare to see. They also blend in perfect with the mountain rock. Now I really believe this bird expert because she reminded me of the biology teacher I had for three semesters and now teacher assist for but I must have seen 50 of these birds throughout the day. In fact it became quite the fun game, spot the Ptarmigan. Also they make awesome noises which I tried to mimic for the remaining part of our trek.
Is it a rock? Is it a bird? The elusive white tailed ptarmigan.
Getting to the top of Evans is kind of a blur. We were literally in a cloud (however no lightning or thunder were present), we were moving very very quickly, and people dodging all at the same time. And then dot dot dot I saw the parking lot and was suddenly surrounded by people wearing normal clothes and flip flops. They looked at me funny. That is really all I have to say about that. I enjoyed a very hydrating and refreshing coconut water #2 and we met a very nice couple from Colorado Springs. We stayed with them for the rest of the day.
Summit of Evans in a cloud.
The hike down was serious. Seriously beautiful!!!! The wildflowers are crazzzzzyyyyyyyy. Once we reached the (very extremely super seriously steep) gully we needed to descend the couple informed us of the bushwhacking and mud pits that awaited us in the future. The trail down the gully parallels a creek that I dubbed "ghost stream." It appears out of no where and then disappears and then reappears. The water was so clear I wanted to submerge my face in it and drink. Maybe it was the fountain of youth. The beauty of this gully almost made me forget how freaking steep it was but a pretty radical slip and belly slide into a large patch of those spiky plants (a species of thistle I believe) snapped me out of my oblivion. My boyfriend heard the squeal I let out but I turned the corner cracking up and pulling thorns out of my legs, ribs, and hands with a slightly bruised ego. Man am I slowwwwwww going down steep areas of loose dirt and small rock. We got to the bottom and took a food break and enjoyed a basin area with two waterfalls and every imaginable wildflower in full bloom. I would like to note that I was not expecting the decent off of Evans to be this beautiful. I probably say this about every mountain I go to but this was my favorite part of this summer. This would be Evans West Ridge route. To anyone who has some experience climbing 14ers, route finding, isn't afraid of an abundance of mud, and wants something close to Denver I highly recommend the West Ride of Evans. But you have to promise me you won't throw trash on it and you will be very careful to rock hop in areas where there is no trail .
Oh you beautiful painful vixen.
I wish I lived here.
The last part of our journey entailed those pesky willows. There is a trail, sometimes, and at this point I had that I am so tired I feel drunk attitude. The 4 of us laughed and cursed as we maneuvered through mud pit, after swamp, back into mud pit, through willows taller than me. My foot was sucked into one pit and my boyfriend laughed. Two minutes later karma kicked in and he was sucked in. This was the first time my Vasque hiking boots were put to the test, they passed. Love love love them. My feet remained dry even after being sucked into mother earth. Finally we emerged on to the main Bierstadt trail pretty much at the creek crossing. I should make note that my boyfriend did mostly the entire descent off of Evans with his very expensive and large cannon camera in hand. I must also note that where I have seen him slip before it has been with the style and grace of a professional ballerina which makes this next part all the more hilarious. This is by no means a difficult creek crossing. Rita crossed first and joined two random men on the other side. Her husband decided to take a little dip because he was the muddiest out of all of us and then Andrew started rock hopping. About three quarters of the way across he took a 4 part fall into the creek. His sunglasses then fell in and began traveling down stream and in diving for them he was pretty much totally submerged except for his arm sticking out with the camera. Good save babe! I was half way across the creek, crouched down, and started laughing so hard I was crying. Luckily he was laughing too and nothing or no one was damaged.
The day was over at 2 p.m. and it was one of the best I have had. We met some great people and laughed a lot. I know there are a lot of questions about the sawtooth because of its easy accessibility. It is not as hard as it looks in pictures. I may be flamed for saying that but if you are in good shape, let me repeat that IF YOU ARE IN GOOD SHAPE, you have some experience with hiking 14ers and you are not deathly afraid of heights this is a great introduction to class 3 stuff. I would not recommend hiking across the sawtooth in flip flops, with a water bottle at 2 in the afternoon on a saturday in the summer. I would say make sure your endurance is good, your mind and legs are strong, and you are prepared (common sense stuff). It is well cairned and you do not have to make it more difficult than it needs to be if you are not inclined to do so. Also, drink coconut water. It has magical powers.
Grreeatttt day.......Next I would like to do La Plata Peak's Ellingwood Ridge. I need more ridge in my life.
And some more photos for your viewing pleasure....
Happy to be doing what we love!
This is what a crazed person who lives off of free sandwiches looks like.
The view right before the decent into the gully on the west ridge of Evans.
Art and stuff.
Hot pink paintbrush.
From the marshlands (basin) of Evans, Bierstadt and the Sawtooth in the back ground.
One last look from the willows...real live beavers made that damn.