| Tour de Abyss
Tour de Abyss
Sunrise from just below Mt. Evans Road
Tour de Abyss is a quick but eventful route that combines the Class 3 scrambling of Mt. Bierstadt's East Ridge and Summit(14,060') with The Class 3 Sawtooth that connects to Mt. Evans(14,264'). The Tour is also a Gerry Roach *Classic* Route that covers The *Classic* Sawtooth Route, and parts of The *Classic* East Ridge. The tour is 5 miles long, has 3,000' of elevation gain, and sustained Class 3 scrambling. This short, sweet, and to the point climb is the easiest way to get Bierstadt and Evans in one route, and provides great views that people don't normally get of these two Front Range Celebrities
Taking The Tour
The original plan for Tour de Abyss is to park on the first switchback of the Mt. Evans Road(13,300'), climb the tour to the Summit of Evans, then either hitchhike or walk back to the car from the summit(14,264'). But after a very well timed post from falcon568 on his Tour from the previous week, MtnHub commented on the report and gave me the idea to just park at the Summit of Evans and just make the descent at the beginning of the day as a warm up. This worked out extremely well. Being able to Summit Evans and then drop 200' to the car to end our day was something new, and something liked
Our party of 5 left Golden at 4:00AM on Saturday, and made it to Echo Lake by about 4:45. The Entrance Booth is closed this early in the morning, so we got the self-issued parking pass. Self-issued parking passes can be found 2 miles past the Entrance Station on the South side of a large hairpin turn, and at the parking lot of the Mt. Evans Summit.
We arrived at the Mt. Evans parking lot without issue, and began our descent down the Mt. Evans Road switchbacks at 5:45AM and briskly made our way to the saddle between Evans and Epaulet Mountain(13,523’) by 6:10. We made sure to be weary of the wooden post marking the incorrect gully to descend, and shortly found the correct one at the lowest point in the Evans/Epaulet saddle
Descending the road
The East Ridge
Descending the gully was reminiscent of the scree/talus field on the standard route of Sneffles; loose, but has enough rocks secured in the ground to make your way down without much issue. It had rained the night before, and the grass had remained very wet
First sun touching PT 13,641'
Once out of the gully, the route opens into the blissful Abyss Basin. We made a straight-line for the grassy slope on PT 13,641' which is the easiest way to the East Ridge. The basin is a pretty soggy mess and avoiding the water seems impossible. Scott Gomer Creek, flowing out of Abyss Lake, was gorgeous enough to make up for the soggy feet I now had. This view of The Sawtooth is one that is rarely seen
Scott Gomer Creek
Our Route after exiting the gully
The first elevation gain of the day comes in the form of a steep, grassy slope that leads to top of The East Ridge. This was the only section where we encountered any other hikers on the East Ridge. The elevation gain was abrupt, painful, and a nuisance as I was just looking forward to the renowned scrambling along the ridge
Up the grassy slopes
Once the ridge is gained, the Class 3 begins. Overall, I think the East Ridge is a blast. The rock is solid, the climbing gets gradually harder, and gave an awesome adrenaline rush to this acrophobic. (Fun Fact: Acrophobia comes from the Greek word Akron, which means "peak" or "summit edge".) I made sure I put away the real camera and took the photos along this section with the iPhone
Beginning our trek across the East Ridge
First sight of PT 13,641'
The ledges provided firm Class 3 climbing that doesn't have too much exposure, but did feel a bit airy compared to The Homestretch on Longs. Gaining the ridge didn't provide much issue, albeit the most difficult moves are still ahead
The route along the grassy slopes leading to the Class 3 switchaback; press Up/Right until Class 3 ceases to find the correct ledges
Traversing the grassy slopes of PT 13,641'
Switchback we had been looking for
Just before topping out on PT 13,641's summit, a crack system is followed for 10-15 feet along the West side of the ridge. The rock was wet from the night before and I had a hard time getting myself into the crack. The move wasn't very technical, but the exposure was definitely there. Getting into this crack was one of the two notable moves of difficulty on this route, the other is on the descent of PT 13,641'
Summiters and a majority of the rest of our route
Ben and Hank making their way up to Bierstadt's summit
The move on the descent of PT 13,641's that had my sphincter in the "clenched" position was a downclimb move just a few hundred feet from the top of 13,641'. It is on the very tip of the ridge, and moves down to the West side of the ridge. I'm 6'1" and couldn't reach safe rock comfortably from the downclimb, and had a really hard time finding any hand holds to lower myself. This section right here felt more difficult than anything I had seen on this climb, or Longs. After this move though, the route gets significantly easier. The hardest climbing is behind you
We reached the summit of Bierstadt at about 8:45, said hello to the fair folk of Bierstadt, and started heading down towards The Sawtooth at 9:00
Summit of Bierstadt - Hank, Jake, Ginevra, Ben
This infamous ridge looks much more intimidating than it is. The Sawtooth does have some fatal exposure on the West side, but the ledges crossing this exposure is sidewalk width. After doing the entire Tour, I felt The East Ridge was much more difficult in the physical and technical sense than The Sawtooth.
Looking North towards The Sawtooth and West Evans Ridge
Sticking along the ridge to decrease elevation loss/gain
Dropping from Bierstadt to The Sawtooth's Saddle was spelled out very well by the trail and the dozens of cairns lining it. It can get loose and has some scree sections, but overall, the descent is just a class 2 downclimb of 700'
700' of elevation loss from Bierstadt to The Saddle
Once reaching the low section of the saddle, the next section involves traversing along The East Face of The Sawtooth as it goes up and around, West, to reach the other side of the ridge. The climbing here had some class2+, low 3 moves that didn't have much exposure. The route marking really is amazing with the number of cairns along the way. We saw a cairn at least every 100 feet or so. Climb up and along The East Face, then make your way over to the infamous Ledges on the West Face of The Sawtooth
Reaching the lowpoint of the saddle
The pictures of this section of The Sawtooth look about 110% more epic than it really is; from The Ledges to West Evans Ridge, none of the climbing exceeds Class 2+. The final ledge leading to the end of The Sawtooth looks intimidating, but presents no technical moves. You most certainly don't want to be falling through this section, but it would take a rather large mistake for anything fatal to happen
Traversing The Ledges
The Sawtooth from The Ledges
Once scrambling to the top section of The Sawtooth, the terrain changes dramatically into the vast Evans Ridge. This is where the climbing ends, and the tiring hike to the car begins. At this point it's been about 4 miles and less than 3,000' of elevation gain, but we were expectedly tired like all the other reports suggested.
The route up to Evans runs South East from The Sawtooth and has some Class 2 traversing. This is where we started to see the masses of people that come to enjoy Colorado during Labor Day weekend
Made it to The Evans Ridge, now it's time to slogggg
At 10:30AM, we arrived at The Mt. Evans Summit; 4.5 hours of hiking. The people on the summit don't know/care if we just did The Summit Lake Hike, or are just more tourists on the summit. They could care less. Despite little recognition of our awesome day in Mt. Evans Wilderness, we go home satisfied from a fine day in the mountains of Colorado. Tour de Abyss is truly a great 14er secret that is less than 2 hours away from Denver
Majority of the route seen from our trip up to Evans' Summit
"Well. Let's get the hell outta here"
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