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Peak(s):  Sawtooth, The  -  13,780 feet
Mt. Bierstadt  -  14,060 feet
Mt. Evans  -  14,264 feet
Post Date:  09/04/2013
Date Climbed:   08/24/2013
Posted By:  mkrier
Additional Members:   Kaitid

 Fine, Change it to "Easy Class 3" - Sawtooth   

August 24, 2013
RT Distance: 10.25
Time: 7 hours

After quite a few class 2 hikes, Kaiti and I thought we should start attempting a few Class 3’s, and decided on Kit Carson as well as the East Ridge on Father Dyer. We then noticed the other day that our only Class 3 hikes to date had been changed to “Easy Class 3”… someone is messing with us!

With no real 3’s under our belt, we did some research & decided that the next route that might get the bump down to easy 3 would be the Beirstadt-Sawtooth-Evans traverse, so naturally we picked this for our next adventure.

I’m mainly writing this TR to encourage those like me who are looking to take the next step up from the walk-up 14ers that this is a solid choice for a first class 3 hike. Photos almost always make routes look more extreme than they really are, and this is definitely true for Sawtooth.

We summited Bierstadt in 1hr 45minutes and the Sawtooth route looked really intimidating from the summit of Bierstadt. However, as you get closer to each section, it really is pretty mellow.

View of the route from Bierstadt

We started off high on the ridge but realized it was taking us a little too long so dropped lower to pick up on time. Before we knew it, we were at the section that looks so scary in the pictures.

You immediately see that the ledge is quite wide, and while the drop-off is there, you can stay safely away from it. I’m not fond of too much exposure and I was never hesitant during the entire route.

Really wide avenue

We took the low section based on some good advice from some nice fellow 14ers Members and it worked out fine. The section was slightly damp which actually helped with traction.

Nice and short

Looking back

At the top of the Tooth

At the top of Sawtooth is a good place to check the weather again if you are planning on heading to Evans and then taking the gully/swamp back to Bierstadt parking lot. The hike to Mt. Evans took us ~45min and the hike back from Evans took ~2 1/2 hrs. There are not many places along the way to take shelter if a storm came.

On our way back down, we met some friends, quite of few of them actually, about 20 in total.

You looking at me?

Heading back quickly - Trying to beat the storm

Not beating the storm..

The gully is fine on the way back, but the trail, or swamp I should say, is miserable. Multiple times we were sinking past our knees in mud, grabbing ahold of branches to pull ourselves out. It felt like quick sand (or at least how I assume quick sand would feel). I believe if you do the east ridge of Bierstadt you can catch a ride off Evans back down close to your car possibly? If you can, that would be a much better option than this descent.

Not fun, not fun at all

The thunderstorm picked up but luckily we were within ¼ mile from the car.

Nasty stuff rolling in

All-in-all, Sawtooth is really fun and I’ll reiterate, not nearly as scary as we thought it would be. 

We look forward to meeting everyone at the HH this Thursday.
We also look forward to seeing this route classified as “Easy Class 3.”

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

Interesting     2013-09-04 20:12:23
My wife and I would like to do this traverse next year. I have heard a lot of negative things regarding the swamps, but never knee deep mud. Do you think it was avoidable, or due to excess precipitation? Did you have trouble following/finding the trail, or was there a lot of bushwacking?


agreed     2013-09-04 22:41:19
I also recently did the swamp hike back and agree, not fun. I also stepped knee high in mud twice. Otherwise I agree that the Sawtooth is a good starter. I thought it was perfect for my first 3.


Precipitation contributed / Still would be bad     2013-09-05 09:42:42
Klinger - I believe it rained the night before our hike & was slightly raining during, which probably made the area much worse. However, I would bet that it's pretty muddy & miserable most of the summer.

Ask around about the east ridge (class 3) of Bierstadt. I believe you can catch a ride from Evans back down to where you would park for this. If that's viable option, then that is definitely the way to go.


Thank you     2013-09-05 15:23:19
Thank you for posting this. My husband and I are in the same boat with several class 2's, but no class 3's to date. We were thinking about trying the sawtooth as our first class 3, but weren't sure. Your report is encouraging to make this the first class 3 to try!


Thanks for the report     2013-09-06 00:14:16
Hope to do this one soon, you make it sound fun. Not sure what we'll do about the mud situation. Your seventh picture is really pretty. We've done a few class 3's and it definitely holds true that pictures can make things look much worse than they are. Most of the time they are just really fun. Congrats on getting that first 3.


I would find it hard to believe...     2013-09-06 12:50:44
anyone that claims there is any non-miserable return route. I did not have any mud to contend with but we lost the ”trail” in the tall brush and remember wondering at times if we would ever emerge.

agree on the opinions about the ridge as a good intro to class 3. The loose dirt in image 3 was nerve wracking but only for a couple steps.

I couldn't tell if you are saying you have already done Kit or not. If not then the avenue on Kit is really wide and safe. The biggest risk doing Kit is getting up and down the face of Challenger. First time I did it I got hit pretty bad by a rock. The second time, trying to avoid the standard loose gully I ended up on a hairy ledge on the back side; solid but no second chances, if you get my drift.


Awesome description!     2013-09-12 13:09:41
Certainly helpful. I think I met you guys briefly last Thurs - nice to see your report.

The alternative method of contouring around beneath Gray Wolf as a descent works pretty well. A bit more distance.


Fun place for sure!     2013-09-16 11:10:25
Like you guys, I was looking for my first Class 3 challenge and settled on this route. I did it three days after you did, and had pretty much the same experience. I was a little surprised how time consuming getting down to the Sawtooth was, and yes that marsh at the bottom is nothing short of a nightmare. Other than that, a lot of fun!


Do the Tour!!     2013-10-02 03:57:10
You can avoid the swamp and the willows all together by doing the Tour de Abyss. You start on Evans, end on Evans. The east ridge is amazing!!

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