| Tour de Abyss: Bierstadt and Evans
6.3 miles, ~7hrs, four tired boys
I hiked my first fourteener (Longs) about 2 years ago, and since then, I've been searching for some fun routes up the peaks in my area. Trying to check off all 58 slowly and by the most fun routes available. Doing Bierstadt and Evans via the East Ridge and Sawtooth Ridge (Le Tour de Abyss) seemed to fit the bill. I highly recommend it as a easy to moderate class 3 hike for anyone looking to summit Evans and Bierstadt while avoiding the crowds (until the summits, of course).
We headed out of Denver around 6 and were on the trail by 7:30a.m., parked in the pull-off right after 11 miles on the Mt. Evans road. From the top of the saddle, you can see the entire route up to Bierstadt on the East Ridge. It looked extremely fun, and I was itching to get up the thing.
View of the East Ridge of Bierstadt from the starting gully
The four of us headed down the gully
Descending the gully and crossing the meadow was a nice warm-up for the ascent to the ridge on the other side. The hike up itself is a bit of a grunt, even if you're in good shape. But once you're up there, it's a playground. The east ridge of Bierstadt is a nice combination of safe exposure and safe climbing. It never really combines the two. There are some easy moves on rock, a small chimney to climb up, and overall it is a lot of fun. Nothing is too intimidating up there.
For the most part, stay on the top of the ridge and if you reach a spot with a lot of exposure or something that calls for a class 3-type move with exposure, you're probably off route. Check the other side of the ridge bump and you will likely see some inviting, walkable grass.
Point 13,641, the crux of the east ridge. Stay on the left and it is easy class 3. If you go up the nose, I would call it class 4 on solid rock
After the point 13,641, the route switches between sides of the ridge, but should be a fairly easy walk up to the summit of Bierstadt.
Started from the bottom now we here. Atop the Bier, asking my buds--we going for the other one?
I wasn't sure if the group was going to want to continue onto the Sawtooth. From the top of Bierstadt and from the valley below, the thing looks pretty intimidating.
The Sawtooth Ridge from the valley between Evans and Bierstadt
However, the weather looked solid and we were making good time. You can almost see the parking area above mile marker 11 from the top of Bierstadt. It seemed to us that it would take almost as long to descend to the valley and reclimb the original gully than to just do the Sawtooth, so I was able to convince the group to soldier on.
From everything we had read, I assumed the Sawtooth Ridge would be more difficult than the east ridge of Bierstadt. However, I didn't find that to be the case. The route is well cairned along the Sawtooth Ridge and if you follow the cairns, the ridge is mostly class 2 with a couple class 3 moves. There is some exposure that gets your attention, I found it to be mostly a sidewalk.
On the descent from Bierstadt, stay up on the ridge, following the cairns if you see them. You never drop down more than 25-30ft from the top of the ridge. When you reach the point pictured below, you have the opportunity to get some slightly technical climbing in if you so desire. Two guys in my group were doing their first class 3 climb and we weren't trying to be heroes, so we took the route on the right, although I shot up the route on the left for fun while waiting on some guys and found it to be very doable class 3/4.
Courtesy of 14ers.com. The left route is class 3/4, the right is cairned easy class 3
Curve around to the left side of the ridge and you get to the ledges. The exposure here is exhilarating, but it was mostly class 2 with a couple class three moves. Follow the cairns and make sure when you get to the gully you head up before heading over--that loose dirt falling off into the abyss creeped me out more than anything else on the hike, but was easily bypassed by hiking up 20ft or so. When you reach the other side, stay on the rocks to the right and it's a fairly easy walk up.
Stay on the rock to the right to avoid the loose dirt. Three of us on the ridge--the aforementioned dirt gully visible in the middle.
Looking back at the route up the east ridge and down to the Sawtooth to gain the ledges
After you get to the top of that section, turn right and you have a grassy, easy walk up to the summit of Evans. Follow the cairns to get there, then follow the 200 people hiking up from the parking lot to gain the summit.
The final walk up towards Evans.
The view from Evans out over to Bierstadt and the east ridge.
We caught a ride down from the summit of Evans to our car and turned the ignition at 2:30. The whole shebang took us about 7 hours with our lunch break included. Those are some hard 6.3 miles! But highly recommended, and a fun way to avoid crowds on two of the most crowded 14ers around.
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