| Bierstadt/Sawtooth/Evans/Spalding - Gorilla Pass loop
Date: Tuesday, June 27, 2006
TH: Gorilla Pass – Bierstadt Trail
Peaks: Mt. Bierstadt, The Sawtooth, Mt. Evans, West Evans, Mt. Spalding
A climbing partner and I decided to do the loop route on these peaks on a weekday in order to avoid the crowds. Unfortunately, my partner injured herself during the weekend and was unable to accompany me on this hike. Although I missed her, it was good to have some 'Leon Time' too...
I had planned to start (and finish) very early. However, when I got halfway up the Guanella Pass road at 0400, I came upon construction barrier and a "road closed" sign. I asked a guy on a motor grader if the road would be closed all day. He said that they were hauling road base at night and that the road reopens at 0600 each weekday morning. So I went back to the car and took a short nap. At about 0545 a guy came down and removed the barrier and allowed me up the road.
The road was in good shape and I reached the parking area near the pass at about 0605. I was on trail at about 0610. The Bierstadt trail was wide and easy to follow. I summited Bierstadt at about 0800. I took some photos, had a snack, and proceeded onto Sawtooth Ridge. There is one large patch of snow on the east side of the ridge. You can avoid it by staying high or going low. I chose to stay high and only had to take about 10 steps in snow. Otherwise, I found Sawtooth Ridge to be as advertised – a good introduction to class 3 scrambling and some exposure on the west side (beyond the first gendarme).
Bierstadt (right), Sawtooth Ridge & The Sawtooth from the basin:
Sawtooth Ridge from Bierstadt:
This plant apparently spreads outward by blooming on the perimeter of its 'colony' (7 inches in diameter):
I summited The Sawtooth itself and proceeded over to Mt. Evans. I followed the faint, but well cairned trail on the south side of Evan's west ridge. At the summit, I joined the many 'drive up' tourists congratulating themselves on a successful summit. It was about 1030. After a snack and some more photos, I took Evan's west ridge out to West Evans (14,256). This was good scrambling and boulder hopping.
View of West Evans and ridge from Mt. Evans (Grays & Torreys in upper right distance):
From West Evans I descended to the West Evans/Spalding saddle and proceeded up to Mt. Spalding.
Spalding is a lame mountain...
The first cloud obscured the sun at about 0930. And it was overcast about 1130. Just before 1200, while I was descending from Spalding, I saw two figures, who had obviously come from Bierstadt behind me, standing on The Sawtooth. They were moving toward Evans. Soon after, Bierstadt had some cloud or precipitation settle on it. It began snowing on me at about 13,000. I think some people started a little too late for a Sawtooth traverse!
A photo of Bierstadt during my descent - shortly after 1200:
If there is a real trail through the willows on the north side of Scott Gomer Creek, I never found it. There were some scattered cairns from the north side of the creek to the top of the willows, but then they disappeared. The entire Guanella Pass basin was very swampy and I decided to always favor the high ground. After following a mountain shoulder (timbered) out to the flat, I followed several game trails through the marsh. I took great care to avoid getting my shoes wet or even muddy, but I bashed the willows...
If you choose this Bierstadt, Evans, Spalding loop, you better be a good bushwacker...
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):