| Tour d‘Abyss
Date: Saturday, July 15, 2006
Peaks: Mt. Bierstadt, Mt. Spalding, Mt. Evans
Route: Tour d'Abyss
Partners: Scott Lambert
I had wanted to climb Mt. Evans via the Sawtooth for a while but did not want to deal with willow-bashing or the crowds on Bierstadt's West Slopes. Scott and I decided to give the "Tour d'Abyss" a try (Roach route 3.19).
We left home Saturday morning and headed up the Evans road. We paid the $10 fee and drove approx. 11 miles past the fee station to a switchback in the road at 13,300. From the small parking area, we followed a trail to the Evans-Epaulet saddle and began our descent down the scree slope. The top of the gully was loose but not unpleasant scree; the bottom part had more solid rock that we elected to descend. The gully was much easier than I anticipated and had some fun downclimbing.
View of the gully from Bierstadt's east ridge:
As we neared the bottom of the gully, I was almost seriously injured by rockfall. I heard the rocks, called out to Scott, and looked to see two bowlingball-sized heading straight for me. I had about five seconds to jump behind a large boulder before I heard them whiz past. Scott then yelled for me to get down even further and I curled up with my arms covering my head. Another round of rocks came down and smashed into the boulder I was hiding behind. Scott yelled up at the unseen people above us and we ran down the rest of the slope. Later, we had a little chat with the three about yelling "rock!" when you set something loose. They seemed concerned and sorry, but said they "didn't know anyone was below them."
After descending the gully, we headed around the lake and across the stream. This area is absolutely gorgeous!
Scott and I made our way up the steep grassy slope to a point just below Point 13,420. We did some fun scrambling over the bump and were faced with a fantastic view of the route's crux: Point 13,641.
Point 13,641 taken from the gully:
The easiest route follows the upper grassy ledge on the right side of Point 13,641 until it narrows. We then turned 180 degrees on another ledge and climbed back up to the ridge-crest. It looked as if you could take a more direct route from this point as well. We then scrambled along very solid and sometimes slabby rock to the base of two angled cracks. This section looked imposing from our view from Point 13,420 but it wasn't difficult and the rock was fantastic. I climbed the right crack while Scott took the left.
I thought the hardest part of the ridge was the downclimb off of Point 13,641. At the very top, I had to scoot to the edge of a rather smooth rock and lower myself onto a down-sloping, exposed slab. I think you could traverse around this on the right, but with Scott spotting me it was okay. After the downclimb, the exposure decreases and is mostly class 2 boulder hopping. The ascent/descent of Point 13,641 is pretty sustained class 3 climbing with exposure.
We topped out on Bierstadt and were greeted by at least 40 people - we decided to take our lunch break further down and immediately started our descent towards the Sawtooth. Scott bee-lined for the last remaining snowfield to get in some boot-skiing and I stayed on the rocks. The east side of the Sawtooth is well-carined and I didn't think there were many class 3 moves. Much of this section is actually on a small trail that winds around rocks and ledges. We stopped to chat with a group (in the shade!) at the cross-over point to the west side. There were two teens who were doing great on this traverse! There is a small gully to cross to reach the large ramp that leads to the top of the Sawtooth. This section is loose and has some great exposure.
View of the Sawtooth and Bierstadt:
We were greeted by a marmot at the top and said goodbye to the group we had talked to on the traverse. Scott and I headed over to Spalding and then back along a cairned "trail" to West Evans. The scrambling up West Evans was really fun and had varying degrees of difficulty. The weather was looking a little suspect so we quickly left for Evans' main summit. We saw the group from the Sawtooth and learned that they had cars at Guanella and Echo Lake. The weather was deteriorating so we all hiked down to our car and crammed everyone (seven of us) into our Subaru for a ride down the road.
I absolutely loved this route and thought the scrambling was really fun. It was a great day spent entirely above tree-level and avoided most of the crowds on two popular peaks. Although the summits were crowded, we climbed alone for most of the day.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):