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 Peak(s):  Mt. Bierstadt  -  14,060 feet
Mt. Evans  -  14,264 feet
 Post Date:  09/16/2006
 Date Climbed:   09/04/2006
 Posted By:  scbadger

 Mt. Bierstadt - the Sawtooth - Mt. Evans   

Due to a twenty minute delay from the road construction on Guanella Pass Rd. I wasn‘t able to hit the trail until 7:20. When I left Denver that morning I had told my wife that I would be on the trailhead by 6:30 and would reach Evans by 11:30 where she could pick me up (yes, I‘m a very lucky man). Now due to the longer than expected delay I had only about 4 hours to go nearly five miles over a class three traverse. Was I up to the challenge - you bet!
The raised wooden planks through the willows felt like cheating, but I‘m not complaining! About a quarter mile into it the trail leaves the marshes behind and begins a nearly straight up climb up Mt. Bierstadt. The trail does switchback, but only a little. I expected to half run up Bierstadt due to how easy I‘d heard Bierstadt was. Well, it‘s not dangerous, or technical, but it will get your attention for its lung and heart work out. Nonetheless, I was on a mission and I kept my pace I near maximum. It was a beautiful climb with stunning views of the Sawtooth and Grays and Torreys in the distance. About half way up I somehow lost the trail and stopped to eat some Blocks and get re-oriented. I spotted a couple guys up and over about a two hundred yards away and I figured they were probably on the trail. So I made a bee-line for them going over rocks and brush. They seemed startled when they saw me, I guess they didn‘t expect to see anyone coming cross-country. I asked when they had left the trail head - 6:00 - really!? That made me feel good. Half way up and I caught some relatively in shape looking guys who left nearly an hour and a half earlier than me! With that news I pressed on with renewed vigor.
The last half mile or so of Bierstadt is boulder field stuff. A welcomed relief from the loose dirt/scree trail. I jumped from rock to rock and greatly enjoyed some good class 2 scrambling. Reaching the summit I was thrilled with the view. It‘s not a big peak, and any more than 15 people is going to be crammed. I looked down at the Sawtooth for the first time. Roach had said that it looks harder than it really is. I truly wanted to believe that. I mean it‘s not the Capitol Knife Edge or anything, but it will make you stop and evaluate how to do it safely. The most surprising thing is just how steep a descent it is from Bierstadt into the Sawtooth. Fortunately the rock is relatively stable (however, geologic time is occuring now). I made my way down trying to stay on smooth granite rather than the slippery loose route. My Montrail D7‘s aren‘t cut out for loose small pebbles. They however did excel on the rock. Moving down at a steady pace I was amazed by the views. For a South Carolina guy, these views were a first for me. I reached the gendarme where you have to decide to go left (class 3 - or it seemd 4), or right and definitely class 3. I was hiking with a couple Navy guys at this point who decided to go the harder way. Well, I wasn‘t going to let two Navy guys show up a Marine! So to the left and up what they thought was class 4 we went. It wasn‘t at all bad, just made me concentrate. Was it dangerous? Absolutely, but it was also really fun! I left them behind near the top and made my way over the ridgeline to the other side of the Sawtooth. The drop off is dramatic! I peered over the edge of a two-thousand foot sheer drop. The route is pretty obvious and takes careful steps not to slide off. I didn‘t feel my D7‘s were the right shoe choice for this climb. On Longs Peak they did great past the keyhole; sticking to the rock superbly, and giving me confidence to half run up the homestretch. On this loose scree type route along the Sawtooth I was having to think a lot about traction. I made my way up the route looking for solid rock. I stopped a few times to soak up the amazing scenery and snapped some very cool pictures of Bierstadt and the Sawtooth from the dark side of the route. I reached the top on the other side of the Sawtooth traverse and found the cairns to guide me towards the summit of Evans. Straightforward class 1 hiking across an open boulder strewn field. Near Evans ridge it gets rockier and a definite trail appears with well marked cairns. I had wondered if it would be difficult to navigate the correct route to Evans but it was actually quite easy. The route stayed about 50‘ down from the ridge and wrapped around Evans towards the parking lot and observatory. After about a half an hour I walked into the parking lot area and was nauseated by what I saw. After the effort I‘d expended in climbing Bierstadt - the Sawtooth and finally Evans, to see a bunch of fat, poorly dressed people celebrating their dangerous drive up Evans filled me with disgust. Then I thought different of it. If all those people had decided to climb rather than drive up Evans, then a whole lot more people would have been on the climb with me. No thanks. They were just trying to enjoy a 14er summit in a way that works for them. I don‘t blame them for wanting to experience what the peak of a mountain feels like. I summited Evans, and looked down at the parking lot for my wife‘s suv. Unbelievably I had beaten her to Evans. I glanced at the time, it was 11:50. I had done the trip in exactly 4 and a half hours! Fortunately she was about twenty minutes late and by the time I got down to the parking lot she rolled in. I was very very glad to have her pick me up. I wanted nothing to do with the return trip through the willows. This was an amazing experience! The perfect class 3 climb: challenging, dangerous, and yet under control. If you have experience climbing class 2 14ers and are looking for your first class 3, then this might be the trip for you.

 


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