| What a Journey!
What an amazing climb! My friend Ben and I had planned on doing a semi-winter climb ever since the mountains got dumped on a couple of weeks ago. Since neither of us had done Bierstadt or Evans, we thought it‘d be a great idea to try those first. Our friend Kevin tagged along too. The more the merrier!
The ride there was pretty uneventful. We all didn‘t know where we were going, so we got lost. We all thought the mountain was to the right of the Guanella Pass, when in reality it was to the left. We finally spot a parking lot near mile 12 of the Pass (like Bill mentions) and we‘re good to go.
We hit the trailhead by 6:45. Bierstadt and the Sawtooth look absolutely stunning in the dark.
The trail was pretty well defined until about 12,000 feet. At that point, it‘s covered in snowfields. The snow hasn‘t completely hardened yet, so all of us got our feet wet and cold. The snow was actually helpful, as we just cut up straight towards the mountain, instead of switching back.
As the sun rises, you can see sunrays hit the Sawtooth. It was amazing!
About 500 feet below the summit, we find what looks like a trail and follow it up. We summit at 9:15.
Me, Ben, and Kevin on top of Bierstadt:
The climb was pretty straightforward, and we didn‘t have to use crampons/ice axes. Kevin is pretty tired at this point and decides he isn‘t ready to do Evans via the Sawtooth so he turns around. We say our goodbyes and begin our descent to the Sawtooth.
We meet Jeremy and Greg (Jeremy‘s father) on the summit of Bierstadt. They were really cool guys and helped us a TON by basically leading us through the Sawtooth. Almost the entire way through Sawtooth, the snow was waist deep and slick. I can‘t count how many times I stepped in a deep hole and wiped out. Ben and I basically followed Jeremy and Greg‘s steps.
Picture of Bierstadt on our descent to the Sawtooth:
We get to the crossover point just fine, but have some trouble after we crossover. The Sawtooth, at this point has some of the most traumatic exposure I have ever seen. It was probably because of the snow, but it was frightening. A fall here and it would have been a straight 800 feet or so fall off a cliff. Ben didn‘t have an ice axe either, so it was rather stupid and dangerous of us to continue. At one point I got stuck in a bout 5 feet of snow and couldn‘t get out. It‘s here I hyperextended my left knee (for any whose done this, you know how much it hurts!). After taking an advil and basically calming down and assessing the situation, I get myself out of the jam and we decide to continue. With the help of Jeremy and Greg‘s footprints, we make our way out of the ridge. I think we were the only 4 guys that day to climb the Sawtooth that day.
Picture of the crossover point:
After we get across the ridge, we begin our ascent to Mt. Evans. It was a long and exhausting hike, as the snow was knee deep and route finding was a pain. We climbed to BOTH of Evan‘s false summits (which made us lose about 45 minutes). It was really demoralizing to think you were at the top and then see the true summit. If I can give any advice, it would be: don‘t aimlessly hike/climb without assessing other routes and locating cairns. We finally reach the top and take some pictures with Jeremy, Greg, and Mike (another cool guy we met on the summit of Evans). Turns out, we were the only people to summit Evans that day.
Me and Ben on Evans:
Greg and Jeremy on Evans:
Mike on Evans:
Ben gets a bad case of altitude sickness and we decide to head back down ASAP. We follow Mike the entire way, as we‘re unsure of the route back. The descent was much faster and easier than the ascent because we followed the cairns we missed on the way up. Mike leads us to a trail that descends Mt. Spalding to the trail of Bierstadt. As anyone who has done this route says, you definitely get your feet wet stepping in marshes and whacking your way through willows. Many thanks to Mike as he made our descent much easier and less confusing. We get to the trailhead at about 7:00pm, meet up with Kevin, and go to Idaho Springs for some well-deserved Beau-Jo‘s pizza.
All in all, it was an amazing climb in perfect weather with some awesome people. The Sawtooth was a bit nerve-racking, but I‘m glad we got through it. I recommend any hiker to try this route!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):