| Bierstadt?? I don‘t think so.
So I just moved to Denver from Wisconsin a couple of weeks ago. One of the reasons is because I really enjoy hiking. I spent a couple of days in RMNP last summer and was hooked. At some point on
Saturday night I decided I would try to attempt to climb Mt Bierstedt the next day. Since I don‘t have any winter gear (ice axe, crampons, snoeshoes) I wasn‘t expecting much. I figured I would probably end up going to a lower altitude for a snow-free hike... But just in case, I carefully pored over the photos of Bierstadt that show the trail to the top. I had a couple of beers while I "memorized" the route and went to sleep.
The next day I hopped in the car and headed up towards Guanella Pass via 285. I made it to milepost nine before I had to stop. It didn‘t look like any other vehicle had made it past this point either. I figured I could at least hike up the approach road and have a look at the mountain.
About 4.5 miles later, I was at the trailhead. I thought about just turning around but man those mountains were beautiful...Never having been to the area, I had no idea where any trails were and only saw a few random sets of tracks. I pictured my mental map from the night before, Bierstadt, the Sawtooth, that other mountain, they were unmistakable. So, without wasting any time, I hiked across the flat, snow covered willows and headed up the mountain to the LEFT side. Once on the mountain, the hiking wasn‘t too bad. A mixture of boulders, smaller scree, small snow drifts and the occasional bit of ice. I don‘t know if it was the long hike in or the fact that I wasn‘t used to the altitude but it took a toll on me. After what seemed like an eternity, I got to the top of the mountain.
It seemed kind of odd. The last time I had checked my GPS, I was at 13,650. How did 14,xxx come so soon? The answer came soon enough when I opened up the summit register and read, "Mount Spalding summit 13,842ft." What?! how could I have messed up this much? So I begrudgingly signed it and commented "thought this was Mount Bierstedt" and went on my way. Crossing back through the flat willows portion was the worst part of the hike. I had packed food and water for a 8 mile hike and this ended up being about 16. I was pretty fatigued by this point and each step found my foot breaking 8in through ice crust or post holing up to my thigh.
I made it back to my car just before sunset. I was only when I got home and looked at the route again when I realized just how much I had been off course. Lesson learned: Bring a $*% map.
A note on the approach road. Miles 9.5 to about 12 seem to be freshly paved. Multiple boulders are in the road. Some of them will have to be moved before the road is passable as they block both lanes in a couple of spots.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):