| I Got Paid to Climb Bierstadt!
For a couple of weeks I've known that I wanted to hike a 14er on Memorial Day, but after deciding last minute to forego Mt. Princeton, I opted instead for something a bit closer to home. Ever since hiking through the willows last Labor Day, I've been waiting for the opportunity to attempt the whole mountain, and told myself that as soon as the Pass was clear that I'd be up there to give it a go. I had a feeling that the Grant side of the pass would be a much better option than the shaded and north facing Georgetown side, and I was right. I parked less than a mile from the trailhead, as only one large drift was still blocking the road. Later in the day, a lifted Jeep blew through that thing, though, and it's likely that the road will be completely passable by next weekend.
Past the drift...
Within a short time I had my first view of Bierstadt from the road...
I forgot to look at the time when I left the truck, but I'd estimate it at around 6:15. Less than 20 minutes later I was at the trailhead ready to tackle the willows. The snow was frozen and postholing was only a future issue. Trail conditions vary from completely buried to reasonably clear...
Some legendary postholing had obviously taken place, though...
The tundra police were busy keeping the Memorial Day weekend roads safe, but they did leave this sign for those interested in cutting switchbacks!
The slopes of Bierstadt...
Ascending the pitch up to Bierstadt went reasonably quickly by my standards, and I felt I was making good time, albeit starting to feel the effort for sure. That's when I turned around to find another hiker nearly running up the hill behind me! I had seen no sign of anyone other than some campers in the willows, but this guy suddenly appeared and quickly caught up to me. Turns out he is a 14ers member, LAW(Larry). We had a very pleasant chat, and up the hill he sprinted. I resumed my rest-stepping. Within an hour or so Larry came scampering back down the mountain. I was really wondering if I could get to the top of this behemoth, but he assured me that I was really close. Armed with some encouragement and inspiration, I continued up.
A close up look at the Sawtooth ledge... Exposure Scary! I think I'll climb Evans from the road!
Finally, the summit pitch...
And success! My FIRST 14er summit!
I signed the summit register, which had quite a few entries from the weekend, but mine was the first of the day. Larry apparently didn't feel the need, as he told me that this was about his 50th summit of Bierstadt! Wow!
And then for the picture taking...
Gray and Torreys
Lincoln and Bross
Holy Cross way off in the distance
I also got distant shots of Longs and Pikes, Silverheels and I believe Sherman. Oh yeah, Evans, too!
Time to descend now, and this was the part I was not looking forward to. I definitely suffer from vertigo when going downhill on snow, and I was very slow and deliberate with my descent. Really, it wasn't too bad, as the snow had softened and heel stepping down the steeper sections didn't give me the feeling of losing my footing. On the way down, I met Matt, who had never heard of 14ers.com, and gave him the sales pitch to get on here! Then I met Jason, who was also looking for his first 14er summit. He does lurk here, and did summit. A guy and 2 girls also were on their way up, Luke, Kelly and I forget their cute friend's name... Then to finish off the late starters, a guy and his son... I asked the kid if this was his first, and he said, "No, I've done 12". He couldn't have been older than 12!
The rest of the afternoon was spent with wonderful postholing, but putting the snowshoes on for most of the willows helped. I stubbornly thought that I could get away without them after the creek crossing, but that wasn't a smart idea... Arriving back at the truck just after 3, it was a long day, mostly due to the descent conditions.
All in all, it was a great day to be up in the mountains, and an awesome day for my first successful 14er summit!