| How not to climb Mt. Evans from Guanella Pass
Jaymiller and I decided to have a go at Mt. Evans on Sunday. We chose it over Pikes because, in my opinion, the road is less of anoyance on Evans than Pikes. This was my third trip up Evans from Guanella Pass, and Jaymiller's first.
We arrived at the top of the Pass at 5:50. The road is dry for the most part, although there is evidence of some large drifts that CDOT had to cut to make things passable. A 2WD car should be able to make it to the top without any problems. We began hiking at 6:10 with our snowshoes strapped to our packs. There is still quite a bit of snow up there right now, although it seems to be melting out fairly quickly. This is a shot looking WSW from the begining of the trail:
The trail through the willows is in a particularly poor state right now. There are long sections where the snow has melted leaving the trail quite muddy. Some hikers apparently don't like to get their boots dirty and so they have chose to hike on the edges of the main trail which creates a situation in which the trail becomes wider and wider and the vegetation suffers as a result. If you're heading up there anytime soon plan to get a little muddy. This is a pic of the South Gully taken from pretty close to the TH:
We made good time through the willows because there had been a solid freeze the night before which left the snow firm and made our snowshoes unnecessary for most of the trek through the Scott Gomer Creek drainage. We did put the snowshoes on though when we reached the base of the South Gully. A look up from the base of the Gully:
The sun had not warmed the snow in the gully yet by the time we arrived there. Instead we found solid snow that was much better suited to crampons than snowshoes, but we only had snowshoes so we used them to climb up the first third or so. Yours truly enjoying a nice morning about a third of the way up the gully before putting the snowshoes back on my pack:
Although there is continuous snow from the base of the gully to the saddle between Spualding and Evans West Ridge, you can easily avoid most of it by staying off to either side of the gully.
We did not make good time ascending the gully. Our snowshoes were ill suited to steeper climbing on the snow that had refrozen the night before. That and we're both a little slow to begin with. We finally made it to the saddle at about 9:30 and began hiking along the ridge towards Evans' summit. The route is well cairned, but there are numerous snowfields along it. I was glad to have an axe as we traversed them because there were quite a few spots where a slip would have meant sliding down the side of the ridge for good ways. I would encourage anyone who hikes this route in the next week or ten days to consider bringing crampons along. We would have been able to make much better time with them, and would have felt safer as well. These guys didn't seem to miss crampons at all:
Here's the part that was earned this report it's title. We noticed that things were clouding up a bit when we reached the saddle, but it appeared to be just passing clouds without any organization. As we hiked along the West Ridge, things got steadily more cloudy. Just as we got our first glimpse of the road the thunder started up to our South East. I told Jaymiller that we should hurry up and get to the summit before things got any worse. He agreed and we did our best to double-time it. Had Evans not been a mountain with a road to the top and buildings in which we could take cover I would have turned around at the first sound of distant thunder. But since we knew that there would be people and shelter on top we continued. We arrived at the summit about 11:30 to find the usual early Summer Sunday group of tourists and skiers. The weather continued to get worse and the thunder got closer and closer to us and showed no signs of breaking up. So we decided to hitch a ride down to Idaho Springs. We ended up meeting another 14ers.com forum user, kfordyce, who drove us down to the Tommyknocker. Then I put a call in to my wife to drive up from Littleton and get us. Tonight I'm going back to the top of the Pass for my truck.
So all in all it was a fun trip, but I must stress to anyone who reads this report that if we had been climbing any mountain other than Pikes or Evans, we would have turned back at the first sound of distant thunder. Lightning is no joke, and we both have wives and children to go home to. That's why we hurried to the summit and then hitched down the mountain. Something about a general lack of old bold mountaineers...