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 Peak(s):  Mt. Evans  -  14,264 feet
 Post Date:  06/18/2008
 Date Climbed:   06/17/2008
 Posted By:  dan_spors

 Mt. Evans from West Chicago Creek   

I don't have Gerry Roach's book in front of me, but I believe this is route 3.6 up Evans. It was a long and painful trip for me, being unprepared for the length (~16 miles round-trip according to Roach). I started around 5:30a from the Hell's Hole Trailhead by West Chicago Creek Campground. The first part of the hike up to Hell's Hole was easy - the strong trail followed gently ascending terrain, at first through aspens and then into the pine.

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The trail leads you into an open field at treeline (~11,200' according to Roach), just north of Hell's Hole.

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At this point, and to my utter dismay, the trail abruptly ended.

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Even though it looks like there is a trail in front of you at some points, there isn't much there, and didn't lead anywhere meaningful as far as I could tell.

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Looking at Hell's Hole, and forgetting that Roach said to take the trail up the basin at that far end, I crossed Hell's Hole on the east side (left side of the pics), and bushwacked through the willows to the east-facing side of the rocky ridge. Crossing wasn't too hard, and for the most part I was able to follow animal trails through the willows.

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The upper part of the path I followed goes through the center of this pic up to the point just below the rocks on the top of the grassy ridge. The terrain is steep, but wasn't too hard to navigate. Without a trail, I mostly formed my own sort of switchbacks.

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Great view from up here, but not an option to continue this way.

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Seeing that I couldn't continue this way, I made a rough traverse over grass and rockfields to the west (right) into the basin to the west, crossing up over the lowest point of the saddle. Looking back during the descent, I should either waited to cross Hell's Hole until hiking to the back of the basin before turning south, or after crossing Hell's Hole headed further into the basin. Crossing at the back of Hell's Hole on the descent was wet, so I was glad to have Gore-Tex boots. Either way, the point you cross over the saddle is on the far left of this pic, almost out of view.

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And a closer look at the saddle here during my traverse - if you look closely, you can see a dirt trail in the center of the pic, appearing vertical from this angle:

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The hike up to the saddle is somewhat difficult with the steep terrain and lose rockfields, but not too bad. For a short period of time, there was an actual trail over dirt and through a snowfield at the top, but that was about it. Otherwise you're just crossing open terrain. Once over the ridge, you can see Guanella pass and the willows below you.

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And of course, you can see Bierstadt and the Sawtooth just southeast of your position.

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From here, I chose to go directly east into this saddle between two small points, visible in this pic.

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I chose to go this route to save myself from having to descend into the gully between the ridge I just crossed over and toward the Sawtooth. If I had been able to see Evan's summit, I would have gone a different route, straight toward Bierstadt, but I didn't realize the Sawtooth was THAT close to Evans. This added a good amount of distance, but did save me from having to cross over a large snowfield that was already softening up in the late-morning sun. Going the route I did meant crossing through some wet, marshy terrain, but at least my feet stayed dry. On my return, I dropped into the gully to save the distance since I was already enhausted. The gully is visible in this next pic, looking back on the trail. On the ascent I traversed east (which is to the right in the pic) and above the thin, horizontal snowfield that is just below center of the pic. On the descent, I hiked straight through the middle up to the ridge directly in the center.

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If you drop into the gully, you would hike directly in the direction of Bierstadt and to the right of the ridge in front of you, if I remember correctly from my descent.

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After leaving the saddle from the basin above Hell's Hole, Mount Evans' summit became visible for the first time.

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From here, it was an easy hike to the base of the mountain, to be greeted by this sight in front of me.

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The steepness of the rock was a little intimidating, but looked 3rd class at best. So, after preparing a route to follow up, I stepped forward, only to notice that there was a 2nd class trail that dropped off to the right! I followed this trail across rock and some small snowfields, and traversed the side of the mountain to the true summit. You know that you're on the summit because of all the people, the visitor's center, and the telescope up top!

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But, at least I made it after 5.5 hours of hiking! Even on the summit, I only needed a fleece for the wind - if not for that, it would have been fine in a long-sleeve.

The descent was a lot harder than the ascent, because it was already much warmer and the snow was difficult to cross. Crossing the snow meant a lot of postholing, which I discovered could be largely avoided by stepping only in the high points of the corn. The moment I passed over the saddle back toward Hell's Hole, I was greeted by 40 mph winds blasting up through the basin. But, 10 minutes and it had almost totally subsided and the sun came back out. After crossing Hell's Hole, it was hot enough that I had to take my long sleeve off. By this point I was nearly out of water and starting to get dehydrated. It made for a long, hard slog back to my car, but thankfully I made it safe and sound. It will probably be a while before I attempt another hike that long! In the end, it took 11 hours round trip!



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