| Bierstadt, Sawtooth, Evans, Spalding
I left Erie at a few minutes before 3:00 am, and arrived at the TH at just before 5:00 am. I got my gear ready as one group of three headed out of the lot. About 10 minutes later, I hustled out of the lot hoping to catch them, because of the horror stories I had heard about getting through The Willows. I was pleasantly suprised at the lack of mud and being able to follow a clear trail put my mind at ease, so I relaxed and tried to get a few shots of the mountains and Sawtooth before sun-up, but nothing turned out very well. I was suprised at the temperature (bridgeways though willows were covered in frost) and by the time I got through them I was regretting not turning back to grab gloves.
Here is one of the Sawtooth once the light was strong enough for my camera to pick it up.
I ended up catching the group of three just above the of trees at the bottom of the switchbacks. After putting some distance between them and myself, I stopped several times to take pictures of the valley and mountains behind it.
I caught and passed another group of six, further up on the main ridge. One of the guys broke away from them and he and I summited at just before 7:00 am. We stayed on the summit for about 20-30 minutes while the rest of his group caught up.
I had mentioned that I was planning on checking out the traverse over to Evans, and he sounded interested, but ended up staying with his group. While we were talking about that, two seperate people showed up. One of them (Imajetic) ended up deciding to hike down to check out what the Sawtooth was all about. We watched as the other soloist helmeted up and dropped in. We kept an eye on him for a few minutes to see his line, and then headed in after him. We were both suprised by the level of difficulty (or lack thereof) and decided to press through to Evans.
After the scramble up the loose shelf on the Evans side of Sawtooth, the difficulty for the remainder of the day was quite simple.
We stayed on Evans for 15-20 minutes, then decided to take off before the parade of minivans overran us. We dropped off the ridgeline and headed North to Mt. Spalding, and shot a few more pics at the top.
After taking in some sun, water, and snacks, we headed further North into the gully between Spalding and Gray Wolf.
After hugging the creekbed, down toward The Willows, we wrapped around the base of Spalding and headed back to the main trail down the hidden gully.
The rest of the trail was nice easy coasting and we ended up back at the cars just after 1:00 pm after passing through 7,000 people. The parking lot reminded me a bit of Disneyland.
An extra little bonus on the drive back down to Georgetown.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):