I've driven over Guanella Pass a few times. I usually stop to marvel at the Sawtooth and take a picture. It's a very distinct and rugged ridge. But the thought of hiking to the top of it never crossed my mind. Everything changed when I summited Mt. Antero last July. Now I'm hooked. This was my fourth 14er and my first winter ascent - though it felt more like spring.
I arrived at the road closure gate at 8 AM. The gate is not far beyond the Guanella Pass campground - elevation near 10,900 feet. I began walking the road at 8:30 AM. The snow on the road was packed. I arrived at Guanella Pass after two miles of walking. From the pass I followed the standard route to the top of Mt. Bierstadt. I post-holed a few times through the willows but not enough to put on my snow shoes.
I stashed the snow shoes at 12,500 feet. I then ditched my pack at 13,500. The upper slope of the mountain was fun to work through. I summited at 2 PM. The view in all directions was spectacular. I met a guy on top enjoying a sandwich. If you're on this site - it was good talking with you. Best of luck summiting your final nine of Colorado's top one hundred peaks.
I quickly descended the summit, arriving at the willows around 3:30 PM. The snow had softened and I post-holed to my thigh. I donned the snow shoes to cross the willows. I removed the snow shoes at the road and walked back to the parking area. It was the longest walk ever. I arrived at the Jeep at 5:15 PM. Total distance was 11.1 miles.
The weather was perfect. The skies were blue in the morning. Hazy high clouds moved in past noon. There was little wind - and none of the 40 mph gusts forecast by the NWS.
This irreverent mountain was a lot of fun - the most fun I've had climbing a peak. Maybe it's the excitment of winter - where mild adventures feel epic. Maybe it was the solitude - I didn't meet another soul until the summit. Maybe I feel that way because I don't have much to compare with Mt. Bierstadt. The hike was long but worth every strained breath. The view from the top is outstanding. This is habit forming.
The photos are in order - from morning start to afternoon descent.