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Peak(s):  Mt. Bierstadt  -  14,060 feet
Post Date:  05/25/2009
Date Climbed:   05/24/2009
Posted By:  gpeoples


 Bierstadt - West Slopes   

We started our trip from Castle Rock at around 5:40am. Our game plan was to hit Guanella Pass from the Grant side on this very foggy and rainy Sunday. The road was in great shape, but we knew from the overcast skies and foggy conditions that the higher we drove the worse it would get.

We had 3 in our party, Boomer(Brown Lab), Jim, and myself. We got started at 7:45am and it basically started raining from the start. Then at least the rain turned to sleet which we were thankful for, so our packs weren't soaking in all the liquid moisture. It was basically a whiteout condition for the entire day.

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As you can see from the picture above we couldn't even get a good traditional look at the Sawtooth because of poor visibility. Our next objective was to see how much water was running in Scott Gomer Creek. It wasn't an issue and we all jumped across fine. Although Boomer, decided that swimming the creek was the best for him.

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We topped out on the first ridge, which is usually a great time to snap a picture of the valley below. But, no view on this day. Our friend Boomer was still in great spirits and running circles around us. Making sure us hikers were OK bringing up the rear.

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We had passed a few hikers on the trail, but hadn't seen anyone for a while, just a few tracks, until we ran into a fellow 14er.com member Oriiion and her group. Oriiion had 3 in their group and we of course chatted a bit about the deteriorating weather before proceeding. It was getting very snowy at this point and conditions were not getting any better at all. We couldn't see anything in the whiteout, and we were taking a bit of a direct Eastern route. We decided to head a little more to the South/right to see if we could pickup a cairn. We were at about 13,500 at this point. Since the Oriiion group had been leading and making good tracks in the snow for us all, my group decided to lead for a bit. After a few hundred yards or so SE, we did finally find a cairn. I let out a whop/yell into the fog since I couldn't see Oriiion and wanted them to know that we at least saw something familiar. We topped out on the summit at 10:45am in the snowy soup. We did feel a temperature drop on the ridge for sure.

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Summit marker was visible so we knew we were on top. I wish the next picture was a bit more clear, but this is about what it looked like as the Oriiian group began to make their way to the top. Is that a ghost in the darkness??
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Our friend Boomer was in good spirits and earned some extra treats and a bit more water. Boomer was sharing snacks with all and making new friends.
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High-five, 1st 14er for Jim.
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Here is a shot below of the colorful Oriiion group at the top. We were all happy we didn't turn around because of the bad conditions of the day, even though it started snowing on us a little harder on the summit.
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This was our path going down. Again whiteout conditions and a few boot tracks. By the way, gaitors or a must, unless you want wet feet. We didn't use snowshoes and were OK, but they could be helpful at the top and some on the decent.
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Being happy about the summit and probably a little overconfident since I had climbed to the summit several times before in good weather, I made a mistake and started heading down the main route, past the few cairns on the top, but then lost the trail. The main trail had no boot tracks. I guess because of the whiteout, I didn't stay close to the ridge above the basin below the Sawtooth. Bad choice. This put us on a line to far to the south. We ended up finding a game trail/Elk trail that lead us back to the main West Slopes trail, but a good lesson was learned. No need to rush down the mountain in the excitement of a summit, in a whiteout, and lose the trail.

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As you can see from the above picture, the trail is very muddy and in areas you are hiking down a small muddy stream with the amount of snow melt coming off the mountain.

As we got back over Scott Gomer Creek, the sky cleared a little above the sawtooth and we were able to get a nice view of it. Although Bierstadt was still hidden and we never got a clear view to the top all day.
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It was a successful trip, the first 14er for Boomer and Jim and we learned a lot, even on Mt. Bierstadt, considered one of the easiest 14ers in Colorado when using this standard route. Not the Elk trail through the willows.



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