My original plan was to climb Mount Antero via Raspberry Gulch, but the weather forecast called for a 60% chance of thunderstorms.
However, I had the day off during the week (a rarity). Mount Evans, my final Front Range fourteener, had a forecast with a 40% chance of thunderstorms. Giddyup!
I considered the West Chicago Creek approach (I like nonstandard approaches), but 40% is still 40%, so I decided upon a shorter approach via Guanella Pass.
Total distance was about 13 miles, with about 3300 feet of elevation gain.
I started my hike at 6:00 am sharp, and had to battle the marshy willows for the first two miles. Somehow, I misinterpreted the hint given by Jim (reading hints at 3:30 in the morning may have been the largest part of the problem), and I was wet up to my waist by the time I cleared the willows (thanks to marshy turf and dewy willows).
Anyhow, this is the first photo with good daylight, coming up the drainage between Gray Wolf Peak and Mount Spalding. Grays Peak and Torreys Peak stand guard over the proceedings.
It has rained so much up here over the past few weeks that even the non-marshy terrain is marshy and spongy. Random creeks descend the mountains at every turn. Wet boots continue.
After circumventing Mount Spalding, we get our first look at Mount Evans. Mount Evans is roughly centered in this photo, with West Evans on the right. I never really saw Evans as particularly interesting, but this hike gave me a new appreciation. It's a very complex mountain.
Summit Lake, where some hikers start their ascent of Evans. Even though I subscribe to the 3,000-foot rule, I couldn't care less about what other people do. I met this great couple from Houston at the top, who had hiked up the 150 or so feet from the upper parking lot. They loved it! So what do I care if they didn't climb 3,000 feet? Mountains are for enjoying, and I saw so many people today who had a great feeling of accomplishment.
Epaulet Mountain and the Abyss Lake drainage:
Getting closer to the true summit - it's an up-and-down slog from West Evans to Evans proper, especially if you keep insisting (as I did) that if you just stay high, you can avoid the up-and-downs.
The summit marker is getting a little damaged:
Obligatory summit photo, my seventeenth unique. Bierstadt and West Evans are joined by a lot of dark clouds:
The upper parking lot of Mount Evans. Met a lot of fun touristy people today - not something you usually get on a fourteener. Most of them look at you with a combination of "wow" and "you're crazy".
Mount Bierstadt and Abyss Lake. As my first fourteener, Bierstadt always holds a special place in my heart.
The fastest way to go from Bierstadt to Evans - the Sawtooth. It's on my short list, but I didn't want to be caught on that exposed ridge in a thunderstorm.
The next goal for the day, Mount Spalding. I practically had to climb Spalding on the ascent, so why not?
Mount Spalding summit, with Mount Evans in the background:
On the descent of Spalding, one look back. The sponginess of the turf made descending easier on my knees, but the sponginess of the turf made falling much easier:
As we continue our descent, another look at the Sawtooth:
The Scott Gomer Creek drainage is one of the most beautiful (my opinion - I'm not sure how "official" any surveys would be anyhow) in Colorado:
A broad look at the first part of the route chosen - Gray Wolf and Spalding frame the route I took towards Evans' summit:
And we're back at the trailhead - a final look at the world-famous Sawtooth!
I found the trail on the descent, but it disappeared again - it went right into a marsh and didn't come out the other side. Maybe it's just so wet from all of the rain, but you can see where I ended up on the GPS image above. Route finding isn't my forte (I'm working on it), so if you're taking this route, pay attention!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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