Peak(s):  Mt. Evans  -  14,264 feet
Spalding, Mt  -  13,842 feet
Date Posted:  08/23/2011
Date Climbed:   08/20/2011
Author:  BillinCSprings
 Trip Report from my weekend trip up Mt. Evans via the Chicago Creek  

I wanted to climb Evans, but I wanted to do it via the Chicago Creek. I'd seen pictures of the Chicago Creek Valley, and thought it looked just stunningly beautiful. However, the thought of a 16 mile round trip hike that finishes off with a killer 400 foot vertical climb had me gunshy.

So I got this idea: I could backpack into the valley, and camp there. Then get up early the next morning, climb Evans, then go back to my camp site, and recuperate that night, then backpack out and take on that 400 foot vertical with relatively fresh legs. Furthermore, while in that valley, there are three lakes connected by a creek. It is there that one can find wild cut throat trout - one of the few places where you can find them..

So on Friday, I packed my backpack with standard camping gear; mountain climbing stuff, as well as my fly rod, vest and net. The damn thing weighed 42 pounds by the time I was done. I left the house, and drove to Echo Lake. Once there, I put on my pack, and headed up into the mountains. I first took the Echo Lake trail (which is really little more than a gravel sidewalk), and at the end of that, it intersected with the Chicago Lakes trail. I then took that about 4 miles to deep into the Chicago Creek Valley, and found a nice site to camp near the middle lake. All told, It took me about 3.5 hours.
The opening of the Chicago Creek Valley

This picture shows the entire Chicago Creek Valley. All three of the lakes are visible.

I then set up camp just in time for a thunderstorm. It rained, and rained and rained. The storm lasted about 10 hours. So instead of fishing, I spent the evening huddled in my tent.
I got up the next morning, and began my climb. I first had to go up to the upper lake, and once there, the climb got tough. The trail literally goes up the side of the valley
This picture shows both the upper lake, as well as the steep valley wall that I had to climb.

Once on top, I then found myself on the shore of Summit Lake. From there, I finally got onto Mt. Evans itself. From Summit Lake, I had about 2.5 miles, and about 1400 feet of vertical to the summit.
Summit Lake as seen from the trail - you can also see part of the Mt. Evans road

The final summit push. The trail actually goes off to the right, then gradually goes up to the top of the ridge.

The view from the top.... You can see the storm clouds rolling in

While up there, in addition to the views, there was an entire herd of Big Horn sheep

After hanging out for a while, I started the descent. But now, this is where things started getting a little dicey. As you can see from the previous pictures, thunderstorms were moving in fast. I was only about one hour into my descent, when they hit. First it was just rain, then hail, then lightning. At one point, the lightning hit so close, that all I heard was a deafening crack, and all I saw was white. Scared the bejeezes out of me!! I very quickly found a rock overhang, and huddled underneath it till the storm finally passed.
But the drama wasn't over, I got myself back into the valley about 3:30. But then another issue presented itself. Somewhere along the trail, my GPS fell off my belt. One of the important waypoints on said GPS, was the location of my campsite.... Yeah.... It took over an hour and a half to find that site. The whole time, I was dealing with yet another rain storm. By the time I finally got back to my tent, I was very wet and very cold. Again no fishing, but at least it finally let up by 7:30 so I was able to light a camp fire, and get something approximating warm and dry.

The next morning, Sunday, I was finally able to toss a fly at the trout in the middle Chicago Lake. I fished for about 4 hours, and caught a brown as well as one cut throat trout. Both were pretty small though, so I let them go.

Finally, it was time to head back home. However, here's where my plan's flaws revealed themselves. I hoisted that pack up, which actually weighed less - I only had liter of water on the pack, and all the consumables had been eaten, and yet that pack felt like it weighed a ton! What I had underestimated was just how tired my legs would be from the previous two days' hikes. Every step felt I was carrying a house. Of course, because I was going out, most of the walk out was down hill. After only about 1.5 hours, I found myself at the base of that 400 foot incline. Going up those switchbacks, oh my God - I thought I was gonna die! But I gutted it out, took breaks as I needed them, and eventually got to the top, and after that was a fairly easy mile jaunt back to the car. A total of 2.5 hours back. Then it was time to treat myself, I drove to the Tommy Knockers brewery in Idaho Springs, and had possibly the best pastrami melt sandwich EVER before driving home.

It was a great trip, but by the time I got home, I was EXHAUSTED! In fact here it is, about 36 hours later, and my legs and my back are still sore. But I don't care - it was great trip. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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