Peak(s):  Mt. Evans  -  14,264 feet
Date Posted:  06/03/2012
Date Climbed:   06/03/2012
Author:  zephyr_pelicante
 Evans closed, echo attempted, bear on east ridge?  

*Disclaimer* I did not summit Mount Evans nor was I close; however, I feel this story will be useful as a trip report.

Redeeming my non-summit

After yesterday's disappointing non-summit on Mount Princeton 100' below the summit due to lightning, I wanted to make it up to myself by bagging Mount Evans. I live about an hour from Mount Evans, and I would have been up it before but the road didn't "open" until May 25th.

Just a short hike

I just planned on doing a short hike from summit lake up to Mount Spalding and down the northeast side. I left early because this was the day I was going to move from Golden CO to Fort Collins, CO for my summer internship.


I left Golden at 4 AM, but at about 4:50 I was greeted with the road closed sign. I read several news articles saying the road was open, CDOT's site said it was open, and a sign just off of the interstate said it was open but indeed it was closed.

Road Closed

Know your trail

After yesterday's lack of trail research essentially cost me the time that it would have taken me to summit Princeton, I swore I would always well-know the trail that I was going to hike on. I did too, I knew precisely everything about the trail I intended to take, but it was to no avail because I decided to take a different one.

Let's take the long route

I knew there was a way to get to Summit Lake from Echo Lake. I didn't know much about it, especially how long, and I was hesitant to try it because the Mount Evans road itself is 14 miles long and I certainly didn't have the time or energy for a ~28 mile hike. After about 30 mins at the closed trailhead and some roll-your-window-down conversations with other puzzled potential hikers, I decided to give it a go. I drove over to Echo Lake and geared up and hit the trail around 5:30

Echo Lake

Off on the Chicago Lakes trail

The first 1.5 miles drops low into the basin. I didn't like this too much because it meant elevating on the return trip. The trail was great and although there were countless trees that had fallen over, someone had chainsawed the whole trail. I eventually crossed Chicago Creek on a bridge and walked up a dirt road to a lake.

Bridge over Chicago Creek


I thought this was Chicago Lake (I found later it was Idaho Springs Reservoir), so I crossed a bridge on the north side of the lake.

Bridge on north side of "Lake"

I then encountered this ridge. I knew the route was supposedly a class 2 so even though it looked sketchy I trusted it would stay a 2.

East ridge

After crossing some marshes, I realized there was no trail and I started to get concerned. There was a humongous boulder field, and I climbed up a bunch of rock faces I knew I was not going to want to climb down. As I kept ascending the ridge the route became a harder class 2 route and into what I believe would classify as class 3, I started to become a bit concerned with my journey.


Narrow section

Backside of narrow section

I was hiking alone, and started to have fantasies of wild animals attacking as I remembered a conversation with hikers on Princeton about a bear spotting. I realized that I wouldn't know what to do if I saw a bear, but convinced myself that there was a really small likelihood I would see a bear. The difficulty kept ramping up and I did not snap any pics as I was concentrating. My plan to hitch a ride down the mountain once the road opened up soon became a necessity as I knew I could not go back down what I had come up.

Then I saw it:

Back down

I'm not entirely sure if this is bear poop, but I know it isn't Deer/Elk and I simply didn't want to find out what it was all alone with no good route anywhere! Luckily I found a gully that I could make a safe descent down instead of backtracking on the rock faces I climbed up. I ended up far to the south of where I came up and by the time I got down the the boulder field they were 6' to 10' boulders. They were super fun to hop over, and I eventually made it back through the marshes and down to the lake.

Looking back down on boulder field

Steep Gully

Huge boulders on descent

It was 7:30 when I got to Idaho Springs Reservoir, which I was informed by some hikers was not Chicago lake. They didn't know how to get up to Mount Evans though, so I decided I would return to my car, and that surely by then the Evans road would be open and I would pursue my original plan. I was more than a little fatigued from the strenuous rock climbing, and yesterday's 8 mile hike, but I figured I was good to go.

Retry Evans?

Got back to the car at 8:10, drove over to Evans. Still closed.

I'll give them the benefit of the doubt it's closed off for good reason, but they certainly could update the signs and the online status on CDOT and the mount evans webpage. This time there were a couple dozen cars full of angry hikers wanting to know the scoop from each other. I didn't even stop this time, I flipped a U and drove back to Golden to go running.

In Hindsight...

I'm actually glad I didn't start to hike, because I did a 7 mile run on south table mountain (in Golden) immediately upon return, and about the last mile my right quadriceps became really strained and I had to walk.

So does anyone know why the Evans road is closed? I'm not too upset because the hike I did was super-cool and totally worth the drive (sans questionable feces spotted). I realize now if I had climbed about another 100' up that gully I would have been on flat terrain and could have followed Evans road up to Summit Lake, but it would still have been a long journey that in hindsight I know I shouldn't have attempted especially without the possibility to bum a ride down.

Finally, if anyone can identify the poop, or give some insight as to what you would have done in my situation, please comment!

Lessons Learned

-----> Research every trail on the mountain you intend to climb, because you might not get to do the one you want.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

06/04/2012 01:31

I was on the summit of Bierstadt at 8:15 this morning and I could see cars driving up Mt. Evans Road to the parking lot.

Perhaps they were Forest Service cars/trucks?


Road Conditions
06/04/2012 01:32
You can sign up for CO road conditions and they will either text or email when there are closures for weather, accidents, etc. I think I got the notice that Evans RD was closed last night and one that it was opened later today.


You need a GPS and some navigation skills
06/04/2012 03:48
Based on your report from yesterday and now today, I beg you to become more prepared to head out into the backcountry. Getting lost, continuing up with building clouds, trying a new route on a whim with no route knowledge, getting lost again, ascending stuff you can't descend without a plan, seems like a lot of interesting choices in 48 hrs. Just my opinion, and maybe I'm just an a-hole, but something doesn't seem safe about your methods as of yet. Good luck on your next hike!


Not to be a jerk
06/04/2012 03:38
But this was a pointless TR. It practically begs for criticism. Maybe I'm wrong and I apologize if someone can glean something. But you wandered around spotting feces and getting lost...? Why not walk the road and short cut the switchbacks or something. Or pick your gulley and continue to hike up? I commend your sense of turning around and doing the 7 mile run. Route finding and navigating is something you'll learn with through experience.. But this is probably not worthy or a TR because I don't believe it does anything as a helpful resource. Constructive criticism/not mean spirited. Happy hiking.


Snow plows
06/04/2012 12:01
I too arrived at 7:00 AM and found the road closed. Why couln't they at lease stick a sign in the ground just after you exit I-70 so one could go somewhere else further west. I saw two snow plow trucks coming up as i was going down.

Svenski Norski

Worthwhile nonetheless-
06/04/2012 12:10
Comfort level is so subjective. Every backcountry experience modifies it, whether they achieve their objective or result in getting frustratingly off-course and wandering around country you might have otherwise missed. By the way, turning around on Princeton sounded smart- Reality overrules goals, the mountain will be there next time, and no one got electrocuted. Turning back is difficult, but it pays to listen when that little voice says ” maybe not...”.


06/05/2012 02:57
I figured I'd post the TR just for the info on the evans road, and if anyone sees this bridge to know the type of terrain lies ahead. I agree on the sign right after leaving I-70 (that said open) could have been changed. Had I seen that I would have quickly gone over to guanella pass to hit evans from the west (another route which I knew well).

Not to defend myself, but if you read my TR from yesterday, We quickly descended after our first spot of lightning.

Like I said, this wasn't the trail I had planned on taking, I just wanted to hike so I thought I'd give Echo a try and turn back when it got dicey, which I did.

Like svenski says you build up navigation skills with experience. Sure I could have gone 100ft more and this may have been a successful TR, but I didn't know that at the time, and a safe descent was more promising than a uncertain route on continuing. I'm not going 6-10 miles away from my car without route knowledge, going further is what would have been unwise IMHO.

I always enjoy a hike with experienced hikers, but even that sometimes leads to a false sense of security (if the hikers aren't really *that* experienced) and diffusion of responsibility, and certainly doesn't do as much for my personal mountaineering skills as having to make judgment calls on my own.

I do appreciate the comments guys!

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