Peak(s):  Mt. Elbert  -  14,433 feet
Mt. Bierstadt  -  14,060 feet
Mt. Evans  -  14,264 feet
Date Posted:  07/16/2012
Modified:  07/17/2012
Date Climbed:   07/15/2012
Author:  zephyr_pelicante
 Debunking myths about popular mountains.  

What you didn't know about Evans and Elbert

Both trails are highly enjoyable and the notion that certain sections are miserable is a myth.

Day 1: Bierstadt and Evans from Guanella pass

Start Time: 3:30
End Time: 1:30 Don't expect it to take this long. We were taking our time.
Distance: 10.25 miles
Elevation Gain: 3900'

This was far more enjoyable than I was expecting. I don't have any pictures of the sawtooth, there are plenty already, and to get a good feel of the route there are hundreds of other trip reports and route descriptions. We (my friend Dan and I) did the Sawtooth from Bierstadt to Evans, and descended the gully and through the "marshes". I wanted to put in my opinion about a few commonly discussed issues about this trail.

Dozens of people have asked about this in the forums. "How does this compare to Longs?" etc...

Coming down from Bierstadt is steep and you need to make sure you don't trip on rocks, kick a rock on yourself, get a rock kicked on you by another person, or sprain your ankle. For the majority of people planning on staying on route, getting complacent and flying down this is the most hazardous danger of the entire traverse. It's not difficult, but take your time.

The actual class III "exposure" and class III climbing comes after you drop down to the lowest part from Bierstadt. It is not difficult and hardly dangerous. In fact, climbing directly up the "teeth" can add a bit of challenge but is one of the most rewarding things I've done. You can avoid almost all the climbing by going to the east of the "teeth" The exposure on the ledges is very similar to Long's as is the width of the trail (4-5 feet)

Getting to Evans is easy and well cairned, and it was interesting to see the tourists on top, one of whom exclaimed "people actually climb this thing???" and was more startled when I pointed out the route I took

Gully back from Evans:
The decent from Evans includes a "gully" to reach guanella pass that many people complain about. I've read countless comments about how steep, miserable, long and loose this is. My experience was that it was not very steep. The rock was mostly solid with a bit of loose stuff that is avoidable. Very enjoyable decent along the stream. I think many of the people who talk about "loose" and "steep" haven't done other 14ers with decents that are actually steep and miserable. (Columbia).

The "marshes" and the "bush whacking"
After expecting a truly miserable trek through the bushes to reach the Bierstadt trail, I was pleasantly surprised to find this was not the case. Let me be very clear: THERE IS NO BUSH WHACKING INVOLVED ON THIS TRAIL! There is a trail all the way back, and there are willows that may touch you (OH NO!!) Realize this is Colorado, not Texas and some trails involve vegetation touching your precious clothing. Bush whacking is where you physically have to either move or cut bushes to continue, this is not even close to that. It is a well-defined trail where you put one foot in front of another and propel yourself forward with some willows in the near vicinity. Not that bad and a rather neat trek.

You can expect to get your feet wet in the marshes, but again: this is Colorado, trails get wet sometimes. I saw people with mud up to their knees, but if you look at the trail and find the best way around the marshes, there is no way any water should get above your ankles. However, It involves a very small amount of effortful conscious thought to visually look with your eyes and avoid soft spots. Very enjoyable trail if you do. Great scenery along this route. Great waterfall between the base of the gully and the marshes.

It was forecasted to thunderstorm 60% after 9AM, we saw no rain until well after our drive into Georgetown near 2PM. The best thing to do with a crappy weather forecast (if it's a reasonable drive) is to just go and turn back if necessary.

Day 2: Mount Elbert: Northeast Ridge

Start Time: 6:00
End Time: 1:30 Again: we were taking our time.
Distance: 9 miles
Elevation Gain: 4700'

My friends from work met up with me to do Colorado's highest peak. It was Siddharth's and Kartik's first 14er, and Arjun's 2nd. I could tell they were getting tired at times, but overall they kept pressing on and I was very impressed with them doing 4700' of elevation gain for their first 14er.

This is a class I trail up to the top, with all the trail above treeline having an excellent view to the North and East. I had some great conversations with my friends and was incredibly glad for them to have this experience and accomplishment.

Again a disappointing forecast of 60% after 11AM, however we felt no rain the whole time. There was a dark cloud around 10AM, but it passed and there were no threatening ones the entire rest of the trip.

I'll let the pictures do the rest:
Colorado Trail

Emerging above Treeline

Above Treeline

Kartik and Mount Massive near 13500'

Up to the false summit

Me at the top (date is wrong)

Other 14ers to the south

Looking East into the valley

Siddharth and Arjun

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

A better route?
07/16/2012 20:18
It's been many years since I climbed Evans from Guanella pass, so maybe there is a closure or something now that would prevent using this route, but rather than doing what most people do now, which is to follow the Bierstadt trail on the south side of Scott Gomer Creek and then cross the creek, I followed the drainage divide from the pass, staying on the north side of Scott Gomer Creek. This route is a little bit longer, but has no willows and only a very short (not more than 100-200 feet) marshy section.


Sawtooth traverse
07/17/2012 13:37
Great update on the traverse, but jeeze a little flustered huh , now I may wait til summer is over to do that one

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