Peak(s):  Mt. Bierstadt  -  14,060 feet
Mt. Evans  -  14,264 feet
Date Posted:  08/26/2012
Date Climbed:   08/25/2012
 Tour d'Abyss - ugly gullies, east ridges, and lots of teeth.  

After weeks and weeks and possibly months and months, I finally got around to climbing Sawtooth. Plus as a bonus I was able to get in the East Ridge ascent to Bierstadt instead of the (what I consider droll) walk up to the summit. I've been planning it all summer but it never seemed to work out with any of my friends' schedules, and I really didn't want to solo it. I soloed Castle Peak and it's just more fun with friends. My friend David was able to go this weekend so we left Friday afternoon and parked at the switchback on the Evans road at 13,300' at the saddle between Evans and Epaulet (after completely driving past it and turning around because we thought it was an actual parking lot). We unloaded all our gear and hit the trail to the gully just as twilight was about to set in. We planned to camp in the Abyss Lake basin, however, we got about 30 feet below the saddle when we realized it was getting dark enough that we shouldn't continue the dredge downward. Not to mention we realized that we'd have to either take our gear with us on the entire route the next day or re-downclimb the gully to retrieve our stuff afterwards. Neither sounded enticing so we trekked back up the saddle and found some very nice grassy areas to set up camp just as dusk hit.

Entire East Ridge after sunrise

The Sawtooth during the early morning hours

That terrible gully, seen from across the basin.

The next day as we set off for the gully again and started down, we were both extremely excited that we decided against setting up camp down in the basin. The gully was MUCH steeper than we thought it was going to be, as well as MUCH further down than it looks from the top. It would have been after dark before we hit bottom if we managed to do it without sliding. After plenty of class 3 downclimbing to reach the basin we made our way across it and the start of the slog up the grassy area of East Ridge to the first gendarme. It was here we met two men and we started climbing together. After making quick work of the first two gendarmes the third and final towering gendarme, Point 13,641, came into view.
First and second gandarme

Point 13641. Can see climbers at the bottom for reference to size

Its definitely all that its cracked up to be from the photos on here. Luckily the grassy area to the class 3 pitch isn't all that bad at all. When we got to the end of the grassy area all four of us actually paused and had a good 15 minute discussion as to the proper ascent line. I had pulled out my phone where I had all the route info and pictures saved and showed how showed the line going up left on the cliff. One of the other men actually thought it was possible to drop a little ways into a gully, cross it, and then scramble up the easier side of it. After an attempt was made to downclimb to the gully entrance and then realizing how deadly that attempt could have become, we all quickly decided the up-left way was the way to go, which we wound up tackling without a hitch. We all quickly gained the summit of Point 13,641.
One class 3 section below Point 13641

After downclimbing Point 13,641 the route to the summit of Bierstadt looked pretty straightforward. Booooy were we wrong. Just as the route description on here says, there's still plenty of class 3 scrambling and downclimbing to be done. One point even made me be triple as cautious as I had been at any point in the day so far.

But finally, after plenty of then class 2 scrambling, we made it to the summit of Bierstadt.... and were greeted by about 100 people on the summit. Hoooooly cow was it crowded. After spending some time on the summit to relish the accomplishment of completing East Ridge we found our way over to the Sawtooth side. You don't appreciate just how far down the mountain, and just how steep it is, the start of the Sawtooth traverse is till you see it in person. It seemed like we were downclimbing forever to reach the traverse. The talus started off small and considerably loose and eventually turned into some good size chunks of rock for boulder hopping. We made quick work of the traverse and finally came to the saddle that leads to the other side of the Sawtooth ridge and onto the famous Mt. Evans Sawtooth ledges. The path leading up the ledges was extremely fun, with a few class 3 moves as well as some wall hugging along a drop off.
Descending down Bierstadt

Nearing the famous ledges


Before we knew it the ledges were directly ahead of us. The first part was actually enjoyable. True the path is very narrow but its also very solid. The crux came at the wide open expanse that can be seen in many photos on here. Me and my friend debated for a good 10 minutes on whether to continue directly straight across the edge of the ledge where there was a cairn, or go up high and cross another ledge where there was also a cairn. We eventually decided on the up high route. After carefully making our way up and over the loose sand we were welcomed by very nice pathway across the ledge and the climbing after that wasn't too bad at all. A few more quick moves and before we knew it we were on top of the Sawtooth, looking over the smooth expanse, relishing our accomplishment at yet another route completed that day. We gradually made our way the 2 or so miles to the summit of Evans, and definitely glad that was strenuous hiking was over. We even found a nice couple to give us a ride back to the car at the Epaulet saddle.
David just before the ledges

Part of the path on the ledges side

Quite an amazing day it turned out be. And in the end, I was EXTREMELY grateful that we didn't have to again descend the gully to retrieve our tent and gear.
Getting in some final shots

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Nice Work
08/27/2012 04:47
Nice report, good pictures. I'm curious, about how long did it take to get to the summit of Bierstadt and from there, how long to Evans? I've been wanting to do this route for a long time myself.


Just a bit in front of you guys
08/27/2012 14:25
My wife and I were an hour or more in front of you guys. We descended the gully pre-dawn and it wasn't that bad for us. I wonder if you took the gully on the left of Photo #3 and not the easier route on the right - the true low point of the saddle. It was rocky and a bit loose but I don't think it exceeded Class 2. Fun route.


Thank you!
08/27/2012 14:38
This is my first trip report, I'm glad you liked it. We hit the trail at almost 6:30am exactly and got to the summit of Bierstadt at about 12:15. Then after that topped out on the Sawtooth around 3:15 and finally Evans about 5. Thats using time stamps from my photos.


The gully
08/27/2012 14:46
We might have seen you then Jeremy. We saw one couple heading down as we were putting our camping gear in the car. We actually commented and were jealous of how quick work they made of the gully. It took us forever getting down, lol. We might very well have taken the harder route. A guy on top was shouting down to us to take an alternate direction because our chosen path was very steep. I'll have to remember that next time if we do it again.


Checkpoint Times
08/27/2012 18:22
Skiingyeti, just as a point of comparison, here our times to landmarks when my brother and I did this traverse on 8/22.
Start time: 6:37am
Start of East Ridge: 8:00am
Pt 13641: 8:55am
Bierstadt Summit: 9:40am
Summit Departure:9:55am
Lowpoint in Sawtooth: 10:35am
Top of Sawtooth: 11:05am
Top of Evans: 12:11pm
Back to Car: 12:54pm

We had a copy of the route description with us and it was really helpful, especially when negotiating around the Class 5 section on Pt. 13,641 as well as dropping off the summit. Also, note in our times that we stopped for a bunch of pictures on the East Ridge and then climbed about as fast as we could on the Sawtooth because there seemed to be some weather threatening.

Finally, I'm not sure FOLLOWtheHEIGHT would agree with me but even though this route is only ~6.25 miles and ~3,000 elevation, it was exhausting. The slog from the Sawtooth to Evans dragged on forever and this climb certainly felt harder than the stats would indicate.
It was probably even tougher for FOLLOWtheHEIGHT as it seems he took the harder gully. We went down the second one and didn't have many issues.

Great trip report FOLLOWtheHEIGHT! Hope you enjoyed the route as much as we did!


I agree
08/27/2012 20:42
I didn't expect the hike from the the top of Sawtooth to Evans to be as long as it was, nor the hike from Point 13,641 to Bierstadt to be that long either. But between stopping for rests, admiring the scenery, debating routes, and photo opportunities, this did take us a lot longer than otherwise it might have. But yeah, in the end, very enjoyable!


08/28/2012 02:32
Thanks for the info FOLLOWtheHEIGHT and LivingOnTheEdge. Good to know possibilities for timing. Glad it was good weather this weekend. I think it gave more than a few of us a little extra needed time on the summits.


I agree as well!
09/06/2012 13:04
We did the same route on 9/1 hitting that first gully about 6:15. Had an awesome time but dude, my legs are still smoked from this one... I guess I should stop doing these things all hungover and shit.

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