Peak(s):  Mt. Bierstadt  -  14,060 feet
Date Posted:  11/06/2006
Date Climbed:   11/04/2006
Author:  yetifreak
 Nov 4 Summit  

Decided to try a "winter" hike to check out my new ice axe to see if one is necessary and how to use the thing, plus I borrowed my girl friends MSR shoes and wanted to experiment with snow shoeing at altitude- mainly the whole trip was about gaining knowledge on winter hiking at altitude.

Drove up from Georgetown side of Guanella Pass, which was iced over and quite rough as usual. The road was marked closed but I continued on since there was traffic in the opposite direction, and I have a 4wd Grand Cherokee which I did use the "part time" feature, manily for my sense of security. Anyway, the TH was just fine with about 6 cars and the weather was warm & clear! Started @ 11:40 AM and decided to turn around at 2 PM since in summer conditions I have summited in 1:45 +-.
The trail was well marked and snow shoes were not needed at all until I crested the willows-- put on the shoes just to try‘em out- and they improved my traction. Soon after the willows the trail became faint as prior folks had not pushed on. Since I had been here before I continued, checking my return path often to get my bearings. Weather turned to snow and a little windy but the temp stayed warm so I continued and soon learned how th use my ice axe in lieu of one pole to aid my very slow progress. I learned a lot about rock scrambling in winter conditions!
It is slow and much more technical than summer hiking! But that why I was there- for a good ole lesson by experience! Anyway I summited at
2:40 PM- passing my 2 PM deadline, and started down immdeiately.

The rocks were great as I had learned a few things on the ascent and was on all fours a few times just to make sure this stayed a safe and enjoyable day. About 1/4 to 1/3 of the way down I encountered the "faint" portion of the trail. There were several sets a tracks leading in several directions, so I slowly plodded on watching the time slip away.
Well, I never found the willows and the well packed trail and ended up traversing very steep slopes with fresh powder which was great because I was convinced that I would eventually intersect the well packed trail-- WELL-- on I went until I was down to the flat area but I was way "east" of where the trail probably was!

Since I could almost see the TH, I struck our on my own and ran into a X country skiiers track so I followed these fresh tracks since they were headed right to the TH and they were fresh tracks. On I went with spirits flying high and enjoying the scenery when suddenly my left shoe broke thru the snow pack and plunged into a water hole soaking my left foot to the ankle-- oh oh! Well I easily removed my foor from the hole, assessed the situation- foot wet, but not too cold so on I continued at a quicker pace, all the time cking my watch-- its now 4:15
It is getting late! On I went at a fast but wary pace watching for other such traps- but again- this time my right foot breaks thru into a creek and this time my shoe is stuck good! I wrenched my right knee trying to extract my shoe to no avail- pulled off my gloves since I had 2 extra pair and plunged my hand in to the water--still I could‘nt free the shoe- I knew time was definitely "of the essence" and I calmed my head as wild visions danced thru it -- A HA- my new ice axe!! The solution! I quickly transferred my new best tool to my right hand, whacked the snow, ice and sludge away and freed my shoe! Although now wet on both feet I continued on as quickly as possible. Time is now 5:00 and it is getting real dark (look outside tonight at 5 PM) I reached the vehicle at 5:31 quickly counted my blessings and vowed to never forget the lessons I had learned this day! As I left the TH I said to myself- what an experience and reflected on the things I have in my life.


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