Peak(s):  Mt. Bierstadt  -  14,060 feet
Date Posted:  06/12/2010
Modified:  06/23/2010
Date Climbed:   09/07/2009
Author:  Southern Appalachian

 Mt. Bierstadt-Sawtooth-Evans Combo Attempt - Labor Day Weekend  

Sometimes we feel REALLY hungry and at the last second at the counter ... instead of getting just the burger ... we blurt out ... "I'll have a Combo #1" ... and he/she asks "Would you like to Super-Size that?" ... and even though we shouldn't, we say "WTH, sure!". Then there you are, sliding into your booth with a Whopper, an extra-large order of french fries and a gallon of Dr. Pepper. Sorry, I guess maybe I should just speak for myself, huh? Okay, so there I am sitting in the booth digging into my big-ass burger and tub of fries ... yeah baby ... this rocks ... IT'S SO GOOD ... then about half-way through the meal I'm like, "Damn, I can't do this. I'm SO full. If I keep eating I'm going to THROW UP". I could have easily eaten the Whopper Jr. (Mt. Bierstadt) but INSTEAD I ordered the Super-Sized Whopper Combo (Mt. Bierstadt/Sawtooth/Mt. Evans) and attempted to force it down.

Date: 9/7/09 Labor Day
Mt. Bierstadt - Sawtooth - Evans Combo
Failed Attempt

Mount Bierstadt: 14,065 feet
Base: 11,650 feet
Vertical Rise: 2,415 feet

So, the PLAN was to hike up to Bierstadt ... down the Sawtooth ... up to Evans ... back down to the Guanella Pass Trail Head (10 miles round trip). Ummmmm, when I looked at that in the Official Colorado 14er Bible - I honestly thought it'd be pretty easy. Wrong. So wrong. (Actually, I've done that a couple of times planning big bike rides too back in NC). So, I'm obviously still learning things the hard way. My ego is subsiding as I get older (thank God - right?). Some people have the attitude of Summit or Die (not my attitude). This is the first sport that I've gotten into where I honestly feel like I could die. Yes, I know I could hit a tree on my mountain bike or maybe get attacked/eaten by a mountain lion ... or, or, or - get hit by a car on my road bike or perhaps even kidnapped at gun point by a Ward resident while riding up Lefthand Canyon, to be locked up in his shed hidden behind his house and forced to lead a secret life for 10 years while bearing his 5 children ... I could crash into a tree while skiing ... or be swallowed up in an avalanche in the back country. BUT, I don't ever really think about those things. They seem ... well ... just improbable. HOWEVER, when I was *scrambling* out of the Sawtooth - I was scared ... seriously. Like - "kid scared". Like - "Daddy, I'm scared" scared. I was finding the absolute BEST hand holds, testing/re-testing foot holds and knowing that it was REALLY important that I stay focused on the rocks above me and under me. In the middle of scrambling up the steepest pitch back up out of Sawtooth, Deb (former free-climber) kindly says from the top of the climb to me, "You are doing GREAT!!! Just don't look down." Well you already know what I did. Automatically, head swiveled, I looked over my shoulder to sneak a peak below me and I almost shat my pants. Talk about a shot of adrenaline. And YOU KNOW I liked it.

So, obviously, we got about halfway through our combo and made a very wise decision to re-trace our steps back to the top of Mt. Bierstadt. The sky was turning ugly colors ... which above 14,000 feet could quickly result in lots of dangerous lightning and serious hail. AND we were weren't sure about the route back to the car (something about bushwacking through willows - which Note To Self are bushes - not pine trees). AND it was getting very late. AND based on the 14er Bible Route Description we were supposed to make a lot of turns at the *"gendarme"* which is French (not Southern) and is pronounced "jon-darm" ... NOT "GEN-dar-MAY" ... I couldn't even pronounce it that day ... I certainly had no idea what the hell it meant or subsequently where to turn. AND then there was the expression on the face of the only other person in the Sawtooth with us when we asked him about getting back to the Guanella Pass Trail head in the direction we were going, combined with his advice of "You guys should probably turn around". (Translation based on expression: "WTF ARE YOU TWO DOING DOWN IN HERE! GET the HELL out NOW before you get yourselves *$%*$#* killed"). Geez. Okay. When we turned to begin climbing back out of the Sawtooth ... I almost started crying. It just looked so over-whelming. However, this actually ended up being the most exciting part of the day for me because Deb took us up the fastest, steepest and most technical route back to the top. So, what I thought was going to be the absolute WORST section of the hike ... ended up being the absolute BEST section of the hike for me!

SO, I like to think that we made one stupid decision - by deciding to descend into the Sawtooth with weather coming in ... and one smart decision - by deciding to turn around and exiting the Sawtooth back the way we came. It seems silly to say - but that could have potentially been a Life-or-Death decision for us that day. I have learned to respect the mountains and Colorado weather. It's no joke.

After two hours of hiking down from the summit, while sitting comfortably on the back of my car snacking on some delicious, salty pistachios ... I poutishly-like-a-kid called the hike my first "Failed Attempt". However, I was corrected immediately and reminded by Deb that we DID make it to the top of Mt. Bierstadt AND I bravely did my first round of Class 3 scrambling ... which are both BIG DEALS. I started feeling good about myself again; so, I patted us on the backs with lots of verbal affirmation. After all, we enjoyed a beautiful fall day surrounded by the majestic Rocky Mountains ... AND, oh yeah ... I successfully summitted my 2nd Colorado 14er. 8)

Happy Trails!
- The Peak Bagger from NC

5:30 A.M. Wake up
6:30 A.M. Load up
8:00 A.M. Guanella Pass Trail Head
8:15 A.M. Hiking
11:15 A.M. Mt. Bierstadt Summit
11:30 A.M. Sawtooth Descent/Ascent
12:30 P.M. Mt. Bierstadt Summit
2:30 P.M. Guanella Pass Trail Head

Guanella Pass Trailhead
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Happy Sawtooth
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Ahhhhh .... fall.
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14er #2
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Descending into Fall
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Sawtooth Bite
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Angry Sawtooth

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

06/24/2010 02:15
Got a good chuckle from reading this. Kudos on making the right choice.

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