Peak(s):  Mt. Bierstadt  -  14,060 feet
"West Evans" - 14,256 feet
Mt. Evans  -  14,264 feet
Date Posted:  08/22/2010
Modified:  08/28/2010
Date Climbed:   08/21/2010
Author:  VandenBoo

 Bierstadt+Sawtooth+Evans - Combo Loop  

Our group of 6 CSU grad students started the hike at 5:30am from Guanella Pass Rd. The trail leading up to Bierstadt was in good condition and well marked. There were a few steeper parts of the trail where it was necessary for our group to take frequent breaks, but overall the hike to the top of Mt. Bierstadt was uneventful. Made it to the top around 8:30am and relaxed at the top for a while.

Next we descended to Sawtooth Ridge and slowly but surely made our way across. Very steep cliffs on the W side of Sawtooth make trekking along the top of the ridge dangerous (pic 3). I would suggest traversing a good distance below the rigdeline on the E side to maximize safety and efficiency (pic 4). Once we reached the "bottom" of the sawtooth ridgeline, we climbed in order to see both sides and take a few pictures. Climbing back up the N half of the ridgeline was extremely fun since there were many places where you had to pick a route and simply lift yourself up large rocks. Highly recommend it if you enjoy scrambling and bouldering (no gear necessary).

Then we hiked to Evans from the Sawtooth. There are only small elevations gains and losses in this portion, so the only challenge here is getting enough 13k ft+ oxygen to your lungs. Reached Mt. Evans shortly after 12 noon. Took some pics at summit, but quickly left due to crowding from the many tourists who drove up.

After returning along the same ridge that connects Sawtooth and Evan, we descended the gully leading back to Guanella pass. This portion of the trail is extremely steep and slow going (pic 6). Beware of the many loose rocks and cacti. It is not fun to slip and land on a cactus (as I did once). Once you get to the bottom, get ready for nasty marshland.

The nasty marshland is the final stage of the return journey, and is by far the most annoying and poorest quality trail I have ever seen. No markers to show you the true path through the mud puddles and tall brush (4 -7ft). Wearing pants to guard from overgrown branches reaching into the "trail" is highly advisable (pic 7), not to mention the many bugs. If you are not wearing muck boots, there is a 90% chance you will sink into mud deep enough to soak your shoes, inside and out (pic 8 ). This marsh almost made me wish I had just went back along Sawtooth.

Got back to Guanella Pass trailhead just before 5pm. Very rewarding and memorable hike, but also the most grueling one I have ever done due to fatigue from the long trail distance (10+ mi) and the long exposure to high elevation (much of the trail over 13k ft). Granted, I have only hiked one other 14er, Quandry Peak. However, one of the guys in our group has hiked Grays, Torreys, and Longs and said this was the hardest of them all.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Enjoyed seeing you on the trail.
08/24/2010 03:35
I am one of the guys from texas .We met you on the trail.We had the orange REI mountain 3 tent near the trailhead.You all did good. Here's to many more 14ers in your future.


08/24/2010 04:55
Thanks. I am just glad our whole group made it to both peaks and safely back to the trailhead. That hike was epic! How did you two do? Did you encounter any of the same stuff we did?


08/26/2010 03:00
Just wondering if you guys used the georgetown side? Thanks man!


@ Trailhead
08/28/2010 23:11
We did not. I heard it was still closed due to a landslide so we came up from 285.

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