Peak(s):  Mt. Bierstadt  -  14,060 feet
Date Posted:  10/12/2010
Modified:  10/15/2010
Date Climbed:   10/10/2010
Author:  spetrova
 Mt. Bierstadt on snow day (Columbus Day weekend)  

I agree with another person who said that after the first climb to Colorado 14er it becomes an addiction - that's what is happening to me now. After climbing Mt.Elbert (my first) on Labor Day weekend, we (my grown-up kids and myself) decided to hike Mt.Bierstadt on Columbus Day weekend.

Since I had to fly to Denver from New Jersey and wouldn't have much time for acclimatization I suggested that we pick the easier 14er for my second time, though my daughter and her husband already had 4 of them under their belts since their move to Denver this June. So it was decided to be Mt. Bierstadt.

We spent entire Saturday in the mountains and stayed a night at Bailey Lodge (very convenient place - close enough to drive to Guanella Pass). We saw the forecast for snow in Grant area for Sunday and decided if in the morning we come to Guanella Pass and it is complete whiteout, then no taking chances - we go back - hike is out.

We got up at 4am, left the lodge a little after 5am, were at Guanella Pass around 6am. The pass was open to the Clear Creek, but the road was still in pretty bad condition - with lots of potholes, and grinder-like areas, but still passable. It was snowing, but a little - some sign of good luck.

The driving was in the pitch-black darkness - thanks god, my kids scouted the road ahead a while ago and knew the way. We parked next to another car - so we were not the first ones! But then we noticed that no one really was in the car - perhaps people were camping some place else.

We had to stay for another half an hour waiting for some sign of light in the sky - just enough to start walking down the path. Since it was snowing, the trail was powdered with snow, which really made it well visible. So we really could wait a little less, than we did and could start hiking earlier. Nevertheless, we took off at 6:30am. As soon as we started moving, another car drove to the parking lot - people noticed us, shouted hello, laughed that we were already ahead of them as they expected to be the first ones. Image
Early morning - pink-colored spot from the rising sun shows up on the mountain
View of the Square Top Mountain

Everything was going smoothly - in the morning the lower area of the trail was dry, frozen, covered with dry snow - very easy to walk. Image
very pleasant walk when the trail is snow-covered
Image #5 (not yet uploaded)
But the closer to the upper parts of the trail the colder it was getting. Snow and strong winds were increasing. We had a good layered clothing on, everything was good so far, only fingers getting colder and colder - and in fact holding hiking poles were contributing to that. As soon as you put hands down, circulation gets better and fingers start warming up. Another problem was with camel back tubes - water was freezing in them and at some point it was hardly possible to get a drop of water. So we were quite dehydrated at the summit.

Closer to the top the wind was becoming fierce and extremely cold - it was almost blizzard-like condition at times. When we reached the bolder field, before the last stretch to the summit, it was becoming difficult only because of wind gusts and because of frigid, hardly moving fingers. Otherwise, in a good weather it would be a piece of cake. The hike is not long, not strenuous because of not much elevation gain. Image
Almost there - last stretch to the top - over bolders

Still the three of us were the first ones climbing to the summit over the boulders, when another brave man passed by us and now we were following him. We all met at the top and were rewarded with amazing clearing with bright blue sky and abundant sunshine (though not warming a bit) for a little period of time. Image
my daughter Katya (in front) and myself (behind her)
Shyam (my daughter's husband) seems completely frozen
I did it one more time!!!

The guy who passed us asked if we are making Mt. Evans today too (over Sawtooth) - we all together in unison cried loud - "No, no way! Not in the weather like this!". But he was brave, and continued to traverse to Sawtooth after we helped him with taking pictures of him on his camera at the summit. The registry tube is attached to the boulder - as soon as you find it you are at the summit. When signing in it, we noticed that our ascent was made on 10/10/10 at 10am! We joked - if another 10 minutes late it would be all 10s. Image
... and here is the registry ...
view to the Guanella Pass from the top
view of the valley of Abyss Lake

Finally we turned back! The boulders are tricky when descending - just need to keep with the right direction and get back on track.

On the way back the storm was closing up quickly, and still people were going up to the summit! When we walked to the top I was watching for any fresh footprints - there were none - except some hardly visible old ones probably from a day before, powdered with fresh snow. So I could know we are really still the first one today. On the way back the trail was well trodden and snow well packed. Image
Mt. Evans with its observatory
descending - joys of succesfull climb - Sawtooth and Mt. Bierstadt in background

When back to the lower areas, snow completely melted making trail muddy. But that was OK, we were almost done, water was finally running in tubes! Image Image
Close view of the Sawtooth Peak
finaly descending...

It took only 5 hours to complete the hike which is not bad at all. In spite of the cold weather I still think it was very much enjoyable experience - to me somehow high-altitude mountains always associated with snow and glaciers, and my first 14er (Mt.Elebert) without any snow was a little bit weird, though it is still a memorable one because it was first. But it is my subjective opinion. This time I had a hike in a snow weather which compensated well for it lack of first time. Image
view of the valley
But I'm ready for my next 14er in the winter condition now - this at least adds some difficulty to the easier ones which would be just walks; it helps to learn to deal with cold. But I have to convince my kids - they are my best hiking companions!

So, when back to the car, in spite of a terrible headache (though no muscle aching this time), I was already thinking - what is the next 14er? and when? It is seriously addictive! I think the main point here what makes climbing mountains addictive - at least for me - is a feeling of accomplishment! It is a great reward for determination, exertion, all efforts put into the achieving the goal!

I like very much this saying I found recently - it is such a concise and right expression:

"It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves". Sir Edmund Hillary.

Good luck everybody! Enjoy Mt.Bierstadt!

Here is our entire album: Trip Album on Picasaweb

I think I've figured it - climbing is not an addiction it is a good therapy, better than any shrink can provide! When you are one-on-one with the peak, all your worries and stress are gone, you are only concentrated on the goal - making a successful climb to the top and returning back! That clears your head so well, as you would never get with any other therapy - those worries and stress wear us out a lot - and here you get a remedy with every 14er! After all exertion, having little physical strength left, next morning after a good sleep - you feel so much charged with mental energy that you know you can deal weeks and weeks with your work and life routines till next climb! And then get another charge, and so on... Is it not the best therapy?!!! I feel so much younger after!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Snow Conditions
02/13/2011 20:29
Glad you made it, I went just this weekend and it was almost impossible for how much snow there was, probably 4 to 6 feet of snow in the willows and we started about 5 miles before the road closure gate due to heavy snow. I need to plan my trips a little better. To keep the water freezing in your Camelbak blow air down the tube and shut the valve off while you do so it will help a bit.


Right behind ya
10/13/2010 03:46
My wife and I were the ones right behind ya....and I agree with your accomplished feeling. The only thing I would have changed would of been how I carried my water! it freezing like that was pretty crazy!


Cant agree more
10/13/2010 15:01
I cant agree more I climbed grays this summer and then after that i was climbing every week until school started.I amalready planning climbs for next year .


Hey, guys!
10/13/2010 15:28
Hey, guys!
So great to hear from people we met up there!
After this my second 14er I was so much impressed, I just could not help but write about the experience to share! I wish I could climb as often as every week, but I live in NJ.


hey hey
10/14/2010 20:14
Even living in CO, we still don't climb every weekend, as much as we would like to...

But if you like doing 14ers, move to CO. ;)


Sleeping in the car
10/14/2010 22:37
Thanks for the wake up YELL that day! I was still sleeping in the car in the parking lot (sort of anyway). and Thanks for taking my photo up on top. I did make it over to Evans, but it was pretty brutal. Very high winds and the class 3 scrambling was more interesting with all the snow on the rocks. The conditions made for a long outing and I finally got back to the car @ 6:00pm. Needless to say, I was pretty beat after that!
Hope you can come back for more some day, it was nice to meet you!


What a surprise! :)
10/15/2010 01:07
What a surprise?!!! So that was you in the car! I actually noticed a window being foggy, so I guessed somebody was there, but it was so quiet, no movement, so we decided the car is empty!

I must say - you are really a very brave man to finish that hike up to Evans! I honestly admire such determination! My congratulations!!!

How was it to traverse the ridge to Sawtooth? Must have been the hardest part - was it not?

I definitely want to come back for another 14er soon and definitely more times in winter! I just need to get my kids convinced to make me a company! They are my best pals!



10/15/2010 16:57
The climbing was fun but it was crazy because of the weather. It would have been nice to see my surroundings. Not knowing for sure where you are on a mountain is an energy drain. It did make for a memorable experience!


10/16/2010 02:25
Good to see you made it out unscathed mvonkaenel you had an impressively steady pace the whole time I observed you!

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