Combination Route

 Bierstadt, Sawtooth, Blue Sky
Difficulty Class 3 
Risk FactorsExposure: Considerable
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Considerable  
Commitment: High  
TrailheadGuanella Pass
Start11,669 feet
Summit14,066 feet
Total Gain3,900 feet
RT Length10.25 miles
Last UpdatedSep 2023
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From the north: Take the Georgetown exit off of Interstate 70. Drive through Georgetown and follow the signs for the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway. Drive 12 miles to the top of Guanella Pass (11,700') and park in one of the two large, paved parking areas on either side of the road. The Bierstadt trail starts near the parking area on the east side of the road. The upper parking area (on the west side of the pass) has restrooms.From the south: Take US 285 west from Denver or east from Fairplay. Drive to the town of Grant which is about 12 miles west of Bailey. In Grant, turn north on the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway and drive approx. 13 miles to Guanella Pass.


HOLD ON! This route is long, requires Class 3 climbing skills and is not recommended for hikers who are new to the high peaks.

Hike to the summit of Mt. Bierstadt by following the Mt. Bierstadt - West Slopes Route. Taken from Mt. Blue Sky, 1 is a view of Bierstadt and portions of the Sawtooth ridge. From the summit of Bierstadt, look north to see the Sawtooth and the rugged connecting ridge - 2. Leave from the north side of the Bierstadt summit and begin your descent towards the saddle between the two peaks. Stay right of the ridge crest as you descend - 3. As you get closer to the 13,300-foot saddle, study the remaining route carefully - 4. Just beyond the notch at the saddle, there is a large gendarme which holds the most difficult climbing - 5. Reach the notch and hike up to the gendarme - 6 and 7. Climb it as far as you feel comfortable, turn right, and scramble around to easier terrain on the east side of the gendarme - 8.

After passing the gendarme, enter a small gully prior to another rock outcropping - 9. Turn left and ascend this gully to a notch in the ridge - 10. Pass through the notch, turn right, and follow a ledge along the west side of the Sawtooth - 11. The ledge starts off narrow but soon becomes easier and more obvious - 12. To cross the final ledges, drop a bit (or turn right and climb slightly before traversing above a rock wall) and ascend the ledge to 13,600' - 13 and 14. Turn right and hike up through talus to reach the top of the Sawtooth - 15 and 16.

Look east to see the west ridge on Mt. Blue Sky but the summit is not visible yet - 17. Walk toward Blue Sky's west ridge to reach a cairned trail near 13,800'. The cairns approaching the ridge are part of an established route from Summit Lake, over Mt. Spalding and along the west ridge. Continue toward an initial hump on the ridge ( 18) and to a notch near the hump - 19. Drop to the right slightly and follow the cairned trail east below the ridge crest. The trail stays below the ridge for most of the remaining hike to the summit. Continue along the ridge to a point where you can finally see the summit - 20. Hike to the corner of the Mt. Blue Sky road and up 100 feet of gain to reach the summit - 21 and 22.

The descent: You do not have to return over the Sawtooth and Bierstadt to reach Guanella Pass... Hike back to the west end of Blue Sky's west ridge where you can see the Sawtooth to your left - 23. Instead of heading toward the Sawtooth, hike northwest through an open area between the Sawtooth and Mt. Spalding (right). Continue down through this open area ( 24) to reach the top of a gully which drops into Scott Gomer Creek, east of Guanella Pass. The narrowing terrain will lead you into the gully. It quickly gets steeper but there is a trail down most of the gully - 25. It holds some loose rock and scree so be careful. Near the bottom of the gully, weave through willows and rocks to reach the its base - 26. Hike left above some ponds and locate a small trail on the west side of the creek. 27 looks back at the gully. From here, route finding through the willows can be unpleasant. There's a narrow trail almost all the way back to the Mt. Bierstadt trail but it's easy to lose. Stay left of the creek and continue west through the willows - 28. In early summer, this area will be wet and you may be forced to bushwhack through the willows. Hike approximately 1 mile along the left side of the creek to reach the Mt. Bierstadt Trail just before the stream crossing. Once you finally reach the Bierstadt trail, turn right and follow it back up to the trailhead - 29.


The Bierstadt-Sawtooth ridge requires some Class 3 scrambling, but the ledges across the west face of The Sawtooth are much easier than they appear from the trailhead. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Mount Evans Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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Caution: The information contained in this route description may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this route description provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the route description author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

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