(WINTER) HOLD ON! If you don't have much high-elevation, winter climbing experience, be careful in your planning and take a partner. Even the "easy" 14ers (Quandary, Sherman, Grays & Torreys) can be deadly in winter.
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.
Hike to the summit of Mt. Bierstadt by following Route #1. Taken from Mt. Evans, Photo #1 is a view of Bierstadt and portions of the Sawtooth ridge. From the summit, look north to see the Sawtooth and the rugged connecting ridge - Photo #2. Climb north off of the Bierstadt summit and begin your descent towards the saddle between the two peaks. Stay east (right) of the ridge crest as you scramble - Photo #3. It soon becomes obvious that the Sawtooth side of the ridge holds most of the difficult terrain. As you get closer to the saddle at 13,300', study the remaining route carefully - Photo #4. Just beyond the notch in the saddle (the lowest point), there is a large gendarme which holds the most difficult climbing. Photo #5 is a closer look at the area and it shows a couple of options for getting past the gendarme. Leave the notch (Photo #6) and hike up to the gendarme - Photo #7. Climb up as far as you feel comfortable, turn right, and scramble around to easier terrain on the east side of the gendarme. Photo #8 shows some of the climbing.
After getting around the gendarme, enter a small gully (Photo #9) just prior to the final rock outcropping on the ridge. Turn left and hike up this gully to a notch in the ridge - Photo #10. Pass through the notch, turn right, and follow a ledge along the west side of the Sawtooth - Photo #11. The ledge starts off narrow but soon gets easier and the remaining ledges become more obvious - Photo #12. To cross the final ledges, drop a bit (or turn right and climb slightly before traversing above a rock wall) and ascend to the top of the ledge, near 13,600' - Photo #13 and Photo #14. Turn right and ascend talus to reach the top of the Sawtooth - Photo #15. Photo #16 looks back to Mt. Bierstadt.
Look east to see the West Ridge on Mt. Evans, but the summit is not visible from here - Photo #17. Without a trail, walk toward Evan's West Ridge to reach a cairned trail near 13,800'. Photo #18 looks back at the Sawtooth. The cairns approaching the ridge are part of an established route from Summit Lake, over Mt. Spalding, and along the West Ridge. Continue up toward the initial hump on the ridge (Photo #19) and to a notch in the ridge just before the hump - Photo #20. 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. From the hump on the west end of the ridge, it's almost 1 mile to the summit. Continue along the ridge to a point where you can finally see the summit - Photo #21. Hike to the corner of the Mt. Evans road and then over 100' to the summit OR walk all the way to the parking area and take the tourist trail to the top. Photo #22 and Photo #23 were taken on the summit.
The descent: You do not have to return over the Sawtooth and Bierstadt to reach Guanella Pass... Hike back to the west end of the West Ridge where you can see the Sawtooth down to your left - Photo #24. Instead of heading toward the Sawtooth, hike northwest through an open area between the Sawtooth and Mt. Spalding (to the right). Continue down through this open area (Photo #25) 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 - Photo #26. It holds some loose rock, dirt, and scree so be careful. Near the bottom of the gully, the creek is visible below. Weave through willows and rocks to reach the base of the gully - Photo #27. At the bottom, hike left to cross above the ponds and locate a small trail on the west side of the creek. Photo #28 looks back at the gully. From here, route finding through the willows can be a hassle. There is a narrow trail almost all the way back to the Mt. Bierstadt trail, but it's easy to lose. Stay above the creek and continue west through the willows - Photo #29. In early summer, this can be a very wet area and you may be forced to zigzag around many mud holes. Hike approximately 1 mile along the left side of the creek to reach the Mt. Bierstadt Trail just before the stream crossing. Route finding through the willows makes this last mile a challenge. Once you finally reach the Bierstadt trail, turn right and follow it back up to the trailhead. Photo #30 shows some of the route as seen from Guanella Pass.
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.