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Combination Route

Tour de Abyss Loop
Difficulty Class 3 
Risk FactorsExposure: Considerable
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Considerable  
Commitment: High  
 
Start13,000 feet
Summit14,268 feet
Total Gain3,000 feet
RT Length5.75 miles
AuthorBillMiddlebrook
Last UpdatedSep 2023
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Trailhead

?RESERVATION REQUIRED
A reservation is required to park in the Mt. Blue Sky summit lot, near 14,000', and must be purchased through recreation.gov PRIOR to the day of your hike. It's $17. Look for the --Mount Blue Sky + All Recreation Sites Vehicle Ticket-- on the system. These tickets are based on a 2-Hour entry window that you select; however, the earliest entry window you can select is 8:00-10:00am and you may be looking to start your hike earlier. Unless the weather is bad and they have to close the road, prior to 8am you'll find the gate open and unstaffed. You still need to have a ticket to drive in early. So, reserve a 8:00-10:00am slot, print it out and display it on your dash when you drive in early and park at the summit.

Tickets are good for 3 consecutive days, at the same entry window. That probably doesn't do you much good but keep this in mind if your first day gets weathered-out and you'd like to return on one of the next two days.

More Information at the USFS
Take Exit 240 at Idaho Springs on Interstate 70. Drive south on Colorado 103 for 13.5 miles to Echo Lake. Show your reservation and drive ~14 miles to reach the Mt. Blue Sky summit parking lot. There are restrooms here.

Route

From Echo Lake, drive over 11 miles up the Mt. Blue Sky road (Colorado 5) to a corner at 13,300' with a small parking area. Park here OR drive all the up and park at the summit parking lot. If you plan on parking at the summit, you will need a parking reservation in advance - see the Summit Lake Trailhead page for more info.

1 is an overview of the route, which starts by climbing Mt. Bierstadt's east ridge. Begin by walking down toward the saddle between Mt. Blue Sky and 13er Epaulet Mountain - 2. If you started your hike at the 13,300-foot corner on the road, don't follow the small path from there to the closest gully. You must descend to the saddle. On the west side of the saddle, near 13,100', locate the top of a gully which drops west toward Mt. Bierstadt - 3. Turn right into the gully and descend west toward the basin below. Carefully make your way through the rock as you drop 800' ( 4 and 5) to reach the base of the gully near 12,300'. Continue west across the basin, over the Abyss trail, and eventually cross the small stream running out of the basin. Reach the base of the east ridge just west of the stream crossing - 6. Climb 800 feet (Class 2) up the slope to reach the crest of Bierstadt's east ridge - 7 and 8.

Turn right and scramble over the first and seconds points on the ridge - 9 and 10. Next, you'll see Point 13,641', the crux of the ridge - 11. Point 13,641' holds great rock and plenty of climbing opportunities. In 11, you'll see a section highlighted in red - this is Class 5 and blocks easy passage. The way around this is to follow a grassy ledge on the right before climbing steep rock to regain the ridge - 12. Hike over to this area and drop onto the ledge - 13. Bypassing the cliffs to your left, follow the ledge for a bit and begin climbing back toward the ridge - 14. This pitch is steep so take your time and you'll be able to keep it to Class 3. Once back on the ridge, scramble to the top of Point 13,641' - 15. Bierstadt's summit is in view but don't be fooled, plenty of scrambling remains. Leave the top of Point 13,641' - 16. The downclimb from the point is steep and exposed. Search left of the ridge crest for easier terrain so you can bypass the more-difficult ridge sections. Near the base, scramble past some large rocks to reach easier terrain - 17. Pass some remaining points along the ridge ( 18) to reach the final pitch - 19. Climb approximately 200 feet over large blocks to reach the summit of Bierstadt.

Next up, the traverse to The Sawtooth. Leave from the north side of the Bierstadt summit and begin your descent towards the saddle between the two peaks - 20. Stay right of the ridge crest as you descend - 21. As you get closer to the 13,300-foot saddle, study the remaining route carefully - 22. Just beyond the notch at the saddle, there is a large gendarme which holds the most difficult climbing - 23. Reach the notch and hike up to the gendarme - 24 and 25. Climb it as far as you feel comfortable, turn right, and scramble around to easier terrain on the east side of the gendarme - 26. Before the next rock outcrop, turn left and ascend a gully to a notch in the ridge - 27. Pass through the notch, turn right, and follow a ledge along the west side of the Sawtooth - 28. The ledge starts off narrow but soon becomes easier and more obvious - 29. 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' - 30 and 31. Turn right and hike up through talus to reach the top of the Sawtooth - 32.

And now to Mt. Blue Sky. Look east to see the west ridge on Blue Sky but the summit is not visible yet - 33. Walk toward the 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 ( 34) and to a notch near the hump. Drop to the right slightly and follow the cairned trail east below the ridge crest - 35. 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 - 36. Hike almost to the corner of the Mt. Blue Sky road and continue 100 feet up to the summit - 37 and 38. If you parked at the Summit parking lot, you're just above your vehicle. If you parked at the 13,300-foot pull-off, descend southeast nearly 1 mile to reach your vehicle.

Notes

This relatively short route puts you above 13,000' for a long time and some of the Class 3 sections require time and route-finding. Make sure your are up to this challenge and be sure to start with a good weather forecast. 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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