Mt. Evans - West Ridge from Guanella Pass
Climbing mountains is dangerous! Please read the Mountaineering Safety Page and make sure you have a map+compass and can use them effectively. A GPS or cell phone can be very helpful with navigation but you should still be able to use a map+compass in case your device stops working.
(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.
|Difficulty:|| Class 2 |
|Total Gain:||3,100 feet|
|RT Length:||9.25 miles|
|USGS Quad.:||Mount Evans|
|County Sheriff:||Clear Creek: 303-679-2376
|National Forests:||Arapaho, Pike|
|Wilderness Area:||Mount Evans|
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.
Start the hike by heading down the Bierstadt trail. Photo #1 shows most of the route that can be seen from the trailhead. Photo #2 provides a closer look at the route across Scott Gomer Creek.
Wooden bridges have been built recently, so you don't have to walk through most of the muddy sections before Scott Gomer Creek. The solid trail weaves through the willows and crosses the creek after over 0.5 miles. A bit after the creek, and near a large boulder on the left, pick a spot to leave main trail on the left side. There are several thin trails that start in this area but they are hard to find. You will do some willow-bashing no matter which way you go. The key is to walk on the right side of the creek (far enough from the swampy areas) and follow the creek up and around the tree-covered hill that is now between you and the Bierstadt Sawtooth - Photo #3 and Photo #4. It may help to walk up on the side of this hill - just make sure you stay within a few hundred feet of the creek.
Once you are around the hill, the creek is below and you can now see a gully to the east - Photo #5 and Photo #6. Continue east along the creek, and once you reach the flats near the end, cross the creek to reach the base of a gully ( 39.59595° N, -105.67483° W) that climbs up between Mt. Spalding and The Sawtooth (right) - Photo #7. This gully is the hardest part of the route but it's easier than it looks from Guanella Pass. Enter the gully and follow a faint trail up through the rocks and willows near the bottom - Photo #8. As the gully narrows, the trail becomes more obvious. Be careful - portions are a bit steep and the scree moves easily. Photo #9 looks down the gully. Climb the gully until the slope eases near 13,300'.
Above the gully ( 39.5963° N, -105.6619° W), head right (southeast) a bit and continue toward the highest point. Mt. Spalding (13,842') is to your left, Mt. Bierstadt and The Sawtooth are to the right (directly south) - Photo #10. Continue up to the southeast as the gully flattens out into a large open area. As you gain ground, look for a hump on the terrain above - it's the start of Evan's West Ridge - Photo #11. As you approach the west end of ridge, 1 mile of hiking remains. Near 13,700', the end of the ridge becomes more obvious, and that hump becomes more defined. Photo #12 looks back down on the terrain and Photo #13 shows the West Ridge from a different angle. At 13,800', locate a cairned route that continues to the hump on the ridge - Photo #14. The cairns are part of an established route from Summit Lake, over Mt. Spalding, and along the West Ridge. Hike to a notch ( 39.59141° N, -105.65462° W) just before the hump, drop to the right slightly, and follow the cairned trail east below the ridge crest - Photo #15. 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 - Photo #16. Hike to the corner of the Mt. Evans road and then over 100' to the summit ( 39.588360° N, -105.643333° W) OR walk all the way to the parking area and take the tourist trail to the top. From the top, Photo #17 looks back on the ridge and Photo #18 looks north.
This route involves a lot of off-trail hiking. 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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