Mt. Evans - West Ridge via the West Gully
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 3, Steep Snow|
Ski: Extreme, D12 / R3 / I
|Total Gain:||1,650 feet|
|RT Length:||5.25 miles if you return via the gully|
4 miles if you descend the northeast face
|USGS Quad.:||Mount Evans|
|County Sheriff:||Clear Creek: 303-679-2376
|National Forests:||Arapaho, Pike|
|Wilderness Area:||Mount Evans|
Take Exit 240 at Idaho Springs on Interstate 70. Drive south on Colorado 103 for 13.5 miles to Echo Lake. Pay the entrance fee and drive 9 miles up the Mt. Evans road (Colorado 5) to the Summit Lake parking area.
Photo #1 shows the gully at the west end of the lake. From the Summit Lake parking area, hike northwest to the north end of the lake. Turn left and follow a trail that runs southwest along the side of the lake. When the trail starts down to the lake, stay on the hillside and continue straight towards the gully at the end of the basin. If you stay far enough up from the lake, you will not lose any elevation by the time you get to the base of the gully. Photo #2 is the view of the gully from the west side of the lake. In summer, the gully is filled with loose, red/brown debris and some large boulders - Photo #3. There will be a cornice on top and it's obvious that the upper third of the gully is steep - Photo #4.
At 13,000', begin the ascent. Watch out for falling rocks. Mountain Goats and birds can easily rifle rocks down the gully. The lower 1/2 contains large boulders that may make your climbing easier. Near 13,400' you are nearing the cornice and the steepest portion of the climb - Photo #5. Stay to the right and carefully climb up to the edge of very loose ledges. Do not climb up out of the gully - use the edge of the ledges for upward movement. You will need to take your time searching for useful hand-holds here. Stay right of the cornice and climb up the final 50 feet through the steep rock. A fall here could be serious. If you cannot find a way up through the rock on the right, you may be able to cross the gully (just below the cornice) and climb the rock on the left (south) side. There may be a dirt "gap" between the cornice and ice below the cornice that would allow you to make this crossover. The rock on the left side is steeper but more stable. Once you climb past the cornice, the slope eases immediately and you hit the saddle just below 13,600'. Mt. Spalding (13,842') is to your right and your route to Evans is left (south).
Turn left and hike south up toward the west end of Evans' West Ridge. There should be cairns and trail segments in this area. Continue up toward the initial hump on the ridge and to a notch in the ridge just before the hump. 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. 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.
Descend via the Northeast Face Route #5.
If you are here to ski, it may be best to start your run below the cornice. It's tricky to ski around the cornice and, in most conditions, a direct descent off of the cornice is not recommended. Depending on the amount of snow in the gully, expect between 500' and 600' of vertical drop. Photo #6 looks down on the route from under the cornice.
The gully is a climb - not a hike. Most of the snow is usually gone by late June. A helmet is recommended in all seasons. If you reach the top of the gully and the weather suddenly turns sour, the Class 2 hike over Mt. Spalding (Route #3 on the Evans route page) is probably the safest way back to Summit Lake. 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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