Mount Bierstadt (14,060′)

Adventures2 Comments

Distance 9.42 miles
Moving Time 3 hr 24 min
Summit Elevation 14,060 feet
Elevation Gain 4,334 feet
Route Guanella Pass

Beep. Beep. Beep. Its 2:30 AM and my alarm is going off. Time to go and climb! On today’s agenda, Mount Bierstadt. This 14,060 foot mountain sits just outside of Denver behind the more famous Mount Evans. I want to get all the peaks in the front range marked off my list. This is the last one that I haven’t been to the top of.

However, today I have company. I picked up Becky aka B2 at about 4 AM and we headed to the trail. Yeah, I don’t have to go alone! We started up the trail just before sunrise. Best time of the day to start hiking. After you leave the parking lot, you descend down into a marshy area known as The Willows. It sounded creepy in the books but we found that they had built a nice wood bridge over some of the deeper parts of the marsh. It feels like you are kinda walking over a swamp. People used to have to walk through this somehow or divert around it? More on The Willows later…


As we start going up, the sun comes out and gives me my first picture opportunity. Up to the right is the top of Bierstadt. On the left and back out of sight is Mount Evans. In the middle is the jewel — The Sawtooth. While the path up Bierstadt is a class 2, the Sawtooth is genuine class 3. Can’t wait to see what that is like. Bierstadt is the excuse for the climb here, the Sawtooth is the reason.


The cool thing up the hike to the summit of Bierstadt is that you just go straight up to it. No messing around. Check out the elevation graph. B2 thinks I am a geek for getting into having graphs about the hike I think.


B2 and I were hauling up the hill. In just under 2 hours, the summit was revealed. At this point, you just have to climb up all those big rocks. Its hands and feet at times but not too much further to go.


At about 7 AM, we hit the top. Only ones up there! We shot pictures of each other at the top. However, B2 noted that my pose was kinda ghey so she told me to take another and look good. How’s this?


Here is a shot from the summit to the west. If you go across the picture left to right about 3/4 the way, you will see 2 peaks of equal stature close together. Those are Grays and Torreys that I did a few weeks ago.


At this point, you can go down the way you came up — or you can take the Sawtooth. We walked to the north side of the summit and descended a bit and there it was. That is one crazy looking piece of rock across there. Can you see the trail? We can’t. There really isn’t a trail like you might be used to. Basically, you follow little man-made piles of rocks across there. And see the flat green pasture looking area in the upper left, that is where we ultimately need to end up. So the challenge is descending down, getting across and finding a way up, over or through the big section over there.


Ok, here is my artist rendering of where we went on the same picture as above.


Here we are on the descent to get to the Sawtooth. When they say boulder field, they mean big rocks! The only bad part — some of these big rocks are loose. Nothing like standing on a big rock that will crush you and thinking about how it just tilted a bit when you stepped on.


Down to the right is a little lake. Seemed pretty.


We made it to that first spot on the red line where I zagged over to the left to take a peek down at the drop off. Now its time to do the traverse and get up to where we get to cross over. What’s that like? Its like this…you have narrow spots to squeeze through the rocks. You climb and pull yourself up from time to time. The “path” when there is one is about as wide as your two feet side by side. Down to the right is that lake so if you fall there is a nice water landing in a couple thousand feet.


After the traverse, the ledge is becoming clear. We have to take one of those rising slits in the rock to get to the top. I think it was the 2nd one that we took.


The ledge was all loose rock (skree). It was all hands and feet the whole way up. After getting to the top, we looked back for an epic view of the Sawtooth itself. You can see the ledge on the left as you make your way.


Then from that same spot, we spotted wildlife down on the face. See the white thing. Its a freaking mountain goat. Those things are crazy. How he got there and why he is resting there I will never know.


After the Sawtooth, we hit the rolling hills and started to descend. Lots of great shots back at the Sawtooth and Bierstadt (upper right).


So then the evil part. We keep descending but there is no marked trail. You are just kind of wandering downhill. We can see the trailhead miles away so we know where to go…but its getting there. We passed 2 groups who were coming up and they were miserable. Why? The Willows. You see there is no bridge back on this side. You have to go through the Willows. The bad news is that the marsh is kinda nasty and the Willows are taller than you. So you are bushwacking your way through these things trying to find your way. Unfortunately, I have no pictures. That is because B2 and I were breaking down and arguing about how to get out of these damn things. It took us quite a while. There was no real path. Just traces of other folks before us so you would try and go that way. Eventually, we hit the trail we start on and made our way back to the truck and home. Another successful outing minus the willows. Especially cause I had a climbing buddy for the first time this year.

I took a bunch more pictures. They are over on Flickr. B2 took some pictures of me also. Will post those soon.