Mt. Bierstadt and Mt. Evans are located south of I-70 between Idaho Springs and Georgetown. Our starting point was Guanella Pass located 12 miles from Georgetown. Take the Georgetown exit off I-70 and follow the signs to Guanella Pass. The road turns to dirt the last 4 miles or so but is easily passable for passenger cars.
June 16, 2002
The 14er gang from my gym decided to meet at the Guanella pass trailhead at 8 am for the first group hike of the summer. Arriving right at 8 am I found Gary, Mary, and Myra anxiously awaiting the rest of the group to show up. Not knowing who was coming for sure we decided at 8:30 to get started and wait on the summit for late members. The trail starts off flat through some willows but there was nice boardwalks in place to keep you out of the mud.
After about a quarter mile the trail begins to switchback up the hill and then steepens for a brief stretch leveling out at a nice rock perch providing the view shown in the photo below.
From here the trail continues up to the ridge but remains at a relatively easy grade.
The trail stays a nice dirt trail almost all the way to the summit just leaving the last couple hundred feet or so of elevation to scrambling shown in the photo below.
I arrived on the summit at 10:30 to find Wylie up there waiting for me. Wylie traversed the Sawtooth from Mt. Evans and I was going to follow him back across the ridge. I signed the register and we sat down to have some lunch and let the other members of the group catch up. The smoke from the nearby forest fires was noticeable but not too bad.
The rest of my hiking party showed up shortly after and even the late members of the group made it to the summit not long after me. All total we had about 10 people on the summit from the 14er group and for some, it was there first one, good job.
The Sawtooth ridge looks pretty intimidating from the summit of Bierstadt but Roach's book and many peole have said it's not as bad as it looks. After spending about a half hour on the summit we decided to traverse the ridge. Below is a photo showing the route over the ridge. The red line shows our descent down the spine of the ridge although most people prefer to descend the boulders to the south of the ridge instead. The important thing is that you end up following the yellow route for the second portion of the ridge and exiting on the steep gully on the far side. Don't worry, it's not as steep as it looks from the summit.
The photo below is from the summit of Bierstadt and shows the route to Mt. Evans once on the other side of the ridge. It saves much effort and energy if you stay low and not climb the false summits that block your view of the true summit.
Downclimbing the spine of the ridge you drop 700 vertical feet from the summit of Bierstadt. Wylie is standing on the spine of the ridge in the photo below.
In the photo below I am standing on one of the "teeth" of the ridge.
We caught up to 3 people who were confused on the route and they decided to follow us across the ridge. The route is marked with cairns but sometimes they can be hard to find. Just remember not to ascend to the top of the ridge until you are almost to the other side. In the photo below I'm standing on the crest of the ridge where the route crosses over to the north side. The yellow line marks the exit up the gully.
Wylie is making his way to the gully in the photo below nearing the end of the ridge. From here you realize the exit isn't as steep as it appeared from the summit of Bierstadt but the gully does have some loose dirt and rock so caution should be used.
Below is the exit of the Sawtooth where immediately above Wylie in the photo is the ridge to Mt. Evans.
I thought once we were across the ridge it would be smooth sailing on a trail to the summit of Mt. Evans. How wrong could I have been. The route to the summit of Mt. Evans is about a mile's worth of boulder hopping and gradaully gaining elevation. Remember not to ascend the false summits though and stay on the cairned routes a couple hundred vertical feet below the false summits. The true summit of Mt. Evans doesn't come into view for a long time until your round the last false summit. From here it's about another 1/8 mile or so over to the true summit. The route from the ridge to the summit of Mt. Evans really wore me out since I was expecting it to be a trail so keep this in mind if it's late in the day and you are deciding whether to tackle both peaks. We made the summit of Mt. Evans around 2 pm roughly 3 hours after we left the summit of Mt. Bierstadt. It's a little discouraging to walk up the summit completely wore out to share the experience with dozens and dozens of people, kids, and dogs that drove there. Oh well. In the photo below we're on the summit of Mt. Evans with Mt. Bierstadt directly behind me. We told the girl who took the photo to get it in the picture too but her english wasn't too good so obviously she didn't understand me.