Itching to get a start on the hiking season (the big 14er kinds at least…been hiking since February in the foothills), we headed up to Mt. Evans yesterday. Looking to be outside, we camped out the night before off of Guanella Pass which was pretty much 100% snow free.
After a late set-up (thanks to a supremely delayed track meet), we hunkered in for the night. We had an early morning ahead of us.
We woke up to sunny skies but clouds all around as well. It was reminiscent about my last trip up Evans. Maybe something to do with Evan’s size in relation to the mountains/plains directly east of it? The night before we had watched it lightning over the Divide and heard the Rox we’re on rain delay, yet we were dry as a bone.
We started our hike at 8:00 a.m. Nothing too late, but definitely a bit later than planned. We knew it was too cool for t-storms so we weren’t overly concerned.
The first part of the trail is flat and marshy. Thankfully, CFI installed boardwalks over some of the worst parts, but with the recent snowmelt and moisture, the trail was still plenty muddy. We quickly found our turnoff from the Bierstadt trail and proceeded to bushwhack our way through a loosely defined trail and the willows.
One of the toughest parts of this climb is ascending the gully just North of the Sawtooth. It’s 1300 feet in a mile or so and you go straight up. No switchbacks, nothing. While climbing it, we went from averaging 2 miles an hour to less a mile an hour. It’s just painful.
Once on top of the gully, you’re greeted with a gradually rising Alpine Meadow. The ladies of the hike disagreed with my assessment of it as a meadow due to its “steepness” but I’m going to keep it as such. It’s a beautiful area that provides you views of the east side of Bierstadt, Mount Spaulding, and the Sawtooth. It also hides the summit of Evans from view, making the hike go quicker.
I remember it not taking very long to gain the summit once you reached the to of the gulley but this was not the case today. The spotty snow made the trail much harder to follow once we started scrambling and we were definitely moving slower than last time. It took us closer to an hour to summit.
Since we had left the ladies behind on the ridge, we only spent a short time on the summit admiring the view. We we’re surprised to see that the Observatory was open and damaged pretty heavily. It may not have been a snowy winter but it was crazy windy!
We moved quickly to try and catch them in the meadow so we could decide which route to take down. Thankfully we we’re able to catch them pretty quickly at the top of the meadow. From there, we decided to descend the gully we had come up. Our other option was to cross over Mt. Spaulding and take the gentle slopes down to the willows. However, this route required a lot of bush whacking and crossing of creeks so we said no.
Descending the gully was tough work and definitely challenged our knees and quads. Once we had escaped the steepest 1000 feet, we stopped to take a break in the best weather of day. Its amazing how different mountains can look depending on your view. Bierstadt from this side is a very steep and intimidating mountain:
Once we started hiking, we resumed bush-whacking our way back. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t keep a trail in all the willows, especially when you add the more than occasional waist deep snow pile/post hole. Luckily, we were greeted with a snow-storm for the last hour of the hike to keep us nice and cool! I’m down to August and September to be in snow all 12 months of the year.
Mt. Evans Stats (14,264 ft.)
Elev. Gain: 3,182 ft
Mileage: 9.68 miles
Time: 7 hours, 5 minutes