Monday, April 23, 2012

Mount Bierstadt

I took the week off last week for my trip to Arizona.  Itching to get back to the mountains I decided to climb Mount Bierstadt.  The weather forecast was good as long as I got up there early and the clouds rolled in as anticipated.  Typically this mountains standard route starts from Guanella Pass at 11,640ft, but since I have made the rule to climb at least 3,000ft to check the summit off my list I had to start much lower.  Lucky for me the winter closure is still in effect so I started at 10,900ft, giving me the required climb for my books.  From the winter closure my GPS clocked in 1.75 extra miles each way and around 700ft of elevation.  The road was paved all the way up and really only had snow on the corners.  It was a good way to wake my body up and get into a rhythm.
The morning was beautiful and not too cold.  I wore my micro fleece sweater and a ball cap.  I always love it when I can wear the ball cap; the snow dome is a massive sweat collector.  Gloves were unnecessary for most of the climb.  I ended up using my fleece gloves from about 12K on up, just to protect from the gusty winds.  It took me 40minutes to cover the 1.75miles to the parking lot. 
I have read about the first section of this trail and now finally got to experience it.  From the TH you actually drop maybe 100ft across what I would call a bog.  Swampy area covered in willows, but there was a boardwalk for some of it.  I can’t imagine what it was like before the boardwalk, I think hip waders would have been a necessary piece of equipment.  There was a trail sign in station and I noticed a motion camera near the ground.  When I came back I could swear it was in a different spot, boogie man I guess.  The way across the bog wasn’t too bad, but I did find myself ice skating without skates a few times.  After about half mile from the TH the  trail started gaining a little elevation, very shallow switchbacks, which were mostly covered in angled snow making foot placement difficult.  The one thing I noticed during this section was the mass amounts of willows.  I decided in Colorado willows equal sagebrush in Idaho.  At least that’s what I’m going with.
There was a good gain in the trail up on a rib leading to the main ridge.  This section was covered in snow in and out.  There were posts and cairns marking the route, but it got to the point where I would just follow good boot prints.  There were hundreds of personal routes; you just had to find ones that were the right size.  I kept looking back, sure that someone else would be up here on such a nice day…but, nobody.  Today was actually my first day climbing in Colorado solo.  I usually run into two or three people, but today the mountain was mine, it was awesome!
From 13K on up to the summit I just followed the rocks, since they were like climbing stairs.  It was a pretty efficient way to make up the elevation, but after 13K I start huffing and puffing and my legs were feeling it too.  So, it now becomes baby steps.  I have no place to be and the weather was great, so I enjoyed not being rushed.  That is one of the great things about solo climbing; it’s always at the pace you want.  The mountain looked so close for so long, but all of them really do.  Just after 11am I made the summit.  There was no wind and it was warm, I’m really starting to love these CO 14ers.  So far they have been warm where the 13ers have been frigid.  I think I will jus climb these for a while…hahaha.
I took a bunch of pictures, looked at the Sawtooth and said maybe in the summer, but not today.  I felt good at the elevation; I think eating my old staple the PB&J did the trick.  I think Skippy has climbing juice in it..haha.  I hung out up there for about half hour, found the benchmark so I can log a geocache for that, then shortly after started making my way down.  I followed the ridge down to a large cairn where I assume the trail comes when the snow is gone.  This was a much better idea than twisting an ankle on the rocks via the way I ascended.  I usually take my time down, and today was no different.  I took two breaks and was able to stay well hydrated.  Once leaving the snow the trail was mud.  It was awful, all muddy from the heat.  So, I did my best to stay on the trail to prevent further erosion.  The best idea would have been to come up real early so I could glissade down, but that wasn’t happening.  Near a creek crossing I dropped to my knee and my boot got a bit wet on the inside, but that’s life.  Took a nice break at the parking lot and wished there was a car to take me to mine.  Then I remembered I had some peppered jerky…money, it was awesome!
Hit the pavement and I was on my way.  I removed a few layers and it was nice being in a t-shirt for once.  Mount Evans may be next on my list, so I was scoping out some route options from the area I started.  Have to get my 3K ft for that one, and that mountain has a road to the summit.  Took some pictures of a few 13ers on my way out, always keeping in mind the next adventure.  A little before 3pm I was back to my car.  Never did see anyone on the trail, so it was my mountain for the day.  I love it, climbing it something that always keeps my mind racing and I don’t know what I would do without the mountains.
Date: 4/23/12
Starting Elevation: 10,900ft
Summit Elevation: 14,060ft
Elevation Gained: 3,160ft
Distance: 10.4miles


  1. Hey,

    Thanks for posting this, I would like to climb Bierstadt but I'll be in Colorado in mid-April, is it too early to do so? Thanks for your advice.

  2. April is a great month for Bierstadt, that is when I climbed it. With it being such a popular mountain there is always a good track in through the snow. You just need to account for the extra miles with starting at the winter TH. Check snow conditions and if they are good, which I would expect so for a month from now, you should be good to go for a climb. Enjoy!