Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mount Evans

 After my Belford/Oxford climb on the 3rd I wasn’t sure I would be walking within the next week.  But, surprisingly when I woke on the 4th I was getting around pretty good.  My toes hurt, but other than that I was good.  I like to think of myself as an opportunist, so why not climb another 14er?  I put a post of and found a climbing partner for the 5th to climb Mount Evans.  Evans is a mountain I see everyday on my drive to work, It is a giant lurking within sight that I needed to climb.  The one thing that has held me back from hiking Evans is it has a road up to the summit.  I wasn’t sure how I would react to climbing all day on a mountain then seeing a parking lot full of cars with people in their flip flops and Hawaiian shirts. 

I called Brian and we decided on the West Ridge from Guanella Pass route.  There are many ways to climb Evans, this route avoided the
Evans Road
entirely and would give me the 3,000 vertical feet I was looking to gain on the climb.  We took off from the pass around 7:15am.  There were two or three other groups on their way up Bierstadt, so I guessed we would be alone on the route up Evans since there is more “off-trail” than its neighbor Bierstadt.  As we were leaving the trailhead there were some clouds out and it was a little chilly, but we soon warmed up.

The route starts off on the Bierstadt trail for about the first half mile.  This was nice since it was the only bit of “official” trail we would see all day.  I had glanced at the route options the previous night but that was about it, so for the most part it would be an adventure today.  At the end of the day Brian and I agreed that it was a class 2+ climb, you could take away the + and you wouldn’t get an argument, but we did find ourselves using our hands a few times.  The point we left the main trail was near a larger boulder.  From here we could see a few trails leading off to the left around the base of Bierstadt.  There were numerous trails weaving in and out through the willows.  We tried to find the best one, but they were all intertwined and it was hard to keep on one route that lead us in the most efficient path to the gully.  I’m sure this section added extra mileage since we finished with 9.6miles rather than the published 8.5 on

I had heard that the willows and the swampy area on this route was perhaps the worst part.  After our climb I would have to agree.  At times I wish I had a machete and some hip waders.  I was very happy that I decided to wear my gaiters today, I got my money out of them that’s for sure.  The swampy area reminded me of the dead marshes from LOTR, but there were no dead orcs or elfs.  This muck of a walk seemed to go on forever, I’m sure it did for at least a mile and a half.  Sometimes we were able to stay on top of the mud and water on all the bent willows, but mostly we would sink well past our ankles and have the wonderful suction cup jerk of pulling our boots out of the muck.  As you can see this was not too enjoyable, you just have to forge on and look forward to the rest of the day.  For the most part this section seemed to be over level terrain, and I started to wonder where we would be gaining our elevation.  Then we came around the corner and got a great shot of the gully we would be ascending.  I’m not sure what the elevation gain in gully was but it had to be at least 1,000ft.  We made our way to the base and took a fuel break.  My GPS said we had gone 2.3miles and barely gained a few hundred feet.

From here the route starts out as a mellow trail weaving around some small cliffs before actually dropping into the mess of rock.  This section I can see being difficult if it was wet, since a few sections of the trail were vertical mud.  I was starting to enjoy myself now because now we could actually see progress being made up from the bogs.  The cairn’s started popping up and we could see a well established route heading up the gully.  The route was good and looks like it gets a lot of use.  It took us a little over an hour to get to the upper section where the terrain started mellowing out a bit.  Through this section the wind was pretty calm and the sun was still behind the clouds, so it was nice not getting baked.

We took another fuel break in the upper sections where we got a clear view of Spalding and the top of the Sawtooth.  Now that we were out in the open we could see some large cairns heading towards Evans Ridge.  This is one of the first climbs that you don’t see the actual summit till you are within a few hundred feet of it.  The conditions were great heading towards the ridge.  The wind had picked up since we were in the open, so we both layered up and on we went.

Bierstadt was covered in a cloud, and we could hear some hooting and hollering coming from that direction.  For the most part our route stayed clear of clouds and it looked like our brother Bierstadt sucked them in for us.  We started heading down around the south side of the ridge following a cairn route, but suddenly they ended.  After scrambling around the boulders for a bit we were able to pick the route up again about 100ft above us.  Once we re-gained the proper route it was smooth sailing.  Some people put in some serious work building all those cairns and I appreciated it!  Now, we were moving much better and it wasn’t long till we made it around the corner and could see the first set of cars driving up the road below.  We ended up coming around too far and ascending the trail from the parking lot to the summit.  After creating a more direct route we could see a couple on the summit and we were finally there.  This marked my 4th 14er this week, separated by three climbs.  It felt great to be able to squeeze another great mountain in before heading back to the reality of the working life.

The wind was howling at the top, but at that point we didn’t care too much about that.  The views were great; the clouds had lifted enough for us to make out many of the nearby peaks.  Checking out the north face of Evans was pretty impressing leading down to Summit Lake.  We snapped a few pictures and headed down to the public area to find a wind block so we could break for lunch.  As we were heading down the trail hoards of people were on their way to the summit to claim their drive and 10 minute climb.  It’s amusing to see people up there in shorts, sandals and t-shirts while we are decked out in our climbing gear.  It was time for our summit beers.  We enjoyed a luke warm Dales Pale Ale and it was fantastic.  Soon we were off on the route back down to the cars.

Call me crazy, but the beer really seemed to give me a boost.  It was a nice trip down, we took our time and enjoyed some great conversation.  I thought my knees would be screaming coming down the gully, but they held together.  We made the trudge back across the swamp and before long were back to Guanella Pass.  It was a great day, minus the swamp it was one of my favorite climbs so far.  It was nice having the route to ourselves.  After a long climb with the summit filled with cars it felt like it took away a little of the satisfaction of a hard day to the top of another 14er, but I know what I put into the climb and am very satisfied with another great day in Colorado.

Date: 6/5/2012
Starting Elevation: 11,650ft
Mount Evans Summit: 14,264ft
Total Gained Elevation: 3,200ft
Distance: 9.6miles
Time: 6:26 moving, 2:19 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Brian

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