Trip made September 7, 2002
Check out my website for a complete set of the photos I took during the trip: www.leachfam.com
- 05:50—Leave Littleton (suburb of Denver).
- 07:20—Get our gear together and started hiking. I was pleasantly surprised that there were only about 10 cars in the parking lot.
- 09:20—We are nearing the top. Up until this point we'd passed one couple with a dog and been passed by no one. It was nice to be alone on such a popular mountain. However we have run into several bunches of people as the trail steepens and gets rougher, and the elevation nears 14,000 ft.
- 09:40—We reach the summit. It was an incredibly easy hike compared to the other 14er I'd done this summer—Longs Peak. I'm not even winded. We sit on the summit for about 20 minutes enjoying the view and a snack. When we arrived there were about 15 to 20 people on the summit.
- 10:00—Before we even started, we knew the climb up Mount Bierstadt would be rather tame. To make a more interesting day of it, we have decided to traverse The Sawtooth and descend via the gully north of The Sawtooth. So after our break we hike off the summit toward The Sawtooth.
- 11:20—We've made it to about the half way point of The Sawtooth. It's been mostly just scrambling along boulders up to this point, but we are approaching some sections where we'll need to do some more serious climbing.
- 12:00—We've just crossed over from the east face to the west face of The Sawtooth. The slope of the east face was relatively gradual. The west face on the other hand looks like a pretty shear drop for at least 500 feet.
- 12:30—We've made it off of The Sawtooth! Of the final stretch, the first 200 yards weren't so bad. Even though there was a shear drop on one side of the trail, the trail was a couple of feet wide and there were lots of rocks to hold onto for a sense of security. This was not so for the last 200 yards. The last 200 yards were up a steep slope of very loose scree and dirt. There were no reliable hand or foot holds so we just had to swim up it and hope we didn't slide down and off the edge... It probably wasn't really as bad as it felt at the time, but I would advise those who are afraid of heights and/or inexperienced with shear drops combined with loose scree to think twice about doing this. Also, I personally would never want to come down what we had to come up. If you're going to do The Sawtooth, I highly recommend doing it from Mount Bierstadt going north.
- 12:45—After our hearts stopped racing we hiked up to the top of the cliff at the north end of The Sawtooth. We had some more snacks and rested a bit before our descent.
- 13:10—We've reached the top of the gully we'll take down. It is rocky and steep, but nothing compared to what we'd just completed. We also see a mountain goat. I'd read about how prevalent they were in the area and I was really hoping to see one. This is the first mountain goat I'd seen in the wild.
- 14:10—We've made it down the gully and begin skirting the beaver ponds in the valley.
- 14:30—The trail disappeared into the willows so we end up fighting through them. Sometimes there are little trails through them (possibly made by animals?), but most of the time we just have to push our way through. Luckily the ground is firm and dry so we don't have to battle mud too.
- 15:00—We make it back to the car. There are tons of cars in the parking lot now and lining both sides of the road. Once we left the summit of Mount Bierstadt, we'd only encountered 3 small groups. Since we began descending the gully we've seen no one. So that was pretty cool. I'll bet at noon it was probably a zoo on the summit of Mount Bierstadt.
- 16:10—We make it back to Littleton in time for a shower and a nap before a much needed dinner. This time I had no aches and pains the next day (as apposed to hurting all over after Longs Peak)! I must be getting stronger.