There are two approaches to the East Ridge
of Mount Bierstadt: From the Gomer Creek Trailhead and from the saddle between Mount Evans and Epaulet Mountain. For the Gomer Creek Trailhead, refer to Roach's Colorado's Fourteeners
. For the other approach, which is the one we followed, drive on the Mount Evans road for about 11 miles from the fee station until you reach a switchback overlooking the saddle connecting Evans to Epaulet Mountain. There is room for a few cars in the small parking lot on the outside of the switchback. Descend in a few minutes to the low point of the saddle. From there a steep an loose gully
descends to the drainage of Lake Fork Creek
. Aim for a small unnamed lake at 12,360 ft and cross the creek at its north end on boulders. Climb the steep grassy slopes to reach the crest of the East Ridge to the northwest of the cliff that bookends it at about 12,800 ft. From the parking lot, the distance up to this point is about 1mile.
The route mostly follows the crest of the ridge overcoming two humps, Point 13,420 and Point 13,641
. The latter is an imposing tower that represents the crux of the route: from Point 13,420 take the (upper) grassy ledge to the right (NE) of Point 13,641. This ledge does not allow you to circumvent the tower. Instead, when the ledge gets narrower, start traversing up towards the crest of the ridge. Continue toward the summit of the tower, which is reached by climbing a nice slab with two wide vertical cracks. The one on the right provides an easy way to ascend. From Point 13,641 follow the crest of the ridge all the way to the summit of Bierstadt.
The ridge gains roughly 1,200 feet of elevation over approximately 1 mile. The ascent to Point 13,641 is sustained Class 3 with some exposure. The rest is mostly Class 2 with the occasional step of Class 3. The rock is very pleasant, solid granite.
While it is possible to retrace one's step and descend the ridge, a better option for those who started from Mount Evans is to continue north from Mount Bierstadt along the Sawtooth Ridge
and Mount Evans's North Ridge. From the summit of Evans, one then descends to the starting point more or less along the road.
If the conditions suggest one not to attempt the Sawtooth (for instance, a storm is brewing) one can drop from Bierstadt to Abyss Lake, follow Lake Fork Creek and then climb the scree-filled gully to the saddle between Evans and Epaulet.
Another option for bad weather is suggested by Aaron Johnson
: Descend Bierstadt's East Face. Execute this route in reverse
from Bierstadt's summit and intercept the Mount Evans Loop
route to return to your vehicle. If providence prevails, climb Evans' summit as well!
Finally, those who started from the Gomer Creek Trailhead can descend the South Ridge
Overall, Bierstadt's East Ridge, which in reality runs in the southeast direction from the summit, provides a very enjoyable scramble. The roundtrip distance from the Mount Evans road is not very long (about 6 miles according to Roach), but most of the time one is either scrambling or boulder hopping. Hence, progress is rather slow and an early start is recommended, especially considering that most of the itinerary is on ridges and all of it is above treeline.
The approach from the Mount Evans road is only practical when the road is open. One can call the Forest Service to know whether that is the case.
Normal hiking equipment. Be prepared for sudden changes in weather. Bring plenty of water.