Cold Beginnings:Mountains: Mt. Evans (14,264’) and Mt. Spalding (unranked, 13,842’)
Route: Started at 10800’ (approx), climbed Evans’ W. Ridge to summit, descended to the flats and climbed Spalding
Elevation Gain - 3700’ (approx)
Roundtrip Mileage - 10 miles (approx)
Crew - Jamie, Jamie, Prakash
NOAA’s last minute scheduling change opened up a small weather window for us on our last Winter Weekend. We were expecting a cold painful outing earlier in the week, but latest tidings got us looking forward to quite a bit of sunshine. I met the Jamies at T. Rex and we drove the ploughed road from Georgetown up to 10,800’ on the Guanella Pass road. The car thermometer measured -3F ambient at the trailhead without factoring in any of those cold banshee farts. Princo had put in some ground work the previous day spending a few hours breaking trail for the first mile of the trail. We geared up and left the car a little after 7:30AM. We waved to a couple skiers and a snowshoer who’d parked a ways off.
The road was quick with no trail-breaking required. We soon got to the trail. An outline of Princo’s trench remained but it had mostly blown over during the night. However, there was a solid base below from where his snowshoes had packed down the fresh snow from the previous storm. We continued onward re-breaking through 6-9” of blown snow.
At this point we met the skiers and the snowshoer we’d waved to in the dark, and they turned out to be some climbers we knew from before. It was good to run into you guys again Alison, Caroline, Lance. Hope the ski was good.
At about 8:30AM we reached where the trail split off for Mt. Evans to the left. The trail breaking got a little deeper but still not miserable. Snow cover and trail-breaking were pretty continuous from here all the way to the summit except for a few stretches of exposed talus blocks and packed snow with sastrugi on the flats South of Spalding.
Breaking Trail after Trail Splitoff
We soon reached the creek and the trail breaking got deeper and more exhausting. We began ascending parallel to the creek keeping to the climber’s left of it to find shallower snow and easier going. The sun was out and we were warming up. Wind was coming in occasionally. We soon reached a slope and started heading towards the hump marking the beginning of Evans’ West Ridge. Snow was relatively shallow on this slope and it was getting breezy.
Slope up to the W. Ridge
Keeping Parallel to Scott Gomer Creek
We got our first glimpse of the Sawtooth looking tasty in its snow covered splendor. The North East side of Bierstadt just below the summit was loaded and looked like it might avalanche if triggered properly.
Shortly after noon we stashed our snowshoes below a cairn at about 13600’. Here’s the hump marking the beginning of Evans’ West ridge as seen from our snowshoe stash.
Hump seen from our Snowshoe Stash
Here’s looking back down-slope towards the West at the route we came up.
Looking down to the Basin
Here are a couple shots of Bierstadt’s snow covered North East Face … (I did not just pollute this trip report with a couple mugshots did I?)
Loaded Bierstadt NE Face
Evans' West Ridge
A look back at our path on the West Ridge of Evans… some of it could be traveled by boulder hopping, but we found ourselves postholing and trail-breaking quite often between boulders.
The W. Ridge of Evans
The going was slow and painful and we were aware that the summit was still a ways off.
Moving up the W. Ridge
Clouds started moving in over Bierstadt but there was still plenty of sunlight.
An Angry Looking Bierstadt
Last 14er Summit for Winter ‘08:
There were a few sections prior to the summit where the snow was packed and icy in an unpredictable fashion. We made summit at around 2:30PM. Rather late considering we arrived at 13600’ at 12:30PM. The last 700 feet to the summit had been two hours of boulder hopping and boot packing through often thigh deep snow. The Jamies have an impressive number of summits between them this winter… a number worthy of appreciation given the weather and snow conditions that blanked out much of the early part of the season... Congratulations you two.
We stayed on the summit for quite a while eating, fooling around and occasionally bursting into song (mostly Seal and Eddie Vedder) while a sweet storm built around us. I carry a veritable feast up the mountains with me these days. I settled in a cozy corner with some bacon, cheese, hot tea, white chocolate, an apple, dry fruits, salted cashews and frozen chunks of Gatorade. We spent 45 minutes on summit and began moving down slowly. The storm was upon us and snow flakes were hitting the ground… a pretty quick change in conditions. Visibility was still great though.
Storm in the Basin
An attempt on the Sawtooth was starting to look out of the question…
Carpet sellers Sell Bierstadt their Wares
Spalding and Descent
The postholing continued on our way down but we made decent time back down to our snowshoes. We settled by our snowshoes at 4:45PM for a snack. I hadn’t climbed Spalding before and figured I would go out and climb it, worthless as it may be, while the Jamies proceeded down. I set out from our snowshoe stash at about 5:05PM. Spalding was a rather disinterested looking pile. He was bored stiff and I could literally hear him saying “Aww, go away and let me watch TV” in a rather jaded voice while I broke trail all over his grumpy mug. The prominence was not great… my altimeter quoted around 200-220 feet tops from the low point. I summitted Spalding at 5:35PM. Here’s the summit block, and the West Ridge of Evans from Spalding
Spalding: Summit Block
Evans W. Ridge as seen from Spalding
I scrambled back down and caught up with the Jamies a little below Spalding’s West Ridge. The trip down was rather painful and slow. There were no safe glissade paths to speed up the proceedings and we hobbled back to the trailhead at 7:45PM for a round-trip time of a little over 12 hours. Evans had turned from what we thought would be a casual stroll into a classic last outing for Calendar Winter 2008. I miss winter already and wish we could fast forward to December. If you plan to attempt the Sawtooth before Thursday, the best (and possibly most obvious) tip I can give you is to go over Bierstadt’s West slopes first and then traverse. There are some spots high on the ridge crest coming off Bierstadt’s summit that look wind-loaded and dangerous. There might be a way to cross it discreetly by sticking to rock. Closer inspection could tell… or an opinion from someone who’s been on Bierstadt recently.
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