I have always heard and read that it is easy to get to the top of Bierstadt via Guanella Pass. And 6 miles round trip, Class 2 route, 2770 feet sounds easy enough. Thus my wife and I set out to climb Bierstadt today, with the option of adding the Sawtooth and Evans. --> Evans and the Sawtooth did not happen.
The weather report called for a beautiful, sunny, but windy day. When we started our hike at Guanella Pass, the weather was great, and there did not seem to be any wind. However, when we reached 12000ft, we met two groups coming down the mountain. Both turned around at about 13000ft, "the conditions were too rough, too much wind". However, at that point we did not notice any significant wind, yet, and did not see any major problems. There was also another couple 100 vertical feet ahead of us and they continued on (they reached the summit a few minutes before us).
When we reached 12400ft we reached the point where we could see the complete west slope to the top of Mount Bierstadt. We now started to feel the wind and began to encounter several lengthy knee deep snow drifts (many of which we avoided by carefully choosing our path. ) By the time we reached 13000ft, we had to brace ourselves on every step in order to keep from being blown over by the wind. In addition to the wind, we had to deal with the snow that was blown around. Even though the other group was only 100 vertical ahead of us, the wind completely erased their footsteps and we had to find our own path.
We considered for a short time to turn around, but kept going towards the summit, wearing all our cloths, heavy mittens, face masks, and glacier glasses. The wind continued to pick up and we litereally struggled with every step that we took, in particular on the summit ridge. I submitted several pictures that should provide an idea about the conditions that we encountered.
In the end, it turned out to be a great experience. Never thought that I would consider an anscent of Bierstadt an exhausting "mountaineering" trip. We had a great experience, and besides the wind, the weather was great and we had great views of the surrounding mountains. I believe that my wife and I and the couple in front of us were the only summiters that day. All other groups turned around.
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