From Guanella Pass
Friday June 24, 2005
Since it was a Friday and I had taken the day off I decided to “sleep-in” a little and start a bit later; figuring that nobody would be climbing here today…….I was right!! When I arrived at the parking lot there were only 3 cars there and I could see two groups of people starting up the trail. I made ready my pack and was on the trail at 6:51AM with very good weather; scattered clouds, and warming temperatures, with the sun just rising over the peaks to the east.
Heading-out from the trailhead I was soon on the “boardwalk” that takes you over all the bad news and directly to firm, level ground and on to Scott Gomer Creek where I crossed on the well rounded logs without getting wet……..nice. I continued a short distance along the well traveled trail through the willows ‘til I saw a very thin “deer” trail going to the left which I took as I split away from the main trail and proceeded along the hillside that runs parallel with the creek, which I could see about 100 yards away on my left.
I soon found myself “bushwhacking” through the willows as the “alleged” trail I was on disappeared into the willows and I was now in a swampy, bushy, can’t-see-were-the- &^%$*%#-I-was-going, quagmire of a passage around left of the hillside. I had Gore-Tex boots and was way glad I did, as waterproof is the only way to go through this God forsaken section. I tried climbing up higher on the hillside but found that the willows were too tall and I couldn’t see, so I settled-in on the lower, wetter, area were I could as least see the way as I proceeded; there really isn’t a trail, I just kept moving with the hill to my right and the creek to my left.
Although it was all so wet and totally undefined I managed my way along through whatever opening was available without water over my ankle-high boots and jumped or hopped over spots that were. I still kept my bearings and was now all the way around the hill and heading straight up a pretty little valley with lots of beaver ponds, wildflowers, a waterfall, and steep peaks all-around; a virtual “box-canyon” with a long gully going up to the left. I hiked to the very end of this “canyon” and then hopped over the creek which was now about three feet wide.
The scenery was spectacular; absolutely green, and very lush, flowers, grasses, with the sound of running water everywhere. Up high to my right was Mt Bierstadt with a beautiful waterfall right in front of me, to my left was a steep gully with running water coming right down where I was to hike. I rested briefly and took a few photos as the wonderment of this valley was almost intoxicating………..I was so into this place……..alone, and glad to be as I really enjoyed the solitude……..really nice.
I then began the ascent up the gully before me; short, steep, dirt & grass sections with boulders as well. The running water was to be avoided and I made my way up the steep gully either to one side or the other of this creek by hopping on and over boulders & scree and making the best possible advance as there was no defined trail yet footprints from previous others. The wildflowers were everywhere and it felt like I was hiking through a botanical garden of sorts while I progressed ever higher through this gully now showing snow along the sides as I was now well above tree line. I stopped and looked back from where I had come…………….I pulled my camera and took some great shots as the sun had now rose high enough to expose the beautiful valley below; simply awesome. This climb is pretty steep and I was glad when I finally made it up through the remaining boulders & outcroppings to a tundra leading into the sky.
Since I was now out of the gully and looking up over the tundra, I lost my orientation a bit as I was truly looking straight up into the sky with no real high points of reference. I started hiking a little to the right heading for the highest spot I could see, there was no trail or cairns to follow as I made my way up higher through a very wet area with patches of melting snow. I was nearing the high spot where I was now able to see a true peak way off to my left; this was indeed the Mt Evans summit ridge and I was off way too far to the right and now had to take a 90 degree turn left to get back on track. I now realized I should have simply hiked in a straight line over the tundra when I exited the gully, no big deal just a few hundred extra yards of distance.
I continued hiking towards the summit ridge and was now reaching a point where I could see movement far ahead and I thought it was people hiking towards me; as I got closer I saw it was actually a small herd of mountain goats climbing out of the tundra and on to the rocky ridge. I followed these goats as I was now high enough to where I could see all around and could now see the road to my left and far below, Mt Spaulding back over my left shoulder, and Mt Bierstadt to my immediate right with people standing on its summit, and what I thought to be the Mt Evans summit directly ahead………..however sometimes I don’t think so good.
I knew I was nearing the highest point which should have been the summit as I was now almost looking straight across to the Bierstadt summit; I was now climbing over some huge boulders trying to gain the highest possible vantage so I could see where the heck I really was. I clambered up one last section and could now see two points along the ridge both higher than where I was standing………to my surprise; Mt Evans actually has two different summits and I wasn’t on either one of them! I had hiked too high and totally missed the cairns that I could now see a ways below that show the trail running on the right side of the ridge and well below. I quickly made the adjustments and then proceeded on the trail, around the first summit and then on to the next true summit where I could now see cars and people.
I finally reached the summit at 10:22 and took a good look around, there were people everywhere, yet I don’t believe a single one of them had hiked to the top as I had. I hadn’t seen one other person the entire way since leaving the boardwalk way back at the trailhead. I looked down at the road and there were lots more cars arriving by the minute, and the weather was changing quickly with building clouds forming all around and starting to block the sun………time to “skidaddle”……..I rested, ate, drank, took some nice photos, spoke to a couple of forest rangers, and got started back down the way I had come; it was now 10:52.
The weather had me a little concerned as the two rangers had told me that they’d had some T-storms move in as early as 11:00AM a couple of different days this week, I made quick work of getting back across the ridge and saw one person coming the other way as I neared the highest point of the tundra. I told this guy which way to go and to look closely for the cairns as I wouldn’t want him to make the same mistakes I had. The sun was now blocked-out about half the time with the clouds moving rapidly from the west, I hiked back to the gully and started back down. The gully seemed a bit more difficult going down and the loose, wet scree was a real challenge, I only stopped a couple of times to plan my line and otherwise made it to the bottom before taking a rest. When I did stop a took more photos as the building clouds over the top of Mt Bierstadt were spectacular and the green valley with the cloud shadows moving across was beautiful.
I “bashed” my way back through the willows down along the right side of the hill and tried to stay as dry I possible, I then pushed through one last clump of bushes and willows and could now see people on the main trail, I made a bee-line across one last swampy section and burst back out on to the trail. I made quick work of this last section of trail and was back to my truck at 1:26PM. My 12th 14’er, and one of the most beautiful days I’ve ever had. Sweet!!
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