For those of you who don’t know this already, hiking ’14-ers’ in Colorado is THE thing to do.
Well I had never hiked one for the first four years of living in Colorado because asthma and altitude don’t really mix well. But this friend I knew from Germany (my best friend throughout middle school, whom I ended up dating for like two years or something silly) was in Colorado doing wildfire protection things. We were both talking, and the conversation of our hikes we had done came up. We both realized neither of us had done a ’14-er’ yet and decided to do one on a whim. I looked some up real quick, and found Mt. Bierstadt. I had heard that Bierstadt was one of the easiest summit hike to do in the Front Range, so I was happy it was only an hour drive away.
Then, I stumbled across more information that sparked my curiosity. There’s a ridge rightly named, Sawtooth Ridge, that connect Mt. Bierstadt and Mt. Evans. Evans is the highest summit of the Chicago Peaks, if that matters to you. I saw the trail, I saw both summits, my eyes shined with ‘summit craze’, and I accepted the challenge. Of course, I proposed the idea to my partner in crime, and he (who is very similar to me) was equally as excited as I was to take on the second summit.
That night we packed up and met in Guenella pass where we camped right off the road after drinking some weird Czech beer he had.
We got up nice and early and drove to the trail head. The hike up Bierstadt was just what I expected; the trail was nicely kept the whole way. Small wood-plank bridges connected the trail so you didn’t have to walk in mud, the rocks magnificently formed perfect staircases like they do, and benches were placed sporadically on the trail. The trail didn’t get rough until you were just under the summit. Quite vertical, but easy to find your way with no troubles at all.
From the summit of Bierstadt, you look down to the East and you can clearly see Sawtooth Ridge. The ridge is way below you. To get to it, you have to descend and scamper across a huge boulder field. On this side of the ridge, there’s no one path it seems – just find your way to the edge of the ridge. There’s a small notch in the ridge you have to cross through in order to get to the other side…where you think the terrain will get easier. You might be a bit mistaken. Sure, you’re not walking and climbing over huge boulders anymore, but you’re crawling up scree and looking down at at least a five-hundred foot fall to the ground below…. Did I mention you’re on something called Saw-Tooth-Ridge? While intimidating, the view is gorgeous and absolutely worth the fear factor.
Once you claw your way up a scree ramp, you’re on Mt. Evans. There’s no clear-cut trail right here, so you just go up until you run into the trail (clearly marked with cairns).
Beware: Marmots are everywhere on Mt. Evans! They’ll take your snacks… You’ve been warned.Hiking Mt. Evans transported me to another world… I felt like I was in Middle Earth and I loved it. The ground was covered in bright green grass, sprinkled with tiny yellow flowers, and granite grew out of the surface to make some pretty wicked, wind-carved sculptures.
We shortly reached the summit and began our descent of Mt. Evans. Since we didn’t hike
up Evans, we had no idea what the trail looked like. We had no idea the bottom of the trail consisted of what felt like twenty miles of marshland… Since it was lightly raining at this point of our hike, this marshland became a whole other beast we had to tackle alongside hiking the two summits… It probably took just as much work and energy getting through this marsh as it did to hike and climb both summits. I fell into two mud puddles and was absolutely soaked by the time we were back on the solid trail. My partner almost fell into a mud puddle – but he was covered in just as much mud as I was so I felt no shame. By the time we finally reached our cars, all we wanted was pizza and coffee. Georgetown (the town at the base of Guenella Pass), being the greatest place on Earth, has a pizzeria complete with a cafe…
Soaked to the bone and covered in mud, we ate our weight in pizza and let the coffee warm us up from the inside.