Trail Length: 8.50 miles roundtrip
Trailhead Elevation: 11.669’
Elevation Gain: 3,100’
Difficulty: Class 2
Trailhead Location: Take the Georgetown exit off of Interstate 70. Drive through Georgetown and follow the signs for the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway. Drive 12 miles to the top of Guanella Pass (11,700’) and park in one of the two large, paved parking areas on either side of the road. The Bierstadt trail starts near the parking area on the east side of the road. The upper parking area (on the west side of the pass) has restrooms.
Mt. Evans is a relatively easy 14er as 14ers go. I’ve posted the following information on a previous 14er blog posting (Mt. Harvard) but thought I would post again for those unfamiliar with 14er Class and Exposure ratings. Each 14er is given a Class rating (1-5) and an exposure rating (1-6). Mt. Evans has a Class rating of 2 and an Exposure rating of 1.
Class 1 – Easy hiking, usually on a good trail.
Class 2- More difficult hiking that may be off-trail. You may also have to put your hands down occasionally to keep your balance. May include easy snow climbs or hiking on talus/scree.
Class 3 – Scrambling or un-roped climbing. You must use your hands most of the time to hold the terrain or find your route. This may be caused by a combination of steepness and extreme terrain (large rocks or steep snow). Some Class 3 routes are better done with rope.
Class 4 – Climbing. Rope is often used on Class 4 routes because falls can be fatal. The terrain is often steep and dangerous. Some routes can be done without rope because the terrain is stable.
Class 5 -Technical climbing. The climbing involves the use of rope and belaying. Rock climbing is Class 5.
All of the 14ers I have climbed have been class 1-3.
0 = No exposure in the area. Gentle terrain.
1 = Mild exposure in the area but not along the immediate route.
2 = Mild exposure very close to the route. Route options may be limited but you should be able to walk past the exposure area.
3 = Moderate exposure along the immediate route. It should be avoidable with some slow hiking or scrambling.
4 = More serious exposure that could result in serious injury or death if you fell. Moving past the area will require some scrambling or short technical moves.
5 = Dangerous exposure that requires careful, technical moves to navigate around. A fall would likely be fatal. Big, sheer drops.
6 = Vertical exposure. Technical, roped climbing route.
As with a lot of the 14ers, there are various routes you can take to get to the summit. After looking over the route options for Mt. Evans, we decided on the West Ridge from Guanella Pass route. Other options included the West Ridge via Chicago Creek (16 miles with 5,600’ of elevation gain – too long and too much elevation gain!), West Ridge via Mt. Spalding (5.50 miles with 2,000’ of elevation gain – too short and not enough elevation gain!), Bierstadt-Sawtooth-Evans combo (too much exposure for me!).
The route we chose seemed like the best option. There is an unwritten rule (3,000’ rule) in the 14er climbing world that you must have a minimum elevation gain of 3,000’ to “count” your summit of the peak. Some people are purists when it comes to this rule, meaning that if a trailhead of a 14er is at an elevation of less than 3,000’ from the summit, they will actually park down the road from the trailhead parking lot and start hiking from a point on the road that will give them the full 3,000’ of elevation gain. I am not a purist! I start my climbs from the trailhead parking lot and hike from there regardless of the elevation gain. With that said, since Mt. Evans has a road to the top, I personally did not feel I wanted to start at the Summit Lake parking area and only climb the 5.50 miles and 2,000’ of elevation to the summit. I felt I couldn’t “count” the summit from that starting point.
My son and I headed out a little after 5:00am Saturday for the drive to Guanella Pass and our trailhead for climbing Mt. Evans. We arrived at the trailhead parking area just as the sun was beginning to brighten the clouds. Here’s a couple of shots looking to the east at Mt. Spalding, the direction we would be heading.
We headed off down the Bierstadt trail around 6:30am with many other people. Mt. Bierstadt (14,060’) is a very popular 14er climb as it is one of the easier ones and close to Denver. Our route up Mt. Evans shared the Bierstadt trail for a little over a half of mile. About 10 minutes down the trail we spotted 3 moose by a small pond.
Looking back to the west as the sun was hitting Square Top Mountain (13,794’)
After crossing Scott Gomer Creek a little over ½ mile from the trailhead, we took a left off of the “Bierstadt Highway” and continued on our route in solitude. The route we chose presented some challenges. The first being “willow bashing” through the swampy, mucky, marshy area to get across to the foot of the peaks. Weaving our way through the thick, water-soaked willows found us drenched in no time. We sunk ankle deep into some of the muddy, marshy spots (and there were a lot of these!), leaving our boots filled with water. I realized I didn’t take any pictures of this marshy area. I guess I was too focused on keeping the camera dry and making it through the muck to dryer ground.
We finally made it through the willows to the base of the mountain. We stopped here to take off our boots and wring out our socks before continuing on to the next challenge, the steep gully that climbs up between Mt. Spalding and the Sawtooth.
Looking back at the direction we had come from.
About ¾ of the way up the gully looking up.
Looking up at Josh nearing the top of the steepest part of the gully.
At the top of the steepest part of the gully where it leveled off a bit (13,300’), we saw a few mountain goats grazing.
Looking back west from the top of the gully with Square Top Mountain in the background.
The climb eased up and we soon got to the top of the ridge where we could look to the east and down on Abyss Lake.
Looking across at Mt. Bierstadt (on the left) and the Sawtooth. We are at around 13,800’ at this point. As I mentioned at the beginning, one route up Mt. Evans is to climb Mt. Bierstadt (from the side you can’t see in this picture) and then take the Sawtooth across to get to the point where we are at now and then continue up to the summit of Mt. Evans. As you can see by this picture, there is quite a bit of exposure crossing the Sawtooth.
We continued along just below the west ridge crest and made our way to the summit. A picture of me signing the official register at the summit of Mt. Evans (14,264’).
A view from the summit to the north and down on Summit Lake.
A view to the west.
A view to the summit of West Evans with a couple of people on top.
Another view to the west with Grays Peak (14,270’) to the left and Torreys Peak (14,267’) to the right.
Our official summit shots.
We took a rest on the top but the storm clouds were moving in so we decided it was time to start heading down around 12:15pm.
Back at the top of the steep gully heading down. We can see the rain off to the east.
A waterfall back down near the base of the gully.
We continued on from the base of the gully, heading back towards the willows and muck for the last stretch of the hike. Looking back towards the gully we had just descended.
Back at the parking lot getting ready to head for home. A view back at the route we had taken. Mt. Evans is beyond the ridge and over the horizon in the picture.
Despite the muck of the willows and the steep gully we had to climb, it was great to summit another 14er. Mt. Evans made 30 14ers for us so we are pretty proud of our accomplishment!