Matt and I bagged two fourteeners and scrambled the Sawtooth ridge on Sunday July 15th, 2007. It was a great day and a great to spend time in the mountains with my son Matt. He has become quite a 17 year old mountaineer.
Getting to the Beirstadt trailhead at the top of Guanella pass, we were delayed for a short time by construction on the road. Once at the trailhead we noticed one thing: lots of people climb Beirstadt. I would guess it is top 5 along with Gray's.
Crossing the willows is no longer the adventure it used to be. The trail and planks now make it easy. The trail to the summit is uneventful, yet quite scenic. Close to the top is a snowfield to cross and a bit of Class 2 rock scrambling. This was the goal of most of our fellow climbers, but Matt and I were just getting started. After sharing a Busch NA, away we went!
The ridge between Bierstadt and Evans is called the Sawtooth. It is aptly named and recommended by Colorado Scrambles. The first half of the Sawtooth requires quite a bit of downclimbing. Although challenging, it is less fun for me than climbing up. Matt took the lead and did a great job of route finding. Just past the low point of the ridge the climbing gets more intense. Matt scrambled away and I lost him. As I climbed the steep rock I started to worry more and more. I have told him not to get separated, but you know teenagers. I met up with some other hikers with a dog, at this point they had to turn back because it was just too steep for Fido. Don't bring your dog on this route: humans have this advantage over dogs. It turned out Matt didn't get too far ahead and was waiting for me at the top of a nice pinnacle (not the one pictured.)
We were killing quite a bit of time, so Matt convinced me to leave the standard route which circles the last cliff to the left (NW). Instead we headed straight for Evans, circling to the right above Abyss Lake. Leaving the recommended route is something that experience has taught me is usually not a good idea. In this case the obstacles included some boulder hopping, loose rock and especially one snow couloir that was impassable without crampons and an ice axe. We decided to climb further down to go around the snow rather than risk it. Finally we decided to climb a gully which got us back into some fun scrambling. We again gained the ridge and met up with the trail to the top of Evans.
We were quite tired by now, yet trudged on to the summit of Evans. We started to hustle a bit because the clouds were rolling in and the day was aging.
On the descent from Evans we again deviated from Dave Cooper's route to Mount Spalding and instead headed straight down the creek. Following the creek is the only way to avoid the cliffs of the Sawtooth. The trail was steep and loose plus it started to hail pretty intensely. Luckily we were prepared with light coats which we donned. Once we climbed down the cliffs the weather cleared up and the day was beautiful again. The only problem was the two or three miles of swamp and willows to cross. There is a nice path through the willows so it wasn't too bad and we passed a nice waterfall. Matt and I talked about how we might hunt this valley and I tried to give him some pointers on how to hunt.
As we reached the Jeep it started to downpour again, so we were feeling relieved to be back. All in all it wasn't my favorite scramble and it was a very long day. We probably covered 10 miles.