July 25, 1999 - via Bierstadt and the Sawtooth Ridge
(see Bierstadt - Sawtooth Ridge for photos of later trip across Sawtooth)
Trent and I decided to notch up the challenge level of our climbing and try the Sawtooth Ridge during our climb of Mount Evans. Climbing 14’ers from the easy to the hard is a neat way to gain basic climbing skills one piece at a time. I had eleven climbs behind me and we were both ready to add a bit more challenge to the game so we decided to try the Sawtooth Ridge. The approach was the same as the month before, overnight below Guanella Pass, early start, Bierstadt, and then we planned to add Evans to make a long climbing day. On the way to the top of Bierstadt, we met up with a solitary climber who by our reckoning was out too early just to be bagging Bierstadt. We inquired and found that he too was heading out for Evans via the Sawtooth.
We joined up and soon summitted Bierstadt and then headed down the ridge following some trail segments and boulder hopping to the lowest part of the saddle. Keeping an eye out for cairns here and there, we scrambled past the various pinnacles and then crossed over onto the Guanella Pass side of the ridge at the appropriate point. The route then traverses a ledge, which does have some loose scree and very serious exposure in the event one takes a slider. When I say serious, it is “airy” and a slider would result in the vertical component of your velocity increasing at a geometric rate (you go over a cliff). We took our time, carefully crossed the down sloping segment and scrambled up onto the flank of Evan’s ridge.
From there, we just headed up the easy ground to the false summits that precede the true summit of Mount Evans. We got to the top, passed the gas-powered climbers, touched the official summit and retreated to a quiet spot for lunch. The three of us then backtracked our route and descended via the flank of Mount Spaulding. Once we hit the flats below Guanella Pass, we lost the trail and had to bushwhack on trail segments through the willows. Though it was early afternoon, we ended up soaked by the ever-wet vegetation before we emerged onto the grassy slopes that lead back to the car park.
We covered a lot of ground that day, not only distance wise, but in raising the level of climbing difficulty we were safely able to take on.