Peak(s):  Mt. Bierstadt  -  14,066 feet
The Sawtooth  -  13,780 feet
Date Posted:  03/06/2018
Modified:  03/12/2018
Date Climbed:   03/03/2018
Author:  jbealer
Additional Members:   jenvalencia
 Bierstadt + Sawtooth in winter   

It was all fun and games till you posthole into the dark...

The last winter report i saw on this was a few years old, So i thought i would add a new one for this year.
4 of us started up the road from the winter parking lot around 7am, to the summer TH of Bierstadt, about 1.5m one way, there was a cut off into the woods to skip one of the switchbacks in the road, it was a good shortcut. there was one bathroom door unlocked to use, that was a nice treat.
The winter trail up to the summit was snow packed, we fell through a few times if you got to far to one side. But we did not use snowshoes

At this point in the day it was all fun. We did put spikes on as we gained elevation, it was just easier to not slip. The trail up was easy to follow and we reached the summit around 10:30am.

Jen and I decided to continue over the Sawtooth (my first class 3 winter ridge) as it was early and the weather was good. We had to drop down and cross 2 snow fields to regain the ridge, we put crampons on and that made easy work in the snow.

once back on the ridge we could see our path, there is not much snow right now,and we did not run into any areas of ice, but we did keep our crampons on for a little longer, then switched to spikes as it helped on the rocks.

I am all smiles enjoying the sun and rocks

We had a few spots where we thought we were going a good route but it turned out not to be, so we had some backtracking to do but it was fine. You can really pick any way to get over the rocks, just depends on the snow and how far of a drop it might be down to the next boulder.
The notch before the steep rock section, it worked better to go up then down and around (per the TR images). we did see cairns here and there and that helped some.
we were towards the end of the ridge looking at the ledge we needed to go up when we spotted goats, who happened to also be in our path, we sat for about 20min waiting on them to move, i took some amazing photos and we then decided to keep moving, hoping they would also move, they did!

we made quick work of getting up the ledge as it was dry and found ourselves on the summit of the sawtooth in no time.

Me on the summit of sawtooth with the ridge in the background.

It was about mid afternoon, we sent some text messages to the husbands and our other 2 friends we left on Bierstadt that we were heading back down, Jen and I were still basking in the fact that we just did the Sawtooth in winter and how amazing of a day it has been.
We saw someone headed to Evans at that point wondering why they were going so late in the day.
we started down the flat section towards the gully, which i think we went into much farther down then marked.

we also spotted a baby bighorn sheep

We reached the valley and realized how much trouble we were in

The Summer TH was still very far off in the distance and the snow was very deep, our snowshoes were in the car...we just started postholing in the direction we needed to go based off our GPS, we were falling in up to our hips (we are short) At first i was like ok we have this, but as the hours progressed and our distance not so much i found in me the will power i never knew i had to keep moving forward. I also found relief in cursing at the top of my lungs as well. This was now the 2nd time the willows and valley here got me good (gray wolf) I at least knew to keep left and not right.

this was the last image i took that day

I was counting down sunset on my GPS, knowing we would be in the dark soon, we had to keep pushing, we followed the creek some, found some "cat" prints, found snowshoe trails that offered some break from the work, but would lose them again. We started talking supplies we had on us if we needed to spend the night, but i knew we had to get out and that we would. We took turns breaking trail, checking GPS tracks and just hoping we would intersect the main Bierstadt trail soon. I just remember Jen saying i see a post, and i the feeling at that moment i can't even describe, it was post #12. we were back on solid snow!!! we paused to get some water, which we had not been drinking enough of and put head lamps on. We started back down the main trail and i looked behind me and saw a light, we were NOT alone, after some time the light caught up to us/ we waited for him, it was the lone guy headed towards Evans earlier that day, he had also spotted us on the sawtooth. We made it back to the summer trail head and jen let the husbands know we were on the road with her in reach, 1.5miles and we would be back to the car, 13hrs after we had left it. It was getting cold and my fingers and toes were starting to freeze since i was not working so hard. But i paused for a moment and looked up to the night sky looking at the stars and thinking to my self how incredible it was and that we made it.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Comments or Questions
03/06/2018 15:51
Nice write up!

Thanks for the pics!
03/06/2018 18:51
Did you make the summit of Evans?

We tried on 3/4
03/09/2018 12:21
A buddy and I attempted it the following morning. We had originally intended on doing Sherman, but we got stuck 4 separate times trying to back down the road in the Jeep. We spent about 5 hours shoveling AND we managed to get a flat tire. After driving back to Guanella and camping at the winter "trailhead" around 11pm, we started at 5:30am. We were completely gassed from the shoveling the previous day. At 10am our progress was awful and we turned around because weather reports said we were going to get hit by some nasty winter storm. Turned out to be a beautiful day after all.

Great writeup, and we're super jealous.

03/10/2018 10:18
great goat photo. And the willows below bierstadt cause a suckfest yet again!

Hard work burns indelibly deep
03/11/2018 12:04
Sounds like an epic day for you and your friend, something you won't soon forget!

Altitude High
11/27/2020 22:09
On a superb day and getting out in time. And the goat pics -- amazing!

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