Peak(s):  Mt. Bierstadt  -  14,066 feet
Mt. Evans  -  14,268 feet
"West Evans" - 14,257 feet
Sawtooth, The - 13,780 feet
Date Posted:  12/23/2020
Date Climbed:   08/13/2020
Author:  hogantheepic
Additional Members:   CaptCO
 Saw a Tooth   

Saw a Tooth

49/58 in 2020

All the trip reports I am writing for the summer is simply a byproduct of my thoughts, reactions, and experiences from my summer mountaineering project of climbing the 58 CO 14ers before I head back to CU in August. I hope that these trip reports help me to learn from mistakes, to document my experiences as beta for others, and to help me to think and become a better person and mountaineer. Thank you for reading and for your support!

Summit of West Evans

Once again, Alec (CaptCO) and I met up for a sweet day hike of some more 14ers. This time, we were gonna do the Bierstadt-Evans Sawtooth ridge, a dramatic, close-to-home class 3 ridge that should satisfy our need for scrambling a little bit. Before this summer, I had been eyeballing this route, but never did it because I was too intimidated by its class 3 rating. I was curious to see how that route would feel now after doing a few intense outings of class 3 or higher (ex: the 4 traverses, Capitol, Pyramid, Kit Carson East Ridge, etc.) which all had much more difficult ratings for exposure, rockfall, commitment, and/or technicality than the Sawtooth Ridge does. I couldn't wait to see how easy it would feel after having fear built into my head from before I began my long summer project.

I met up with Alec at the Guanella Pass TH at about 4 am, and we set off soon after. The wildfires of this summer were raging by now, and much of the hike today was noted by smoke. I wore a mask the entire way up Bierstadt because it helped to not breathe in the smoke and ash (as well as the COVID). The smoke was VERY strong.

The smoke was very dense at sunrise but got better throughout the day
Early morning rise

We were nearly at the top of Bierstadt by the time we first saw the sun peeking over the eastern horizon. We made it from car to summit in about 1 hr 50 minutes, which I thought was pretty quick, especially since we weren't even trying very hard and there was considerable smoke to further inhibit breathing. There were a ton of people on the summit with us.

Bierstadt summit with a smokey view

I quickly got a snack and some water, we threw on our helmets, and took a look down the ridge over to The Sawtooth. There were a few other people also doing the Sawtooth, but none of them were attempting to do it direct, as we often liked to do. We set off down the top of the ridge, trying to stay as centered on top as possible for as much as possible. I'd venture to say that this was a class 4 descent from the summit of Bierstadt to the saddle.

Descending down from Bierstadt
Near the top of Bierstadt
The Sawtooth ridge
Almost to the crux
Looking back at the ridge descending Bierstadt
Alec descending the ridge

We made good time moving down to the saddle, and continued on. So far, the ridge had felt quite easy, and we were both enjoying the hike thoroughly. We came up on the crux of the climb, and climbed up the 30 ft section of scrambling. This was the crux? It was easier than what we had just downclimbed! I'm going to have to come back this winter and give it a go.

The crux is near
The crux

We were at last on the other side of the ridge, making our way around the loose talus field under and above some cliffs. This section was also not too bad, not really loose enough (which is a very relative term) for me to feel sketched out anywhere, and we both zipped right through this portion. Before we realized it, we were back in the sun, looking across the field of tundra towards Evans and Mt Spalding. We walked up to the summit of The Sawtooth and took some cool pictures.

Looking back at Bierstadt
Below the cliffs of The Sawtooth
Looking back at a part of the loose section on the traverse

The Sawtooth ridge from the summit of The Sawtooth.
The Sawtooth with Evans in the background (summit of Evans is not visible from here)
After this the trail disappears for a little bit
Trekking through the tundra field

We continued on towards Evans, guessing at where the trail is, which was nonexistent in some sections as far as we could tell. Eventually, we made it to the end of the tundra field, where the trail reappears and snakes across the slope. The trail was rather curvy and inefficient, so we stayed off it for the most part, walking on the rocks.

Picking our way around to the right, we aimed semi diagonally up towards the ridgeline of Evans-West Evans. This talus field is just like every other talus field in Colorado: tedious. We grinded out this section, and made it up to the ridge.

We could now see the summit of Evans, which had a ton of roadbikers standing up there. We figured out which peak was West Evans, briefly stood on it, then went over to Mt Evans summit.

Because the Mt Evans Highway was closed this entire summer, the only people on the top of Evans were road bikers (a vast majority), Sawtoothers (minority), and those who had taken a totally different route up, like from the Evans road closure, or straight up the gully from the Guanella Pass TH (almost nonexistent). There were an unbelievable number of roadbikers coming up the highway.

Evans summit

We took off back towards the car. We made it back to the tundra field, and contemplated going up Mt Spalding, just cause it was right there and it was a centennial, but we didn't really feel like doing it, so we just gunned straight for the descent gully. We should've gone up Spalding, because now I have to go all the way back to this spot just for this boring Centennial. Oh well. Maybe I'll just get it on a winter ascent of Bierstadt-Evans.

Mt Spalding, right in reach.

The descent down this gully was kind of slippery on the loose dirt, and rather steep, but we made it down, no problem. The worst part of the day was about to come, though, little did we realize.

Descending the gully

The route after this gully cuts straight across the above-treeline swamp to the car, which is a bit of a jungled-nightmare to cross. The brush was oftentimes-taller than we were, severely limiting visibility, the rain from yesterday had made much of the ground into mud or pools of dirty water, and the trail sometimes had branches that led to nowhere (presumably campsites, actually), making the last bit of this hike a pain in the ass. We often resorted walking straight on top of the brush to avoid stepping in the quicksand-like mud, and we had to guess where to go, always choosing a generally-car bound direction. After an hour of bush wacking and mud avoiding/swimming, we made it back to the main trail up Bierstadt and got back to the car quite rapidly. It had been just under 9 hours round-trip, and an awesome adventure for something so close to Boulder/Denver.

Chest deep in the bushwack

It think this route is highly underrated. It has a lot of fun involved for something close to Denver, as well as great views and is a good workout. I strongly recommend this route, even with the torturous bushwack at the end!

As always,

Risk is for managing, not for chance.

~Hogan Warlock~

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Nice report
12/23/2020 22:23
Nice report with wonderful photographs.
Years ago when I was up there with the CMC, we did
Evan's to Bierstadt and back to Evan's. It is a fun little ridge.

Just curious,
12/24/2020 11:16
but have you taken HAMS through the CMC? I wanted to do it this season but they aren't letting new people in this year since they're trying to get last season's participants taken care of. Thanks for following my trip reports!

01/06/2021 07:58
Both times I‘ve done the sawtooth I went back over Bierstadt to avoid the willows. I hate bushwhacking.

Nice report.

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