Bierstadt, Mount


elevation: 4,285 m.
height gain: 975 m.
area: Georgetown, Colorado, USA
map: USGS 1:24000 Mount Evans,CO      
          39105E6
2016-Apr-06


Ref: 14ers.com
winter trailhead


Starting at the winter trailhead.
STORMED OUT IN GEORGETOWN:

This mountain was on my to do list if weather and energy permitted. After a fantastic bluebird day on Mount Elbert with great people, it was time for me to start heading home but not before trying out a solo ascent of my third 14er along the way. I'd planned to leave Leadville in no hurry and drive to Georgetown, near Denver. That morning when I awoke, weather was moving in; the majestic mountains of Leadville were obscured. I felt sorrowful as I left this quaint little town behind. I drove through some nasty snow squalls over Fremont Pass before reaching the interstate I-70 and settling in Georgetown just before the arrival of a predicted snow storm. The wind gusts were out of this world. A couple of hours after I got there, the highway closed because of accidents and poor driving conditions. In no time this small town became overwhelmed by traffic but I had a good spot staked out by Subway once again. I spent the afternoon nestled in the truck keeping busy with Facebook, writing trip reports and monitoring weather models for the area; it seemed like my upcoming trip could be in jeopardy... I still had to drive 16 kilometres and gain 600 meters to reach Guanella Pass' winter trailhead, I wondered if the road would be drifted in. The forecast called for cold sunny conditions the following day with winds gusting to 90-100 km/h; I figured it would be similar to trekking the Canadian Front Ranges or the glaciers in the winter. Still, the prospect of venturing alone in those conditions was daunting. My spirit was low... maybe all the hype, excitement and stress on this trip was starting to take its toll, I felt undecided. I spent a fair amount of time questioning my motives; that's not unusual for me... Finally, I ended up reaching out to a good FB friend that's always offered encouragement and kind words of wisdom; feeling a bit better about myself, I retired for the night, thank you John Brightbill.

THE CLIMB  -West slopes  class 2

Snowshoe trip: RT 7.25; 3.5 up. I woke up at  6AM with the intention of checking out the road to the winter trailhead and snowshoeing to Guanella Pass. My expectations were low, yet I geared up for the wintery conditions and put on my brace just in case. The road was a bit icy but there were no snow drifts to plow through, I travelled in 4X4 and reached the closure where I parked. I put on my snowshoes and hiked the road to the pass in good time. I recognized Mount Bierstadt's ascent route, it looked so close! I stood there, feeling quite comfortable despite being blasted by the insane wind; with no hesitation, I plodded down towards the infamous willows. Lucky for me, the cooler temperature and wind-driven snow provided good travel with no postholing. A packed trail was discernible most of the way, I followed it roughly but the favourable conditions allowed me to pick my own line with no concern. I gained ground and elevation rather quickly. The wind was relentless so I didn't stop much, if at all. I felt good, this climb was easy after doing Quandary Peak and Mount Elbert this weekend. Once on the windswept west slopes, I started thinking I could very well reach the top of this mountain even with the wind! I managed to weave through the talus slope with my snowshoes, reaching the summit ridge without punching through the snow around the rocks. All went well and there I was, atop my third 14er in less than a week; I was super thrilled. I stayed at the top for awhile to soak in the feat and the view. I was well-dressed, had goggles on and I wore thin liners under my mitts so I could still take pictures without freezing my hands. But all good things must come to an end, I had to turn my attention on the descent. I knew being careful down the talus slope with snowshoes on was imperative. Another section that worried me was the meadow with the willows; they are notorious for trapping air space in the snowpack, rendering it weak. That promotes postholing, especially with solar radiation; apparently some people have taken over 2 hours to cross that meadow... I tried treading lightly to avoid re-injuring my knee; fortunately, the snowpack had maintained its integrity. Appropriately enough, throughout most of the day I had the song "Motorcycle drive by" by Third Eye Blind in my head; I kept singing the riff: I've never been so alone and I've never been so alive...  I had the mountain to myself; to me, that made this journey very special and I wouldn't trade this experience. Once on the road, I knew I was safe from mishaps. It's only then that I started running into some people on their way to the pass. I took off extra layers and walked back to the truck feeling quite blessed and accomplished.

RETURNING HOME:

After returning from the mountain, I was hungry and tired. I had to stop in Idaho Springs to pick up beer concentrate for Fabrice and I wasn't sure if I would make it there before the liquor store's closing time; hence, I decided to spend another night in Georgetown. Early the next morning I hit the road, got Fabrice's goodies and made my way towards Denver. I was expecting traffic like in Salt Lake City but to my surprise, Denver was quite straightforward and smooth sailing ensued. I kept driving, without even checking my route; I just followed signs!!! Everything worked out great until I got to Billings in Montana where I missed a turn-off for highway 87. I continued on interstate I-90 and noticed I was going towards Butte; whoops, I knew I wasn't supposed to head that way. I stopped to fuel up and ask for directions. A lovely man at the counter gave me a good route description to get back on track to reach Great Falls, Montana. I continued on I-90 to the small town of Big Timber, where I intended to spend the night following a long drive. When I pulled into town, I struggled to find a familiar fast food joint with Wi-Fi; I think the whole town was shut down for the night. I asked random people on the street if they knew of a place where I could "hook up". A lady informed me to go to the local tavern and gave me directions. I walked in the tavern, sat down and ordered my first burger and beer on this trip. I was happy to be resting; I had done some great mileage even with the detour and had almost shaved a whole day of driving. I hung out for a bit to take advantage of the Wi-Fi, checked out my route for the next day and slipped into the truck for yet another restful night. The following day was as beautiful as the previous one. I drove out of town heading towards Great Falls and familiar grounds. The single lane highway was quite the change, I had gotten used to driving 130-140 km/h (80 mph). Once I reached Great Falls, I resumed a fast pace on interstate I-15 all the way to the border. I felt a little emotional crossing the border and going home; my trip was really coming to an end, yet, I was really looking forward to seeing my doggies. Leaving them behind has gotten more difficult with time... their lives are so short... but that's another story entirely. Past the border, I continued towards Calgary. I hadn't reviewed my route through Cowtown but I remembered: Deerfoot, Glenmore and Sarcee. I drove in the busy city as if I'd lived there a long time, never missed a turn. That surprised me, I was merging with no hesitation and kept to the fast lanes; next thing I knew, I was following signs for Banff!!!!!!!!!! I suddenly got excited. As I drove west, the mountains started to unfold in front of my eyes. I stopped to take pictures like a tourist, even if I had driven that highway countless times, MY MOUNTAINS, I was coming home!!! I drove past Canmore into Banff National Park, I couldn't follow the 90 km/h (55mph) speed limit for the life of me, can't believe I didn't get a speeding ticket. When I pulled in the driveway, I could see the doggies on the balcony and I could hear them barking silly. I let them out of the house and they greeted me with much excitement; I realized how much I missed them! They went about their routines like they hadn't skipped a beat; Lincoln followed me to the truck to steal some of my stuff and strut it like a stud muffin, Rupert followed me with the ball for some fetching action and Daisy went about her roaming the bushes after nuzzling me. Everything was normal again!!

SPECIAL THANKS:

I would like to thank Fabrice for understanding my true spirit, supporting my crazy ideas and setting me free!! I also want to thank the special people that were virtually with me and offered comfort on this solo trip; you made a difference. I am also grateful to my doggies even if they don't understand what that means... Last but not least, I want to thank God for all the good fortune and countless blessings.













nearing guanella pass

Nearing Guanella Pass and Mount Bierstadt.

intense wind

The intense wind picks up the snow.

lazy traverse

A lazy traverse leads to the west slopes.

wind-packed snow

The snow is shallow and wind-packed.

talus slope

Still windy as hell as I near the talus slope.

summit ridge

There's a good trail on the summit ridge.

staying away from the edge

I'm staying away from the edge with the wind.

almost there


Mount Evans comes into view.


geological marker


Geological marker at the top.


mount evans


Mount Evans is another 14er north-east of Mount Bierstadt.


north-western view


North-western view.


eastern view


Eastern view over Rosalie Peak; Rosalie was Albert Bierstadt's wife.


looking south


Looking south towards Kataka Mountain (center).


looking over guanella pass


Looking over Guanella Pass to the west.


gps reading


My GPS reading; unfortunately, it doesn't register wind speed!


selfie at the top


Selfie at the top of my third 14er in less than a week!!!


heading back down


Heading back down.


mountains meet flatlands


Mountains meet flatlands.


square top mountain


Square Top Mountain (left) beyond Guanella Pass.


summer trail


The lazy traverse on the summer trail back to the willows below.


infamous willows


The infamous meadow of willows.


last glimpse


A traverse to The Sawtooth (left) from Mount Bierstadt offers a good access to Mount Evans.


back on the road


Back on the road for the last stretch.


lovely landscape


Lovely landscape along the otherwise featureless drive on the east side of the Continental Divide.


doggy at work


Doggy at work on the American side of the border.


back to canada


Welcome back to Canada!


approaching my mountains


Approaching my mountains, my backyard the Canadian Rockies!
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