Spalding, Mount (Traverse)

elevation: 4,219 m.
height gain: 325 m.
area: Idaho Springs,Colorado,USA map USGS 1:24,000 Mount Evans, CO


scenic byway to mount evans

From Idaho Springs, gateway of the Front Range, I planned to drive up the Scenic Byway to the summit of Mount Evans.

When I left Leadville this past april, I knew I would be coming back sooner than later. I had made some plans to climb some 14ers with my friend Tim Best; specifically LaPlata Peak via Ellingwood Ridge and the tour of Mount Massive's main summits. Within my first week back at work, I informed my boss that I would be leaving for two weeks in september when the weather would permit. During the summer, I focused on doing long arduous trips with some tougher scrambling to be prepared for what was to come; there's no short outings with Tim and given that he lives in Leadville, it's understood that he's a very fit man! When I saw an appropriate weather window early september, I was ready to go. This time I drove right through Montana and Wyoming to Denver, Colorado, saving a whole day of driving; my total driving time was 20.5 hours. Last april, a bad storm in Wyoming had me re-route through Utah; this is a nice drive but adds in distance and time.


Before meeting my friend in Leadville and attempting the Tour de Massive, I figured I best spend some time acclimatising. Right close to Denver is a Front Range's gateway town called Idaho Springs, from there it's a quick drive to Mount Evans. This 14er is special, it boasts the highest paved road in North America; you can drive the Scenic Byway right to the summit. My plan was to drive to the top, explore, then come down and spend the night at Summit Lake, 3,914 m. The following day it would be my turn to ascend Mount Evans, except my route included a traverse of Mount Spalding. This peak is labeled on the topographic map but it is an unranked 13er as it lacks prominence. In my view, it's still a peak and way taller than most the summits I've visited in the past! Climbing this summit would provide an extension to my trip up Mount Evans and also give me the opportunity to include a side trip to another 13er; this would be a great first day.

THE CLIMB  Ascent:   -East ridge    class 2
                        Descent: -South slopes  class 2

Hike: RT 5.5 (includes The Sawtooth and Mount Evans); 1.25 up. After driving to the top of Mount Evans and hiking to the summit and the observatory, I slowly made my way back down to Summit Lake and had supper. It dawned on me that the truck had tagged a 14er before I did, how funny is that! At dusk, the fog descended over the lake; soon thereafter, it started to rain. I prepared my sleeping arrangement and tried to get some rest, I felt tired from driving two days straight and I suffered from a headache brought upon by high altitude. I had prepared well and I had been diligent about drinking plenty of water during the last couple of days, I was surprised that I still had a headache... but I guess the sudden rise to altitude without descending was taking its toll. I laid there and endured the thumping of my rapid heart beat in my jugular veins, I felt restless and I knew it would be a rough night. I watched the sky clear up and the stars come out, eventually I did fall asleep from sheer exhaustion. In order to get my hike in before the forecasted afternoon thunderstorms, I woke up at 4AM and started by headlight at 4:30. The nice wide trail was easy to follow, it was thrilling to hike in total pitch black with only the steps ahead lit up. I often stopped to look towards Denver's city lights and catch my breath. My headache had dissipated but I felt powerless and slightly queasy. Although I wasn't "top shape", I still enjoyed my hike up this summit. At the top, I took the time to eat and drink more water while awaiting the sunrise. This was the most special part, experiencing total darkness slowly disappearing to be replaced by dawn; this moment is etched in my memory forever. After that, I headed down the easy south slopes towards the Spalding-Evans Col. My next objective was a very short side trip to another unranked 13er called The Sawtooth.

highest paved road in north america

Driving up the highest paved road in North America!

parking lot at the summit

Parking lot at the summit of Mount Evans, 4,306 meters (14,130 feet).

truck tags a 14er

On this trip, the truck tags a 14er before me!

lofty viewpoint

Lofty viewpoint accessible to everybody.

history and safety

History and safety.

mount evans

Looking at Mount Evans from the observatory.

observatory from the summit

Looking at the observatory from the summit of Mount Evans.

mount bierstadt and west evans

Mount Bierstadt (left of center) and West Evans on the right.

mount spalding

Tomorrow's first objective is Mount Spalding from Summit Lake.

mount spalding from summit lake

Mount Spalding from the lake's parking lot.

staying at summit lake

Staying the night at Summit Lake, 3,914 meters.

on the summit of mount spalding

Mount Evans from the summit of Mount Spalding the following morning.

city lights of denver

The city lights of Denver as darkness is replaced by dawn.

summit lake below

More of Denver's city lights and Summit Lake below.

leaving mount spalding

Mount Evans as I prepare to leave Mount Spalding.

heading to the sawtooth

My next objective is The Sawtooth on the right.

Continue on to The Sawtooth
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