| Evans and Spalding and Goats and People
The weather forecast for the past weekend was supposed to be great, so when I was given the opportunity to be able to get out and jumped at it. I was aiming to do Mt. Evans and thinking to do it from Echo Lake. After some contemplating and realizing I was a bit short on time, I opted to go up the Evans road and start from Summit Lake, climbing via Mt Spalding.
I had been reluctant to go on the road to begin with, after hearing a lot of the politics around its fee, crowds, etc., plus having a road to a summit with tourists frolicking about is not quite a motivating factor for a climb and I wanted to do a longer hike in with a more "wildnerness experence". However, after some of the longer trips I had in the Sangres the week prior, I thought I deserved an easier day
After spending some time driving up, I saw what I had been missing. The road was actually pretty cool and reminded me of Trail Ridge Road in RMNP, surrounded by alpine tundra once above treeline. Passing Echo Lake and going through the forests to above treeline made for a nice “approach”! Apparently, this is the highest paved road in the country. The ride up was a pleasant surprise.
I was coming from Denver this morning and as such I got to the trailhead somewhat late (for a summer climb anyway) at 6:00AM. No need for the headlamp today. The trailhead is easy to identify once you walk past the lake. There is a sign here marking the trail. If you miss this, you need new glasses.
As I had been researching and studying the longer, more complicate routes, I wasn't well versed on this shorter route. It seemed straightforward enough to head up Mt Spalding (13,842ft) first, then traverse over the Evans following the scenic west ridge.
The climb up Mount Spalding begins immediately as you circle a way around the north end of summit lake.
Though I had just flown in the night before, I figured I’d still benefit from the acclimatization from being here the week before. I shall soon see.
The northwest ridge of Evans dominates the view to the south on the climb up and there are some panoramic views on the way up. I spotted two mountain goats on a distant ridge, though appear as dots on a photo, so didn't bother posting here.
There are some steep sections getting up to Spalding, but no exposure, just some scrambling, though there is mostly a decent trail to follow to the top. In the photo below, you can see what the terrain looks like and there is a climber near the top for scale (right side of pic).
As I descended off Mt. Spalding to the Evans/Spalding saddle, I was met with sweeping views of classic Rocky Mountain scenery – a veritable postcard waiting to happen. I had to stop to pause and take it all in. I could imagine this image as a photo mural on my wall. Any photo though cannot do it justice.
I realized this route was well worth it, hence its popularity. While last week on Kit Carson I saw nobody all day, on Evans, there were probably 100 people climbing up during the course of the day.
The descent from Spalding from this side followed easy terrain and was fairly straightforward to dead reckon towards Evans. I was feeling so strong, I decided to do some trail running on the way towards Evans. This was a short-lived effort, as my DSLR in my pack kept slamming into my spine with each step. Looking back, you can see some of the steep southern face of Spalding and the lake below.
There was still a good amount of snow (for August anyway) on the east side of this ridge. There is also some decent exposure and steep drop-offs along this route (totally avoidable though). I could see that there were some harder, more technical routes to get up top here.
For some reason, perhaps its popularity and proximity to civilization, I had been putting off climbing Evans, but after hiking up, I realized I should have done this sooner. It was really an enjoyable hike up and I was feeling great, no issues with altitude, despite just getting in. My fingers were still crossed...
Are you make your way towards Evans, the west ridge becomes more prominent and quite dramatic. Cairns of varying sizes loosely mark the route to follow. Bierstadt appears to the west, along with the connecting ridge, the well known Sawtooth. I could see a few people traversing across.
The Sawtooth was what I really wanted to do, but didn't think I had sufficient time, at least today. Nonetheless, I was just as content where I was. The weather was holding and was indeed nearly perfect conditions up high.
After climbing to a bulge along Evan’s west ridge, you can either drop down or climb up to continue. I followed the cairns and dropped down to shoot towards the summit, roughly a mile away now. This turned out to be a good idea, as after 20 minutes of hiking up, I was met by a family of four mountain goats, two of which were standing on the trial, showing little fear or apprehension from my presence.
The views along this ridge were great; the Sawtooth and Bierstadt fill the view to the west, Grays and Torreys rise up further in the distance. Pikes becomes visible to the south. There appeared to be a ton of people on the summit of Bierstadt – party on Bierstadt?
Nobody invited me. I continued on towards Evans, passing the goats as they moved away.
Some of the route was marked by large cairns (see image below) - this thing is like six feet tall.
If you miss this, you should consider another hobby. We need one like this on Kit Carson! Grays and Torreys appear in the background.
I ran into a few folks ahead of me on one of the final pushes up before the route intersects the tourist trail near the top.
As you intersect with the tourist trail, the trail switchbacks up to the true summit. The views from above, as usual, were wonderful. You do, however get an eyeful looking at the parking lot and cars that drove up, while you climbed up!
For those of you who have never been to the top, there is actually an observatory here, located a hundred feet or so below the summit. It is called the Mt. Evans Meyer-Womble Observatory, which is operated by the University of Denver (itself, interestingly, founded by John Evans). I thought this was pretty cool, especially after seeing Mauna Kea Observatory this past winter.
In short, this climb was short and sweet and highly recommended, especially for introducing someone to the mountains or if you are short on time. The lake is a nice place to hang out when done.
It has a little bit of everything: Stunning alpine scenery, wildlife, wildflowers, high altitude lakes, easy hiking, steeper climbing if desired, easy escapes if necessary (in a car!) and several routes to spice up your trip.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):