| Yet another Sawtooth TR
Facing major surgery in the fall so I'm trying to get out over the summer as much as possible and hoping to get in a little better shape, additionally I would like to be able to keep up with my friend Phil Koneman, the man's an animal in the mountains. Did the "Indian Peaks Marathon" last week as a training run with my wife and sister-in-law, they're ultra-runners, I'm not, but since I survived that I wanted to get out this week and have some fun.
With the goal of moving fairly quickly without killing myself I planned on jogging parts of the route, at least the flatter, well graded sections, then keep a comfortable pace on the hills while still being safe over the talus. I've hiked Beirstadt, Evans (from Echo Lake once and via 2nd Apron once) but this would be my first time on the Sawtooth. I was a little anxious and a little curious since I've read trip reports and accident reports on the Sawtooth over the past few years, was I going to regret going light and solo? Not being overly goal oriented I knew I could always turn back if things got hairy or the weather turned. My plan was to get up Bierstadt early, maybe zig over to Evans, and then down into the willows.
- Ultimate Direction Wasp pack: just got this a couple of weeks ago and it worked well for me on the "Indian Peaks Marathon" the week before so thought I would use it for this trip
- GoLite zip pants, not exactly running shorts but I wanted some leg coverage in case it got chilly
- GoLite wicking top, nothing special but comfy
- 3 bags of chomps, couple of gels, Nuun, and a Snickers.
- Smartwool sleeves in case it got a little cool.
- Rab Momentum shell
- Light pair gloves, kinda like liners.
- Steripen, the Wasp has a 1.9 L bladder, likely would need more water
- Gps, compass, mutli-tool, camera
Surprisingly all this fits pretty well in the Wasp and it still carries well, certainly well enough for my slow jogging pace.
Left the house (Evergreen) around 6:30 or so and arrived at Guanella Pass about an hour later to find the parking lot full and plenty of cars parked on the road. Thinking that I lost a day during the week I checked my phone to see if it was really Friday, sure enough, guess I'm not the only one that mistakenly thought I might miss some of the crowds. Took a pic , picked up my gps tracker from the Forest Service person at the trail head and started jogging toward Bierstadt at about 7:45 or so. Trying to keep an easy pace I jogged most of the first mile though the willows, the couple taking pics of the moose likely thought I was a little strange for not stopping.
Once the trail started climbing up Bierstadt I tried to pick a comfortable hiking pace and kept moving, I was getting a little warm but still feeling really good. Took a short minute break at the bench just before the talus to take a pic and water the rocks. Final push to the summit of Bierstadt, a short break, munch some chomps, and check the time; About 10 after 9, 1.5 hours to summit Bierstadt, not too bad so far. Took a couple of pics of the Sawtooth and Abyss Lake and started down the talus.
Passed a large party on the way down and started picking my way back over to the ridge while avoiding the remnants of the snow patch and ice. I wanted to keep a good distance from other parties to avoid rockfall, I didn't bring my turtle and I didn't want to accidentally knock anything on others either. Caught up with a party of 3 at the bottom of the hill, nice people, exchanged greetings and let them know that I wasn't sure where the heck I was going either. Given the amount of cairns along the hillside I wasn't too worried about it, also had a few route descriptions in my pack just in case. At the first Gendarme I made my way across the little shoulder instead of the more direct way over the top, next time around I'll try to stay true to Cooper's route. A little more scrambling and over to the 'ledges' , got a little cool so I pulled out my sleeves and strolled on across following the cairns. A few pics, picking out the descent route and a look back at the ledges , a few more minutes of moving along and all of sudden I'm on the ridge wondering where the rest of the Sawtooth is? I've topped out on a broad, gentle slope so I head back up to the ridge and peek over to Abyss Lake, thinking I took a wrong turn somewhere but then I see more cairns in the distance.
Originally I hadn't planned on going over to Evans but it's still early, the weather looks good and I'm feeling good so I start hiking over and a little while later I'm making my way through the tourists up to the summit of Evans. Take a little break to eat my snickers, check the time 10:40 and get my bearings before heading back to the shoulder between the Sawtooth and Spalding . On Evans I run into Skeet (sp?) and his buddy from Alpine Rescue, we chat for while about AR, what we're hiking and I get some beta on Spalding and the descent. Skeet tells me I should zip up Spalding and since I'm making good time, 3 hours since leaving the TH, I'm considering it, after all it's a really short detail from the descent route. I chat with a few more people on the way back and up the short slope to Spalding, take another pic , munch some Chomps, and take my last sip of water hoping I find some more on the way down.
Still feeling pretty good so I take off at a slow jog and try and pick the smoothest ground until the gully turns steep and forces me to slow down. So far this downhill is the most strenuous part of the trip, the steep down hill is really getting to my quads. Take a few pics of the numerous whistle pigs, Columbines and a waterfall and continue to make my way down to the beaver ponds and willows. The first stream I get to I fill my bladder and try the Steripen, I had some problems with it last week and sure enough it's not behaving now. Given the dirt I have in the water and that it's not sterilized I pour it out figuring it's only a mile to two back to the trailhead. A few hundred yards later I come across another, wider stream and figuring that there can't be too many people up steam I drop down and take a drink, hoping I don't regret that.
Gotta say that the trail through the willows is not too bad for the most part, but then a few short sections really make up for it! Walking on the spongy ground is kinda cool though and after almost loosing my shoes in calf deep mud I make it back to the main trail. Still wanting to make decent time I try and jog a few sections but by now I'm feeling a little spent and what's jogging another half mile really gonna get me? Back at the TH I hand back the GPS tracker and check the time, 1:25 P.M. about 5.5 hours round trip, I'll take that.
All in all a pretty good day in the hills. Next time I think I'll try and stay a little more true to Cooper's route and tag West Evans while I'm up there. Overall I was surprised at how short and easy the Sawtooth was, in general I would say that it's some of the easiest class 3 terrain I've done and there really isn't much that's class 3. Granted if you had an accident, tripped, or stumbled in the wrong spot it would be devastating but it's a good intro for someone just moving into class 3 terrain, IMHO.
For more pics I have a set on Flickr, including a short pano vid from Spalding:
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