Three guys from Kansas and Missouri (Paul, Harry, Michael) made our annual August trip to Colorado to hike the mountains and summit 14ers. Paul (Kansan) started this in 2008 to commemorate his 60th birthday. It’s become something we all look forward to each year and really enjoy the camaraderie, and of course, the mountains. However, Paul missed getting to the summit of Belford last year because he hadn’t fully recovered from his second hip replacement surgery. I wrote then that he would have “another day” and this year was it.
We drove to Colorado Springs on Tuesday. The next day was a nice warm-up hike up Raspberry Mountain. Then we drove on to Georgetown for the rest of the week. The 14ers’ goal was Bierstadt, Grays and Torreys. We decided to do Bierstadt on Thursday, thinking it would be “easier” and we would be fresher. Then do a lighter hike – Herman Gulch – on Friday, and use that day to recover before attempting Grays/Torreys on Saturday.
Wednesday evening we drove up the Guanella Pass road to the Bierstadt TH, just to check it out. It’s a great road with what appeared to be recent improvements including paving, guardrails and stone retaining walls. The first TH parking lot has restrooms. No wonder Bierstadt is so popular!
We got up early on Thursday and were at the TH ready to hike by 6:20 am. Several groups were getting ready at the same time, but there was clearly a number of people already on the trail. We had enough early light to not need headlamps, plus the TH is above the tree line so there were no shadows to walk through. The clouds didn’t seem threatening.
The route is all right before you, just like the description on 14ers.com. The early part is very easy through the willows, and the boardwalks make traversing the wet areas a cinch, so no wet feet. You do lose some elevation from the TH getting through the willows.
Harry heads across the boardwalk with Bierstadt and the Sawtooth beyond
Paul following the nice wide trail through the willows
There is one stream to cross and it was easy to negotiate that day.
Paul staying balanced on the stream crossing
After clearing the lower part of the trail and emerging from the willows, the trail starts gaining elevation. The summit is visible most of the way, but it had clouds moving in and out as we went up. The entire day was mostly cloudy, which was okay with us.
Paul and Harry climbing up with a cloudy summit beyond
The Sawtooth with Bierstadt to the right
Rocky switchback trail on the side of Bierstadt but great colors!
Paul set his own pace as we grinded up the mountain to meet Harry at a flat area just before the final pitch to the summit. Shortly before that, it started to mist or rain lightly. We put on our rain jackets, caps and gloves.
We always love the rock and plant colors
Paul approaching the base area for the last pitch to the summit
The base of the summit pitch, headed around to the left
From this point to the summit, it’s all large rocks. The trail was marked but there seemed to be more than one way to go up and down. It seemed like a pick-your-route kind of thing, but not really difficult. However, the rain made the rocks slick so we were a little more cautious.
Midway up to the summit, Harry's finding the route
Looking south on the summit approach to Frozen Lake
We reached the summit at 10:00, which is the earliest of any of our previous 14ers. We felt good and Paul was back on top!
Michael, Harry and Paul - happy to be on the summit together!
The rain slacked off a bit but the clouds were pretty dense, so we didn’t have any big expansive views.
Looking back to hikers making their way to find the summit marker
Looking north from the summit to the valley below
There was a nice group of hikers and we all helped everyone get their summit photos taken. I don’t think anyone was headed for the Sawtooth, at least while we were there.
We took about 30 minutes to eat and hydrate on top. It was hard to tell what the clouds were doing, but the rain stayed light and we heard no thunder. We liked the big rocks on the summit – the way the top of a mountain should be.
As we moved off the summit, we met a man coming up. He said he blew out the soles of his boots relatively soon after starting his hike. None of us could believe he made it to the summit with the condition of those boots!
He hiked almost all of the trail up Bierstadt with these boots!
Another hiker gave him some duct tape for repairs before going back down. Hope he made it okay!
As we descended, the clouds thinned a bit and we had some very nice open, broad views. The TH parking lot was visible from most everywhere on the trail except the low areas of the willows.
Paul on the way down, feeling good.....
Harry's also very happy on the way down
Great view of the lake just below the TH parking on the way down with Grays beyond (I think)
We arrived back at the TH at 12:30 pm, our quickest round-trip 14er summit. It was a great day, especially to have Paul back on top of a mountain!
A quick shout out for Georgetown. It’s a very nice little town with interesting historic buildings, good food and drink. We ate all four dinners at the Lucha Cantina & Red Ram Bar. They have good beers on tap, a varied Mexican-American menu so we could try something different each time, and every meal was extremely tasty. The bonus was Thursday night, when a female patron decided to do a headstand on the bar and give a few scissor kicks while doing it. Sorry, we weren’t quick enough to take a photo, and I can’t guarantee you’ll get that show, but Lucha is definitely worth a visit.