| The 3 Sarah's Hike on Sawtooth
Sawtooth Mtn (12304’)
Indian Peaks Wilderness
12.5 miles RT, 3200’ gain
From Beaver Reservoir (9200’)
December 15, 2012
Participants: Derek Wolfe, Ryan Marsters, Dominic and Sarah Meiser, Sarah Strattan, Kevin Pustulka, Sarah Behnke, Dwight Sunwall, & Kevin Baker
I was looking to do something high since I’ll be back at home next weekend for Christmas. The forecast didn’t look to great anywhere, but the Front Range didn’t look too bad. Over the past 4 years, I have come to know and hike with 3 different Sarah’s who enjoy similar mountain adventures as I. What are the odds of that? I thought it would be pretty cool to get them all together for a “Sarah” hike! I started hiking with Sarah M (SarahT) in 2008, Sarah B (wooderson) in 2010, and Sarah S (sstratta) this year. Sarah M and I invited others, and the group ballooned to 9 strong hikers! We settled on 12er Sawtooth in the IPW even though a few people had already done it in summer. Sawtooth is a cool IPW peak with sweeping south face that is visible from many vantage points in Boulder county.
Sawtooth’s east ridge offers a nice scramble that is reasonable with snow as there are just a few 3rd class sections with some exposure here and there. It would make things more interesting than a standard slog in the snow. We all met at the north end of Beaver Reservoir where the 4WD road to Coney Flats starts at 9200’. Temps were actually quite balmy in the mid 20’s. The road had been tracked, but the snow was less than a foot deep early on.
Marching through the pretty forest
We enjoyed the social aspect of a group hike in the trees, knowing that higher up it would likely be tough to talk with some moderate winds in the forecast. The sun flirted with coming out, but it looked like the clouds were here to stay today.
The sun flirting with coming out
We crossed a frozen pond in which the ice wasn't that deep, but it was deep enough that cars had recently crossed!
Crossing a frozen pond
We were able to get by without snowshoes until just before treeline. We were glad we brought them as there was more snow than expected.
Dwight amidst the pretty trees
Sstratta, a skier defecting to the slowshoe ranks today
The trailbreaking wasn’t too tough though, other than some wallowing in the willows after we cutoff the trail to head for the east ridge. The banshees were as advertised, a headwind gusting to 30-35 mph. Everybody was ready for a battle though, and it actually didn’t feel too bad once we got on the ridge proper.
Heading up the east ridge
Sawtooth provided a bit of a wind shadow in spots, so conditions for the scramble were reasonable. The ridge was a lot of fun with the snow as there were a few sections of 3rd class with some ups and downs.
Let the fun begin!
Frost on the rocks
We stayed on the ridge crest except for one little tower that looked to be low 5th class, which we skirted on the left.
A little 3rd class action
Dominic and Sarah M on another bump on the east ridge.
The crux of the hike physically was the last 500 feet as the ridge dumps you on the northeast face, which was tough going wallowing in a couple feet of trap door snow amidst the talus. Derek led the last bit, and it was a lot of effort to follow!
Conga line up the northeast face to the summit
There was enough rock islands sticking out that we felt comfortable with the conditions, although I could see this face loading up pretty good in winter since it is northeast facing. There was some scrambling to be had just below the summit, and I topped out around 12:20.
Last bit of scrambling to the top
The wind was moving pretty good on the summit with a temp of 13 degrees, so we didn’t hang around long. There was some cool rime ice on the rocks to make it finally feel like Christmas.
The 3 Sarah's and me. Tough chicks for sure!
I was hoping to add 12er Red Deer to the north, but a couple of us had time commitments including my ride, so we headed back down the east ridge. Wallowing down the northeast face wasn’t a whole lot of fun as we wiped out a few times with the inconsistencies of going down shallow snow on a talus field, but it was smooth sailing once we got back on the ridge. There were a couple exposed spots where extra care had to be taken.
Heading back down
The wind seemed to pick up a bit on the descent and we were glad to get back to the trees. The road walk back seemed to take forever, but it was nice catching up with folks to pass the time. We got back to the trailhead at around 4:30. Excellent outing with a strong group of partners! And yes, 12ers are cool too, especially in the IPW.
Looking back at the east ridge
Cool couloir below the ridge
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):