| Tour de Scott Gomer Creek drainage
After the "Tour de Stevens Gulch" adventure on Wednesday with Keifer, Steve, and Shad (see trip reports from Shad and Stevevets689) I was feeling ready for another multi-peak day. I had been wanting to do the sawtooth for a while, and that's what this trek was mostly centered around.
When I got to the trailhead at 9:30 Thursday evening, I was expecting the parking lot to already have quite a few people. I was pleasantly supprised when there was only 1 other car in the lot. This may have been partially (or wholly) due to the "road closed" sign that I had moved from the middle of the road on the way up. Oh well.
At 5 a.m. my alarm went off, and I was greeted with a great view of
Bierstadt, The Sawtooth, and West Evans. One more car had showed up, so I guess someone else had decided to ignore the signs. I got on the trail at 5:20 and made good time up Bierstadt. I got to the summit at exactly 7:00 and was met by... no one. I was very glad to have the summit to myself, since I'm sure this is a rare occurrence on this mountain. It was still really cold and very windy so I decided to not hang around and began the traverse over the sawtooth.
I was feeling extra frisky on the class 3 ridge, so I decided to make it more interesting for myself by staying on the ridge crest as much as possible. This increased the difficulty immensely. Lots of class 3 and 4, and some low class 5 moves along with added exposure. When I reached the end of the ridge where the standard route traverses a ledge up to meet the plateau of Sawtooth point, I decided to take a higher ledge that looked more interesting (read "harder"). I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this ledge. It was class 3 and 4 most of the way, and the exposure was pretty dramatic. As I was traversing under some overhanging flakes, I looked about 500 feet down into the bowl below me and wondered how long it would take someone to find my body down there (this is why I usually don't do these climbs solo). Then all of a sudden I was on top of The Sawtooth. I had taken just over an hour for the traverse, as it was 8:20. The wind had mostly stopped blowing, and it made for a very nice summit.
I had originally planned to traverse over to West Evans, since I hadn't tagged this point when I climbed Evans, but I decided against that 600 extra feet of elevation gain for a point that doesn't really matter. I figure I'll climb Evans again eventually, and when I do I can tag it then.
I started the easy walk over to Spaulding expecting once again to see lots of people. Again, I was pleasantly supprised by running into only one other party. The ascent to Spaulding was nice and easy, and the views of the North and West faces of Evans were very nice. I departed the summit of Spaulding at 8:45 and began the traverse over to Gray Wolf.
The traverses from Spaulding across Gray Wolf, UN 12,988, and UN 12,959 went off without too much excitement, except to say that I was reminded how much I like these easy walks across ridge points on tundra. On the Southeast slopes of UN 12,959 there was a herd of about 60 elk, which was exciting to see. I chose a descent route off the Southeast slope of UN 12,959 that angled back toward the trailhead. I descended into a forested valley and began to traverse up slopes through the trees in order to avoid the willows. This little forested valley was amost the perfect picture of pristine wilderness... except for the sounds of the road construction trucks less than half a mile away.
After traversing up the slopes through the trees, I was rudely ejected into the willows. This was the part of the day I had been dreading: the slog back through the willows to the trailhead. It turned out to be not so bad though. For the most part I was able to find an easy way through the willows, and after a while I popped out of the willows onto the main trail. A short walk up the trail saw me back at the car by 11:30. As expected, the parking lot was filled and overflowing by this time.
As I was packing up and getting ready to drive away, another group was just getting ready to start up the trail. I asked them where they were headed and they pointed to the summit of Bierstadt. "Up there." By now I should not be surprised when I encounter people doing this, but it still seems unbelievable that people would try to start climbing a mountain at noon. I'm amazed that these people don't get struck by lightning.
Anyway, it was a beautiful hike on a beautiful day with a minimal number of other people on the trail. Stats for the day: approx. 10 miles with approx. 4800 feet of elevation gain.