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Route #3) Mt. Bierstadt - East Ridge
Clear Creek: 303-679-2376
Take Exit 240 at Idaho Springs on Interstate 70. Drive south on Colorado 103 for 13.5 miles at Echo Lake. You can park near the lake (by the picnic area) or drive up to the Echo Lake Lodge and park in one of the parking lots near the entrance to the Mt. Evans road (Colorado 5).
From Echo Lake, drive over 11 miles up the Mt. Evans road (Colorado 5) to a corner at 13,300' with a small parking area. Park here. Photo #1, Photo #2 and Photo #3 are overview photos of the route, taken from different locations, but you can't see the route from the parking area. Begin by hiking down to the saddle between Mt. Evans and Epaulet Mountain - Photo #4. At the lowest part of the saddle, locate the top of a gully that drops west toward the basin between Mt. Evans and Mt. Bierstadt - Photo #5. From here, there's a great view of Bierstadt's East Ridge.
Drop into the gully (Photo #6) and descend west toward the basin below. Carefully make your way through the rock as you drop 800' (Photo #7, Photo #8, Photo #9) to reach the base of the gully near 12,300' - Photo #10. Continue west across the basin, cross the Abyss trail, and eventually cross the small stream running out of the basin. Reach the base of the East Ridge just west of the stream crossing - Photo #11. You're next goal is to climb 800' (Class 2) up the slope to reach the crest of the ridge - Photo #12. Pick your line and hike up (Photo #13) to the ridge crest - Photo #14.
Turn right and begin by scrambling over the first, small point on the ridge - Photo #15. The second point comes into view and it's a bit larger - Photo #16. Scramble (easy Class 3) up this point (Photo #17) where you get your view of Point 13,641', the crux of the ridge - Photo #18. Point 13,641' holds great rock and plenty of Class 3 climbing opportunities. In Photo #19, you'll see there is an area that is highlighted in red. This area is Class 5 and blocks you from climbing directly up the ridge without exceeding Class 3 rock. The way around this is to follow a grassy ledge on the right side before climbing up steep rock to regain the ridge - Photo #20. Hike over to this area (Photo #21) and drop onto the ledge - Photo #22. Climb just below the cliffs to your left and the ledge leads to some steeper rock - Photo #23 and Photo #24. Climb until you locate a suitable Class 3 line to your left where that allows you to regain the ridge. Once back on the ridge, the remaining climb to the top of Point 13,641' is in view - Photo #25. Scramble along the left side of the ridge (Photo #26) to reach the top of Point 13,641' - Photo #27.
Bierstadt's summit and the remaining ridge are now in view (Photo #28), but don't be fooled, there's plenty of distance and more scrambling to come. Drop down from Point 13,641' (Photo #29) and scramble over some large rocks (Photo #30) to reach a flat area west of Point 13,641' - Photo #31'. Cross this area to reach one of several remaining points along the ridge. Photo #32 and Photo #33 look back at the descent from Point 13,641'. Cross several more points, including one that requires some Class 3 scrambling to reach the base of the final summit pitch - Photo #34. Climb approximately 200' over large blocks (Photo #35, some Difficult Class 2) to reach the summit. Photo #36 looks back on East Ridge and provides a good look at the rocky points between Point 13,641' and the summit.
For the descent, you have a several options: 1) Return over the East Ridge, 2) climb the Sawtooth Route over to Mt. Evans, or 3) descend to Abyss Lake and re-climb the gully to reach the Mt. Evans road where you parked. The remainder of this text describes the easiest way back (Class 2), which is to hike down past Abyss Lake. From the summit, drop north down the start of the normal route towards The Sawtooth - Photo #37. Follow cairns and small trail segments along the east side of the ridge as you descend northeast toward the end of the basin that holds Abyss Lake - Photo #38. This slope holds some Class 3 ledges and plenty of loose rock, so take your time and look for the easiest way down. Continue down the slope (Photo #39, Photo #40, Photo #41) to reach Abyss Lake below 12,700' - Photo #42. Walk along the side of the lake to reach the flats on the south end - Photo #43 and Photo #44 look back at the area. Hike east across the stream and basin to reach the gully that you used to access this area - Photo #45. Re-climb the gully, turn left and hike back to the road.
This route provides some fun climbing on good rock, and a some solitude. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Mount Evans Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the Mount Evans Wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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