Peak(s):  Mt. Bierstadt  -  14,060 feet
Sawtooth, The  -  13,780 feet
Date Posted:  08/21/2014
Modified:  08/24/2014
Date Climbed:   08/21/2014
Author:  emgordon
 Sunrise and Sawtooth  

I left Golden at 3:00 and made it to the trailhead by 4:00. A few notes on the drive: turn left after exiting I-70 in Georgetown and go right at the round-about and you will soon see signs that say Guanella Pass. The road is in great condition but has many tight switchbacks. The sign for the lower parking lot is hard to see in the dark but it is on the left before the pass summit.

A little windy and chilly, even the boardwalks were slippery with frost. On the first, longest boardwalk, there are three step downs while you are on that you might not expect otherwise. The logs and rocks to cross Scott Gomer Creek were a little slippery too, but trekking poles really helped balance. After you leave the creek, there are a few steep sections before you leave the willows for good. The trail sometimes branched or just got really spread out, especially in and around talus, and was hard to keep on in the dark. Just head up and to the left towards the ridge and you'll probably run into a cairn. The summit was gusty and very cold but the sunrise was beautiful. The hike up took me 2 hours with plenty of breath catching.

After a short break, it was Sawtooth time. The descent is rocky and steep, and patches of ice were all over, including the big one that I think is easier to pass on the low side. From there I traversed fairly level back to the ridge crest and scrambled over/around the first tooth. On the second (bigger) tooth, you can go all the way over near the top but I got stuck in the middle and had to backtrack and downclimb. The route is well cairned and soon we were on the west side of the ridge for the ledges that aren't really ledges. It was easier in this part to find rocks to scramble on than crossing and ascending on the loose, steep dirt. Around the corner and out of the Sawtooth, I didn't have time for Evans so I took the gully down. The crossing took about 1.5 hours going fairly slowly to enjoy the views.

It is not immediately visible but the downslope and convergence of the area is noticeable. Near the top, the ground was inundated with water and the creek flowing through the gully is running well. The trail was easy to find but not easy to stay upright, quite a lot of work for the knees going down. As you descend, you should be able to spot a trail in an open grassy area that crosses the creek, and this is the way I took. If you want to avoid mud and willows, I suggest you try crossing above the trees on the hillside to the left but I am not sure how well it works. If you follow the trail, the mud is deep in places and beware if it rained the night before for I got soaked by the willow leaves holding water. After a while the trail got much worse and it was just about finding another trail or any open way through the willows. It would be very hard to miss the Bierstadt trail on the way back. It was another 2 hours of hiking from the gully to the trailhead.

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