Sunday, August 19, 2012

Mount Bierstadt

After hiking Mounts Harvard and Columbia the day before, Sam and I had a short day before picking up Andrew at the Denver Airport about 6:15 p.m. Given the drive time to the airport and a desire to shower after our hike and before our drive, I made arrangements with Georgetown Mountain Inn in Georgetown to allow us to keep our room late and take a shower for an additional $25.00 charge. We decided to do Mount Bierstadt which has a trailhead near Guanella Pass just 11 miles from the hotel. I figured we needed to be done hiking by 3:00 p.m. to get back to the hotel, shower, and drive to the airport. The primary Mount Bierstadt Trail is only 7 miles long, with 2,850 feet of elevation gain, so it seemed a perfect choice for this short day. It turned out well. We did not finish our hike of Harvard and Columbia, the day before, until 7:00 p.m., outside of Buena Vista. Then we had a two hour and 20 minute drive to Georgetown. We were starving, so we stopped in Leadville for something to eat, so did not arrive in Georgetown until well after 10:00 p.m. The next morning, we did not leave the hotel until about 7:30 a.m. It took us a little more than 30 minutes to drive  to Guanella Pass because we stopped to watch some bighorn sheep 
grazing along the side of the road, 7 or more of them. 
As we got to the Mount Bierstadt Trailhead parking lot we heard a young boy in a vehicle parked next to us yell out that there were moose grazing near a lake along the trail. 
Sure enough, two moose, the first I've seen in Colorado. 
Amazing to think that we are seeing this at a trailhead that is at 11,669 feet, higher than Mount San Gorgonio near our home, the tallest point in Southern California. This was a great start to the day. The area near the base of Mount Bierstadt is perfect moose country: lots of lakes, marshy grass and thick willows and bushes. Nice wooden walkways raised the trail above marshy areas allowing us to keep our feet dry (picture by Sam). 
Bierstadt is the mountain to the right (picture by Sam). 
It has a ridge, to the left, which connects it to Mount Evans, which is just barely visible (the summit cap just poking above the ridge). We drove to the top of Mount Evans two years ago and saw numerous mountain goats and bighorn sheep. One of the nice things about this hike is that virtually the whole route is visible from the beginning. 
We were passed early on by a couple of fast hikers and I picked up my pace to try and keep up with them. After all, we did have some time constraints this day. About 12,400 feet, we hiked above a shoulder and got a view into the drainage below Bierstadt. I didn't take a picture of the lakes or trees, more perfect moose country, but did get a picture of the now closer summit and connecting ridge.  
At this point I started to fall behind the super-hikers ahead of us. Sam kept up the pace, trying to find some separation from the many people on the trail, and I fell way behind. It was a very nice trail almost all the way up. There are places where there are multiple trails, or very wide trails, but all comparatively easy. I finally got to where I could see the final pitch to the summit and people standing on top. 
A few minutes later I saw a beautiful ptarmigan, in its summer plumage, cross the trail. 
We saw our first ptarmigans last year on Mount Oxford. I found out from Sam, later, that he saw a mountain goat on the way up. The trail up the final pitch was a little more challenging. Much of it was scrambling up through the rocks without a trail. 
I finally found Sam on the summit 
and we got someone to take a joint photo of us. 
We got a good view of Mt. Evans across a valley with a lake in it, 
and the connecting ridge, now looking down on it from above. 
We'd made good time up to the summit and did not have to hurry back down, so we took our time. In the car down from Guanella Pass, we saw some more bighorn sheep off the road. 
It may have been the same group we saw earlier, but there were now more of them. I was pleasantly surprised by Bierstadt. I enjoyed it a lot. It was the fourteener I was least excited about doing, but the perfect choice for a "rest" day. The beautiful setting, all of the wildlife, a fantastic trail and a relatively easy hike were all we could have asked for. Mount Sherman is rated the easiest fourteener on the website, and Mount Bierstadt is rated as tenth easiest. However, having actually hiked four of the peaks listed above it as easier (Mount Sherman, Mount Cameron, Grays Peak and Mount Democrat), and most of the way up Mount Bross, I would rate Bierstadt as the easiest by far. Mount Sherman, rated as the easiest, via the Iowa Gulch trailhead, is 4.5 miles and 2,500 feet of elevation gain, compared to 7 miles and 2,850 feet of elevation gain on Bierstadt. However, Sherman has areas with more exposure, and steeper portions with looser footing. I would take a hike up Bierstadt any day over Sherman. The others all are generally shorter hikes with less elevation gain, but again, the steepness and difficulty of the footing and hiking make them less enjoyable and more difficult. 

1 comment:

  1. This looks like the perfect peak for me. When are you taking me to it?