Thursday, 22 September 2011

Final 14er of the summer: Mt Evans via Mt Spaulding with my Dad

On my last Friday of my time in Denver (for now), my dad and I wanted to climb Mt Evans. As I previously blogged about, we had climbed Mt Bierstadt a few weeks previously. During that hike, I had hoped to do my first Class 3 and cross the Sawtooth to also climb Evans. In retrospect that would have been terrible because our truck's battery died and it wound up taking us about six hours to solve that problem, so adding in a lot of time to hike Evans would have been a mistake. However, we still wanted to hike Evans before I left, so, with only three days remaining before I moved back to the UK, we set off on Friday.

It had snowed above 12,000 ft or so the night before, so there was patchy snow when we arrived at the quite chilly trailhead. We had chosen a fairly easy route, to go over unofficial 13er Mt Spalding (13,842 ft -- but not prominent enough to count as its own mountain) and then descend down the Northeast Face. This was a short round trip of 5.41 miles (thanks mytracks!), with an elevation gain of 2,229 ft. Not counting breaks, it took us about 2:30 to do the hike. We did take a break on the summit of Evans and also got badly off course at one point due to the snow.

From the trailhead at Summit Lake, we saw some baby mountain sheep! Disturbingly the only other people in the parking lot were some bow hunters, and they were also eyeing the sheep, albeit with a less, "How cute!" look.

Here's the view from Summit Lake:

We started off up the side of Mt Spalding. The hike was initially quite steep, pushing up about 1000 ft very rapidly from the lake. The trail was also surprisingly hard to find, as we had figured this was a well-travelled route on one of the most popular 14ers. Here's the view to our left about halfway up this push. The summit of Evans is in the centre of the picture.

Approaching the Mt Spalding summit, things became very rocky, and we got to climb over some of them:

This was an interesting couloir that had gathered a lot of snow on the saddle between Spalding and Evans:

Here's the view from the summit of Spalding. The peaks in the right are Grays and Torreys. The clouds were pretty cool!

Looking from Spalding back towards Evans:

Looking down at Summit Lake and towards the east (and Denver) as the sun rose:

View from the saddle between Spalding and Evans:

As you can see, there were a few inches of fresh snow on the ground. This was actually quite nice to walk on -- not deep enough to get the feet wet, but soft enough to cushion the rocks. Here's a view back towards the rocky summit of Spalding from the low point of the saddle:

The mountain on the left here is Mt Bierstadt. We saw about four people on its summit as we hiked past it, which was definitely a change from when we'd hiked it a few weeks ago, when we counted nearly 60 people up there with us. It seemed like the turn into September had ended many people's climbing seasons. We also only encountered two other people on Evans, who were doing the same route as we were. We passed them shortly after the saddle and then met them again on our way back down from the summit; they were a father and son team. You can also see part of the Sawtooth connecting Bierstadt and Evans to the right.

Below is a snow-covered cairn. From the saddle, we had to cross a briefly exciting drop off and then start to actually climb our way over large boulders. The two hikers who had been in front of us were ahead, and higher up, but we saw some cairns indicating we shouldn't head up -- we should stick to the south side of the mountain and head along the trail there. The snow made finding and sticking to the trail somewhat more difficult than we might have liked, but after a while we found the footprints of some dog -- or coyote, maybe, because there were no accompanying human footprints -- and followed those for quite some time. They faithfully kept to the trail, so we figured our canine friend was taking the path of least resistance. 

Here's a better view of the Sawtooth from higher up on Evans:

Here's my dad on the summit of Evans! 14,264 ft! Note his stylish hiking attire.

Here I am, also wearing my stylish hiking attire (including purple Rockies hat over blue fleece hood):

Here's looking northeast from the summit, towards Longs Peak:

From there we descended the Northeast Face, which was slippery, steep, and short. The snow melting was not helpful for us and we had to choose our steps very carefully. Finally, we made it back to Summit Lake:

Here's the highest paved road in North America, now closed for the season from Summit Lake due to snow:

By the time we made it back to our truck, a number of people had arrived to take pictures and short hikes around the area. However, we did not encounter anyone else climbing up Mt Evans. It was interesting to have a 14er -- and a popular, in the Front Range one at that -- almost entirely to ourselves. All in all a really nice, short hike, with beautiful scenery and just enough challenge in finding the route to make it interesting.

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