Mt. Bierstadt

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Mt. Bierstadt is generally considered one of the easiest of Colorado’s 14,000+ foot mountains to climb.  Although there is nothing easy about climbing steep trails at that altitude.

From the top of Mt. Evans, Mt. Bierstadt’s summit is less than a mile and a half away.  After driving up there twice, C and I had been thinking a lot about going for a summit bid on foot.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for C to go.  She was on a business trip back east when her cousin asked if I would like to go with him one weekend.  Since we still have another 50 14ers to choose from, I’m sure we’ll be climbing one together in the near future.

C’s cousin R and I made it to the parking lot at the trail head just before 8am and were greeted by a spectacular display of the sun rising up over the Sawtooth Ridge that connects these two peaks.

Did I mention that the parking lot was already full?  This is a really poplar hike.  Especially on weekends.  I’ve heard the trail can be downright packed on a nice summer weekend.  Thankfully it wasn’t too bad on a cooler fall Sunday.  We took one of the last spots in the lot and started layering up.

The first part of the trail heads out over a long section of boardwalks over some very marshy terrain.  After crossing a river and making your way through some more mud, you reach the first steep section (notice the first ridge in the parking lot picture.)  Up until this point I hadn’t really noticed the altitude.  As soon as it starts to climb, I realized very quickly that we were already at 12,000ft.  At this point the trail never really lets up.  It goes from steep, back to kinda steep, to really really steep, to a boulder scramble at 14,000ft.  The summit comes in at 14,065ft and the views all the way up are just amazing:

A nice view of Grays and Torreys in the background.  These are two other 14ers that are on our list.

Just a boulder scramble away from the summit!

After huffing and wheezing my way up to where I snapped that last picture, I started feeling a little sick and had to sit down for a bit.  Thankfully it passed quickly and never came back.  I may be acclimatized from spending a lot of time in the mountains here, but I’m also not in the as good of shape as I’d like to be and I felt it.  Nonetheless, 2 hours and 27 minutes after leaving the parking lot I made it to the top with the sign I’d prepared the night before:

 R had the great idea of bringing along some celebratory beers for Bierstadt.

After 30 minutes of enjoying the view from the top we saw that a storm was rolling in fairly fast. On our way back down we encountered a little bit of cold rain but made it safely back to R’s truck before it really started coming down.  It was an amazing trip.

The Basics:

Who: Anyone in decent hiking shape who is used to the altitude.  DO NOT fly in from sea level and head straight here from the airport.

What: Probably the easiest of Colorado’s 14ers.  Easy being a relative term.  It is a 7 mile round trip with 2800 feet of elevation gain at high altitude.

Where: About an hour and a half drive west of Denver, up Guanella Pass Road.  There is a lot of good information online.

When: All year, but always be prepared for the conditions.  The weather up there is very unpredictable.  Don’t be that girl that I saw on my way down who was wearing short shorts, sandals, and a t-shirt in windy 40 degree conditions with a storm moving in.  Also keep in mind that lightning is a real danger that kills people on these peaks every year.  More so during the warmer months.

Why: If this isn’t self-explanatory then I can’t help you.

How: There is a plethora of information online.  Just search for Bierstadt hike.

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