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  • Mt. Bierstadt Group Summit - Front Range, Colorado
  • A rest before the summit push on Dallas Peak - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Broken Ankle + 6 Miles = Tired
  • The classic San Juan approach - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Overlooking Noname Basin from Twin Thumbs Pass - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Upper Noname Basin - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Nearing Noname Cabin - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Twin Thumbs Twins - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Nearing the summit of Pt. 13,736 - Sawatch Range, Colorado
  • Blustery day on Iowa Peak - Sawatch Range, Colorado
  • Morning snow at 15k, Cerro Ramada - Cordillera Ramada
  • Artesonraju from the summit of Nevado Pisco - Cordillera Blanca, Peru
  • February crowds on Gray's Peak - Front Range, Colorado
  • Kicking steps on Cerro Lliani - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
  • Final traverse to the summit of Wheeler Mountain - Ten Mile Range, Colorado
  • The long walk to Pachanta - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
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    Afternoon at 17k on Cerro Ramada - Cordillera Ramada, Argentina
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    The final ridge on Iowa Peak - Sawatch Range, Colorado
  • Summer summit on Longs Peak - Front Range, Colorado
  • A rest day at the Pachanta Hot Springs - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
  • Mind over matter on Mt. Parnassas - Front Range, Colorado
  • Rest stop on Cerro Lliani - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
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    Post nap surprise on Cerro Ramada - Cordiller Ramada, Argentina
  • Summit on Cerro Lliani - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
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    Ridge walking on Grizzly Peak - Sawatch Range, Colorado
  • Enroute the summit via the West Ridge on Pacific Peak - Ten Mile Range, Colorado
  • Mule train bound for Chilca - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
  • Taking in the view from Fletcher Peak - Ten Mile Range, Colorado
  • Hiking on Silverheels - Mosquito Range, Colorado
  • Traversing! Gladstone Peak - San Juan Range, Colorado
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    The best of times at Willow Lake - Sangre de Christo Range, Colorado
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    High Altitude Cerebral Edema? - Cordillera Ramada, Argentina
  • Bound for Chilca - Vilcanota Range, Peru
  • Going alpine light, Holy Cross Ridge - Sawatch Range, Colorado
  • Cumbre! Campa I - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
  • Roadside lunch with the best of company - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
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    Long ridge walk to the summit of California Peak - Sangre de Christo Range, Colorado
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    Crossing el Rio Colorado . . . in the afternoon - Cordillera Ramada, Argentina
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    Dealing with Fall snows high on Casco Peak - Sawatch Range, Colorado
  • Moonrise over Mercedario - Cordillera Ramada, Argentina
  • Still climbing at 20,900 on Cerro Ramada - Cordiller Ramada, Argentina
  • Talus on Halo Ridge, Mt. of the Holy Cross - Sawatch Range, Colorado
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    Deteriorating conditions on Mt. Arkansas - Ten Mile Range, Colorado
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    After the climb - Cordillera Ramada, Argentina
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    Taking in the view from the summit of Crystal Peak - Tenmile Range, Colorado
  • Topping out on Mt. Arkansas' North Couloir - Mosquito Range, Colorado
  • Glissade on Mt. Arkansas - Mosquito Range, Colorado
  • Hard snow morning on Teakettle Mountain - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Spring snow announces the start of the climb on Dallas Peak - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Crossing the Eolus Catwalk - San Juan Range, Colorado

Mount Bierstadt & Again 8 Years Later

June 20, 1999 - West Ridge from Guanella Pass


Trent (coworker) and I headed from Cheyenne to Georgetown on Friday night to get an early start on Bierstadt the next morning.  By this point in my climbing experience, I was feeling that running late was not being on the trail by about six in the morning to get a jump on the Cottoneers.  We found a commando camp spot a mile or so above the USFS Guanella Pass Campground and settled in for the night.  The alarm went off all too early at 5 a.m. and we rose and broke camp under headlamps before heading to the parking area at Guanella Pass.  I was concerned about the amount of snow that we would have to cross, as I knew little about snow travel, though I did have an ice axe back at home.  We parked and found the trail through the willows, the traverse of which I had heard so much of through climbing lore and books over the years.  Alas, with the now extant trail cut, the whole concept of passing through the willows would have to await a later climb.

We made the headwall and proceeded on up the wide flank of the peak.  We crossed some snowfields but avoided most of them before making the West Ridge proper.  Then we wandered up the snowy ridge, on the trails and tracks of others leading to the summit.  The final pitch was corniced but we knew enough to steer well clear of the edge.  We topped out and took in the view of the nearby peaks, still carrying a fair amount of snow, before heading for the less windy lower elevations.  Shortly after dropping off the summit, we passed a group of climbing snobs, decked out in their North Face one-piece Gore-Tex climbing suits.  I guess we were still too close to being Cottoneers in their book to deserve a response to our hearty good morning salutation.  They simply walked past, heads turned away, on their “geared up” pursuit of the lofty Bierstadt summit.  You do come across some odd folks on some climbs, you think?


June 24, 2007 - West Ridge from Guanella Pass (photos)

Eight years and four days after I first climbed Bierstadt, I was back. G and I were preparing for a trip to Bolivia and we needed a hike at altitude that we could start at eight in the morning. I know, you read about a six a.m. start right above and now you say, "so what happened to the prudent alpine start in June climber?"

Well, a late start from Cheyenne and a total willingness to turn at the first sign of cloud build-up. We left Cheyenne at 5 a.m. and made the 2 1/2 hour run to Guanella Pass. The road was far different than the one of eight years ago, now featuring a curb to assist with drainage, boulder rock retaining walls and more damn cotton clad hikers than I could count. I would guess that Bierstadt is the goal of many a Cottoneer and there were more than enough of them when we arrived to find a full parking lot at 8 a.m. Cotton sweatshirts, cotton jeans, cotton everywhere and I just took it all in. I forgot what hiking a summer 14'er close to Denver entailed but we were Bierstadt bound with the masses, at least until we dropped off the backside to score the Sawtooth Ridge.

The trail now has a register and a well beaten and I'll note, well constructed course of boardwalks through the former willow wallows. From the end of the walks, it is just a short hop to the Scott Gomer Creek crossing, where we assisted a pair of hiking pole-less Cottoneers get across without going for a swim. From there we made for the headwall and took the new trail that turns to the east and ascends the wall in a broad sweep. The old braided herd paths have been reclaimed and the route looked good. From the top of the headwall, the course remained well constructed and clear and one by one, we passed clumps of Cottoneers who had left the parking lot ahead of us, in turbo overdrive of course.

The real measuring point for the Cotton clad seemed to be the 13k contour where the hard puffing clumps seemed to form up for a much slower pace to the summit, another 1000 feet up. The trail was snow covered here and there, but we just moved on through the packs and made the ridge proper with nary a pause. Then we walked the ridge to the summit, albeit a crowded summit, taking just 2 hours from truck to summit. A quick bit and we were off for the Sawtooth and a long and refreshingly quiet unaccompanied walk to the truck via the flank of Mt. Spalding.

I must close with a well deserved hats off to the trail crews that expended the effort to build and reclaim the route to the top of this "well used" peak. The route is truly a job well done.


A January climb of Bierstadt . . . with far fewer people
and a touch of frostbite or perhaps a fall or Sawtooth climb