As we sit on the summit of Mt. Bierstadt, we relax and munch on the trail mix and Shot Bloks we have brought with us to replenish our energy. After we are sated, we snap a few photos, including Ryan’s classic summit handstand. The other hikers are quite entertained by his feat.
We look over at Sawtooth Ridge, the route by which we would be able to also summit Bierstadt’s parent peak, Mt. Evans. It is even more intimidating in person than the photos had shown. None of those who summitted with us that day ventured out on that leg of the trail. Two hearty souls did advance about 20 feet along the trail for the singular purpose of having a comrade standing safely on the summit snap a daring photo of them appearing to make that climb. A bystander asked the photographer if they were really going to make the second summit and he said, “Are you kidding, they just wanted a picture!” Once the photo was snapped, the adventurers hopped safely back on the Bierstadt summit, understandably glad to be off the Sawtooth.
We leave the summit at 10:20 am, having spent 19 minutes at the top, and hike back down the trail facing none of the extreme weather conditions winter climbers have encountered.
It was about 60 degrees at the top, 65 degrees back at the trailhead. Much milder than winter and no whiteouts to contend with as it is the 18th of July.
As we continue our descent, the hike is a steep downhill trek at times which tests the quadriceps. We marvel over the multitude of tundra wildflowers, in a variety of colors, that are easier to avoid than those on Mt. Ida. No need for boulder hopping to avoid damaging the fragile vegetation. The scenery on the way down is even more magnificent than on the ascent. We are able to see the willows, the parking area seemingly miles away and, with a glance back, the Sawtooth, still looking wicked and treacherous behind us. Seeing us glancing up at the jagged edges, a passing hiker offers to snap a photo of the two of us in front of it. It is quite the shot!
As we continue, we again traverse the seemingly endless willows and marsh, then recall at the last minute that the last mile is completely uphill. Not a pleasant reminder at that point in time. It nears noon and clouds have rolled in. As we continue hiking up the last mile, it begins to sprinkle on us providing a welcome shower after our workout. Another passing hiker offers to snap a photo of us in front of the final trail sign for Mt. Bierstadt. We have met the nicest people on this hike. It makes me wonder if sharing the toilet paper at the beginning of the hike, paying it forward as it were, helped to set the stage for the generosity we were experiencing. Or, maybe hikers are just a nice bunch of people.
We arrive back at the trailhead at 12:49 pm to greet a happy Ryan who has spent about an hour waiting in the car. He must have run down the mountain! He shared that he had overheard two fellow hikers talking at the top that this hike was Grade 8-9, class 2 and scheduled to take 6-8 hours! We completed the hike in 5 hours and 9” not counting the 19 minutes spent at the top; Ryan completed it in 2 hours and 45 minutes! Not bad Team Berry!
We head back to the camper to shower and eat. We are dry camping but made sure we had enough water in our tanks to enable us to shower after our hike, knowing we would want to get cleaned up afterward. We had decided, given that is it early in the day and we only have a four hour drive to our next destination, that we will pack up and hit the road once we have eaten. While this part of our trip did not turn out as we had planned, we had completed two successful challenging summits and consider it an adventure and a success! On to the relaxation part of our trip!