|Climbing Mount Evans
by Stormy on July 12, 2008
Marmots live high in the mountains. Marmots love mountains, yes?
Today I got to climb to the top of another of Colorado's Fourteeners. Fourteeners are mountains that are over 14,000 feet in height (above sea level). There are fifty-six in Colorado, more than in any other state in the United States. Alaska comes in second at nineteen, California has fourteen and Washington has three.
On the hike with me were Stony Marmot and Spirit Marmot and our target for the day was Mount Evans at 14,264 feet high. It is the 14th highest peak in Colorado. It's possible to drive up to the top of Mount Evans. It has the world's highest paved road, reaching the height of 14,130 feet where the Mount Evans parking area can be found. A short hike above that is the summit.
But unlike most people who visit Mount Evans, we decided to hike the mountain to make an honest climb to the top. We started out from the Summit Lake area and ascended some 1,500 feet to the top. There was some debate as to which route we should take. Our options were the northeast face, the north face, the west ridge and the northeast ridge. The north face is a class 3 hike (scrambling and un-roped climbing) with level 4 exposure (exposure that would cause serious injury or death in a fall). The others were all class 2 hikes (off trail that may require use of hands) with level 2 (mild) and 3 (moderate) exposures. The start and finish areas were the same for all of the hikes and so was the elevation gain. We settled on the northeast ridge, which was class 2/exposure 3 as it seemed to be the most interesting. We chose to modify that hike by cutting across to the northeast face about half way up the mountain slope.
The going was pretty tough across a steep slope. We watched cars pass below us. We witnessed other hikers start up the northeast face behind us. The ascent took about two and a half hours. The views were beautiful, although the morning was a little hazy. At the top we rested in the parking area. Located here is the old Crest House, a 1941 restaurant that went up in flames in 1979. It was later patched up by the U.S. Forest Service to be an observation platform, now called the Castle in the Sky. Also up here is the Denver University Meyer-Womble Observatory. Until 2000 it was the highest observatory in the world at an elevation of 14,260 feet.
We finished the 134 foot hike on a nice trail to the top of Mount Evans. There were a lot of people up here this day and the peak was a very exciting place. We met Calvin the dog who was a major digger, a pair of bicyclists with their friend - a gibbon who travels much like we do and a friendly photographer from Florida.
West of Mount Evans are Mount Spalding (also in the Chicago Peaks Range) and Mount Bierstadt. Spalding is 13,842 feet tall and can be walked to across a saddle separating it from Mount Evans. Mount Bierstadt is one of the Colorado Fourteeners at an elevation of 14,060 feet. It is about a mile and a half west of Mount Evans and can be hiked to across boulder fields and Sawtooth Ridge, which has significant exposure. We chose not to make these optional hikes.
At 1 PM we decided to head back down to Summit Lake. We chose to hike down the northeast face, which is one of the friendliest routes. It took about an hour to come down the mountain and we immediately headed for pizza and beer at Beau Jo's Pizza in Idaho Springs. Mount Evans was a wonderful hike that was very much enjoyed by all of us!