Mt Bierstadt

7 Apr 2002 - by Kevin Craig

I lead a CMC trip of 7 people up Mt. Bierstadt on Sunday April 7. We (me, Diana, Meredith, Bryan, Anne, Don, and Tom) all hauled snowshoes to the trailhead in case we might need them to cross the willows or some such. Well, that was a wasted effort! I have never seen so little snow on the mountain at this time of year. Remembering an earlier trip of mine up Estes Cone where we couldn't see any snow from the trailhead, but later found ourselves wallowing in hip-deep snow in the trees, Tom carried his snowshoes along up the mountain as did Anne.

We started from the trailhead at a little after 8:00AM and crossed a couple of small pavement-hard snow patches before reaching the first boardwalk which was pretty much snow free. This time last year, none of the boardwalks were exposed and we pretty much bee-lined across the snow to the large posts marking the trail. It also seemed like this first boardwalk in particluar had been extended during the last summer. The later boardwalks were mostly exposed though a few had some snow on them.

Once across the drainage, we easily picked up the strong trail that was only partially covered with very shallow and well-packed snow. The trail up the "ramp" was entirely snowfree as was pretty much all of it where it wanders over to the left shoulder of the mountain. After the trail winds its way back to the center of the face, we lost it for a while where there was a bit more snow and we mostly boulder hopped up to the shoulder on the summit ridge where we found the trail again. The ridge from the shoulder to the summit was snow covered, but nowhere near normal and the usual cornice(s) were absent.

We reached the top after a little more than 3 hours of hiking. The day was pleasant; partly sunny, reasonably warm with little wind, so we took our time with lunch and chatted with rescue veteran, Everest summiteer, and skilled raconteur Chuck Demarest who was on a solo climb of the peak. I couldn't figure out at the time why his name was familiar until I got home and found the recent article in Outside magazine that featured Chuck and his colleagues at Rocky Mountain Rescue.

After lunch we hoofed it down the hill, this time able to follow the trial the whole way. As we reached the drainage a storm started to brew to the north, and the trip leader's excellent timing ;^) was demonstrated when graupel began to fall when the group was a couple hundred yards from the car and, as we were throwing our packs into the cars, the thunder and lightning (!) started. We had passed several folks headed up the mountain on our way down; I'm sure they found the developing weather "interesting." Just shows that even in April, thunderstorms can be an issue in Colorado so start early.

After a quick stop at the Red Ram in Georgetown for some snacks and libations, we headed back to Denver in some surprisingly heavy (though nowhere near peak season) traffic. Our car-to-car time of around 5 hours including a prolonged lunch break speaks to the nearly mid-summer condition of the mountain. I sure hope there's some snow somewhere for us (and the trees!) to drink this summer!


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