RT Length: 11 miles
Elevation Gain: 3455’
I’m working on snowflake 14ers. Well, kind of. I set a goal to summit 5 more 14ers this year in calendar winter and I’ve been sitting on 4 since March (I only counted DeCaLiBron as 1because… well, it seemed too easy a hike to count it as more than 1) and I really wanted to get in another 14er snowflake this year. I checked the weather and Bierstadt had the best forecast on the first full day of winter so it’s the one I went with. It ended up being a fantastic choice!
I arrived at the trailhead at 5am to two other vehicles in the lot. I’d actually expected more, considering this is Guanella Pass and it’s the first day of winter. I spent quite a bit of time in my truck getting ready and wasn’t on the trail until 5:30am. I’d decided to start out wearing my spikes and snowshoes, and while they weren’t 100% necessary, I wore them the entire day but could have summited without them. I was just too lazy to take them off. Ok, not lazy, but exposing my fingers to the cold is a no-no and unfortunately a must if I’m going to take the snowshoes off. Also, I’m working on a ‘no blue toes’ season and it helps the cause if I’m not postholing. I would have postholed without the snowshoes.
Here are some pictures of the hike along the road
At the upper parking area the bathrooms were closed so I bypassed them and found the trail to the left
Here’s an overview of the route
The trail had a great trench and was easy to follow. There were tons of fresh signs indicating elk were in the area and using the same trails as the other hikers.
Here’s how to access the area above the willows
This is also when the sun began to rise. I turned back and my views were phenomenal!
There’s a lot you can say about Bierstadt. One of those things is it’s very well cairned/posted. The cairns are large and the posts even larger.
I just followed the snow covered trail and aimed for the next cairn/post. I came across a group of ptarmigans here. There had to be 7 or 8 of them altogether, and they blended in very well with the snow. I didn’t realize they stayed in groups of that size? I’ve only seen them singly or in pairs. It was neat to see so many at one time! One rogue ptarmigan ran ahead and about 10 yards away while the others huddled together. Also, what do you call a group of ptarmigans? A flock? A flight? A covey? (I think it’s a covey….)
In any event, the route was easy to follow all the way to the upper ridge
And to the summit
I summited at 8:40am. It was cold but not nearly as windy as forecasted. I was thrilled (but still didn’t take off my gloves)
Woot! A summit marker!
Here’s looking over at Evans
Time to head back
Here’s the basic route down the face
And a cool alternative view of Pikes Peak
This is about the time I started seeing other people. Mt Bierstadt can see hundreds of people a day, but today I only saw 5: Woot for hiking in winter!!! Only one other person had snowshoes, which was understandable, as the route was really well packed down.
Views of the way back down…
With more of those awesome trenches
I made it back to the upper parking lot
And hiked the rest of the way down to the Guanella Campground parking area. There were many more vehicles there now than when I arrived. Also, they do a good job of plowing this area.
I made it back to my truck at 10:45am, making this an 11 mile hike with 3455’ of elevation gain in 5 hours 15 minutes.
Summit Sticker can be bought here