Friday, August 13, 2010

And they say it couldn't be done

(picture: Mt. Evans as seen from Echo Lake)

Today marked my goal completion of hiking 8 14ers for the summer with my hike of Mt. Evans. When I set this New Year's resolution I couldn't have dreamed I would have finished out what I started to do and I definitely owe my friends and husband who have provided me with excellent hiking buddies. Today, however, I hiked solo because everyone is slaving away at work while I'm playing. It's a tough life. With 5 more 14ers lined up to round out the summer I am exceeding my own expectations and I couldn't be happier about that.

Mt. Evans was a mountain I was dreading but picked to hike solo simply because it's such a big tourist spot that I knew I wouldn't be completely alone. There are ten routes which Evans can be approached including the Bierstandt, Sawtooth combination, with the standard route being the West Ridge via Chicago Creek. I choose the Northeast Face from Summit Lake because it's only 3 miles round trip instead of 16. After hiking Yale which was 10 I know mentally I would not want to hike 16 miles solo. Perhaps someone will want to hike this with me next year because I'd love to take that route eventually.

(picture: view from Summit Lake)
I dreaded Mt. Evans because there's a road that leads all the way to the top of the mountain and save for a few switch backs, you arrive at the summit without ever having to leave your car. Although it's great for everyone to be able to make it to the top of a 14er and enjoy the views, the road leading in is a little intrusive and cheapens the feel of the mountain. However, based on my drive in, it seems the most popular route up the mountain is biking. You have to drive very slowly through the switch backs because there are bikers around every corner and even some (insane) joggers. If you take the standard route on the Chicago Creek you do not have to pay the $10 fee to enter the wilderness area because the trail head starts before the fee area. To get to Summit Lake you take exit 240 at Idaho Springs of I-70 then drive south on Colorado 103 until the pay area (about 13.5 miles) then it's 9 miles from there to the Summit Lake area. I was told that this trail was closed but that if anyone asked to say I simply wanted to hike to the top and I wouldn't have a problem.

Of course finding the trail was the hard part as there isn't a trail head as you can see from these photos below which I relied on from the website:

I did see some people hiking up the road but I would definitely wager this is a more direct route.

Because it was a 3 mile hike I didn't come prepared like I normally would, leaving my gloves and fleece layer at home. I figured it was only three miles and every time I bring my extra layer I never wear it because I get so hot hiking. Well that was a big mistake today. When I checked in at the fee station the guy told me that it had been 20 degrees at the top the other day and that it snowed up there last night. He said, "I hope you stay warm!" Possibly I did not look prepared. Driving up to the Summit Lake I could see the Aspen trees bending in the wind and feel the push on my car. This was not a good sign. When I opened the car door at the parking lot the wind nearly ripped it from my hand. The wind was bad, so bad at times that I got almost knocked from my feet. The sun was shining but it was cold and without gloves or an extra layer or even a hat to shield my ears or something to pull over my face...well let's just stay I suffered for this mountain. I think my hands are still swollen. Lesson learned, better to bring things you don't need than need things you don't bring.

At the top before you reach the actual summit are several look out binoculars and the partially-rebuilt remains of the Crest House which once contained a restaurant and a gift shop. It burned down on Sept. 1 1979.

You can see great views of Pikes Peak among other mountains as well as the Summit Lake below. The switch backs from the parking lot up are easy to follow and I'd highly recommend this peak for anyone wanting to bring an out of town guest who wants to stand on a 14er but can't make the hike. As you can imagine, at the top elevation of 14,265 feet it was even more cold and windy than where I started. Bebe and I didn't stay long before retreating and running into some mountain goats on the way down. This was the first time I had actually seen wildlife when hiking one of these mountains so I was pleasantly surprised.

(picture: bebe and I made it to the top!)

Mount Evans really was a beautiful mountain and for being such an iconic peak (it dominates the Denver Metro Area Skyline) I'm glad I was able to call this my goal satisfying number 8. I do, however, look forward to tackling the San Juan Mountains over Labor Day. Once I complete Longs and Pikes Peak I will be done with the Front Range mountains...another accomplishment to look forward to in the future!

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