Thursday, August 18, 2016

Mt. Evans from Summit Lake

Route Name: West Ridge via Mt. Spalding
Summit Lake (TH) Elevation: 12,847 ft.
Mt. Spalding Elevation: 13,842 ft.
Summit Elevation: 14,264 ft.
Distance: 2.95 mi.
Elevation Gain: 1,718 ft.
Start Time: 8:45am
Summit Time: 10:35am

Trip Report:

Today was step 2 on my high altitude acclimation tour in preparation for the Pikes Peak Marathon.  Having flown out to Denver and spent my evenings in Dillon, I began my tour with La Plata Peak yesterday as a full-blown acclimation hike.  Today I wanted to look for less mileage, an easier toll on the legs, yet still high altitude time.  Mt. Evans from Summit Lake fit the bill.  Last summer I hiked Evans for the first time on an epic hike from Guanella Pass over Bierstadt and the Sawtooth.  That's the *fun* way to do Evans.  Today was the easy, almost cheating, path.  

In the Summit Lake lot looking up at Evans

This plan really worked out because I ended up making the mistake of giving myself some pretty sore quads after a quick descent of La Plata.  To do more descending today would only prolong my recovery time for the Pikes Marathon.  Thus a wonderful uphill-only (well almost) of Evans.  I've also been wanting to scout out this route as a possibility for my kids and perhaps even my nephews to try some day as an easy 14er hike.

At the initial trail junction looking down at the Chicago Lakes

My wife and I made it on the drive up the Evans Road to Summit Lake by about 8:30am.  The lot was well over half full already.  We were impressed with how well kempt the whole area was including even the pit toilets.  I packed light for today with about 2 liters of water, some snacks and my jacket.  

Evans and her west ridge with fresh snow

The initial path from the parking lot was paved and led over to the junction area where the trail to the Chicago Lakes breaks off.  From there it was evident enough where to start on the hike up towards Mt. Spalding.  The legs were initially a little tight after yesterday's La Plata expedition but they quickly began to loosen.  I intentionally decided to keep a slow pace on today's trek.

The snow was more like grauppel (pellet-like) on the trail

The trail up to Spalding was relatively easy to follow and was mostly easy class 1 trail.  There were just two or three short mid class 2 sections that would leave kids or other less able hikers challenged and needing perhaps an extra hand.  One thing that surprised along the way was the presence of snow.  That is not often seen on a 14er in August.  There was more and more as I got closer to Spalding and I found a solid inch covering everything from Spalding all the way to Evans.

 I found a mountain goat along the way
Notice the small animal on the far left, Mt. Evans in the background

From atop Spalding through its descent to the saddle on the way to Evans' West Ridge the trail became more difficult to follow.  The snow covered the trail and so I was left looking either for foot prints or what remnants of trail could be seen through the snowcover.  I was doing my best to stay off the tundra and hop from rock to rock to keep moving along.  I eventually found my way up to a saddle at the start of the west ridge.

The snowy saddle between Spalding and Evans west ridge

Very difficult trail-finding

Here at the saddle I made my first wrong move.  I saw a few tracks in the snow that went somewhat upwards and then laterally on the ridge thinking that was the way we took last year.  I started into this path and quickly found it was a no go.  I backtracked a minute to the saddle and then saw more footprints heading somewhat downhill and forward to a very large cairn. 

From Evans' summit

At that cairn I could see the footpath in the snow heading southeast along the ridge.  From that point on it could have been very difficult again to follow trail through all of the loose talus except for the solid set of footprints leading the way.  Ironically, the footprints in the snow here made routefinding a cinch and I made great time moving through the somewhat now familiar rock along the west ridge of Evans.  In this section I radio-ed my wife Sarah (who was driving up the Evans Rd) to see if she had made the summit and she was actually already parked and walking her way up the tourist trail to the summit.  I quickly made my way along the rest of the ridge, trying to shortcut a bit onto the tourist trail and finally found myself on the summit at 10:35am for a 1:50 climb of Evans.

From Evans' summit

We spent some good time on the summit and had a great conversation with a pair of guys who had done the Bierstadt-Sawtooth combo to get to Evans.  It was fun joking with them having done the route last year and warning them of the fun Willows descent on their way home.

Back at the very beautiful Summit Lake
All in all a great hike up this route, it is quite easy and short with a modest amount of class 2 work needed.  It turned out to be a good acclimation hike for me on my path to Pikes.

Summit Lake

I have a track and waypoints from the hike all contained in a KML file that you are welcome to download and use (at your own risk).  

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