One of Colorado’s 14ers (14,000+ ft peaks) is Mount Bierstadt. Bierstadt stands 14,060 feet tall and is regarded as one of the easier winter climbs of the 14ers due to generally low avalanche risk and having the peak in sight during the entire climb. That being said, the winter ascent is approximately a 10 mile round trip with a vertical gain of 3000 feet. Easy is relative.
I set out to climb this mountain as a trial for a new pair of boots. I arrived at the trailhead at 6:00am and took my time putting on my boots and layers and finishing my coffee. Having a coffee before a climb is very important. I feel naked without my pre-climb coffee.
At 6:30am I started up the trail in a lovely 15 degree weather. In winter, the road to the standard trailhead is closed. Because of this the start of the climb is 1.7 miles up the road to the trailhead. The road had about two feet of fairly well packed snow and was an easy 600′ vertical gain to the trailhead.
That was were the “easy” ended. The next mile or so was a slight dip and rise to the main climb of the mountain. Sounds easy, but there was 3 feet of soft snow across most of this section. Being snowshoeless, I was punching through and wading my way across this section. Two hours later, I was mostly across this.
Since the sunrise, there was an ominous dark cloud hanging over the summit. It had not moved at all.
The combination of my excrutiating slow pace and this sub-optimal cloud cover was enough to make me turn back. By the time I got back to the car, I had put in 5 hours of trail time, with 3 hours of that spent trudging through that deep snow.
While I was disappointed not to reach the summit, I had a great time enjoying the experience and am excited to get back out there!
For those of you who are planning to climb Bierstadt in winter, here are my main tips:
- Plan for a full day
- Have adequate layers. It can go from sunny and warm to chilling winds quite quickly
- Be prepared for extreme amounts of fun!
Bierstadt – 1
David – 0