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671 Bierstadt - West Slopes 2012-07-02

Boardwalk through the willows

On Wednesday, June 20, we woke early and made the short drive to the Guanella Pass parking area. Several groups were already there getting ready for their climbs when we arrived. We took care of a couple of last minute chores and were on our way as soon as possible.

Soon we were treading across the boarded walkway crossing the marshy willows of Gomer Creek. The trail was in great shape. The boardwalks help keep the masses of hikers on the trail. Without the boards, hikers would undoubtedly wander through the marsh looking for a dry passage. The trail is easier because of the boardwalk, but the boardwalks also prevent further damage to the area.

After crossing Scott Gomer Creek on stones, the climbing begins. The gentle grade switchbacks through the willows of the west slope. We stopped for a brief moment at each viewpoint, and then continued climbing. There were a few others on the climb in the early morning. Most were faster than us, so we willingly allowed them to pass. We were happy for any reason to stop and take a breather. This was our first hike to altitude for the trip and our breathing showed our lack of acclimation.

Upper west slopes of Bierstadt

Twice on the hike we had to stop and add clothing. We had packed an insulated jacket, shell jacket, wind jacket, hat, and gloves. Before reaching the summit, we wore it all. On the summit, it was cold and very windy.

Touching the top, we sat in a wind break, caught our breath, and ate a few bites. We were happy we made it to the top and now just wanted to return safely to the trailhead. Soon we were hustling down the slopes.

As we descended, we were surprised by the number of the ill clad hikers on their way up. They were climbing the slopes in attire more fitting for a day at the beach. We understand that you stay warm, if you set a good hiking speed, but many of the hikers did not even carry a pack. Okay, we had just gotten out of the desert and were not adjusted to the cold weather, but we had put on all the clothes we had in our pack and were still cold. The scantly dressed hikers were also cold, judging from their warmth seeking body positions and shivering limbs. It was obvious they were freezing, but they kept climbing higher.

Closer to the bottom of the slope, one set of hikers asked if they were near the summit. In truth, they had hardly started the climb! There was a small rise at about 12,000 feet that hid the massive upper slopes of the mountain. The poor hopeful climbers were just wishing they were closer to the summit, but don't we all?

Bierstadt was a good morning outing for us.

Bierstadt from near the trailhead

Earlier that morning we had experienced car troubles and so we made haste leaving the trailhead and traveling to Boulder. We were sitting in the waiting room at the Honda dealer by early afternoon.

That evening we met our good friends Mark and Michelle in Boulder and went to our favorite Thai restaurant. Good food and good times, we were happy to visit our friends and to be in Colorado.

Happy Bierstadt trails


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