Despite its frigidity, the summit of Mt. Bierstadt was unsurprisingly lively at 6 a.m., even for a Saturday morning. At least 20 people joined me and Joey Heiserman, my roommate and climbing partner, while we waited for the sun to come up.
We had a bigger goal in mind, and we needed the sun to light our way.
Finally, the sun peeked over the top of Mt. Evans. The world glowed burnt orange. And for the first time that day, we could see our objective looming below us: the Sawtooth ridge.
The ridge would be my first Class 3 route, which means I’d have to use my hands and feet to climb. The ridge is not a hike, like the trip up Bierstadt, which is gentle enough to do by headlamps. The Sawtooth is a huge, jagged ridge that connects the north ridge of Bierstadt to the west ridge of Evans. We’d hiked seven 14ers, and we wanted an introduction to what the harder ones are like: The Sawtooth seemed like the perfect introduction to Class 3.
“The terrain eases the further right you go, but you’ll eventually have to climb back up every inch you go down.”
The route descends down Bierstadt’s steep north ridge and then crosses to the other side of the ridge, traverses the steep, loose, narrow ledges on the Sawtooth’s face before climbing up and depositing you on Evans’ west ridge.
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We started down Bierstadt, hopping down large boulder after large boulder, at first bearing to our right, away from the ridge crest and toward Abyss Lake valley. The crest — on your left — holds the most direct, but hardest, line to the Sawtooth. The terrain eases the further right you go, but you’ll eventually have to climb back up every…
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