Why go back to a mountain you just tried to climb 4 days ago, but did not make it up due to sustained 50-60 knot winds….? That is a very good question. On the first attempt Craig, Tom, and I were turned back 270 feet from the summit by very strong winds that had pummeled us all day. Then on Saturday night my wife and I had Tom and his better half over for dinner.
After some wine, dinner, and some more wine we were talking about how close we had come, but not made it. Tom casually suggested we go back the next morning and try it again. But Tom, you don’t have snowshoes and its 9:00pm…where you going to get them? Then I came up with a thought that Tom could use my snowshoes and I could ski into the ridge. It was probably the wine talking but I agreed to meet him on Sunday at 6:00 to repeat the 2.5 hour drive from Colorado Springs to Bierstadt west of Denver.
When we arrived at the Guanella Pass, it was obvious that the 4 days of warm weather had melted a lot of snow from the ridges…there was also hardly any wind, a welcome relief. We snowshoed/skied to within striking distance of the mellow north ridge and hiked, climbed, and dragged ourselves up, shooting diagonally for the summit. We saw one lone climber on the summit ridge and another party of two working their way up the west ridge. Two hours later (total 3 from parking area) we scrambled, to the snowy summit and put our backs to the wind and sat down and signed the summit register.
The lone climber before us was from Japan and he signed it in Japanese. Before today, the peak had not been climbed since 2 April 94. We then headed down the ridge where we met up with the party of 2 coming up. We had passed them on the way up as they were moving a bit slower and had stopped for a food break. The first one I met was Mike from my first climb with the Colorado Mountain Club in December. He and his female partner were planning to summit Bierstadt, and then descend the Sawtooth ridge to Mt Evans. They said they had their crampons and rope as the ridge looked heavily iced. They were certainly biting off a bigger bite than our climb.
We all started to get chilled standing there talking so it was time to move on. We walked, and glissaded down the ridge to where we had cached our snowshoes and skis. Strapping them on, we made it back to the parking lot with a round trip time of 5 hours.
We felt very tired, but satisfied driving home as we had not given up and come back to summit what is a very nice mountain that allowed us to add to our 14’er list of Colorado Mountains.