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On Walkabout On: Mt. Evans, Colorado via the Summit Lake Trail – Part 1

Basic Information

  • Name: Mt. Evans
  • Max Elevation: 14264 ft / 4348 m
  • Where: Idaho Springs, Colorado
  • Distance: 5 miles
  • Time: 5-7 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1,503 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • More Information: 14ers.com

Route Up Mt. Evans from Summit Lake

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

Topographic Map of the Mt. Evans Summit Lake Loop Trail

Mt. Evans Topo Map

Narrative

With another weekend of good weather I decided to summit yet another 14er. The peak I decided to hike up was Mt. Evans located to the west of Denver. I chose the peak because it was easy to access since there is a highway that travels to the top of the peak and is not that far from Colorado Springs. I had to get back into town by 3PM so my time was a bit limited. Mt. Evans is reached by driving to Idaho Springs which is about a 30 minute drive west of Denver on I-70:


View Larger Map

From there the exit to the Mt. Evans Highway is quite obvious. I followed the exit which drive through the nice wooded outskirts of Idaho Springs before reaching the scenic Echo Lake which is where the official Mt. Evans Highway begins. Here is a picture of the lake from the highway:

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

Echo Lake is also where there is a trailhead to hike up Mt. Evans from. This trail is 15 miles round-trip and I just did not have the time available to walk that far. I decided to drive up the highway a bit to the Summit Lake Trailhead instead which is a much shorter walk of 5 miles round-trip to the summit and back. I have never driven up the Mt. Evans Highway, but I found the highway to be in great shape and it had many sweeping views of the surrounding area:

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

After a short drive I reached the Summit Lake Park:

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

At the Summit Lake Trailhead I entered a world of snow and ice since the elevation at the lake was just below 12,800 feet:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

There is a large parking lot at Summit Lake that can get quite packed later on in the day. Right in front of my truck loomed the summit of Mt. Evans:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

To reach the summit of Mt. Evans I had to first climb up the 13,842 foot Mt. Spalding that rises to the north of Mt. Evans. From there I would follow the ridgeline between the two mountains to the summit of Mt. Evans.  In the below photograph Mt. Spalding can be seen on the right and Mt. Evans on the left:

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

The hike is rated a Class 2 which means some rock scrambling was going to be needed which was evident from the start of the trail at Summit Lake:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

At first I put my microspikes on my boots because of the snow and ice that covered the trail initially:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

However, I soon found out that I did not need the microspikes because the trail alternated between snow and rock and the microspikes are not good to wear on rocks. So I took them off and found that the icy sections were postholed enough that I had no issues without the extra traction. As I gained in altitude I began to have some nice views of the area to include the Chicago Lakes that lie in a basin below Summit Lake:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

The 15 mile long trail that starts at Echo Lake actually ascend up to these lakes before heading up the slopes to Echo Lake for the final push to the summit of Mt. Evans. By starting at Echo Lake I simply bypassed walking up past these lakes. I will have to do it some other time when I have more time available because it does look like a pretty walk up through that valley.

Here is the view I had looking back towards Summit Lake:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

Here is the view looking back up towards the summit of Mt. Evans:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

I could even see the 14,255 foot Longs Peak rising up far out in the distance:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

The route up the side of Mt. Spalding is not exactly a trail in some spots because some minor rock scrambling is needed:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

While scrambling up the side of the mountain I noticed there was some very steep coloirs filled with ice that I bet some of the skilled ice climbers probably use to ascend the mountain:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

The rock scrambling ends near the summit of Spalding where it becomes and easy walk up to its summit:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

While climbing up Mt. Spalding I had some more good views looking back down towards the beautiful Chicago Lakes:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

The final approach to the summit featured walking up some slippery snow:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

Soon enough I reached the 13,842 foot summit of Mt. Spalding. The first thing I noticed was the 14,060 foot Mt. Bierstadt rising right in front of me to the south:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

I climbed up Mt. Bierstadt this past January which was my first winter ascent of a 14er. You can read more about my hike up the mountain at the below link:

Here is a panorama photo of the view with Mt. Evans on the left and Bierstadt rising up in the middle of the photo:

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

Here is the view of the ridgeline to the south that I still had to walk across before descending down into the saddle between the two mountains:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

From Mt. Spalding I had a nice unobstructed view of Grays and Torreys Peaks rising up in the distance to the west:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

I even could see in the far distance the 14,005 foot Mount of the Holy Cross whose famous cross was easily visible:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

Here is the view from the summit of Mt. Spalding looking towards the north:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

From Mt. Spalding I then had to drop about 500 feet in altitude to a saddle between the two mountains:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

The slope down to the saddle had a thick snow layer on it that was fortunately frozen solid that morning, but I assumed that later in the day when it warmed up that there would be some nasty postholing going on here:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

Here is a picture of me posing on the saddle with Mt. Evans in the background:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

Something I saw on the saddle was the only wildlife I ended up seeing all day which was this marmot:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

I was really hoping to see the mountain goats that this place is famously known for, but have not seen them on either my hike up Mt. Bierstadt or Mt. Evans.  I guess the mountain goats just do not like me.  🙁

Here is a picture looking back up at the icy slope I descended from Mt. Spalding on:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

Here is a picture looking up at the icy an rocky slope I had ahead of me to reach the summit of Mt. Evans:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

As I ascended up the side of the mountain I had a really nice view of Mt. Bierstadt that was directly adjacent to me:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

As I continued to ascend I eventually not only had a view of Mt. Bierstadt but the entire Sawtooth Ridge that runs between Mt. Bierstadt and Mt. Evans:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

I also had a nice view of Grays and Torreys Peaks that rose off in the distance:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

Here is a closer look at those mountains:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

You can read more about my prior hike up Grays Peak at the below link:

Even further off in the distance I even had a view of the 14,265 foot Quandary Peak:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

You can read more about my climb to the summit of Quandary Peak at the below link:

Eventually I came to the point of the ascent that became what is known as a Class 2 climb that requires some scrambling up and over various rocks to ascend towards the summit:

Picture from Mt. Evans Colorad

Here was the view looking down towards Summit Lake from this ridgeline:

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

As I ascended up the ridgeline the temperature dropped quite a bit due to the blowing wind that had kicked up. I was really hoping that I did not get stuck in another massive windstorm like what happened to me last year on Grays Peak. However, this time I was much better prepared with plenty of warm weather gear to get me through a wind storm. I put on a face mask and extreme cold weather gloves and continued to scramble up the rocky ridgeline:

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

Some areas on the ridgeline were a bit slick so I made sure I always kept three points of contact at all times as I ascended up the mountain:

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

Eventually my Garmin Fenix watch let me know that I had passed over 14,000 feet:

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

However, unlike other mountains where once I hit 14,000 feet I knew the summit was near, Mt. Evans is a bit different. For quite a ways I had to continue to follow a icy and rocky ridgeline above 14,000 feet to the summit:

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

The footing was actually quite slippery due to the snow and ice which forced me to put on my microspikes again:

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

One slip here would definitely lead to a serious fall that could be fatal. So I was very slow and careful as I traversed this section of the mountain. Also since I was moving for an extended period above 14,000 feet this made breathing difficult and thus I had to stop more than usual to catch my breath. However, on this hike I did not mind stopping because I had some unbelievable views of the ridgeline that runs between Mt. Bierstadt and Mt. Evans called the Sawtooth:

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

The traverse across the Sawtooth is one of the classic hikes for mountaineers in Colorado. I will probably attempt it at some point once I get more mountaineering experience and a good partner. Here is the view I had looking directly at Mt. Bierstadt with the Abyss Lake down below:

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

Looking at the Abyss Lake I could see that it was quite colorful with a deep blue and green colors from minerals leaking into the lake. Here is a panorama photo I took further down the ridgeline of the Sawtooth and Abyss Lake:

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

Eventually I could see the summit of Mt. Evans rising up in the near distance:

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

Here is another picture from the ridgeline that looks back towards Mt. Bierstadt:

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

Here is also a look back at a portion of the rocky ridgeline I had covered:

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

Eventually I could see the Mt. Evans Highway in front of me:

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

Soon enough the summit of Mt. Evans was directly in front of me as well:

Picture from Mt. Evans, Colorado

From here it was a short walk towards the summit.

Next Posting: Mt. Evans, Colorado via the Summit Lake Trail – Part 2

 

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