Ok - well, the good news is that I tried. The not so good news (for me) is that I didn't summit today. I had a few things working against me - but lessons learned moving forward! I haven't felt 100% since getting back from Guatemala. First a headache that would not subside for several days then some intestinal stuff (which was acting up in full yesterday) - I know, TMI. Anyway, food hasn't been sounding good and I actually thought I could summit on a few sips of water and a banana. Normally when I hike, I have no appetite, so I was going on that and thinking I'd be ok until I hit the summit. Nope. So much nope.
Second - snow. Lots and lots of powdery goodness. At times, I was almost up to my knees and, without the benefit of a fellow hiker (and his prints) about 30 minutes ahead of me (I saw him hit the TH as I pulled into the parking lot), I would have never seen the trail at all. In fact, coming back, our tracks had all but disappeared from the snow and wind. It was only snowing lightly, but it never let up.
I worked my way up the more arduous part of the trail (rocks and boulders) but when I reached the Northwest Shoulder, I stopped to assess the situation - how I was feeling and the weather as it was and how it was going to be - sat there for several minutes and even gave it the old college try up to the final pitch but, alas, common sense kicked in and I turned back.
Best decision ever - I was so fatigued and wind and snow were beginning to pick up; by the time I got back to my car (about 6 miles RT), I couldn't see Evans or Bierstadt (or much of the range, for that matter) - they'd become completely engulfed by the snow clouds. And it was a tit nipply - my car said 20 degrees, but I'm sure the wind chill factor knocked that number down by at least 10 degrees.
In fair weather, this is not an "easy" climb; snow is an added dimension which obviously should be taken into consideration if you're not used to it. And while my skillset may not be honed just yet, common sense wins - I'm alive and uninjured - just tired as hell. I never saw the other hiker, so I'm assuming he reached the summit; I'll celebrate his victory here - Huzzah, Joe Hiker!
Ok, Bierstadt - you are a beautiful beast and you may have won this time, but I'll be back. heh ")
#1: Dropping my goggles in the snow 30 minutes in and unable to dry them properly - they froze and were completely useless! Didn't bring backup glasses, d'oh!
#2: Not having proper fuel in my belly. (This should be number 1)
#3: Brought snowshoes - didn't need them - couldn't use them if I'd wanted to; the extra weight was unnecessary!
#4: Camel Packs are worthless in weather this cold; the water freezes and you're basically left carrying an ice block on your back - again unnecessary weight! (I knew this and I still brought mine - because I like to learn the hard way - haha.)
#5: I had both foot and hand warmers in my pack but didn't want to take the time to put them in - should have done it while I was getting dressed in the parking lot.
Mileage: Six miles round trip
Calories burned: 2,046
What I Wore
Obermeyer Ski Jacket
Underarmor Cold Gear Long Underwear
North Face Windwall Ski Pants
Smith Goggles (useless when it's cold and they get wet!)
Outdoor Research Hiking Gaiters (high)
Smartwool Ski Socks
North Face Fleece Gloves
Ski Mitties that I've had forever - they suck (need new ones)
La Sportiva Trail Runners
Black Diamond Hiking/Snowshoeing Poles
Of course I carried my trusty Osprey Tempest 40 pack with first aid and safety accoutrements - and an extra down sweater. And Pitou - can't forget my buddy, Pitou! Oh, and the snowshoes - gah. My pack would have weighed nothing without those and the 1.5 liter camel pack.
I was warm and was able to navigate all of the terrain easily with my gear.
About Mt. Bierstadt
Difficulty: Class 2
Summit Elev.:14,060 feet
Trailhead Elev.:11,669 feet
Elevation Gain:2,850 feet
RT Length:7.00 miles (I WAS SO CLOSE!!!!)
Trailhead: Guanella Pass
*Posting this info for others who might be researching winter climbs.