Having spent Wednesday and Thursday climbing Quandary Peak I pondered what my plan was for Friday. My legs were already hurting from two straight days in the backcountry but it was my last day in Colorado so I had to at least try to get out there. On the way up to Quandary I had noticed signs saying that Mt. Evans road had just opened for the season. I should also note that Nic's dad, Pascal, was flying in for the weekend on Thursday night and needed the car by 3 pm Friday.
Since Mt. Evans is a 14er that isn't too far from Denver and I could park at Summit Lake, I'd have a relatively short ascent so I decided it was a great way to end my trip. I checked my book, Making Turns in Colorado's Front Range: Volume 1 - by Fitz Sperry, and looked up Mt. Evans on CalTopo and couldn't decide on a set plan for the day. I left Denver at 6:20 with the intention of summiting and descending Mt. Evans but figuring it out when I got there. Worst case scenario, I would simply drive to summit and call it a day.
I arrived the base of Mt. Evans Rd before the toll booths were even open and started making my way up. It's quite the drive and even if you don't plan on skiing or snowboarding I suggest you check it out anyway. The road comes right up to some pretty impressive cliffs, amazing views and you even get up close and personal with bighorn sheep and mountain goats.
I pulled up to the Summit Lake parking lot at 7:50 am and began sizing up my objective. I had three options: 1) Climb directly up the face I wanted to descend. 2) Climb up the east ridge of Mt. Evans and then work my way across the false summits to the actual summit. 3) Take the long way along the the east ridge of Mt. Spalding the follow the saddle over to Mt. Evans. I went back to my book and the CalTopo map saved on my phone.
Option 1 was the most direct but the steepest. Being alone and with my legs already pretty tired I wasn't sure I'd be able to handle the ascent and could get myself into some serious trouble with a misstep. Option 2 was definitely not as steep but I couldn't tell how difficult it would be to make my way across to the summit and from where I was standing it looked pretty technical. Option 3 was the most practical as the ascent was a lot more mellow but it was the longest. Unfortunately, I was short on time so I was on the fence about it as well.
As I sat there trying to make a decision I noticed Sunrise Couloir on the saddle between Spalding and Evans. The couloir had a few recent slides on it and it was eastern facing so it would get plenty of sun early which would explain the name. I asked a few other people gearing up as well as some passing park rangers about it and they said that it should be fine before noon. Given the circumstances I decided my best bet was to scrap trying to summit Mt. Evans and to settle for summiting 13,842 ft Mt. Spalding via it's east ridge and then drop into Sunrise Couloir.
I geared up and left the truck at 8:40 am. From the parking lot I followed the path north to the base of the east ridge where I found some tracks to follow. Not thinking I'd need crampons, I started making my ascent in snowboard boots. It didn't take long before wishing I had thrown my crampons on as the tracks kept disappearing and I was left climbing some slick refrozen snow over cliffs and rockbands.
I continued the scramble doing my best to follow bootpacks only to realize that at times I was following mountain goat tracks. What I thought would be a really easy hike turned out to be a fun, technical climb. As I followed the east ridge I came across a couple of steep and narrow couloirs that dropped into the northern side of Spalding that I will definitely be checking out next spring.
After a combination of scrambling and hiking I reached the summit of Spalding at 10:15 where I ran into a couple of skiers also heading to Sunrise Couloir. I hung out on the summit for a bit taking some pictures and giving them time to get first drop. Once they were clear of the couloir I started making my way over. You can snowboard from the summit right to the top of the couloir by following the saddle.
I hit the jackpot and got perfect timing to drop in. The snow warmed up just enough to be spring corn without feeling like it was gonna slide. The couloir is not long by any means but very fun nonetheless. After a few great turns I was down by the edge of Summit Lake. I unstrapped and made my way around the lake back to the truck. I rounded out my day by driving up to the top of Mt. Evans but not making the 100 foot hike to the actual summit. I'll leave that for a true summit the next time I'm out in Colorado.