RT Length: 25.26 miles
Elevation Gain: 6689’
Ah, the thrill of changing plans. I like to check off a bucket list item for my birthday, usually involving a lot of effort or planning and mileage. I was supposed to do the Rim to Rim Grand Canyon hike for my birthday, and due to COVID and the shuttles not running so my boyfriend was going to be my shuttle driver (with the east gate closed it’s now a 5 hour drive from one rim to another). However, last week I broke up with my boyfriend. After the breakup I gave myself a day to wallow, and then came up with a plan B (Plan C was Rim to Rim to Rim). In the end I wasn’t able to hike Rim to Rim on my birthday, but I was able to find someone to shuttle my truck a week earlier (in exchange for a photo shoot along the way at both Horseshoe Bend and Ouray Via Ferrata… to be featured in his next book). So instead I hiked Rim to Rim on September 12, and decided for my birthday I’d try to get in a long hike somewhere in the San Juan’s.
After birthday dinner with my daughters I drove to the Little Cimarron East trailhead and parked for a few hours sleep. This is a 2WD drive on a dirt road. There was space for 2 vehicles at the trailhead, but it looks like you can park along the road as well if needed. Side note: This trailhead is much preferred to the Nellie Creek Trailhead approach. Hands down.
I got in a few hours sleep and was on the trail at 4:30am. This is a class 1 trail (at least until the first stream crossing) that looks like it used to be a 4WD road.
After the stream crossing there’s a junction. Continue straight.
The trail goes through an avalanche area but a clear path has been established.
After hiking for 5 miles (exactly) I came to a small meadow. Here I left the trail and headed west, staying to the left of the gully, but following it up.
I eventually picked up a faint trail. There were a lot of game trails in the area, so I kept losing then re-finding the trail.
When I hit treeline I crossed the gully and headed left and northwest up the side of the mountain
The rest of the hike to the summit of Sheep Mountain was fairly straightforward. Here’s the route I took, staying to the left of the cliffs
Once on the ridge I skirted the rocks to the right to keep this class 2
I summited Sheep Mountain at 7:55am. The summit was wide and flat and it was my birthday, so I decided to jump for the photo.
I was making this a ridge hike today. Next on the agenda: PT 13100. I turned and followed the ridge south
This was an easy class 2 ridge to follow. As times I stayed left to avoid rocks.
From the saddle, here’s looking up at PT 13100 and back at Sheep Mountain
It was a simple ridge hike up tundra until the very end. Then the terrain became rock and it was difficult to tell where the actual summit was, so I followed the entire ridge. I spied a cairn and I considered the cairn the summit.
I’ve circled the summit cairn in red (although the rock outcropping certainly felt/looked the same height)
I summited PT 13100 at 8:50am
Next up was PT 13,681. Once again, I followed the ridge south
The volcanic ash towers at the saddle were pretty cool!
From the first saddle, here’s looking back at PT 13100 and Sheep Mountain, along with my route, and a look up the ridge
I followed the ridge to the false summit of PT 13681
When I made it to the ridge, instead of climbing the false summit I stuck to the left, keeping this class 2
Here’s a look back from the ridge
After skirting the false summit to the left I could see PT 13631. I stayed low until I made it to the saddle, and then stuck to the ridge until I hit the second false summit
From the saddle, here’s looking back at how I skirted the bump
From here I took the ridge straight up and over, making this class 3. You can keep it class 2 by going to the left and skirting the ridge. They both end up in the same place.
A view from halfway up the ridge
If you go over the ridge, this is the downclimb (still class 3, not as bad as it looks)
And here’s the rest of the class 2 route to PT 13681
I summited PT 13681 at 10:45am
Here’s a look back on the route so far
And a look at the route to Silver Mountain. The rest of the way was a simple tundra ridge walk
I summited Silver Mountain at 11:35am, and since it was my birthday (my 40th!) I kept my tradition of standing on my head because I still can. Also, this is harder than it sounds, as I had to set up the automatic timer, get far enough away from the camera and then actually do the headstand before the camera took the picture.
Now to head back down. I had several options, but chose this one because it looked easier on a topo map (it most likely wasn’t). I continued south along the ridge to the Silver Mountain/Big Blue Peak (unranked) saddle.
After passing the two large cairns, I continued a bit further down, turned left, and headed east down the gully
My goal was to link up with the Fall Creek Trail. Here you can see it to the right. However, I didn’t want to lose too much elevation, so I took a game trail up high to the left (they both link up on the other side of the hill). I lost just over 1000’ of elevation here, and gained under 200’ by staying high to the left.
Once at the top of the hill I figured my elevation gain was over for the day. Boy, was I wrong! I dipped down once again, losing another 400’ of elevation, only to gain another 500’ of elevation to make it to the next ridge. I was following the Fall Creek Trail, then switched as I stayed high on the Little Cimarron Trail, but this trail doesn’t look like it gets used much by people. There are many game trails in the area that parallel this one, and they make route finding frustrating at times. Here’s the overall route:
Once I’d regained the ridge it was a nice 2 mile tundra walk on a fairly visible trail. Side note: It’s hunting season, and the elk are bugling. Advice to hunters: Practice using your bugle call BEFORE trying it in the wild for the first time. I heard some pretty funny noises coming from what were obviously hunters and not elk.
At exactly 2 miles of mesa walking, and just before reaching this old shack I turned left and headed west. Here the trail pretty much ended. There were 2 cairns in the area (which surprised me, the first I’d seen all day), so I just kept aiming for the valley below, where I knew I’d pick up with the trail I’d hiked in on.
I had a good view of the path I’d taken up to Sheep Mountain that morning
Gradually, the Little Cimarron Trail became more visible, as I followed it towards the creek below.
I crossed the Little Cimarron River (more of a creek now)
And headed north, easily picking back up the trail
I stayed right this time at the junction between the Little Cimarron Trail and Little Cimarron East Trail, crossed the stream again, and followed the trail back to my truck. Along the way I saw a dad holding a rifle and two daughters, both under 10 years old, sporting camo and bright orange hunting hats. They were the only other people I saw all day. The girls had big smiles, and looked thrilled to be camping/hunting with their daddy.
I made it back to my truck at 5pm.
This was a 25.26 mile hike with 6689’ of elevation, completed in 12.5 hours. Here’s a topo of my route.
Not a bad way to celebrate my 40th birthday! On to the next trailhead!