Chipeta Mountain South – 12,850 and Chipeta Mountain – 13,472

RT Length:  10.58 miles

Elevation Gain:  3281’

This was my third attempt at Chipeta Mountain this year.  The first time I drove out the road was open but impassible due to snow.  The second time the road was clear, but the gate was closed.  I saw several videos/pictures of people on the pass this year, but later found out they were part of a mining operation and the only ones allowed to access the road.  The road formally opened on May 28.  Today was May 29.  It had already been a long morning:  I’d woken up at the Gibson Creek trailhead, intent on hiking a few 13ers in the area (also not my first attempt these peaks this year), but after about 1000’ of elevation and deteriorating snow conditions I decided to make today a ‘me day’.  I hiked back to my truck, chugged a beer, and came up with a new plan:  I was going to drive to Marshall Pass, see if it was open, spend a day relaxing, and then tackle Chipeta Mountain tomorrow. 

Marshall Pass was open and snow/mud free to the pass.  I was surprised at how few people were dispersed camping this Memorial Day weekend.  I parked near the bathrooms and information signs.

I checked the weather, and it wasn’t supposed to rain until 5pm tonight.  I did the math, figured I had plenty of time to get in a hike before weather set in, gathered my gear, and was on my way.  I was on the trail at 8am.  The usual trail from the trailhead has a sign saying it’s no longer in use, so I took the very short bypass and started along the road instead.  This is road 243G, located at the north end of the parking area.  If was a bit muddy to begin with.

It was obvious from the start motorized vehicles hadn’t been on the trail yet this year, as there were numerous downed trees at the beginning (not much after a mile in, however).

I was following the Continental Divide and Colorado Trails north, along the west side of the mountains. 

After hiking for 1.7 miles snow started covering the trail.  Luckily, this snow wasn’t quite mashed potato snow, and I could get by hiking over it with just microspikes (on the way in),

After hiking for a total of just over 3 miles I turned right and headed east up the slope.  A map will tell you this is trail 484.1, but since it was covered in snow I headed east,  and once I saw them, I followed the posts to the saddle.

Once at the saddle I had a great view of Mt Ouray.  I turned left and headed north along the ridge.

Here an obvious trail picked up (the trail only lasted to the top of this hill).

From here you can see the rest of the hike:  it’s a straightforward ridge hike that starts out with tundra, and ends with a lot of loose rocks the size of tires.  Note:  The drop from South Chipeta Mountain to Chipeta Mountain is more drastic than this image would indicate.

Here are some step by step pictures of the ridge.

There’s a cool Quartz formation, with a lot of interesting rocks lying around

Then it’s on to South Chipeta Mountain

It’s rockier than it looks towards the top

From the top of South Chipeta Mountain (12850) you can clearly see the route to Chipeta Mountain (13472).  From South Chipeta you will lose 200’ of elevation, and then gain 825’ of elevation to the summit of Chipeta Mountain. 

This is also a simple ridge hike, but it takes time and careful foot placement because the rocks aren’t stable and tend to roll.  Nothing above class 2 however.

Weather unexpectedly started coming in early as I neared the summit of Chipeta

I summited Chipeta Mountain at 11:15am, after just over 3 hours of hiking

Chipeta Mountain: 

Here’s the view of Mt Ouray from the summit of Chipeta

I didn’t like the look of the clouds, and there was virga in the direction I was headed, so I didn’t stay on the summit long.  I retraced my steps back over South Chipeta Mountain to the saddle.

At the saddle I turned right and headed back down to the Continental Divide / Colorado Trail

At this point I needed snowshoes.  Strapped them on and followed my tracks from this morning south

I made it back to the trailhead at 2pm, making this a 10.58 mile hike with 3281’ of elevation gain in 6 hours.

I was still intent on taking a ‘me day’, so I decided to sleep in my vehicle here overnight.  Around 5pm a couple drove in, saying they were planning on backpacking part of the CDT/Colorado Trail.  The had along their dog, and a ferret on a leash (the woman had a ferret fanny pack as well, for when needed).  I asked them if they had snowshoes?  The woman slapped the man across the chest and said “See? I told you so!”  They didn’t have snowshoes but headed out anyway. When I woke up at 5am their vehicle was gone, so I’m guessing they didn’t end up staying the night, which was a good idea, considering there was a storm coming in.  I’m not sure what a wet ferret smells like, but it’s probably not ideal.

Author: Laura M Clark

Laura has summited over 500 peaks above 13,000' solo, including being the first woman to solo summit all of the Colorado 14ers, as well as the centennials. After each hike, she writes trip reports for each one and publishes them on her blog, which is read by fans all over the world. Author of Wild Wanderer: Summiting Colorado’s 200 Highest Peaks, which is available to purchase on Amazon.

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