Hilliard Peak – 13,409 and Keefe Peak – 13,516

RT Length: 24.35 miles

Elevation Gain: 5700’

Due to weather issues, I did this as a multi-day trip. Due to permit issues, I camped just before the camping permit boundary for Conundrum Hot Springs (worked fabulously!!!). My stats are taken from several GPX files meshed together.

I started from the Conundrum Hot Springs Trailhead at 4:45am, after a quick nap on Independence Pass after a long drive and a long day.  Here’s the trailhead:

I followed the class 1 trail for 6 miles to the permit boundary, which is noted by a very visible sign. 

It was obvious this is a popular camping spot (just before the permit boundary).  There are a lot of social trails that lead off into the trees as well for campsites, if you don’t want to camp right next to the sign.  Here’s where I camped.   It’s relatively close to the stream, which is great for filtering water

I set up my tent, as I planned on being here for a few days. The next morning, I started out at 4:45am.  The trail is still class 1, and crosses Conundrum Creek several times.  All creek crossings were easy.

After about 2 miles I came to the Conundrum Hot Springs campsites, an old abandoned cabin, and more small creek crossings.  I took the trail to the right towards Triangle Pass

I was now still on Trail 1981, headed southwest, into the willows

At 12000’ I left the trail, and followed a drainage west

At about 12200’ I turned right and headed north, across the basin.  Yes, there were a lot of crows. 

I kept heading north, skirting a small pond.  This was all class 2

My goal was to gain this ridge.  This was my route (still class 2)

Once on the ridge I placed a large cairn, turned left, and headed west up the ridge

The terrain quickly narrowed and became class 3, full of chossy, loose rock. It never got more difficult than class 3, but the terrain was sketchy.  I was able to stay directly on the ridge.

As the ridge rose, it curved, and I stayed more to the left

I topped out, turned the corner, and saw more class 3 ridge work as I now headed northwest

I lost a little bit of elevation, then followed the ridge to the summit

I summited Hilliard Peak at 9:45am

Hilliard Peak:

From Hilliard, I could see Keefe Peak to the northeast

But first, I was going to have to get over the crux of the route: This pointy mountain right here.

I followed the ridge northeast, and came across this fun formation. I easily passed it to the left

This brought me to a small saddle.  I ended up climbing this part by taking a game trail to the ridge, then crossing over to the right side and heading up

And now for the crux

This is the route I took

But there’s a lot you can’t see…  So here it is step by step.  This is class 4

This was a small, airy traverse, about 6 feet long, ad no more than a foot wide

The good news is after that it’s all class 2 to the top of Keefe Peak.

I summited Keefe Peak at 11am

Keefe Peak:

I decided to make this a loop, and head east down an old avalanche runout.  Let me preface this by saying it worked, but the runout is quickly growing back, and there was a ton of bushwhacking.  Plan your route carefully.  Here are some pictures of the route that led me directly back to the trail (1981) and Conundrum Creek below.

Here’s looking up at the route I took down.  You could also take this route up, and just do Keefe from this angle, and skip the class 4 section of the traverse.  It’s a lot of elevation gain in a short while though (3200’ in 7.5 miles) with a lot of initial bushwhacking, but it goes.  I came down the left side (when looking up), but would recommend sticking more to the right and avoiding the middle.

Back on the trail, I followed it back to my campsite, and stayed there for another night. 

Here’s a look at the route out from the campsite back to the trailhead.

And my topo map

13216 and 13537

RT Length:  25.61 miles

Elevation Gain:  5474’

Due to weather issues, I did this as a multi-day trip. Due to permit issues, I camped just before the camping permit boundary for Conundrum Hot Springs (worked fabulously!!!). My stats are taken from several GPX files meshed together.

I started from the Conundrum Hot Springs Trailhead at 4:45am, after a quick nap on Independence Pass after a long drive and a long day.  Here’s the trailhead:

I followed the class 1 trail for 6 miles to the permit boundary, which is noted by a very visible sign. 

It was obvious this is a popular camping spot (just before the permit boundary).  There are a lot of social trails that lead off into the trees as well for campsites, if you don’t want to camp right next to the sign.  While I saw a US Forest Service truck in the parking lot, I didn’t see a service member all weekend.  Also, I’m not advocating anything negative here:  I understand why they have the permit system, I just think permit systems aren’t well implemented.  For example:  I couldn’t get a permit for this weekend, yet more than half the reserved sites were empty THE ENTIRE WEEKEND.  Here’s where I camped.   It’s relatively close to the stream, which is great for filtering water

I set up my tent, as I planned on being here for a few days, and was on the trail again by 8am. The trail is still class 1, and crosses Conundrum Creek several times.  All creek crossings were easy.

After about 2 miles I came to the Conundrum Hot Springs campsites, an old abandoned cabin, and more small creek crossings.  I took the trail to the right towards Triangle Pass

I was now still on Trail 1981, headed southwest, into the willows

At 12000’ I left the trail, and followed a drainage west

Now it was time to gain the ridge of 13216. 

This is the route I took

And some step-by-step pictures.  This was all class 2

When I made it to the ridge I turned left, and was surprised to find it wasn’t a straight shot to the summit.  I followed the ridge south

And was surprised once again to find this wasn’t the summit either.  It was a little further to the southwest.

It was all class 2 to the summit

I summited 13216 at 11:40am

PT 13216:

My next goal was 13537, to the north

I followed the ridge over Conundrum Pass, all class 2 to the pass

Once at Conundrum Pass/13216-13537 saddle, the route became a class 3 scramble.  From my visual it looked like a straightforward scramble up the ridge, all the way to the summit, but what I couldn’t see was a dip in the ridge.  I started my scramble up.  

I came to a false summit, and noticed I could no longer climb up:  I’d need to parallel the ridge and summit from the other side.

Here’s where I made a mistake.  I tried to traverse over to the other ridge too high:  I should have dropped down a few hundred feet, then re-ascended via the obvious gully.  The route I took was sketchy class 4.  Everything was unstable, rocks moved, and the scree was solid dirt with kitty litter sitting on top.  I would not recommend the route I took.  From below, this is the route I took.

And here are some pictures of that route.  Once again, I’d recommend dropping down further and ascending via the gully. My microspikes saved me here.

Eventually I came to a gully that looked like it went.  I was tired of the terrain I’d been traversing, and welcomed the gully, only to find it was just as bad.  Large loose rocks, hard dirt, kitty litter, etc. I headed towards the ridge.

Once on the ridge I turned left, and followed it south to the summit

I summited 13537 ay 2pm

PT 13537:

Originally, I’d planned on doing the entire traverse, but I could see clouds moving in.  Indeed, it started snowing and hailing on my decent, so it had been a good idea to call the ridge for the day and head back to camp. But I didn’t want to take the same route I’d taken in, because I felt it was too sketchy to repeat.  Instead, I decided to walk north down the ridge to where I’d seen the gully earlier, and descend that way. 

Here’s a look down that gully

And my route back into the basin

The gully was much steeper than it looked. I was glad I had on my microspikes. 

From below, here’s a look up that gully. It goes all the way to the ridge.

And now, to make my way back to the trail.  I aimed southeast, doing my best to avoid the large rock bands

When I could see PT 13216, I stayed high, and then descended via the same drainage I’d come in on. 

Back on Trail 1981, I followed it northeast, back to my campsite.

I stayed there for the night, but here are some pictures of the 6 mile hike out to an overflowing trailhead full of vehicles. 

And my topo map