Taylor Peak – 13,157, Powell Peak – 13,197, Otis Peak – 12,481, Hallett Peak – 12,723 & Flattop Mountain – 12,330

RT Length:  19.75 miles

Elevation Gain: 5983’

I started from the Flattop Mountain Trail inside Rocky Mountain National Park, at the Bear Lake parking area,  at 4am.  I’ve been to this trailhead a few times, and it fills up before 6am, so plan on getting there early to secure a spot. 

There is great signage in this area, leading you to the trailhead

I followed the class 1, well-marked trail for 5 miles up to Flattop Mountain, gaining almost 3000’ of elevation in the process

As soon as I hit treeline the sun began to rise, and I saw a small herd of elk, led by one male bull.  He bugled to me, and the ptarmigans began to chirp .

Elk Bugling:

Ptarmigans waking up:

I continued following the class 1 trail to Flattop Mountain (which is really just a plateau).

At the top of the plateau is a sign.  At this sign I turned left, following the cairns.  Note:  there isn’t a sign indicating there is a trail to the left, but there will be dozens of rather large cairns to follow towards Hallett Peak

While you could certainly summit Hallett Peak first, my main goal were some 13ers further ahead, so I skirted Hallett Peak to the right, staying at about 12360’, which kept me on rocky tundra.

As I headed southwest, staying on the rocky tundra, I could see both Otis Peak and Taylor Peak.  It was my objective to summit Taylor Peak next, which meant I’d need to lose about 400’ of elevation to the Otis/Taylor Saddle (also where top of Andrews Glacier/Andrews Pass is located)

Here’s my route up to Taylor Peak from the Otis/Taylor Saddle. Note, my route up is solid, my route back down (after summiting Powell) is dotted.  I would recommend these routes in the same order I completed them.  The entire day consisted of class 2 terrain for all the peaks I summited.

Here are some close-up pictures of the terrain to the summit of Taylor Peak

 

I summited Taylor Peak at 8:30am

Taylor Peak:

From Taylor Peak I could see Powell Peak to the southeast. 

To get there, I’d need to contour southwest down the south side of Taylor, and then follow the ridge towards Powell Peak.  The route is obvious, and easily kept class 2.

Here’s the route from the Taylor/Powell Saddle

And some close-up pictures of the route

I aimed for the highpoint, a large rock on the ridge

Here are some closer pictures of the route to the summit

Powell Summit rock, easily scaled from the left

To be honest, I’m not sure where the true summit lies.  When I got to the large rock outcropping I saw what looked like a cairn a short distance away, further southeast, but when I went further southeast to that point, the rock looked higher.  When I got home my track showed the rock was the highpoint, but there wasn’t anything indicating it was (no cairn/summit register/etc.)  A point further northwest looked high too, so I made sure to walk over there, but my photos are from the rock outcropping.

I summited Powell Peak at 10:15am

Powell Peak:

https://youtu.be/0oxEIaN_wYg

I then retraced my steps back to the Taylor/Powell Saddle

But instead of re-summiting Taylor Peak, I skirted the summit to the left, staying at around 12750’

This was all class 2, but required a bit of rock hopping

As I continued to round Taylor Peak, Otis Peak came into view.  The path towards the summit was obvious

I made my way down to Andrews Pass, and then up towards Otis Peak

I summited Otis Peak at 12:45pm

Otis Peak:

I could see Hallett Peak to the northwest, and descended to the Otis/Hallett saddle

And then headed northeast up to the summit of Hallett Peak

I summited Hallett Peak at 1:45pm

Hallett Peak:

Now to head back to the trail.  This was all class 2, and there were cairns to guide the way.  Be careful not to aim for the obvious trail in the distance, as it will not lead you back to the trailhead.  This is the route you should take.   If you look carefully, you can see the sign you’re aiming for from earlier in the morning

At the junction I turned right, and followed the class 1 trail back to the trailhead

I made it back to my truck at 4pm, making this a 19.75 mile hike with 5983’ of elevation gain in 12 hours.

On the way out, I was stopped by another herd of elk, walking along the road.

On to the next trailhead!

McHenrys Peak – 13,330

RT Length:  17.46 miles

Elevation Gain:  4442’

I started from the Glacier Gorge trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park at 3:30am.  There were already several parties in the parking lot (probably 10 vehicles), but didn’t see another person on my route all day.   This is also a bus stop for access to Glacier Gorge (and lots of other hikes).  All this means is that it was overly crowded the last 2 miles of the hike on my way down.  Passing people became impossible, and more of a stroll as I hiked out with hundreds of other hikers. 

I followed the class 1 trail, staying on the Mills Lake trail.  There were wonderful signs that made getting lost difficult. 

I passed Alberta Falls at 1.15 miles, and continued following the trail to Mills Lake

After hiking for 3.35 miles I passed Mills Lake, and at 3.85 miles I passed Jewel Lake.  Side note:  there’s great fishing here.  Lots of hungry trout, eager to feast on any worm you drop in.  The larger trout are in the stream above Jewel Lake, and in Mills Lake.

I continued following the class 1 trail all the way to Black Lake (6 miles in).  This part of the trail had a lot of wood foot bridges, and rock slabs to cross.  All class 1, but the rock slabs were tricky to navigate in the dark.

I made it to Black Lake, and continued on the class 1 trail, up a waterfall, and across more rock slabs.

Here the trail kind of fizzled out, but I continued following cairns as I crossed a small creek, and headed southwest towards McHenrys Peak. There are a ton of cairns in this area (circled in red). 

Here’s the overall route to Frozen Lake (not pictured) and up Stone Man Pass.  There are plenty of cairns to guide you, but for the rest of the hike be careful:  there are a lot of granite slabs that are quite steep to navigate (all class 2), and slippery where wet.

Here are some close up pictures to Frozen Lake

I easily rock hopped and crossed the lake on its north side, and continued heading west towards Stone Man Pass

There are still tons of cairns in this area, but choose your route based on the best conditions.  The rocks are very slippery where they are wet.  I was aiming for the gully below Stone Man Pass.

I didn’t think the gully was that bad.  I stayed right on my way up, but took the other side down.  I’d recommend climbing up the left side of the gully, as it was more stable, but both were fine.  Here are some pictures of the gully

Once at the top of the gully, I turned right and headed northwest towards McHenrys Peak.  Everything you can see here is class 2, and there are cairns to guide your way.

I rounded the mountain, and was now on the west side of the peak.  Here is got a bit trickier.  There were still cairns to follow.  I headed up a rock slab, and rock filled gully.  This was easy class 3

Here’s the overall route of the rest of the climb.  I felt this was difficult class 3, with some exposure. 

There was a chimney to head up, and then a short but intense scramble to the summit

I summited McHenrys Peak at 9:50am

McHenrys Peak:

The summit looked like it could have several actual summits, so despite the large cairn and summit register, I made sure to walk all around the summit to make sure I’d actually summited.

Now to head back down. The trickiest part was descending the initial section, and finding my way back around the side of the mountain.  Once I was there, it was easy to find my way to Stone Man Pass, and then back down to Frozen Lake.

And then I followed the cairns northeast, back towards the trail that would lead me to Black Lake

Then followed the trail all the way back to the trailhead. 

I made it back to my truck at 2:30pm, making this a 17.46 mile hike with 4442’ of elevation gain, as per CalTopo.  Strava told me it was a 15.02 mile hike with 6573’ of elevation gain.  I tend to go with CalTopo when I write, for consistency purposes, especially since Strava tends to grossly exaggerate elevation gain. 

Also, there were a few elk along the trail who didn’t seem bothered by my presence… they wouldn’t even look up from whatever they were eating to acknowledge me.

On to the next trailhead!

Mt Chiquita – 13,054, Ypsilon Mountain – 13,513, Mt Chapin – 12,454

RT Length:  10.2 miles

Elevation Gain:  3555’

I parked my truck at the Chapin Pass trailhead and was on the trail at 4am. 

The trail starts out heading directly up to the pass. 

After hiking for .25 miles I came to an obvious junction and turned right, heading towards Chapin, Chiquita, and Ypsilon summits

The trail was very easy to follow.  I followed it east and rounded the north side of Mt Chapin (saving it for later).

The trail changed from Class 1 to Class 2 as I made my way up to the top of Chiquita, heading northeast. 

I made it to the summit just as the sun was starting to rise

 I summited Mt Chiquita at 6am

Mt Chiquita:

From the summit of Mt Chiquita I could see the summit of Ypsilon Mountain to the north. 

It was an easy ridge walk to get there, with a small false summit along the way. I just followed the ridge down 270’, and then up 722’ to the summit of Ypsilon.

I summited Ypsilon Mountain at 7am

Mt Ypsilon:

This was going to be an out and back for me, so I retraced my steps back to Chiquita, losing 722’ of elevation, and then gaining 270’

Back at the summit of Mt Chiquita I continued following the ridge southwest, back to the trail.  There is a trail to the summit of Mt Chapin from there.

Here are some close up pictures of the class 1 trail

I summited Mt Chapin at 8:30am

Mt Chapin:

I turned and retraced my seps back to the trail below

Once back at the junction with the main trail, I turned left and followed it west to Chapin Pass

I even saw a few bull elk lounging along the way

Back at Chapin Pass, I turned left, and followed it back to the parking area, which was now overflowing with dozens more vehicles than could fit in the area.  If you want to do this hike, get there early.

I made it back to my truck at 9:15am, making this a 10.2 mile hike with 3555’ of elevation gain in 5 hours, 15 minutes.

On to the next trailhead!

Prize Benchmark – 13,384

RT Length: 10.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 3996’

There is a ton of camping at the Tellurium Trailhead, so that’s where I spent the night. 

I was parked next to a small stream, and had the entire area to myself. Not bad for a Friday and Saturday.

I was up and on the trail at 4:30am, following the 4WD dirt road 584 north for just under 1.5 miles.  There were a lot of dispersed camping sites along the road.  I was glad I’d parked where I did and hiked in.

After hiking for just under 1.5 miles I came to an old dirt road that has been blocked off.  It was on the right, and wouldn’t have been obvious in the dark.  There is no parking there.

This was a road someone had tried to make unusable.  It made hiking interesting, as I could not hike in a straight line.  The road was obvious and easy to follow however.  

When you come to the meadow, if it’s light out, get a good look at Prize Benchmark. This is the route you’re going to want to take.  Notice there’s a ridge?  You’re going to want to parallel that ridge, then dip into a basin before ascending Prize.  This will make more sense later.

There were two creek crossings I did not need to take off my shoes to cross

There were a few side roads that went to old houses and mining operations.  Every time I had an option to turn I kept left (twice).  I followed this road all the way to the Enterprise Mine.  There’s not a lot left…

Here’s where I messed up. I went over the ridge.  Don’t do that.  Instead, try to stay parallel with the ridge, as you’ll want to cross it at a low point because you’ll be descending into a basin.  There is no trail here, but don’t try to ascend the ridge, stay at about 11800’.

When you can see east, it’s time to descend into the basin.  There are a few game trails here. Yes, you’ll be headed back into the trees.

I just kept heading east.

I could see a grassy band I wanted to take to the ridge, and thought the easiest way to get there was over a pile of rocks.  It wasn’t.  The rocks weren’t stable, and more than once I seriously considered heading back.  This is the way I’d recommend ascending

Here are some pictures of the way up the ramp.  I stayed to the left of the trees.

Then I followed the tundra east to the ridge

As I was heading east, and the sun was trying to rise, I notices a small herd of elk to my right.  They were sharing the tundra, and after a while the mamas woke their babies and trotted off. 

I continued hiking east.

As I was trudging up the tundra, I heard what sounded like a bark.  At first I thought it was a coyote, but they don’t bark.  Then I thought maybe a dog, but it was unlikely there was a dog all the way out where I was.  I heard a single bark every two minutes or so.  One time, when I turned around, I saw an elk, and realized the ‘bark’ belonged to her

Elk barking:

I figured she’d gotten separated from her herd, and was calling them. On I trudged.  I reached the ridge, and turned left.

This was all class 2. I navigated the rocks to the left

And then could clearly see the summit

I summited Prize Benchmark at 8:15am.  I could still hear that elk barking, but watched as it went in the direction of the herd.

Prize Benchmark:

I turned and re-traced my steps, thinking to myself how much easier this route had been rather than doing this from the other side with Booby and 13460.  I aimed for the tundra below.

This time I stayed to the right of the trees, aiming for the grassy rib and gully below

As I was hiking down, I saw something that didn’t fit with the terrain.  It was small and brown, and even from a distance, I thought it was an elk calf. IF was curled up, and I was worried it was dead, but seriously hoped it was a misplaced piece of wood.

As I got closer, it was obvious this was an elk calf, and I was sure the elk I’d heard earlier was looking for her baby. 

Then, suddenly, the calf popped up and stood on all fours, looking at me straight in the face.  I was relieved it was alright, then went into mom mode:  I chastised the baby, saying “Your mom’s looking for you! I know you heard her, because I heard her for over half an hour. Go back to your mama!” I pointed to where the mom had gone off to, and the calf ran in that direction. 

Now to continue on back to the basin

Here’s the route I took out of the basin.  While taking this route, I saw something I hadn’t on my way in:  remnants of a mine (circled in red).  I was going to explore when I made it down there.

There wasn’t much to see.  It looked as if the opening was entirely covered by snow… or a large boulder had been placed to cover the entrance.

I took a few pictures and continued on.  Now to regain the ridge. 

Once on the ridge I stayed level at 11800’ and aimed for the Enterprise Mine, which I could clearly see while on the ridge

Once at the mine I followed the destroyed road back to 584

I then followed 584 back to my truck

When I got there, I stopped my tracker, only to find it had gone all wonky, right at about the time I’d seen the calf, so my mileage was taken from my iPhone (which is usually pretty close to my tracker) and the elevation gain from CalTopo.  I made it back to my truck at 11am, making this a 10.4 mile hike with 3996’ of elevation gain in 6.5 hours.

On to the next trailhead!

Mt Herard – 13,350 and Medano Peak 13,153

RT Length:  17.43 miles

Elevation Gain:  5584’

I drove in the night before to heavy clouds of smoke from the Arizona and New Mexico fires, but the weatherman predicted a cold front would push the smoke away by the next morning.

The drive in was on an easy 4WD dirt road, and probably doable in a 2WD vehicle to where I parked in the camping area before the pass. 

There were private ranches on either side of the road, with bison and what looked like hunting property.  There were tons of signs telling you the property was private, with information on how to report poachers.   I knew Medano Pass was closed from the Sand Dunes side, but was surprised to find it was closed from the HWY 69 side as well.  I parked in the camping area at 9200’, just over 2 miles from the pass. Mine was the only vehicle there, which made sense because the pass was closed.  Also, it was a Monday.  And extremely windy. There was quite a bit of glass on the ground from past campers who’d broken bottles and left them. 

There were signs indicating bear activity in the area, which I confirmed the next morning.  If you camp here, please secure your smellables/food/etc.

I made it to my campsite late (but it was worth it because my youngest daughter, who’s in college, called to chat with me a bit on my way in, and I had to stop where I had cell reception), so I made it an early night for what would be an early morning. I was up and on the trail at 3:30am.

I started by following 559 west to Medano Pass.  There were a few campsites along this road, but very few turnaround points.  This is now a 4WD road.

Once at Medano Pass I found the gate closed to vehicles.  I hopped over the gate, and continued towards the Medano Lakes Trailhead. 

Along the way there was a sign warning of bear activity

After hiking for 2.9 miles, I made it to the Medano Lakes Trailhead.  Note if you’re driving, there are still several downed trees on the road, so you won’t be able to make it all the way to the trailhead.  There are several campsites along the way with bear boxes.

I signed the trail register and was on my way

A couple of things to note:  This is a class 1 trail, and mine were the first footprints in the mud/snow.  There was a lot of evidence of bear activity, I crossed numerous streams (easily, no need for creek crossing shoes) and there was a lot of downfall.  I mean, an excessive amount. Several times I was walking UNDER avalanche debris.  These were also spring conditions, so a lot of times, the trail was under water/snow.

After hiking for 6.75 miles, I made it to treeline, the upper basin, and Medano Lakes

At 11540’, I left the trail and followed a faintly cairned route to the saddle of Herard and Medino.  This is where I was aiming

There’s a faint trail that’ll get you to the upper basin

Just before the upper basin there are two cairns you’ll pass through.  Take note of them for the route down

Now in the upper basin, the trail is gone for a bit, but there are cairns that will lead you to the saddle, and even a trail. This is the easiest way to make it to the saddle

The cairn you’re aiming for is circled in red

I decided to do Herard first, so after making it to the saddle, I followed the ridge south.  There was a false summit, but this (and in fact the entire hike) was all class 2.

Here are some pictures of the terrain

And the false summit. 

There was a bit of snow to navigate (nothing too serious) and then I followed the tundra (and a faint trail) to the summit.

The summit was flat.  I summited Mt Herard at 8am

Mt Herard:

I turned and headed back to the saddle.  My next objective was Medano Peak

This was also a class 2 ridge walk.  Here are some step by step pictures

Also, you might be able to see them in this picture… I came across 5 elk, who weren’t too concerned I was there, until I started hiking up from the saddle.  At this point, they headed higher up, towards 13,000’.  I was curious, until I noticed they were gathering their 5 babies, who were hidden amongst the rocks.  They couldn’t have been more than a month old.  Then the mothers trotted them off along the ridge.

I summited Medano Peak at 9:05am

Medano Peak:

Here’s a look at Mt Herard from Medano

I retraced my steps back down to the saddle, and into the lower basin and Medano lakes

It was a super windy day (predicted winds of 45mph). As I was hiking I was able to notice a bighorn sheep ram below me.  Since it was so windy, he didn’t notice me until I was right up on him. 

Bighorn: 

He trotted away as well, and I hooked up with the Medano Lakes trail, which took me back to the trailhead

And then I followed road 559 back to my truck

I made it back to my truck at 12:30pm, making this a 17.43 mile hike with 5584’ of elevation gain in 9 hours.

On to the next trailhead!

Spread Eagle Peak – 13,432 and Peak of the Clouds – 13,524

RT Length:  11.05 miles

Elevation Gain:  5461’

This was my 4th attempt at Peak of the Clouds.  Not because it’s a difficult peak, but because every time I was in the area I was thwarted by the elements; snow conditions, or a fast-moving storm coming in.  Today had a great weather forecast, so I figured today was my day.

Unlike my previous stays at the Gibson Creek trailhead, this time it was packed.  Probably because it was a Saturday over 4th of July weekend.  There were RVs set up everywhere, and every parking space in the lot was taken.  Knowing I was going to spend the night in my truck I just waited for someone to leave and then backed into their spot. 

I was sitting at the trailhead, just appreciating the sounds of the birds chirping and insects humming, and then the sun comes out and lights up each individual blade of grass and all I can think is how lucky I am this is my life.  It was a perfect night, and the last one I’d be spending in this particular vehicle, as my new truck was waiting for me at the lot and I was picking it up Monday.  I wanted to enjoy tonight.

I’d been gone for a few days, and I also wanted to get back home to see my kids, so I made it an early morning.  I was on the trail at 3:45am.  The trail starts at the north end of the parking area, and follows trail 1456 west.

The trail starts out nicely defined.  Stay straight at the Rainbow Trail Crossing.  This sign has been broken for years.  I wonder if they’ll ever replace/fix it?

Here’s where it gets tricky.  After hiking for .4 miles, and at 9400’, leave the trail and cross Gibson Creek.  It looks like there used to be a good trail here at one time, but it’s no longer well defined.  In fact, someone placed a tree trunk over the way you’re supposed to go.

After crossing Gibson Creek, the trail picks up again. 

The trail goes through various conditions, from being well-defined, to being covered with downed trees, to barely being a trail at all.  It also crosses Gibson Creek several times. 

The main thing is to just keep following Gibson Creek west/southwest

I followed the trail for about 2 miles, to when the trail abruptly ended where a tree had fallen over the trail.  Here I crossed the creek one last time, and bushwhacked southwest, up the mountain.  It’s important to note here something the topo map doesn’t show:  Apparently, somewhere Gibson Creek was to my right, but a much larger creek was to my left (this creek is not shown on the topo map, and could just be an error in CalTopo, as the creek was always to the south of me, but on the map it’s shown as being north).  Gibson Creek pretty much fizzled out here, so keep the creek you can see to your left as you ascend the hillside. 

This is a steep hillside with some bushwhacking involved.  It seemed to go on forever.  I took a different way down than I did up, and I’d recommend taking the way I went up, directly aiming southwest towards the ridge, as it avoids the large section of willows to the northwest. 

I made it to the ridge as the sun was coming up

Once on the ridge, it’s a straightforward, class 2 ridge hike to the summit.

Here are some step-by-step pictures of the ridge

As I was nearing the summit, I looked towards the summit and thought I saw a bighorn sheep.  When I looked again I realized it was a coyote:  the biggest coyote I’ve ever seen!  He was chillin’ on the summit.

I summited Spread Eagle Peak at 7:15am.  The coyote was nowhere to be seen.

Spread Eagle Peak: 

It was an absolutely beautiful day!  I headed south, down the ridge to the Spread Eagle/Peak of the Clouds saddle.

This was a straightforward trek, with just one short class 3 move.  I stayed right and downclimbed this section.

Then followed the ridge to the saddle

It was a simple, class 2 ridge hike to the summit of Peak of the Clouds

Here are some step-by-step pictures

Here I saw some elk (they didn’t stay long)

Looking up at the ridge to Peak of the Clouds

As I was hiking up, a marmot rushed down past me.  I wonder where he was going?

The last part of the ridge was rocky.  I stayed to the left.

I summited Peak of the Cloud at 8:20am

Peak of the Clouds:

Here’s a look at the ridge to Rito Alto Peak (in case anyone is looking to do that one as well)

I sat for a minute and enjoyed my time on the summit.  It was a beautiful 4th of July in the Sangres!

I was making this an out and back trip today, so I turned and looked back at Spread Eagle Peak

Here are some step-by-step pictures back to the saddle

This is how I accessed the ridge

And then followed the ridge north

The short class 3 section was easier to upclimb than downclimb.

Then it was an easy ridge hike to the summit

I turned and headed east down the ridge, back to treeline.  I saw elk here as well.

Once near treeline I headed back toward Gibson Creek, but as I said before, I encountered a lot of willows and it was slow going.  I’d recommend following the ridge as it slopes up a bit and becomes treed, and then heading northeast.

Yes, there’s bushwhacking and route finding involved.

I made it back to the creek, and followed the trail back as it curved northeast towards the trailhead

I crossed Gibson Creek one last time, and was back on the well-marked trail.

I made it back to my truck at 11:45am, making this an 11.05 mile hike with 5461’ of elevation gain in 8 hours.  Now, time to drive home, wake up my daughters, and grill some steak!

De Anza B – 13333, Beaubien Peak – 13184, Francisco Peak – 13135, Lomo Liso Mountain – 13128, Miranda Peak – 13468, PT 13565, PT 13229

RT Length:  16.25 miles

Elevation Gain:  6102’

I am so glad this happened!  Everyone I met on this trip was highly competent, an avid mountaineer, and just a generally great person.  My only regrets are that we didn’t have more time to chat, and the group was split due to weather and all 15 of us couldn’t have met at the same time.  I’m looking forward to when we have gatherings again, as you are all my people!   

We had originally planned to hike these peaks last weekend, but the forecasted snow had us put off the trip for a week, and our group of 15 got split up into 3 groups.  6 of us arrived at the Whiskey Pass gate around 4pm and were escorted up to the Whiskey Pass campsite to be the first group of 2021 to hike the Northern Cielo Vista 13ers.  We left the two Subaru’s down low, but they could have made it up the 4WD road to the campsite (but not to where they shuttled our vehicle and we exited).  I never put my truck into 4WD on the way up.

Our campsite for the night was at 11,500’, and absolutely beautiful.  If was obvious no one had been up there in quite a while.  It was nice to put faces to names, and all of us chatted for a bit.  Some of us slept in our vehicles, and others set up tents.  We all had different ideas for what we wanted to accomplish on our hikes the next morning, and all got to bed relatively early so we could start early. 

I was unsure when I went to bed what time I’d start, but when I woke up without an alarm at 1:45am I knew it was time to get going.  I was on the trail by 2am.  I didn’t see anyone else up, which meant they were either already on the trail or starting later (both ended up being true).  I wanted to get De Anza peak first, so instead of going over Whiskey Pass I started out heading northeast.  Here’s a visual.  There’s actually a road up there I followed for a couple dozen yards before I circled around the side of the mountain and headed northeast for the De Anza/Whiskey Peak saddle. 

Sorry, but since it was so early in the morning, I don’t have pictures from the hike to De Anza or Whiskey Pass, so you’ll need to use the topo map as reference, but I believe it’s self-explanatory.  Also, the weather was terrible:  I was hiking in fog the entire time.  I’m not sure if you’ve ever hiked in fog in the dark, but flashlights are useless.  You can only see about 5 feet in front of you, and actually have a better visual turning your flashlight off for a second to see the terrain.

Hiking up to De Anza was easy, as all I had to do was keep hiking northeast and up and I knew I’d eventually make it to the summit. When I did, I thought to myself “that was too easy” and had to check my Peakbagger app to verify I was already at the summit.  I was, so I took a picture of my feet at the summit cairn, and headed back down. My advice on this peak:  If you’re already paying to hike here, hike De Anza as well.  I’m guessing it may have added half an hour total to my hiking time.  Totally worth it, and super easy, especially by avoiding Whiskey Pass on the way up, which meant less scree/talus to navigate:  it was all tundra for me.

Hiking back down the ridge was the tricky part.  It was still dark and foggy and I had no visual sense of direction.  At one point I encountered snow and knew I was going the wrong way because I hadn’t encountered snow on the way up.  At times I’d point my flashlight away just so I could see the terrain better.  I kept my compass in front of me and did my best to head southwest down the ridge. Hiking in the dark with fog is not ideal. 

Once again, no pictures here as I made my way to Whiskey Pass.  In the daylight this is probably easy to navigate, but in the dark I kept coming across large gaps in the ridge I had to maneuver around.  If you’re doing this in the daylight I’m sure the route is obvious.  If you’re doing it in the dark I’d say if you’re in doubt, stick to the right (west) when you encounter a chasm/drop off.  It’s all class 2, so if you feel it’s more difficult than that, re-assess your route. 

The hike from Whiskey Pass up to Beaubein Peak was a straightforward ridge hike.  It was still dark, but the sun was starting to rise as I kept heading south. 

Summit of Beaubien Peak

Beaubien Peak:

Here’s my view looking back at De Anza. 

It’s colder than it looks

Next, I continued following the ridge south.  The clouds didn’t seem to want to go away. I could see Culebra in the distance, and was just waiting for the fog to lift and the sun to rise

Here’s a look at Francisco Peak

Once again, I hiked through the fog to get there

From the summit, it looks as if the true summit of Francisco Peak is further southwest (where the cairn is), but it isn’t. It’s actually where I’m standing, taking this picture.

However, I didn’t realize this until I’d walked over to the other side, so you get a picture of me there, not at the actual summit… but close. 

Francisco Peak: 

Here’s looking back on the route so far.  Still colder than it looks

The clouds now behind me, I continued following the ridge south towards Lomo Liso Mountain.  This was an easy ridge walk on tundra

The summit was large and flat and it was again difficult to figure out where the ‘true’ summit was, so I went with where the cairn was located.  Side note:  all the summit registers on all of these peaks have been broken and are empty. 

Lomo Liso Mountain:

From the summit of Lomo Liso you can clearly see the rest of the route

From the summit of Lomo Liso I turned and headed northeast, and then followed the ridge southeast.  It’s really quite obvious the direction you should go.

There were some ups and downs to the ridge, but it was a simple tundra hike

This is also where I saw my first herd of elk for the day (I ended up seeing 3 herds total, but some were too far away to see in pictures, as they were down in the basins)

After the elk ran away from me I hiked up the north slope towards Miranda Peak

The last bit to Miranda is class 3 for a short distance.  Here’s the overall route.  If you’re in a large group you may want a helmet for the loose and rocky gully (but it’s relatively short, I’d suggest just taking turns ascending so you don’t kick rocks on the person below you).

Once in the gully, here’s how I ascended to the ridge

Once on the ridge I dipped to the left (east) to go around PT 13247, and then stayed on the ridge proper towards Miranda.  This area reminded me of the knife edge on Capitol, but with less exposure and better footing. I was able to put my feet in the cracks and walk across easily.

Miranda Peak: 

Miranda is unranked, so I didn’t take a summit selfie. From Miranda you can see Culebra, as well as the next ranked peak:  PT 13565.  As you can tell from the picture below, it’s a simple ridge hike.

The summit of PT 13565 was also flat, and the summit register was also broken with the information missing (hopefully the next group will bring new summit registers)

13565:

Here’s looking back at some of today’s peaks from PT 13565

Turning west, then following the ridge northwest, it was an easy hike to PT 13229

13229:

After summiting PT 13229 I returned to the 13565/13229 saddle and then turned right and headed south.

This is where it gets tricky.  There’s a large area where you can cliff out on your descent.  You’ll need to hike much further south than you want to so you can avoid the cliffs.  I looked for a break in the cliffs, and didn’t descend until about 12500’, down a gully.  Here’s what that looked like from above

Here’s what you’re trying to avoid, and a view of how I came down (from below)

Once in the basin, I headed northwest.  It’s important to stay between Cameros Lake and the smaller pond

Here I saw a herd of elk.  Of course, they didn’t stay long

As I exited the basin, I came upon two sets of cairns, which led to a very faint trail that eventually became a more pronounced trail and then an OHV track that led me out of the basin, and back to the 4WD road.

The trail stays to the north of Carneros Creek.

Once below treeline the hike seemed to take forever, as it was another 4 miles to where they’d shuttled our cars.  There were a lot of downed trees, and a lot of elk tracks.  I heard a few turkey, and I even startled some elk on the trail that ran away as I approached.  Eventually I crossed Carneros Creek on a few logs that had been placed for just such purpose. 

And made my way back to where they had shuttled our vehicles.  As I arrived, Carlos was just bringing the last of the vehicles up.  We chatted for a bit (they are seriously super nice:  every time I’m here they act as if all they care about is my happiness, which is appreciated, considering we pay quite a lot for the privilege of hiking there).

I’d really recommend having a GPX file for this route, if just to get out of the basin and back to the vehicles, as most of the rest of the hike above treeline is self explanatory.  Message me if you’d like mine (although I’ll admit it’s not perfect).  I’d assume if you’re hiking these peaks you have a good sense of direction, and that you have a lot of off route hiking experience, so you should do just fine.  Most of this hike is on tundra, and the gully/ridge section just before Miranda is quick and nothing to worry about.  I’d like to add the drive down was more difficult than the drive up, as we were now in a different area and the road had more divots and ruts to navigate.  I still didn’t need 4WD, but I couldn’t have done it without clearance.  Carlos did use spray paint on the grass/dirt to indicate which turns to take, which was helpful.

I made it back to my truck around 11:30am, making this a 16.25 mile hike with 6102’ of elevation gain in 9.5 hours.  On to the next trailhead!

Northwest Pole – 13,660, Pole Creek Mountain – 13,716 & PT 13,580

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RT Length: 19.67 Miles

Elevation Gain: 5926’

I drove up to Carson Pass a few days before and slept in my truck, hiking Bent Peak the first day, and Carson Pass, Tundra Top, Cataract Peak, and PT 13581 the next. For details on the drive in, please see this post: Carson Pass.

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I woke up before my alarm again today, but not because I was well rested: I was cold! As I turned on a light I realized I only had half of my blankets covering me. There wasn’t any wind last night, and when I looked outside I could see tons of stars. The clear skies had made for a cold night. I jumped in the cab of my truck to warm up and get ready for the day, noticing it was 32 degrees outside (as compared to yesterday morning’s 43). It was amazing what difference a few degrees makes.

I turned the truck on to turn on the heat and was once again disappointed to notice my ABS and Traction lights were still on, as well as my 4WD light still blinking. That was going to haunt me all day.

I was on the trail by 3:30am, and it was so cold I turned back at one point, intent on sitting in my truck a little longer, but I immediately turned back again: I’d knew I’d warm up a bit once I started moving. The weather forecast was better for today, but I still wanted to get an early start. I followed the 4WD dirt road 821 to the class 1 Trail 813 as it lost a total of 400’ as it wound down the canyon, and then gained almost 1000’ to the top of the pass.

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There was one small section of snow to cross, but luckily the elk had already done a great job blazing the trail.

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Once at the top of the pass I continued along the trail, dipping down into the basin, losing another 700’ of elevation.

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After hiking for a total of 5 miles at this junction I turned and followed 822 southwest to the base of the Northwest Pole Ridge.

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In the basin I left the trail and headed for the Northwest Pole Ridge

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My goal here was to gain the ridge and follow it to the summit of Northwest Pole. Here’s an overview of the route:

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And what it looks like gaining the ridge (yes, tons of elk out there today). Also, the basin was marshy, but since it was so cold and early in the morning it was frozen and crunchy. There were ribbons of water that I hopped across. I wouldn’t want to pass this area when it’s soggy and wet.

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Once on the ridge it’s easy to see the snow free path to follow, all on tundra. This is all easy class 2

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From the top of the ridge you dip down a little bit and then back up on loose rock

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The crux of this climb comes at the very end. I spent some time trying to figure out how I wanted to summit. At first I tried to gain the block at the area where all the bird droppings were, but it didn’t look like it was the easiest way. Next I tried summiting up a chimney, but about halfway up I knew I’d need rope to get back down (I’m short) so I stopped and looked for another route. In the end I was able to summit by going up the area with all the bird droppings, just from a different angle. There is a lot of exposure here and small scree on the rocks, making it slippery and a fall dangerous.

Here’s the route I took:

I aimed for the bird droppings. Here’s what that looked like from a couple of different angles.

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From there I traversed along the exposed edge towards the summit.

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It looks easy, but this is the exposure, and yes, it included a trust jump (once again, I’m short, it could have been more of a long lean for someone over 6 feet tall, but I had to jump). Here’s looking back on the jump area (it’s too difficult to see in a picture coming from the other way, but this picture offers a good look back on the ridge too)

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I summited at 9:45am

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Northwest Pole:

 

Here I am getting ready to jump the area on the way back.

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And from the top where the bird droppings are back down. Yes, it’s as steep as it looks

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Back on solid ground I took a picture of the summit block and how I traversed it. I circled where I jumped.

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Time to head over to Pole Creek Mountain. Here’s an overview of the route from Northwest Pole

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I descended east towards the basin, first on loose rock that gave way to tundra, losing 850’ of elevation, crossing a stream, and heading back up towards Pole Creek Mountain.

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Here’s looking back at Northwest Pole

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I continued southeast towards Pole Creek Mountain. Here’s how I ascended; the snow was easy to avoid, and I used it to track where I wanted to go:

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After ascending the ridge I aimed for the access gully, which had snow but enough dry areas to pass easily without traction

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Then I just followed the ridge south towards the summit

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I summited Pole Creek Mountain at 9:45am, after almost 10 miles of hiking

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Pole Creek Mountain:

I headed back the same way I’d come in, following the ridge and then going back down the small access gully. Everything looked totally different on my way back and I second guessed myself a few times, but keeping Northwest Pole in sight helped.

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Once back down in the basin between Pole Creek Mountain and Northwest Pole I wanted to stay high on my way back out to avoid the snow below Pole Creek Mountain to the east

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I headed north, and then east around this small peak.

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There was some snow here, but elk in the area make a great trail and traction wasn’t needed

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I rounded the east side of the small peak

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And unexpectedly came across a small herd of elk! This was so cool! I’ve heard of elk doing this, but I’d never actually seen it before: the mama elk were laying in a circle, with the babies laying down inside and two sentries standing guard. I saw them a split second before they saw me (the wind was blowing towards me, so they hadn’t heard/smelled me) and I was able to get a picture before they took off

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As soon as one of the elk standing guard saw me I could almost hear him say:
“See? This is why we always employ the safety circle! Always! This is not a drill! Move! Move! Move!”
And they were off and down the hillside, out of sight.

Well, that had certainly been a neat experience! I continued rounding the peak and then made my way down the hillside, all the way to the basin floor. Here’s an overview of the route I took

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And looking back, here’s the route I took down into the basin. For obvious reasons I’m now referring to this as “dementor ridge”

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Once in the basin I was at the lowest elevation I’d be at all day, and still had a lot of hiking left to do. I aimed northeast until I hit a trail, and then followed it up. This was trail 822 that would bring me back to Trail 813 (if I chose to go that route). This was actually easier than it looks because there are a lot of good elk trails in the area, passing through the willows.

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I followed the trail to a sort of a saddle, and stopped to think

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From here the trail obviously dipped down once again, losing several hundred feet of elevation before reconnecting with Trail 813 and gaining the pass, then dipping back down into the basin and up again out. Here I was, sitting directly below PT 13580, a ranked 13er that I’d want to hike sometime in the near future, but in which I dreaded that drive into Carson Pass that would be necessary again next time. It was still early in the day and the weather was great. I decided to just summit PT 13580 now while I was in the area. I’d done some scouting yesterday and today, and I was sure the route from the summit of 13580 back to the pass ‘went’ easily and would be snow free. I turned right and headed east up the mountainside. This was a very straightforward hike up tundra

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At the top the tundra turned to rock, all class 2 and easy to navigate

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At the top of this rocky area was the summit. I summited at 2:15pm

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PT 13,580:

Here’s a look back at the route

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Now I decided to stay high on the ridge and aimed north, following the ridge towards the peaks I’d climbed yesterday

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And then back down to the pass and trail 813

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The hike out was uneventful. It was a beautiful day and I just followed the class 1 trail back. Oh, and I saw the moose again, in the same spot as yesterday.

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I made it back to my truck at 4:15pm, making this a 19.67 mile hike with 5926’ of elevation gain in 12 hours, 45 minutes. Here’s a topo map of my route:

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When I made it back to my truck I noticed a marmot running out from underneath. Great. I decided it would be best to try to drive my truck down today in the daylight in case I got stuck, but because I also didn’t want to encounter other vehicles (if possible) I decided to eat dinner first and take my time. Also, I wasn’t even sure yet my truck would drive.

When it was time to go I was able to get the truck to move and tried to see if I could get 4WD to engage by driving the truck around for a bit, but that didn’t work. So I decided to just go for it and head back down the road, going as slow as possible. I probably maxed out at 2mph. When I got to about a mile from the end of the 4WD road I saw another vehicle turning around. It took them 20 minutes to do so, and by this point I was feeling pretty confident about my truck.

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I made it back to the 36, kept trying different things to get my 4WD light to stop flashing and realized it was hopeless. I drove home and the first thing the next morning went to the dealership. The diagnosis: rodent damage. One of those darn marmots, chipmunks, pikas (etc.) had bitten through the wiring. Luckily it was fixable, and I was out of there within a few hours. They put rat tape over the wires to hopefully prevent this from happening again. I’d never heard of rat tape before, but it sounds like it should be on all wires.

I consider myself lucky: after years of leaving my truck in the backcountry this is the first time I’ve ever had this issue where it’s caused concern. I’ve chased some porcupine’s out from underneath my truck before, but that was before any damage was done.

I’ve done some serious thinking about the issue, and I think a physical barrier is the only way I’m going to keep rodents out. So here’s my idea: tomorrow I’m going to Home Depot and buying a large tarp and some bungee cords. When I park at the next trailhead I’m going to lay out the tarp, drive over it, and then secure it around my truck with bungee cords to prevent critters from getting underneath.

This is just a thought at this point, but something I hope to implement and test soon.

 

 

 

Carson Peak – 13,657, Tundra Top – 13,450, Cataract Peak – 13,524 & PT 13,581

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RT Length: 15.41 miles

Elevation Gain: 5543’

I drove up to Carson Pass the night before and slept in my truck. For details on the drive in, please see this post: Carson Pass.

That night was a rough night, not only because my mind wouldn’t turn off, but because the winds were constant and curiously loud. I woke up before my alarm and decided to sit in the cab of my truck with the heat on to warm up a bit before starting out. I turned the ignition, heard a “thunk” and noticed my ABS and traction control lights were on. Oh, and my 4WD light was blinking. That seemed strange, and a little troublesome. I tried turning the truck off and on again and taking it in/out of 4WD but I couldn’t get it to engage. I didn’t like this turn of events but figured I might just need to get the truck moving to get it to work. Hopefully it was just an actuator problem. I was on the trail at 4am.

The forecast called for rain today, which most likely would transfer to snow at this altitude. I usually like to do the longer hike first, but today I was afraid I’d get caught too far when weather hit and since these entire hikes are above treeline that just didn’t sound safe. I grabbed my helmet and figured I’d play it by ear.

From my parking spot I traveled south for half a mile along trail 821 before turning right onto the Continental Divide Trail/The Colorado Trail/Trail 831. I didn’t know it at the time, but just past this junction there is actually a parking area, so if you wanted to cut off a mile from this hike (and extra elevation gain) you could just park there.

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I followed the class 1 Trail 813 as it lost a total of 400’ as it wound down the canyon, and then gained almost 1000’ to the top of the pass.

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There was one small section of snow to cross, but luckily for me the elk had already done a great job blazing the trail.

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I saw quite a few elk this weekend. They are definitely all over this basin. The first ones I encountered at about 5:30am. Of course they trotted away from me, but I was able to get a photo of one up on the ridge (I’d be on that ridge in about half an hour)

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Up towards the top of the pass the trail got a little wet, but it was still easy to follow.

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From the top of the pass I left the trail, turned right and headed northeast to the ridge.

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I aimed for the saddle and got a great view of the sunrise.

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From here it was a class 2 ridge hike. I stayed on the ridge when possible, and when not I dipped to the right. Here’s the route I took:

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In the beginning there were some steep sections to navigate. Nothing too difficult, but it’s all choss and there’s some decent exposure, so choose your footing carefully. This area was about a foot and a half wide in places.

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This section is easier than it looks: Just dip down to the right

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From there it’s an easy walk up tundra to the summit

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I summited at 6:40am

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Carson Peak:

I turned around and headed back over the ridge. From here I had a good view of my next 2 objectives: Tundra Top and Cataract Peak

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The route looks a little different on the way back.

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Go straight over this part. Once again, there is some exposure here, along with loose rocks. Be sure of your footing.

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And straight up this. Once again: loose, but straight up is the way to go

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Once the ridge section is done it’s an easy walk up tundra

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The only problem? I’m not sure exactly where the summit is to Tundra Top. It looks like it’s at the jagged point you can see from Carson Peak, and indeed that feels like the summit and also has a large cairn, but when I used my altimeter I measured the middle of the flat, open space further to the west as being 30 feet higher. Also, there are cairns all over the summit, as well as at the high point after the ridge. So I basically walked all over the mountain (between summiting the first time and when I came back over from Cataract) and I’m considering it a summit.

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In any event, here’s a couple of summit photos from somewhere on the top of Tundra Top, and a video (not sure if the video is from the actual summit though)

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Tundra Top:

I turned north and headed over towards Cataract Peak

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The hike down started with unstable rocks and then switched to scree. This was class 2, and I’m pretty sure I was using game trails, making my way towards the saddle.

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There are two ways to summit Cataract Peak: you can go to the left (west), gain the ridge, and then summit, or go straight up the south face. Not knowing ridge conditions, I decided to go straight up the south face, even though that meant crossing some snow. (After summiting Cataract I realized the ridge is easy class 2 and a viable option).

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After crossing the snow I made my way up the mountainside on loose scree, which was steep at times. I followed an obvious game trail with one switchback.

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At the top of the ridge I turned left, went around this boulder, and hiked the short distance to the summit (which had a cairn)

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I summited Cataract Peak at 8:25am

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Cataract Peak:

I re-traced my steps back to Tundra Top

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Encountering an elk on the ice flow before the easy hike up to Tundra Top

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From Tundra Top you could see a bunch of the peaks I was hiking this weekend. I spent a lot of time here, checking out the weather and looking at routes for tomorrow to see if they were clear or not. Unfortunately, these peaks require a lot of ups and downs through basins, and while I could see ridges were clear, I had no idea what the basins looked like.

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I headed back to the pass, picked up the trail, and headed back down into the basin.

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When I got to the lowest point in the basin I decided to attempt PT 13581 today as well. The weather looked like it would hold, and I was so close (and not yet tired) that I figured I should at least give it a try. I eyeballed this one, looking for the best route up. I decided to leave the trail, cross Lost Trail Creek, and follow the drainage until I hit the tundra that paralleled willows. Then I would stay on the tundra, using the willows as guidance before taking a gully up. To gain the ridge I took the solid line up, the dotted line down.

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This proved to be a fabulous plan. The only downside was the gully: it had recently melted out and was still soft. I almost lost a hiking boot in the mud, and it was very steep. It almost felt like it should have been a winter route with snow, an ice axe and crampons.

Here it is in a little more detail:

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At the top of the ridge I turned right and followed the ridge to the summit block

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I was keeping a close eye on the weather. The clouds were building, and fast. Luckily, they looked like snow clouds and not thunderclouds. I had a feeling that 40% chance of rain was going to happen.

When I made it to the summit block I was surprised to find it wasn’t a class 2 hike as my (quick) research had told me. Nope, this was definitely class 3. I was glad I’d brought my helmet. I strapped it on and left my pack and trekking pole and headed in to figure out how to summit. This is the route I took: I circled around to the left, found a bunch of easy class 3 access gullies, took one up, followed the ridge around to another access gully and climbed to the top. There was exposure in the second gully.

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I summited at 12pm

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PT 13581:

The weather was turning so I quickly retraced my steps back down the gullies to my gear, then followed the ridge

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On the way out I took the second gully down, which wasn’t as steep, and then followed the same path I’d used as on my way in back to the trail.

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The wind picked up as I hit the gully and it started snowing. Not big fluffy flakes, but more like slush being carried by the wind that splattered when it hit me. I put on better gloves and kept hiking.

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The hike out was uneventful, as it was on a well maintained class 1 trail. The extra 600’ of elevation gain on the way out was kind of a bummer, so I just took it slow. The trail actually inclines gradually, so it wasn’t too bad.

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Oh, and I saw a moose in the basin, so that was kind of cool. It was a little far to get a good picture of, but it’s a male.

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I made it back to my truck at 2pm, making this a 15.41 mile hike with 5543’ of elevation gain in 10 hours.

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Here’s a topo map of my route:

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It was still early so I decided to clean up, get something to eat, and try to start my computer. It lit up but quickly turned off. Maybe it will dry out overnight and work tomorrow? OK, with my computer out I decided to do some reading. My favorite book for a long time has been “Death in the Grand Canyon”, so I picked up it’s sequel, “Death in Yosemite” and have been reading it the past few weeks. Lovely how the book reiterates, several times, how it’s important to always make good choices, retrace your steps before committing when you’re unsure if you can continue, and not to go solo. Also, don’t be a male between 20-30 years of age. I like to remind myself of these things often and use these stories to try to learn from others’ mistakes.

Idea: Devotionals for hikers (not necessarily religious) that are quick, a page or two, and detail real accidents and how they occurred. Then discussion questions to see what steps could have been employed to prevent the accident. In other words, more books like “Death in the Grand Canyon”, just in a different format.

From inside my truck I watched the marmots and pikas and chipmunks go about their business. They couldn’t see me in the topper, and it was fun to watch them skitter around. One marmot chirped incessantly for over an hour, and I as I sat there my thoughts drifted to how everyone should get to experience climbing in the mountains at least once in their life.

After reading I got out my topo map and looked at routes for the next day, prepped my gear, and got to bed early. I wanted to get a lot of rest before an early start tomorrow, and I was still a little worried about my 4WD and computer problems…

 

Sayres Benchmark – 13,728 & PT 13,460

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RT Length: 12.61 Miles

Elevation Gain: 4652’

 

I drove to the La Plata Gulch Traihead and then took 391 for a little over 2.5 miles to a junction with 382, 391, and 392, where I parked my truck. This is an easy 4WD road in, with a few water holes to navigate.

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I parked at what looked to be an avalanche runout area.

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Initially I’d intended to make this a loop and incorporate Unnamed 13,300F and PT 12,601, but the area that I’d exit the hike as a loop with had a lot of “no trespassing” signs, so I decided early on just to make this a 2 peak hike.

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At 5am I gathered my gear and headed southwest, following 392, passing some dispersed campsites and wiki-ups.

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I crossed a bridge and turned right, following 392. There are more dispersed campsites here. The dispersed campsites make it a little difficult to follow/see the road.

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In the dark I ended up going too far south on 382, missing the obvious 392 sign, and the not so obvious road. Turn left at this sign, even though there’s no road.

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And pass through a gate, now following the 392 4WD road.

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Almost immediately I came to a creek crossing that required me to take off my shoes and get out my sandals. The creek was cold (especially at 5am) but the water only went up to my knees in the deepest of places.

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Shoes back on, I followed the 4WD road. “4WD Road” is a bit of a misnomer. This was probably a road decades ago, but it has gone into disrepair and hasn’t been used for quite a while. It’s easy to follow, but overgrown in many areas with willows, aspens, and even 10+ foot pine trees.

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At 11,950’ I came to a small cabin with a great view.

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I peered inside: someone had left a peanut bottle full of trail mix (peanuts and M&M’s?) on a shelf. It was dark and cold inside and I’ve seen horror movies so I didn’t take the bait. I turned around and considered my options. Here the road still had some snow/ice covering it, but early in the morning I could walk across it when necessary without traction. On the way back I was able to see dry spots to navigate down and avoided the snow.

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My options were to either take the road or follow the ridge. I decided to take the road up and follow the ridge back down. I wasn’t disappointed. I also placed a cairn here to show where you leave the trail to follow the ridge (even though it should be obvious).

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The road really didn’t have much snow on it after I passed this point and was quite easy to follow all the way to the saddle. Several times I intersected with the ridge route as I followed the road.

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From the ridge you can see the road, and the path you take to get to Sayres Benchmark

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I was really glad I decided to take the road up. Not because it was easier than the ridge, but because it was here I saw some elk. My favorite were the calves, suckling breakfast until they noticed me and their mamas decided it was time for them to leave.

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Elk:

Following the road to 13275 feel of elevation I then turned right (south) and followed the ridge, losing 300 or so feet of elevation as I made my way to the saddle. I decided to just follow the ridge, even though it meant going up and down in elevation a few times. (This is all class 2)

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There was still some snow on the ridge. I made the 50/50 decision to stick to the right of the ridge and wasn’t disappointed, as later I could see the ridge to the left was impassable due to snow.

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I stuck to the right of the snow

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Towards the top the tundra gave way to rocks

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The top of this is unfortunately not the summit of Sayres Benchmark, even if it looks like it is from far away. Nope, when you get to the top of the ridge turn left (northeast) and hike to another small saddle and then up to the summit of Sayres.

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There was more snow here than I would have liked, but it was firm this early in the morning. I decided against putting on spikes or crampons and just hiked across.

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After this small saddle I picked one of the many dirt filled gullies and climbed to the top

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I summited at 8:40am.

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Summit of Sayres:

There was a benchmark that I’m pretty sure is off by 1000’ or so…

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There was a summit register, but as always, I didn’t open it. Time to head back the way I came. I turned back and headed towards the small saddle, retracing my steps. Here’s an overview of the route to PT 13460

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I was glad the snow was still firm enough not to need traction. Today there was minimal exposure as well.

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Here’s an overview of the route back to PT 13,430 (not considered ranked or unranked)

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Notice the snow? It’s good here to stick to the left (west side)

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Here’s a visual of the route to the top of PT 13,430

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I took the road to the ridge, turned right (northeast) and once I was on the ridge the ground turned sandy for a bit, but mostly it was crushed rock.

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Here’s a view of PT 13,460 from PT 13,430

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Here’s the route I took to get to PT 13,430. I tried to stick to the ridge, but when that wasn’t possible I dipped to the left. This is all class 2, maybe easy 2D (if that can be a thing?)

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Here you dip down to the left and climb back up through a short gully

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The final trek to 13,460

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I summited PT 13,460 at 10:20am. There was as a summit register here.

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Summit of 13,460:

Here’s looking back at today’s peaks

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I made my way back to PT 13,430, retracing my steps. Here’s an overview of the route back down from the ridge before PT 13,460. You can clearly see the road at the end of the ridge. I circled where my truck is parked.

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The ridge started out as rubble and turned to tundra before making it back to the road

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Here’s looking back at the ridge. While hiking the ridge I ran into another hiker! I hadn’t expected to see anyone at all today, and as we passed I was thrilled to see she was another female solo hiker. It’s nice to see other women out rocking the mountains. We talked for a bit. I was probably a bit clipped because I had other plans for today and wanted to keep moving, but she did too so after chatting about the weekend weather around the state and other peaks for this weekend we were both on our way.

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I followed the road back to the creek crossing, through the gate, turned right, and followed the trail back to my truck. I kept my sandals on after the creek crossing, since it was such a short distance and I’d be changing back into them when I was done anyway.

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I made it back to my truck at 12:30pm, making this a 12.61 mile hike with 4652’ of elevation gain in 7.5 hours.

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Since it was still early, the weather seemed to be holding up, and I wasn’t yet exhausted I decided to drive over to Independence Pass and see if I could hit a few more ranked 13ers today. As I drove out all of those empty dispersed camping spots were full.