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
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
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