Tincup Peak – 13,345, Emma Burr Mountain – 13,538 & PT 13050

RT Length:  15.94 miles

Elevation Gain:  4888’

This was my third attempt at Emma Burr Mountain.  The first two times I turned back due to wind, but today the forecast kept wind speeds around 15mph, so I tried again.  I was in this area last week, and the approach conditions are still the same, so I’m just copying and pasting for efficiency purposes. 

The drive in to St Elmo was icy but doable in a 2wd

I was on the trail at 4:00am.  The trail starts out following Trail/Road 267 west

This road goes all the way to Tincup Pass, and by the looks of it, a 4WD vehicle had driven the entire way recently.  High five to this individual, as they have some serious chutzpah. I was glad I’d parked below however, as I wasn’t sure how my truck would have done on the ice.

This trail parallels North Fork Chalk Creek. 

I followed the road for 5.15 miles, staying right here to stay on the road. As I hiked, I saw quite a few moose tracks.  It looked like a mama and baby were in the area, so I was on the lookout.  I saw tire tracks, but no human footprints.

After hiking for just over 5 miles I made it to the upper basin.  Just as with last week, here the tire tracks stopped.  I donned my snowshoes and made my way northwest to Tincup Pass.  I also noticed the snowshoe tracks I’d made last week were gone, and unfortunately, no moose sightings this time.

Once at the pass I got the picture I’d wanted but forewent last week due to the weather.  My son and his Boy Scout Troop always had an annual campout here, with a corresponding picture with this sign.  He’ll get a kick out of seeing the snow in this picture.  The sun was starting to rise.

Here I took off my snowshoes and turned around, heading east up the side of the mountain

This was a much easier hike than I remembered from the last time I was here.  I was pleasantly surprised the wind wasn’t more intense.  Microspikes were overkill here, but once I put them on I rarely take them off because doing so would require me to take off my gloves, and I can’t recover from that type of cold, especially if there’s wind. There was a faint trail here that eventually disappeared. 

Before gaining the ridge I kept to the left, traveling northeast.

Here’s a look back at Tincup Pass

Once on the ridge I followed it to the summit.  This is also where the wind picked up.  I put on my balaclava and followed the ridge. The ridge is long, and there’s a false summit here.

Once at the top of the false summit the true summit was clear. 

I made it to the summit of Tincup Peak at 8:21am. 

Tincup Peak: 

I’d already summited Tincup Peak previously:  My real goal today was Emma Burr Mountain, which can be seen to the north. 

The trek over to Emma Burr looked more difficult than it was. I was especially worried when I saw this part of the ridge

As it turns out, I was worrying about nothing, as there isn’t a dropoff on the left side of the ridge.  This was a class 2 hike all the way to the summit.  I stayed directly on the ridge.

Here are some step by step visuals of the ridge to Emma Burr.  You can stay low here or go high.  Both are class 2

I summited Emma Burr Mountain at 9:22am

Emma Burr Mountain:

It was quite windy, so I didn’t stay on the summit long. Instead, I turned and headed back the way I’d come, towards Tincup Peak.  Heading south now I had a great view of a cornice forming on Emma Burr

The day was still young and the forecasted snow hadn’t materialized, so I decided to make this a loop and head over to PT 13050.  Here’s an overall view of my route to the ridge.  I didn’t re-summit Tincup, but instead stayed just below snowline

I traversed Tincup’s east slope to the ridge.  Here the wind stopped and it was getting warm, so I was able to take my balaclava off.

Once on the ridge I followed it east.

There were times I was worried I’d cliff out (I didn’t have much beta on this peak), but if you stay to the right this stays a class 2 hike.  I lost 660’ of elevation as I hiked east towards the Tincup/13050 saddle.  There’s a gaping hole on the ridge here (I skirted it to the right)

The trickiest part of this ridge comes just before the saddle/lowest point.  This is the only area I went left instead of right. 

From the saddle it was an easy ridge hike to the summit.  I gained about 500’ here

I knew I was at the summit when I found this cairn (it’s difficult to tell where the exact summit is for this peak, so I went with the cairn, but walked all over the summit). 

I summited PT 13050 at 11:40am

PT 13050: 

Here’s a look back on the route from Tincup Peak/Emma Burr Mountain

I was making this a loop, eventually making my way back to the 4WD road I’d hiked in on.  So, I continued heading east

I followed the mountainside east, went right around this rock outcropping, and then headed for the trees

Here’s looking back

At this point I put on my snowshoes and aimed southeast, heading towards the 4WD road.  Once in the trees I found a drainage and followed that down.  This would not be fun to do in reverse.

The snow lessened just before making it to the road.  If you were to do this hike in reverse, the spot I exited was just over 2 miles from where I’d parked.

Once o the road, I followed it back to my truck, parked on the west side of St Elmo.

I made it back to my truck at 1:40pm, making this a 15.94 mile hike with 4888’ in elevation gain in 9 hours, 30 minutes.  As a side note, I saw a ‘no parking’ sign on this side of the road this time (it must have been covered in snow last week), so I’d advice you to park before entering St Elmo and hike through town to start this hike.

Fitzpatrick Peak – 13,112

RT Length: 14.65 miles

Elevation Gain: 3169’

I drove through the night and arrived at St Elmo at 4am.  I love driving, especially at this time of year:  once the summer campers are gone I don’t see another vehicle from the time I hit HWY 24 until I make it to my destination (besides the predictable police officers, stationed on the side of the road  in their usual places – It’s gotta be tough for them this time of year, and cold.  Thank you for your service).  The 2WD road in was a bit slick so I took it slow.

The usual place I like to park (on the east side of town) had vehicles and trailers parked erratically in most of the spaces.  It looked like they’d been parked there for quite a long time, so I drove through town, looking for a place to park closer to where I wanted to start.  I figured I could always turn back if needed and squeeze-in.  There were dozens of ‘no parking’ signs all through town, leading up to 267, but I was able to find a 20 foot space right near the start of the trail that didn’t have a ‘no parking’ sign (there were signs on the opposite side of the road, but not here, so I took pictures and crossed my fingers this was a ‘legal’ place to park). I decided to take my chances and park, mainly because it was cold, and  I wasn’t entirely sure I was hiking for very long this morning (I would most likely be back by 8am at this point, before anyone would question my questionable parking situation). I was having a really hard time motivating myself to hike today.  As I drove to the trailhead the temperature outside plummeted, and was a balmy 7 degrees outside when I arrived.  The forecast said a low of 30. 

I know myself pretty well, so I have a rule that says I at least attempt a hike (except for that one time when the temperature was -36 degrees at the South Mt Elbert trailhead.  I turned around that time… after sitting for 30 minutes at the trailhead waiting for the temperature to increase.  When it didn’t, I was more worried about re-starting my vehicle after turning it off than I was about my own personal safety and left.  Otherwise, I always attempt).  Usually, once I start hiking I don’t want to stop.  Hiking always makes me feel better, and I never regret a hike, even if I need to turn back.  Also, the further I go the less likely I am to turn back.  So, I went through the act of putting on my essential cold weather gear, telling myself I’d work at it and only turn back if I was worried about frostbite (etc).  Don’t we all love a balaclava?

I was on the trail (in all my winter gear) at 4:30am.  The trail starts out following Trail/Road 267 west

This road goes all the way to Tincup Pass, and by the looks of it, a 4WD vehicle had driven the entire way recently.  High five to this individual, as they have some serious chutzpah. I was glad I’d parked below however, as I wasn’t sure how my truck would have done on the ice.

This trail parallels North Fork Chalk Creek.  As I was hiking my feet were frozen.  My fingers were frozen.  I couldn’t feel my nose.  I kept telling myself I should turn back.  But I also kept telling myself I wanted to get a good hike in today, as the alternative was to drive home and hit the treadmill:  I’d just make sure I got in at least 5 miles out and back.  Ok, 10 if possible? And how could I get as much elevation gain as possible while avoiding those torrential winds?  If mileage/elevation isn’t possible while hiking I hit the treadmill when I get home, but I’d much rather make my miles/elevation in the mountains.   It was supposed to be very windy above treeline today, but if I kept moving I could keep my toes ‘warm’.  They had to warm up eventually, right?  So, I kept going.  I jumped a few times in the dark at the sound of running water (water running over trailside waterfalls).  I know that sounds weird, but it was always unexpected, specially today as otherwise it was very quite this morning.

I followed the road for 5.15 miles, staying right here to stay on the road. As I hiked I saw quite a few moose tracks.  It looked like a mama and baby were in the area, so I was on the lookout.  I saw tire tracks, but no human footprints.

From here the incline started as I followed the road up the mountainside

After hiking for 5.15 miles I was in the basin.  My spirits had lifted, and I was now excited to be out hiking today.   The winds had put drifts onto the 4WD road, so I decided to put on my snowshoes and head towards Tincup pass on foot. 

As I hiked I changed today’s hiking plans.  Originally I’d planned to hike Emma Burr, but I could see by looking at the clouds the winds were intense above treeline, and the snow was coming in much earlier than predicted (4pm was when they were slated to start, but by the looks of it, it would be snowing before noon).  I had several options today, and chose instead to summit Fitzpatrick Peak.  I believe this is traditionally done by gaining Tincup pass and following the ridge (thus getting in a 12er as well), but my visual of the winds told me my Raynaud’s would balk at a windy and cold ridge hike today.  So, instead I decided to make this a visual hike and hike up the west side of Fitzpatrick Peak, staying below the ridge and thus avoiding the brunt of the wind.  Here’s my overall route.  In red I’ve circled an obvious trail, but it led to a cornice I didn’t feel comfortable attempting today. 

On the way in I went through the willows, and don’t recommend this.  I followed moose tracks, winding in and out as they did to find the best path.  On my way back I stayed higher and found more solid ground (dotted line).  I’d recommend staying high.

This is a very visual, not a technical hike.  Here are some close up pictures (once again, one of the summer routes is circled, and you can see why I chose to stay low, as there’s a cornice at the end of the route, and cliffs above the exit point around the cornice).

I gained the ridge at the last possible point.  Here I encountered fierce winds and sastrugi.  It had been a good idea to stay low for so long.

I summited Fitzpatrick Peak at 8:35am.  Note:  I recently bought a stylus (well, 5 for $3, gotta love Amazon) and it’s changed my life!  I no longer need to take off my gloves to take a picture with my cell phone.  This is a major bonus when your camera battery dies due to cold, but your phone still works.  The only downside?  It’s still selfies at summits (trust me, I hate these more than you do). 

Fitzpatrick Peak: 

Time to head back.  The winds were seriously intense, and, even though I missed out on a 12er and several other 13ers, I still believed I’d made a good choice in the peak I hiked today and my approach in doing so.  Here’s a look at the way back, with a look at Emma Burr, as well as the 12er, Tincup Pass, and alternate routes/4WD roads.  My route is solid orange, alternates are dotted.

The winds were intense and I could see the snow coming in (early), so I didn’t stay long on the summit.  Here’s the route down, one of the alternate routes I’d avoided circled in red.  I stayed higher this time, mostly because I really wanted a picture of me at Tincup Pass with all this snow, but as I hiked on the weather quickly deteriorated.  The clouds came in faster, and it started to snow.  So I decided to just aim for the trail I’d hiked in on and get out before the storm hit.



As I was hiking out I saw two moose!  They weren’t right along the trail, but I was confident I’d been following their tracts earlier.

They were both males (not a mama and baby), one that looked mature, and the other probably a 2-3 year old (his antlers were lacking, but present) and while they didn’t run away (which is usually what happens when I see moose) they did stare at me, and turn their bodies as I walked by.  To avoid conflict I didn’t make eye contact, and tried to be as respectable as possible.  These photos are terrible because I wasn’t aiming/zooming in, etc., but snapping as I hiked past…. and they were on my cell phone (my good camera had a frozen battery and wasn’t functional).  It’s been quite a banner year for me for moose sightings.  I think I’m up to 7 or 8, when it’s usually around 3 or 4.   

I think it’s interesting the males seems to join together.  I’ve never seen two females together (unless mother and baby).  I’ve seen males and females alone, a male and female together, and up to 3 males together at a time, but never two females.

I was now back at the 4WD road.  Here I took off my snowshoes, as they were no longer needed (they were a bit overkill towards the summit, but it hadn’t been worth it to take them off for such a short trek)

It was now snowing.  Not a lot, but enough to tell me to book it back to the truck.  The weather had certainly come in much quicker today than anticipated.  I was pleased with my choice of Fitzpatrick Peak as an alternate today:  the weather on Emma Burr looked menacing at this point.  I followed the 4WD road back

This time, appreciating the streams whose noise had startled me in the dark, and doubly appreciating the lack of snowmobiles:  Last time I was here they zoomed by every 5 minutes or so, and it was obvious they were on a tour and didn’t know how to navigate their vehicles:  I did a lot of jumping out of the way.  Today it was a nice, peaceful hike, and I didn’t see another person all day. 

I made it back to my truck at 11:30am, making this a 14.65 mile hike with 3169’ of elevation gain in 7 hours. 

It was now 36 degrees, and while my hike hadn’t turned out as I’d intended (Emma Burr was my initial goal) I was so glad I’d decided to get out of my truck in 7 degree weather and hike!  Added bonus:  Apparently I’d parked legally:  no ticket on my dashboard and my truck was still there when I got back, so I’m assuming it was a legal place to park (with so many ‘illegal’ places, a nice ‘you CAN park here’ sign would be nice…)

Tincup Peak – 13,345′


RT Length: 14.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 3590′

I absolutely needed to get above treeline today: the past few weeks has been a whirlwind cookie season, limiting my availability to hike, and the weather hasn’t been cooperating on the days I’ve had available so I’ve been highpointing instead closer to home. Also, today is a leap day and I’ve never had a leap day summit. So I did what I always do and checked the weather forecast for about 10 peaks and chose the one with the best forecast.

The road to St Elmo is mostly dirt and (thankfully) well plowed. A 2WD vehicle could easily have made it to the trailhead.


I arrived around 4:30am and drove through town looking for a parking space. No luck. The streets were plowed but because of the snow there was nowhere to park, so I ended up turning around (twice) and parking near the east end of town in a lot that looked reserved for trucks pulling trailers. I was the only vehicle in the lot when I arrived.


I gathered my gear and was on the road by 5am, turned and headed back to make sure I’d turned off the dome light in my truck, and started off again. Almost immediately a Bobcat ran across my path, doing it’s best to run away from me as fast as it could. I considered it a good omen. It was a bit eerie walking through a ghost town at night, and with all the snow you could tell which houses were occupied and which ones had residents who went somewhere else for the winter. Every building had a sercurity system flashing a red light every few seconds or so.


At the end of town I turned right onto 162E and then left after the bridge and followed the signs towards Tincup pass. It’s 6miles from here to the pass.






The road was nicely groomed and looked like it had a lot of snowmobile activity. I spent my time hiking fantasizing about the new truck set up I’m working on for Spring/Summer (same truck, new setup). Embarassingly I jumped a few times at noises in the night, just to realize it was the sound of an invisible (snow-covered) creek or a tree about ready to fall. My original intent was to leave the trail and summit Point 13,050 and traverse the ridge over to Tincup Peak, but it quickly became obvious that wasn’t going to happen today: the snow wasn’t going to cooperate. There were several sections where I could tell snowmobiles had gotten stuck in the snow and had to be pulled out after leaving the road to head north (the way towards 13,050). So instead I followed the road slightly southwest for 4 miles, until I came to a trail junction. I could also tell the weather wasn’t going to be as sunny/calm as originally forecasted. The winds were only supposed to be 5-10mph here today, yet I could tell by the sounds the trees were making the wind was much more intense. Several times I heard wind that scared me into thinking I was hearing an avalanche. Tons of fun!


I continued straight (northwest) and followed the trail until I made it out of the trees.



From here I followed orange poles to Tincup Pass. Here’s the basic route:


At about this time I couldn’t feel my toes/feet anymore, and it felt like I had two half-dollar sized rocks under the balls of my feet. I wasn’t cold, I was just having a Raynauds attack and decided to just keep pushing on: they usually only last about half an hour or so, and as long as I keep moving everything ends up fine. Here’s the last section up to Tincup Pass



It’s steeper than it looks but honestly short and not too bad. Tincup pass is located at 12,154′


I turned right (east) and headed up the side of Tincup Peak. Here’s the route I took, doing my best to avoid the areas covered in snow (after postholing too many times to count):


About a quart of the way up the wind picked up fiercely. I hadn’t put on a balaclava this morning because it hadn’t been windy when I’d started, and now the wind was so intense I couldn’t get it on (well, I might have been able to, if I took off my gloves). The winds were forecastd at 5mph, but there were several times when I had to turn my back to the wind and brace myself to remain standing. Not for the first time I told myself that when the forecast looks too good to be true, it probably is. I made it to the top and took a look around what I thought was the summit: there were cairns and a windbreak.



The wind was extremely intense here. I still couldn’t feel my feet but I wasn’t cold, and I knew taking off my gloves would be a terrible idea in all this wind, but my face was starting to hurt from the constant abrasion of the wind. I crouched down behind the windbreak and clumsily put on my balaclava wearing just my glove liners, and then hastily put my gloves back on. It was here I noticed I was not at the summit of Tincup Peak. The sumit was actually to the north about another half mile or so.


Ugh! It didn’t look like to difficult a trek, but that wind was insane! And I still couldn’t feel my feet. I did a mental calculation and decided I wanted to go for it, so I headed north. The wind only knocked me down twice. From the small saddle here’s looking back at the way I came


and at the peak before me (spoiler alert: another false summit)


The snow on the last part here was soft enough to twist an ankle, so I tried to stick to the rocks where possible.


At the top of this hill I was disappointed to find I still wasn’t at the true summit, but determined to press on: I was too close NOT to summit at this point. So I kept going.



This last little stretch was still windy, but luckily not technical in the least. I also had a great view of PT 13,050 and the connecting ridge that I filed away for next time. I was so glad I’d decided against taking that route up today!


I summited and tried to take a summit photo but the wind kept knocking the camera (and me) over. I was finally able to get one shot while bracing myself against the wind


It was a quick decision not to attempt Emma Burr Mountain today: That wind was just too much and I still couldn’t feel my feet (I was getting worried now). I told myself I’d be back to get PT 13,050 and Emma Burr together another time. Here’s looking at Emma Burr Mountain


Time to head back


Here’s the path back to Tincup Pass


It was easy to avoid the cornices



And straightforward to Tincup Pass


The wind didn’t die down until I was in the same place where it had started. I made it to Tincup Pass and decided to take a selfie (my son took one here a few years ago when he was here with his Boy Scout Troop and I wanted a similar one to show him).


Here’s the trek out of the basin. I was surprised I hadn’t see anyone all day, considering it was a Saturday. The basin was empty: There were tons of fresh snowmobile tracks, but they were all from yesterday.


The wind died down as I made it back into the trees, and I was finally able to feel where my feet were. There was about half an hour of intense pain as the blood started to flow again, but I kept walking, knowing stopping to take off my shoes (etc) was a terrible idea.


The 6 miles back to St Elmo seemed long, but as I was just walking on a groomed road not to terribly difficult. Snowmobiles started passing me at alarming speeds, and a few times I had to jump out of the way and into a snowbank to avoid getting run over.

St Elmo was beautiful with the snow, and just as wonderful as in the summertime, except of ourse the chipmunks were now hibernating.

I made it back to my truck at 12:30pm, making this a 14.5 mile hike with 3590′ of elevation gain in 7.5 hours. There were several trucks hauling snowmobiles when I got to the parking area, and it looked like there were a ton of people about to snowmobile into the basin. I counted dozens of snowmobiles and just as many people walking around the town. I totally needed my time above treeline today: I felt energetic and excited and not the least bit tired. Being in the mountains seems to rejuvenate me. Time to head home and pass out come more cookies!

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