| Williams Williams Williams and Williams
A bit of history … we climbed the highest Williams Mountain (13,382) many years ago in memory of the passing of one of our grandparents. We had backpacked up the Lost Man Creek Trail and camped just west of South Fork Pass. The climb was very rewarding with a stellar exposed 3rd class finish.
A trip report last year, from Furthermore (who else?!), reminded me that we had four remaining Williams’ 13ers (all ranked) to climb in that area. I would like to give a special thanks to Furthermore for that report http://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=8991&parmpeak=Williams … it provided valuable beta not only from his minimal, but helpful comments, but also from some photos which gave me useful ideas on what our routes would be.
Williams Mountain South C (13,033 feet) - June 24, 2011
The weekend of June 24th this year, we coerced our friend Don (a-once-in-awhile-climber-type) to go along with us to get some of those Williams peaks off our list of “to do’s”. Our plans for camping at the Lost Man Campground were dashed upon arrival due to an inordinately large amount of snow remaining in the camping areas, and a still locked gate. We made the best of it, setting up our tents by the parking lot for the Lost Man Creek Trailhead, and bedding down for the night.
I’d like to interject a bit of an observation here … the conditions east of the divide were melting very well; however, there was much snow still to be had on the west side of the divide(as we would note later with our views from the summit). We opted not to bring snowshoes, but did bring our gaiters and ice axes which worked out fine.
We left the trailhead and soon took the turnoff to “Midway Pass”. After many switchbacks (18, if I recall correctly), we soon crested the mellow top of the ridge and saw our objective … Williams Mountain South C (13,033 feet). Unfortunately, it became way too apparent that the basin that housed Midway Pass (and our planned ascent route) was caked with snow. Lots and lots and lots of snow. We ditched the plan to go to Midway Pass and took a direct route across the snowy basin to an eastern ridge point of Williams Mountain South C. There was some minor postholing and an interesting rising traverse across a high snow slope, and soon we were on that eastern ridge. The views were awesome … the Elks to the west; the Gores to the north; and the Sawatch to the east and the south.
Views of the Elks on the way up 13,033
The route to the summit was a bit dicey due to cornices and unstable snow conditions. Our plans to continue on to other Williams’ summits that day were dashed due to those conditions. So, we opted to spend a couple of hours on the summit (consuming the obligatory celebratory libations). Our descent route followed that eastern ridge all the way until it curved to the south and eventually intersected our ascent route. I was already planning our return to get those other Williams’ summits.
Obligatory summit libations
Dudes on the summit
Descending the ridge
Williams Mountain South B (13,312) - July 22, 2011
Williams Mountain South A (13,203) - July 22, 2011
Williams Mountain North (13,108 ) - July 23, 2011
Last weekend, we had our friend Ron join us for the return to the Lost Man Creek trailhead. After backpacking in on Thursday evening, we set up a camp just before the Jack Creek crossing. In looking at the topo, and at Furthermore’s trip report, the plan was to bushwhack up Jack Creek and intersect the saddle to the north of Williams Mountain South C (13,033 feet) … which we did on Friday morning. There is a game trail/foot path that you can initially follow on the south side of Jack Creek, but it soon disappears and the “route” turns into something that reminded me of the Eldorado Peak trail (up up up up up). Eventually, after working up a healthy sweat, we broke out of the trees into a beautiful basin with the saddle easily in view.
First view of the saddle
View down to the saddle from 13,033 four weeks ago
We were unable to “take our time” getting up to the saddle due to the large amount of mosquitoes and gnats that had followed us around like a lost puppy. My husband set a quick pace and was soon a bit ahead of Ron and I (but, that is the norm, and we don’t want to upset the balance of nature now, do we) .
Eventually, we all met up again on top of Williams Mountain South B a.k.a. Williams Benchmark (13,312 feet) after having some fun 3rd class scrambling on the ridge and going up and over the 13,122’ ridge point on the way.
The next objective would be to negotiate the ridge between Williams Benchmark (13,312’) and the false summit before Williams Mountain South A (13,203 feet). We cruised down from Williams Benchmark, enjoying the views down into the Scott Lake basin, and soon came to the knife-edge ridge that Furthermore referenced in his trip report. We, too, enjoyed crossing this ridge but knew that a cut in the ridge was soon to come and spoil our fun. After dropping off the ridge to the south, losing a bit of elevation and traversing some patches of snow, we regained the ridge and were soon on the false summit looking over at Williams Mountain South A (13,203’).
The false summit looming ahead with 13,203 in the backgroun
Making our way around some snow patches on the false summit with 13,312 in the background
What an impressive sight it was! As we descended to the saddle, Williams Mountain South A (13,203’) began to look more and more fun … almost like something in the Sunlight Peak area. Blocks of rocks in all shapes and sizes some balanced on one another … sort of jumbled together. But, with some good route finding, we kept everything to 3rd class (on fairly solid rock) and were soon sitting on the summit. It was such a beautiful day and the views over to Williams Mountain (13,382 feet) were indeed amazing.
Looking up the route of 13,203
Summit register with obligatory summit libations
Too soon, we were descending back down to the saddle that we had climbed up from and opted to take a long break out of the wind. Our route back to camp would be by descending from this saddle down into the Sioux Lake basin. I had spied a route that looked like it would go and indeed, it did. Bypassing all the willows and boggy parts, we stayed on the south side of the creek all the way down to the Lost Man Creek trail, and then back to our camp.
On Saturday, Ron had to leave in order to be back to work, so the hubby and I would be alone for our last Williams Mountain North (13,108 feet). The first order of business would be to hike up the Lost Man Creek trail to South Fork Pass. From the pass, we had a good view of the high saddle (east of the 12,683 foot ridge point) that Furthermore used as part of his descent route. Getting to that high saddle was our next objective. We descended from South Fork Pass and bushwhacked (maintaining as much elevation as possible after the initial loss) and were soon on our way up to the saddle. Much snow remained high, and we were concerned as to what the conditions on the other side of the saddle would be like.
At the saddle, the views were disappointing … Williams Mountain North (13,108’) looked farther away than anticipated. And, there was way too much snow to do a high traverse over to the small lake that is situated below the saddle that separates Williams Mountain (13,382’) and Williams Mountain North (13,108’). After a brief discussion, we pulled out the ice axes and descended down several hundred feet of very steep snow from the saddle until we were able to pick our way around the basin on dry ground to the outlet of the small lake that sits below the saddle separating the two peaks.
Our first view of 13,108 from the high saddle ... our route went straight up the face to the right of the large snowfilled couloir
We opted to climb directly up the southeast face of Williams Mountain North (13,108’). This ended up being a great route that was fairly stable and was only Class 2 until we reached the summit block, and then it was Class 3. We hung out on the summit (with the obligatory summit celebratory libation) for quite awhile soaking in the views and giving the feet a rest … so much up and down and up and down and up and … now down. The summit register has been on this peak for over 20 years and only has 3 pages filled in with names . And, boy, we’re talking names here people … Jean Aschenbrenner (twice), Ken Nolan, Teresa Gergen, Gerry and Jennifer Roach, Steve Gladbach, Cleve Armstrong and Karen Young. We descended the way we came up and were soon at the outlet of the small lake below the saddle.
Looking up the slopes to the summit block
Williams Mountain 13,382 and the small lake from the route up 13,108
The very cool 20+ year old register containing many notable signatures
Left to right: Williams 13,382 ... 13,203 ... (13,033 in the background) ... 13,312
On the way up and down, we had passed this neat snow feature which was a huge chunk of snow that had broken off of the massive cornice that was along the ridge of Williams Mountain North (13,108’).
The large cornice remnant on our route
From the outlet of the small lake, we descended the valley following the creek on the north side for awhile avoiding very large boulders and willows, before eventually finding a good crossing and continuing on the south side. Much bushwhacking ensued … some parts easier than others … some boggy stuff, some downed timber, and sooner than we thought, we intersected the trail.
For informational purposes: The trail on the north side of South Fork Pass is somewhat … what is the word I am looking for here? … shall we say … NON-EXISTENT in places. I will say this … when there is a trail, it is a good trail. Anyway, up the trail we went to the top of South Fork Pass, and then descended returning to our camp at Jack Creek.
Sunday saw us sleeping in; not what we planned, but we’re adaptable people especially when the bottom of the feet were hurtin’ as much as ours were. We had logged a lot of up and down and up and down and up and down and sidehilling and bushwhacking and gripping on those old boots of ours.
We opted to pack up, backpack out, don the tevas and drove to Buena Vista for a nice lunch and some brews at the Eddyline. Great way to end a great weekend.
I will say that we all enjoyed this outing very much. We saw NO PEOPLE the entire time we were climbing. The routes we chose were unique and adventurous with no time spent on established trails or trails at all for that matter except for the Lost Man Creek trail.
Until next time, my friends, Happy trails!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):