| Cimarron Challenges
July 31, 2011
~11.2 Miles, ~5,100 Gain.
Trip Total: ~18.6 Miles, ~9,500 Gain.
Continued from Part 1
Ken had no desire to climb 13,222 or 13,340 so I woke up at 4:00 AM and was hiking by 4:20 AM towards 13,222. From camp, I contoured/climbed northeast towards 13,222. Travel wasn't exactly a walk in the park. Once I intercepted the northwest ridge of 13,340, I descended west into Porphyry Basin at ~12,600. I crossed Porphyry Basin and started heading up towards the 13,222-13,120 saddle.
Being San Juan like, the scree to gain the saddle was treacherous; I was particularly burned out since my entire approach was on scree and talus. Ascending Porphyry Basin would be a much more enjoyable option. The morning light on Fortress Peak was impressive as I reached the 13,222-13,120 saddle right at sunrise.
Morning light on Precipice.
The Northwest ridge didn't look good. Not sure what to expect, I started climbing the ridge directly where the climbing was scary, extremely loose, exposed class 4. Descending that s*it was something I was not looking forward to. Fortunately, I climbed to a bench and found a cairn that showed a much better descent option (class 3). From the bench, was another short class 4 section on surprisingly solid rock and wasn't nearly as exposed. At the top of the class 4 section was a very rotted rappel anchor. Comforting.
The direct northwest ridge on 13,222. A traverse on a ledge to the right avoids this class 4 direct start.
Looking down the solid class 4 crux. Notice the sun rotted webbing?
Right above the solid class 4 section was another short section of class 3 that led me to the summit ridge. From the summit ridge, it was a class 2 stroll to the finish. That northwest ridge certainly got my attention. I arrived on the summit of 13,222 around 6:30 AM.
I returned to the bench and found the cairn which took me to a class 3 gully on the west facing slopes. The underlying rock was solid but there were piles of junk on top of the bedrock. Travel was slow as I cautiously descended the class 3 gully. From the bottom of the gully, I did a short traverse north to gain the ridge proper back to the saddle. I should have spent more time looking for this class 3 option on the ascent as it would have been more enjoyable and a whole lot less scary.
The appropriate route up the northwest ridge on 13,222
13,222 from my traverse to 13,340.
Heading towards 13,340, I descended back into Porphyry Basin where I aimed for the 13,340-13,315 saddle. Again, another enjoyable San Juan scree ascent. Once at the 13,340-13,315 saddle, I headed up the class 2 east ridge on 13,340 arriving on the summit at 7:40 AM. I radioed Ken who was planning on joining me on “El Punto.”
Scree ascent to 13,340.
Uncompahgre from the summit of 13,340. As far as I know, the north face is till un-climbed.
Neat rock on the north face of 13,340.
Wetterhorn from the summit of 13,340.
From the summit of 13,340, I descended the grassy south slopes towards “El Punto.” As I neared point 13,240, the impressive summit pyramid of “El Punto” appeared which was pretty wild looking. I traversed around to the west side of the summit block and waited for Ken. After a few minutes, I radioed him and due to a miscommunication, he ended up on the wrong side of “El Punto.” We agreed to meet at the “Heisshorn”-”El Punto” saddle while I soloed “El Punto.”
“El Punto” from the north. Spicy! (The snow gully can be scrambled if one wishes)
Ditching my pack, I climbed up a small gully to the north side of the summit block and climbed the northern class 3 side of the summit block to the top. Once on top of the block, I still had to traverse 10-15 feet to the summit. This was by far the scariest part of the entire trip. Rather than climbing on the ridge crest, I climbed to a small ledge on the right (west) side of the summit block and traversed to the true summit. That ledge to the true summit was EXPOSED. Loose crap didn't make things any more comforting. I arrived on the small, unique summit at 8:45 AM.
The traverse ledge to “El Punto” My pack can be seen below. Loose and SCARY.
The last 15 feet to the summit of “El Punto” with Uncompahgre in the background.
Looking north from the summit of “El Punto.”
Northern side of the summit block on “El Punto”
Wetterhorn from near “El Punto”
“El Punto’s” summit block. The gully to the northern side of the block can be seen.
With so much enthusiasm, I returned back across the ledge and back down to my pack. I took a short break and continued down a talus slop heading towards the “Heisshorn”-”El Punto” saddle. Ken arrived just a few moments after I did at the saddle. Another break was in order.
“El Punto” from the south.
To avoid marmots eating our packs, we carried our packs up to the loose talus on “Heisshorn's” northeast ridge and then ditched them. Moving upwards on the class 2 talus was interesting as every block was loose. Eventually, the ridge crested, became more stable, and the climbing started to be sustained class 3. At this point, Ken didn't care much for the exposure along with the loose rock and bailed. I continued upward.
Fun summit of “Heisshorn.”
Ken scrambling up the beginning of “Heisshorn.”
Scrambling up the northeast ridge was exciting and, for me, the most enjoyable climbing of the trip. It was sustained class 3 on a very unique exposed ridge. I carefully made my way upward as none of the rocks could be trusted. The final summit scramble I thought was the most challenging and the most exposed. Class 4/5 terrain was certainly lurking without careful route finding. I stayed on the ridge crest for the entire ridge only venturing to the left/southeast side of the ridge once or twice to avoid a hard move/block just before the summit. The summit arrived at 10:15 AM and the views of Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn were outstanding.
Getting closer on “Heisshorn.”
Looking back on the summit ridge on “Heisshorn.”
Summit of “Heisshorn.”
Typical exposure on “Heisshorn.”
The crux, I thought, on “Heisshorn.”
The stout finish on “Heisshorn”
Being cautious, I slowly down-climbed the ridge and returned to the “Heisshorn”-”El Punto” saddle where I met Ken. After describing the ridge, Ken was glad he didn't attempt the peak as he does not care for choss. Although only class 3, I don't think that this scramble is for the inexperienced scrambler. What boggles my mind is that both “Heisshorn” and “El Punto” were first climbed in 1929. Nuts.
After a short break, we returned to camp and packed up. Now for the brutal climb to the Coxcomb-Redcliff saddle. We did an ascending contour around Middle Cimarron to reach the saddle but were stopped by a steep snow field that led directly to the saddle. Safe passage wasn't reasonable with a camp pack and no ice axe. Nevertheless, we found a way to gain the saddle up a steep scree slope just to the north of Coxcomb's impressive summit pedestal. I was hoping to climb Redcliff as well but the clouds were dark and I could hear thunder in the distance. Redcliff will have to wait another day.
Coxcomb on our journey to the Coxcomb-Redcliff saddle.
North face of Coxcomb.
From the Redcliff-Coxcomb saddle, we descended back into West Cimarron Fork and found the trail which took us back to the car. I am not sure if I would combine the peaks again in this fashion. Coxcomb-13,206-13,377 would make a good day trip from West Cimarron and the rest would make for a good camp or day trip from Middle Cimarron. From our camp, the traverse to 13,222 was not enjoyable and climbing up Porphyry would be a much better option; moreover, the climb back up and over Coxcomb-Redcliff sucked.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):