| Adventure San Juan
The following report will take you on a buckled down, gung ho trip through the San Juan mountains. Its intention is not really to give much guidance into routes per say (although it does in some places), but more to manifest a Tolkein-esque adventure. I hope you enjoy.
Climbers: Luke (coolhandluke), me
Some stats to chew on:
Miles Covered: Too many that I don't really feel like tallying
Vert Gained: In the 37,000' range
# Mountains summited: 16 (12 14ers)
# Days actually climbing: 7
# Peaks climbed that showed up on many of our beer cans: 1 (Mt. Wilson)
# "Scraps" Consumed between the 2 of us: 8 (I discovered these cookies over the winter and they are the best damn cookie ever! Find them at Mouse's Chocolates in Ouray, CO, you won't regret it!!)
# Times we encountered Terry (tmathews): 1 (Wetterhorn Pk, Good to see you Terry and nice to meet you Anna!)
# Mountains I ran down: 2 (Redcloud Pk - practice my downhill running, Jupiter Mtn - practice my art of staying alive)
Initial Idea behind the trip: Luke's
Some witty ending statement: Priceless
8/27/11 - Mt. Sneffels (SW Ridge), hike into Navajo Basin from Navajo TH
8/28/11 - Wilson Peak and Gladstone Pk
8/29/11 - Mt. Wilson with a traverse to El Diente Pk, hike out
8/30/11 - Hike into Chicago Basin from Purgatory TH
8/31/11 - Sunlight Pk, Windom Pk and Jupiter Mtn
9/1/11 - Mt. Eolus, North Eolus & Glacier Pt, hike out and drive over Cinnamon Pass
9/2/11 - Redcloud Pk & Sunshine Pk from Silver Creek TH
9/3/11 - Wetterhorn Pk with a traverse over to Matterhorn Pk
Uncompahgre Pk - read further for details
Not much to say here, Mt Sneffels' SW ridge is fun but super easy if you ask me. The views were really nice and descending the standard route was surprisingly very pleasant and easygoing.
Sunrise with Teakettle and Cirque Mtn
The hike into Navajo Basin is absolutely beautiful making it a stellar approach hike.
Hiking into Navajo Basin
We got up the next morning and headed for the Rock of Ages saddle with Wilson Peak in our sights. The clouds were ominous and threatening from sunup till noonish. Signs of summer wrapping up were definitely apparent.
Lizard Head with angry clouds looming
Back around the Rock of Ages saddle, we made the decision that going for Gladstone was too risky due to the clouds. So I kept walking down but found my hungry, vigilant eye peering off continuously towards the beckoning Gladstone. After much sky gazing, I determined that the clouds were just trying to bully me so I went for it!
I went up one of the gullies on the west to gain the ridge. Going for the Gladstone summit was extremely fun entailing some solid Class 3 scrambling. I loved every second of it.
A good shot of the awesome ridgeline to Gladstone
Some sweet views atop Gladstone:
Look towards Mt. Wilson
Look back at Wilson Peak
Gladstone, my descent was the first discernable col left of the summit
Next up, Mt. Wilson and the traverse! (Luke’s first of the “4 Traverses” and my 2nd (Bells)). The traverse was especially entertaining and quite long, took us around 2 hrs. The crux was not very difficult if you are a semi-good climber but we had to downclimb it so it wasn’t as fun as it could have been. Problem is, ascending El Diente’s standard North slope is kinda…screey and not nearly as entertaining as going up Mt. Wilson’s standard (at least in dry conditions). We actually descended around El Diente’s north slopes but I never set foot in it because of its junk laden terrain.
Luke lovin the elusive Class 4 summit on Mt. Wilson
Where o where has Mt. Wilson gone
From the Navajo trailhead we headed to the Purgatory trailhead (not before getting some quality food in Ouray and some “Scraps” naturally) for our next leg of the journey, Chicago Basin. We decided to car camp at the Purgatory trailhead and just take the whole day hiking in so that we could sleep in and what not.
The hike in from Purgatory is not bad at all and quite enjoyable (great way to save some dough).
**EDIT**: I took a look at the route as my GPS recorded it and its only a 5.8 mile hike from the Purgatory TH to the Neddle Creek TH with a vert gain of almost exactly 1000'. Purgatory TH is at 8776' and the Neddle Creek TH is at 8300'. The valley in between dips to 7695'. Numbers are fun!
One tip, from the trailhead, as you descend into the large valley, take 2 rights when the trail diverges.
You will follow Cascade Creek downstream through an impressive canyon then will hang a left and follow the Animas upstream to the Needle Creek TH. It’s an extremely well maintained trail and requires virtually no navigating apart from the above tip. The most arduous part by a long shot was the hike up from Needle Creek TH but you would have to do that anyways if you take the train. Took us 7 hrs to get to our campsite including breaks and ooooo, ahhhhh moments.
Glimpse of the Basin from our hike
Chug a Chug, Chug a Chug
We began with Sunlight Peak then headed for Windom. On our descent from Windom, my daring eye again caught hold of something. Whats that! Over there, that must be Jupiter! Onwards!
By this time, the clouds were definitely rolling in and were much more menacing then that of the Wilsons. Following picture shows my approximate descent off the ridge from Windom and into the bowl below Jupiter.
Sunlight in the background middle, with Windom to its right in the foreground
My route up Jupiter. Looks crappy but was kinda fun actually
As I topped the saddle (after climbing hard and fast) I could hear some thunder off in the distance and was starting to get a little freaked. I dropped my pack at the saddle and quickly scrambled up to the summit.
Now, I am not proud of this at all but I’m almost certain that I hold the unofficial record for the fastest descent (and perhaps ascent) of Jupiter Mtn. From the summit all the way to camp I ran. In my defense for climbing Jupiter, I saw that the clouds were pretty far off as I began the ascent and also knew that the SW descent off was super mellow and easy as I had scoped it the day before.
View of Hazel lake from atop Jupiter
Rain started falling right when I got to treeline. Some nasty thunder could be heard now
We were tent bound (me bivy bound) basically till we fell asleep. It’s no surprise that the Basin is as scenic as it is with the kind of rainfall we experienced.
So we started this day with plans to get North Eolus, Eolus and Glacier Point and hike out of the Basin.
Word to wise, the ledges on Eolus are a labyrinth of great climbing with virtually a countless number of ways to ascend, or you can just follow the cairns if that’s your thing. I did a little of both.
Ledges on Eolus
Me on Eolus
View from North Eolus of Arrow and Vestal
We nabbed Glacier Point, descended back to camp and made the long haul out of the basin where we got rained on only slightly. Arriving back to my truck an (pheww) we threw our packs in the back, had a quick celebratory Coors original and headed for Silverton.
We ate some amazing, well deserved grub at the Silver Barrel in Silverton then headed up Cinnamon Pass…in the dark. For those worried about Cinnamon Pass, don’t be, it was cake. I have a stock 08 Yoda Taco (Toyota Tacoma) and encountered no problems whatsoever. In fact driving it at night was kind of nice because I dealt with zero traffic.
We car camped at the Silver Creek TH and the next morning went up the Class 5 standard route up Redcloud then traversed over to Sunshine (just joking, its class 2 all the way).
View of Wetterhorn, Matterhorn and Uncompahgre from Left to right from Redcloud
We then headed over to Lake City after the climb where we proceeded to grill out near Lake Cristobal.
Wetterhorn was first up on the list.
Marmot with mighty Uncompahgre overlooking
On the approach in, the eye of Sauron (you the man Tolkien) locked in its next challenge…the ridge between Wetterhorn and Matterhorn.
Ridge to Matterhorn
View back at the impressive semi Nordwand of Wetterhorn
The following image shows what I felt to be the crux of the ridge. I circumnavigated this one by going on the face not shown. Admittedly, it was rather hairy, loose and steep and perhaps the face shown here would have been better. The remaining fins I topped out on which I feel was the best way to climb them.
Crux circled in red
The approach hike in coupled with the class 3/optional 4 climbing of Wetterhorn along with the ridge made this day one of my favorite of the entire trip…and it was not finished once we got back down.
Relaxing at the car, eating bean dip and drinking Avery’s Maharaja I had saved since Denver, Luke and I were reveling in what we had accomplished thus far in our journey. We drove up Uncompahgre’s dirt road and parked below the trailhead. There we continued to drink when perhaps simultaneously both the hamsters upstairs started churning. Why don’t we go for Uncompahgre now!
Now let’s put a little perspective on our current state. Up to this point we had traveled quite some distance and gone up many mountains so naturally, despite our feeble attempts at washing up in creeks and sinks, we smelled rather “raw” to put it delicately. The thought of ending a day early and heading back home suddenly seemed desirable. So around 5pm, with a “few” drinks already under our belts (and more in our packs!) we headed for Uncompahgre.
We brought along our camping equipment with the intent of ditching it before treeline then returning to it after the summit to spend the night if such was required, but we managed to summit and get back down to the car.
It was a remarkable ending to a memorable journey to say the least. JR couldn’t have fabricated a more fitting finale. Granted, ours didn’t end with the slaying of a dragon, but it did end with a sunset finish on a striking peak in the San Juans!
Thanks for reading.
Sunset atop Uncompahgre
"Little by little, one travels far."
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):