| Tincup & Emma Burr, from Tincup Pass
Tincup Peak and Emma Burr
Date Climbed: 9/14/11
Beginning Elevation: 12,154’
Peak Elevation: 13,544’
The Group: Tim, Julia, JimR
Distance: about 4.5 miles
Total Elevation Gain: about 2150’
My wife and I, along with two friends (Tim and Julia), rented a house in Salida for a week in mid-September. Tim and Julia were visiting from England, and the plan was to spend most days hiking—weather permitting. As it turned out, the weather was less permissive than we had hoped, but we still got in a few good hikes. On Monday, we went up Mt. Ouray, spending a good part of the time in a cloud. On Wednesday, we had hoped to do Tabeguache, which was one of the few remaining Sawatch 14ers that Tim had not climbed. The weather forecast convinced us to try something a little lower and shorter, so we settled on Emma Burr Mountain from Tincup Pass.
Tincup Pass is reached by taking County Road 162 past Mt. Princeton Hot Springs to St. Elmo and turning onto the Tincup Pass Road (267). The Tincup Pass Road is nominally 4WD, but it is fairly mild most of the way. The last ¼ or ½ mile get rather rough, and I would not try to get a passenger car all the way to the pass; we were glad to have a 4Runner. The pass is above treeline, and there is plenty of room to park. From the pass, we hiked up an old (closed) road east, directly up the hill, until the road/path disappeared.
The start of the old, abandoned road.
Looking back toward Tincup Pass as we approach the first saddle. (Photo by Julia)
We then angled a little north of east to reach the ridge a bit north of its southern high point, at the first saddle. Once on the ridge, we followed it north toward another high point. The route description that we had (from some book) suggested contouring around this “false summit,” but the side slope looked steep enough to be uncomfortable, so we decided it would be easier to just go up and over the high point. Once we were on top of the high point, it looked like there was significant closure all around, which made me think it might be a ranked 13er itself. And in fact, we later confirmed that it was the unnamed 13345, unofficially known as Tincup Peak.
Approaching the summit of Tincup Pk.
From there we descended and followed the ridge toward Emma Burr, still roughly a mile away.
Emma Burr Mtn, seen from the slope of Tincup Peak.
There’s an intermittent trail that follows the ridgeline most of the way, and the walking is fairly easy.
Approaching the summit of Emma Burr. (Photo by Julia)
By the time we got to the summit of Emma Burr, weather had begun to move in. We took a few summit shots, including some horsing around on a rock outcropping, but then we heard thunder, and we decided to delay lunch and just start down.
Tim & Julia on rock near summit.
JimR on rock near summit. (Photo by Julia)
We figured that we would be on or near the ridge until we got past Tincup, where we could drop away from the ridge in case lightening developed.
Starting down from Emma Burr; Tincup Pk in the distance. (Photo by Julia)
Not too long after we left the summit, visibility deteriorated, the graupel began, and photos stopped. Tim commented that it was like hiking in Scotland. Not wanting to reclimb Tincup, and wanting to get off the ridge, we headed for Tincup’s “western” shoulder, planning to then contour around as suggested for the ascent in the route description that we had. When we crossed over the shoulder, visibility was down to about 20 or 30 yards, and the graupel was changing to snow. The side slope was steep and loose (and now wet) enough to require some care. We all had our rain gear on and were moderately warm and dry. Because of the poor visibility and footing, we made a point of staying close together. As the snow began to accumulate a bit, the going got very slow (when the going gets slow, the slow get going?). Because of the poor visibility, we were relying on Tim’s compass to tell us when we needed to descend down to the road and the pass; as long as we were headed south, we should keep going, but once we (and the contour) turned east, we would know it was time to head down. This sounded fine in theory, but the longer we plodded (and slipped) along, the more we began to doubt our position. Surely we couldn’t be taking that long to get to the old closed road that we had ascended on. We even went so far as to get out my compass to check that Tim’s was correct (hey, the British drive on the wrong side of the road; maybe their compasses point the wrong way too). We began to angle downhill, figuring that we’d hit either the closed road that we ascended or the jeep road to the pass. (In retrospect, what we were thinking of as the western shoulder of Tincup Pk was actually a northwestern shoulder, and consequently we had farther to go than we had thought.)
Eventually the cloud lifted enough for us to see the Tincup Pass Road below. The problem was that we could not tell which way the road was rising, so we could not tell whether we were approaching the pass or had already passed it. Reference to the map finally convinced us that the pass was still directly south of us, so we picked a spot where the willows on the side of the road were the thinnest and headed for the road. A short time later we were on the road and then back at the pass, throwing some very wet boots and raingear into the back of the car. In view of the weather, we felt we had made the right call in choosing something relatively short and easy. And it’s good to occasionally deal with less than perfect conditions—at least in retrospect.
Julia & Tim back at the pass.
By the way, the route map above contains a little extraneous spur heading SE from the pass due to my forgetting to turn off the GPS (yet again) and being unable to erase all of the extra section.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):