| The seven summits of Chalk Creek
“Tincup Peak” 13,345
Fitzpatrick Peak 13,112
Stats: ~22 miles
I had studied the peaks in the Tincup pass area for a while, wondering which way would be the most efficient at clearing them all out. I finally decided to try this traverse, if I had more daylight food, water, and energy I might have added 3 12ers on the south side of the valley. They were so tantalizingly close.
Of all the major traverses I’ve done this summer, this was the easiest. I started out at the Poplar Gulch TH at 8:00 under clear skies. Poplar Gulch is a quiet serenely beautiful valley. At the pass I followed a trail to the summit of 13,078. 13,078 is normally climbed with 13,317 and 13,626, not this time. I left the summit at 10:00 and made the quick traverse over the false summit of 12,837 to the real summit at 10:45.
After a short break I made my journey into the unknown. I found no record of a previous traverse from 12,837 to 13,050. I found no evidence of such a traverse. This was pristine wilderness. Lately I’ve become more obsessed with climbing routes with little or no beta, or not looking for any beta other than the Topo. I want to have that sense of discovery and exploration which doesn’t exist much anymore, and I’m not helping that by posting a TR on this seldom visited ridge.
There are no major difficulties on the ridge, it is all easy tundra with a few talus fields mixed in. The views are amazing from the ridge. I received a bit of a shock while I was making my final descent to the saddle with 13,050, two people were walking down the east ridge of 13,050. My whole view of this being a seldom visited place was collapsing before my very eyes. It turns out the two people were hunters, I bet they were as shocked to see someone as I was. I still say this is a ridge only visited by people once every few years.
13,050 has a large summit area with a small boulder as the summit. It was noon so I ate my lunch. “Tincup” looked so close. It was not. I crossed the recently constructed continental divide trail, so new it is not on the latest Trails Illustrated map. I made the seemingly endless ascent of “Tincup”. I reached the summit shortly after 1:00, there were clouds building but nothing threatening. The ridge towards Tincup Pass is steep and knee busting. I crossed the road with nary a glance at the people sitting there and quickly ascended 12,780, this ridge provided a brief class 2+ scramble before it eased to a flat rocky summit. It was 2:15, so I had to keep moving.
Fitzpatrick Peak was the only named peak I would climb that day. I reached the summit at 3:30 and reviewed my options. Looking at the map I decided that it would be the same millage to collect 12,885 as to return to Tincup Pass. So I went for it. At 4:30 I made it to the summit of 12,885. The ridge walk was not too difficult with a short 2+ section. By this time the clouds decided it was time to precipitate, it snowed for five minutes before the sun returned.
I made the quick descent to the CDT, the three 12ers looked so close, but I was nearly out of food and water and I was dead tired so I passed on climbing them. I really didn’t want to end the day with a 3,000 foot bushwhack down to the TH. The CDT down to the road is really nice, much of it is newly constructed and like a superhighway. Thanks to all who helped with the trail work. The road never seemed to end, at 7:00 I finally plopped down in my car and drove down to Buena Vista where I had a well deserved footlong sub from Subway.
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