| Grand Tour De Phoenix
April 29, 2012
~19.2 Miles, 8,800 Gain
Trailhead: 4WD Parking in Phoenix Park.
After finishing a 6 day stretch of temporary work in Durango, I started my drive back home but a stop in Creede for some 13ers on the way was required. To my dismay, .2 miles from the Mineral County Courthouse, I found the main road up to Willow Creek and ultimately to Phoenix park closed. Surprisingly, the road closure was guarded by a security guard. Wtf?
I asked the guard several questions. “Can I get to Phoenix Park (pointing to it on a map)?”
“Does that require 4WD?”
“Are there detour signs?”
“How long is the road closed?”
Most of my answers were a blank stare with a dumbfounded look. The only answer I got was that the road was going to be closed until the end of June. A lot of help she was. Rather irritated that the road was closed, I studied my map and found a possible alternative. Good thing I didn't drive from Denver to figure this out.
For those inclined to climb “Phoenix” before June 2012, here are the directions to the 4WD road going to Phoenix park.
On CO149 west toward Lake City, take your first right turn (FS504) heading south out of Creede after crossing some railroad tracks. Follow this for 3.2 miles and make a right turn. You will see a sign marking owl creek going straight. After making the right turn, follow the road for 3.0 miles until it dead ends at a T-Junction. Make a right turn (FS503 not well marked) and follow 503 for 2.2 miles and make a hard left turn. There should be a road closure sign preventing further progress on 503. Take this road for 2.3 miles (a little rough for 2WD) and park at a switch back. This is the beginning of the 4WD road. High clearance is recommended but it can be done with 2WD.
Eventually, I found my way to the 4WD road leading into Phoenix Park. The 4WD road was rough in sections but slowly made my way to the parking area at 10,400. There was no snow; I should not be able to drive this road in April. Since I had to move several dead trees out of the road, I am assuming I am the first person to drive into Phoenix Park this spring. At first, I went to the end of the road, looked at some topos, read Roach's directions and figured out I went too far. I backtracked a little and found the trailhead where I slept in my car. The trailhead up “Phoenix” wasn't very obvious but was marked with 2 “787” signs on each side of the road.
In actuality, the alarm at 5:45 AM wasn't very painful since I was getting up earlier every day for work. I scarfed down a bagel and was on my way up the 787 trail. The trail wasn't too hard to follow but became more difficult as some snow drifts appeared around ~11,400. Once I couldn't follow the trail due to light snow cover, I cut directly north-northeast towards “Phoenix” Peak. After crossing a few streams, I was out of treeline and hiking up the gentle grassy south slopes of “Phoenix.”
Grassy south slopes of “Phoenix.”
Gradually I made my way up to the south ridge of “Phoenix” and arrived on the summit at 9:00 AM. The wind was blowing and there were some snow flurries. What happened to mostly sunny and 5-10 MPH wind? I took a short break hiding behind the large summit cairn and then was on my way towards Point 13,402.
Snow flurry from near the summit of “Phoenix”
Grassy slopes had ended as I hiked down the talus north ridge of “Phoenix” to the “Phoenix”-13,628 saddle. From the saddle, I glissaded down a snow slope into the valley south of the 13,628-13,402 ridge. Around ~13,100, I traversed north to the 13,628-13,402 saddle without hardly any elevation gain. The ridge to the summit of 13,402 was long but easy class 2 talus. I went up and over Point 13,201 to get a good view of a possible couloir to take me to the valley to the north. I really didn't want to ridge walk to 13,015. The final slopes of 13,402 seemed a bit tiring as I was wondering if my rough hill run two days prior was starting to pay its toll. I arrived on the summit of 13,402 at 10:20 AM.
Still cold with the wind, my stay on the summit of 13,402 was short and I returned to the 13,402-13,201 saddle. There was a bit of a lull from the wind so I took my break at the saddle. From the 13,402-13,201 saddle, I down-climbed the northwest couloir towards Cañon Diablo and after crossing the Cañon Diablo stream I hiked directly up towards the 13,345-13,015 saddle. At this point, I was feeling better.
Phoenix from 13,402.
13,015 from the 13,402-13,201 saddle.
Looking back at the couloir on 13,402.
Neat rocks on 13,402.
Climbing up the south side of 13,015
Once at the 13,345-13,015 saddle, I ditched my pack and made my way up class 2 slopes to the summit of 13,015 where I arrived at 12:00 PM. The wind was still blowing and I was cold. I returned to my pack and took another short break.
Point 13,402 from the summit of 13,015.
“Phoenix” from 13,015.
San Luis and Organ from 13,015.
With 13,345 between me and 13,155, I had no desire to climb up to 13,345 just to look down on my previous and next summit. I tried skirting 13,345 to the north but ended up climbing up to ~13,100 before I could traverse to 13,345's west ridge. 13,155 looked far away.
13,015 and 13,402 from skirting 13,345.
After reaching 13,345's west ridge I descended to the 13,345-12,798 saddle. Fortunately, I found a faint trail cutting across the south face of 12,798 and made my way west towards 13,155. I climbed up and over the 2 false summits on the 13,155's east ridge where I finally arrived at the summit block of 13,155. From a distance, 13,155 looks rather intimidating but I was able to find a short class 4 route up the north side of the block. Although class 4, the climbing was short, solid and not very exposed. I arrived on the summit around 2:10 PM.
San Luis from the traverse between 13,015 and 13,155.
The summit block of 13,155.
Phoenix from 13,155.
San Luis from 13,155.
The short and sweet class 4 on 13,155.
In the distance I could see my final objective 13,285. From the base of 13,155, I traversed around the north side of the summit block and descended loose scree slopes. Some rocky spires were encountered which I bypassed on the northwest side of the ridge. Things went relatively easy until I reached the summit of soft ranked 13,180. Due to some snow, gaining the 13,180-13,285 saddle wasn't going to be easy. I found a weakness in the steep north ridge off 13,180 which required some loose class 3 down-climbing followed by a steep snow couloir. Once I was able to climb on reasonable terrain I was ~100-200 feet below the 13,180-13,285 saddle on the north side. Gaining the saddle was rough with all of the loose rock, especially since I was tired.
Rock fins and the summit of 13,155.
Point 13,285 in the distance.
No easy way from soft 13,180 to 13,285.
From the saddle, I climbed directly up the east-northeast ridge to the summit 13,285. There were a few class 3 notches and snow that had to be negotiated. I either stayed on the ridge crest or on the south side of the ridge. Finally, I arrived on the summit at 4:00 PM. I walked around the summit plateau and decided that the high point was on the eastern edge. Instead of descending the class 3 ridge, I took a snow couloir towards Whited Creek and then traversed on some talus back to the saddle.
Class 3 snow and rock to finish 13,285.
Looking back on the east-northeast ridge on 13,285.
San Luis from the summit of 13,285.
Almost home free. From the saddle, I traversed my way on talus to the southeast ridge of 13,180 towards a notch. I went through the notch and hiked down to East Willow Creek. With no more than 5 post-hole steps through some snow drifts I was hiking along the creek towards the car. East Willow Creek was a rather enjoyable hike as there were hardly any willows or deadfall to make my life miserable. I made good time back to the car where I arrived at 6:35 PM. I can't wait for the stiffness to overtake my body.
13,285 from my notch.
Notch back to East Willow Creek.
Looking back on the notch.
13,155 from East willow Creek.
“Phoenix” Peak from East Willow Creek.
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