| West Side Conundrum Creek 13ers
May 23, 2012
~16.8 Miles, ~6,800 Gain
Trailhead: Conundrum Hot Springs TH
Being 3 ˝ hours, the drive to Conundrum Hot Springs Trailhead wasn't too bad. I slept in the back of my car at the trailhead and woke up at 4:20 AM. In the dark, I was hiking up the Conundrum Creek Trail around 4:45 AM. The mileage up the trail went fairly quickly as I made my way up the valley and the trail was in good condition except for the stream crossing above Silver Dollar Pond. A bit wet but very manageable with all of the downed logs crossing the river.
For the end of May, I was expecting a lot more snow in the area and I was actually hoping to climb these peaks with some snow but that wasn't the case. There was no snow on the Conundrum trail and I left the trail ~10,600 and started my usual 13er bushwhack upwards through some aspens. I was able to minimize my bushwhacking by finding some grassy slopes that took me upward to the small basin to the east of the Hillard-Keefe saddle.
Castleabra from my ascent line.
Since the slope was steep, I gained elevation quickly and encountered my first bit of snow around ~12,400. I traveled on the snow until I found a low angle grassy bench which took me to the Hillard-Keefe saddle where I took a break. The 13,200 false summit to the northeast of Hillard was a junky tower that I had to climb over. I climbed directly on the ridge until I figured out descending on the northwest side of the ridge around the tower was a better option. Some class 3 moves on typical loose Elk rock was required to gain the 13,200-Hillard Saddle and from the saddle, it was a class 2 hike to the summit of Hillard where I arrived at 9:30 AM.
Working my way up the snow to the Hillard-Keefe Saddle.
Hillard Peak and the rotten tower at 13,200.
Looking back on Keefe from my traverse towards Hillard.
Keefe from the summit of Hillard.
Castle Peak from the summit of Hillard.
A bit of an overcast layer and a light breeze kept things cool. The cooler temperatures were welcome since I was rock climbing in Denver the day prior with the temperature in the low 90s. I returned back to the Hillard-Keefe saddle and hiked up the talus class 2 south ridge of Keefe where I arrived on the summit at 10:20 AM. Excellent views of Cathedral and Castle Peak; however, I wasn't excited about the view of Hunter. Hunter appeared far away and from what I could tell, wasn't going to be a straight- forward grassy ridge romp.
The south ridge of Keefe.
Looking down the south ridge of Keefe.
Nearing the summit on the south ridge of Keefe.
Hunter from the summit of Keefe.
Hillard from the summit of Keefe.
I spent close to 20 minutes on the summit of Keefe before starting my long journey towards Hunter. The immediate west ridge of Keefe required some short class 3 sections and the travel to point 13,400 northwest of Keefe was manageable. The crux of the traverse was between Point 13,400 and Point 13,418. Descending northeast off of 13,400 went well until I hit the 13,400-13,418 saddle where a very sharp ridge prevented easy access. I'm sure the ridge would make for some excellent scrambling except the rock was fairly junky.
Descending off of Keefe, looking back.
Hunter Peak from the traverse. The crux section can be seen.
North face of Keefe which might have a decent snow climb.
The crux section on the Keefe-Hunter traverse.
From the 13,400-13,418 saddle, I descend about ~100 feet on the east side of the ridge and followed narrow grassy ledges below the ridge proper. Plenty of class 3 scrambling was encountered and I regained the ridge proper after intercepting an east ridge spur from the main ridge. Once back on the ridge, there was plenty of short ups and downs which required some minor class 3 scrambling.
Grassy ledges bypassing the crux section.
Grassy ledges bypassing the crux section.
Typical short class 3 sections on the Keefe-Hunter traverse.
Looking back at Keefe about 2/3s of the way on the traverse.
Just before the summit of Hunter, I encountered a second crux. A short section of rotten towers. I was able to bypass them on the east side of the ridge on some exposed ledges. Finally, I arrived on the summit of Hunter at 12:40 PM. I returned back down the south ridge of Hunter and descended a steep scree/snow slope into a wide basin just northwest of Silver Dollar Pond. The descent was quick but I can't recommend the gully as an ascent line unless the snow was continuous to the ridge.
Final crux section on Hunter.
Keefe from the summit of Hunter.
Pyramid Peak from the summit of Hunter.
The gully I descended off of Hunter.
Welcoming the trail back, I made good time back to the car where I arrived at 3:30 PM. I forgot how long the trail was up the Conundrum Creek drainage.
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