| Southern Weminuche: The Start
June 28-29, 2012
Day 1: ~16.9 Miles, ~7,500 Gain
Day 2: ~20.8 Miles, ~8,400 Gain
Total: ~37.7 Miles, ~15,900 Gain
TH: Endlich Mesa Trailhead. High clearance highly recommended.
Day 1I'll admit, I was feeling a bit lazy and to my surprise, I was a bit sore from doing Grizzly and “V 10” the day prior. After climbing Grizzly and “V 10,” I made the 3 hour drive from the Grizzly Trailhead to the Endlich Mesa trailhead. Less than 100 miles apart from trailheads, the road up to Endlich Mesa alone almost took an hour. With intentions of getting up early, I went to bed with the alarm set at 3:30 AM. When the alarm went off, I decided to be lazy and sleep in until 5:00 AM.
Finally dragging my ass out of my car, I started hiking at 5:20 AM up the Endlich Mesa trail. The trail quickly took me above treeline where I would spend most of my time for the next 2 days. I decided to travel light and not take a tent since I was going to be climbing so many peaks with a camp pack.
Hiking northward on the Endlich Mesa trail, the alpenglow on the distant Pigeon Peak and Chicago Basin peaks was stunning. En-route to my, oh so precious,13ers, were 3 ranked 12vers which were easily accessed from the Endlich Mesa trail and for my first 12ver, Endlich Mesa, I left the trail between Point 12,450 and the summit of Endlich Mesa and hiked to the saddle south of the summit. From the saddle it was a grassy ridge romp to the summit of Endlich where I arrived at 7:00 AM. The sun was welcoming since it was brisk hiking in the shade.
Sunrise over Pigeon
Endlich Mesa, the first 12ver.
My stay was short and I hiked down the mellow grassy northwest slopes of Endlich Mesa to the first saddle and bypassed Point 12,400 on the east side continuing to the Endlich-12,470 saddle. Once at the Endlich-12,470 saddle, I headed west down grassy slopes and re-intercepted the Endlich Mesa Trail which I followed around 12,470.
After crossing the broad northwest ridge off 12,470, the Endlich Mesa trail continues downward towards Durango Reservoir #1 but I was able to follow a faint older trail across the northwest face of 12,470 at ~12,000. I was able to follow this trail until the 12,470-12,442 saddle. I could have easily climbed up the grassy south slopes of 12,442 but I really didn't want to haul my camp pack over the summit if I didn't have to so I did an angling traverse across the west side of 12,442 ditching my pack on the northwest side at ~12,200.
Leaving my pack, I quickly climbed the 200 feet to the summit of 12,442 where I arrived at 8:00 AM. My stay was short and I returned to my pack and continued to the 12,442-Sheridan saddle. I bit the bullet and climbed the grassy south ridge of Sheridan with my camp pack. I was able to bypass a small false summit to the east and arrived on the summit of Sheridan at 8:40 AM. For the first time, I was able to get a good view of some of the 13ers I was planning on climbing and Sheep, my first 13er, appeared far away.
Sheridan from my traverse on 12,442.
Chicago Basin and Pigeon.
I descended the steep northeast ridge of Sheridan to the Sheridan-Sheep saddle. The next 1.5 miles to the summit of Sheep took a deceivingly long time. It appeared flat on the topo but in actuality it was a labyrinth of granite slabs which had to be weaved around and hiked over. Between granite slabs were gorgeous streams and vistas of mini granite valleys. At last, I reached the broad grassy southwest slopes of Sheep which I ascended to the summit where I arrived at 10:00 AM.
The steep NE ridge of Sheridan.
At first, I wasn't sure if the north ridge on Sheep was going to be a viable option but it worked out. From the summit of Sheep, I descended about 100 feet then found a deep sandy gully on the east side of the ridge which took me to the saddle. Some very short sections of class 3 were encountered along with a short 50 foot snow patch near the bottom of the gully. A better option would have been to navigate around some minor cliffs and descend to the saddle via ledges on the west side of the ridge.
Point 13,105 from Sheep.
The Class 3 gully to the Sheep-13,105 saddle.
Looking back at the class 3 gully with snow from the Sheep-13,105 saddle.
Along the ridge near the saddle were two rock towers which I was able to bypass easily on the west side of the ridge. Again, I could have climbed directly up the steep rocky south slopes of 13,105 but decided to do an angling traverse to the north ridge so I didn't have to haul my camp pack up and over the summit.
Even doing an angling traverse to the north ridge of 13,105 was steep but I was able to stay on grassy slopes. Once I intercepted the north ridge, I ditched my pack and made the short 200-300 foot climb to the summit. Near the summit, I encountered a short bouldery section with nothing too difficult. I arrived on the summit of 13,105 at 10:40 AM. Unfortunately, to my dismay, some storm clouds were starting to build. Looking north, there appeared to be a massive storm brewing.
Sheep from 13,105.
Summit ridge on 13,105.
Not very optimistic, I continued towards Amherst by descending the grassy northwest ridge of 13,105 towards the unranked Emerson Mountain saddle. Once at the saddle between the Emerson Mountains, I headed towards the basin north of Emerson Mountain traversing below the ridge at ~12,800. Almost immediately after leaving the saddle, the talus hopping started. The ridge between 13,105 and Amherst didn't look good as I traversed towards the southwest face of Amherst. The east side of Emerson could have been a better option with grassy slopes but I was hoping to ditch my camp pack to climb Amherst and Organ and avoid unnecessary gain with a heavy pack.
Plenty of talus hopping later, I was able to stash my camp pack on some cliffs below the Amherst-Emerson/East saddle. To gain the saddle between Emerson/East and Amherst I had to climb up a red gully with plenty of loose class 3 scrambling; the rock quality certainly wasn't great. Once I reached the south ridge of Amherst, the weather wasn't looking very promising so I continued towards the Amherst-Organ saddle with hopes of the weather clearing out by the time I reached Organ. Descending Amherst's east ridge wasn't too difficult as it was a steep scree ski. Organ had a unique look as I continued towards its southwest slopes.
Looking back at 13,105 from the Emerson saddle.
Chossy class 3 gully on Amherst.
Traversing towards Organ.
Once at the Amherst-Organ saddle, I climbed up Organ's class 2 southwest slopes. The skies overhead were clear and I could hear thunder from the massive storm to the north. The storm appeared to be heading northeast and nothing in my vicinity was threatening. Near the summit, I had to negotiate around some large boulders, which I climbed on the east side to gain the summit finale of a short bouldering problem. Organ had 2 unique summit boulders which required some class 3 scrambling. The summit boulders reminded me of a miniature Sunlight summit boulder. I arrived on the summit of Organ at 12:00 PM.
Zoom of the nasty storm to the north.
Summit blocks on Organ.
Amherst from the SE ridge on Organ.
The storm to the north was quite the light show but I didn't stick around very long to watch it. I headed back to the Organ-Amherst saddle and climbed up Amherst's class 2 east ridge to the summit where I arrived at 12:40 PM. In the distance, I could see another storm brewing to the southwest so I quickly returned to my pack on the southwest side of Amherst. With some modest talus hopping, I reached grassy slopes in the basin at ~12,400 and hiked to the Amherst/Emerson-Valois saddle. I wasn't particularly excited about climbing Valois with my camp pack since the amount of gain for the day was starting to wear on me.
Looking back at Amherst heading to the Amherst-Valois saddle. Red gully can be seen.
Heading towards Valois.
Shortly after reaching the lake at 12,072 south-southeast of Valois, the storm that was brewing to the southwest hit. I decided to wait it out as it rained and thundered. After about 15-25 minutes, the stormed moved northwest and the sun was shining. I decided to climb Valois as quick as I could since I really couldn't observe any additional weather that might be building to the west. I was hoping to climb the south slopes of Valois and intercept its south ridge but I noticed a notch and I wasn't sure if it could be negotiated around easily. Instead, I climbed up the steep grassy class 2 south slopes and intercepted Valois's east ridge.
Looking north from the Valois-Amherst saddle.
Amherst and Organ from climbing Valois.
Heavy. The camp pack hurt as I made my up the south slopes of Valois. My travel on the east ridge was short and I arrived on the summit of Valois at 2:45 PM. The weather looked good and I continued onward to my camping spot for the night at Hazel Lake. I descended the northwest ridge of Valois en-route to unraked Florida. Along the way, I had to bypass a small tower on the west side of the ridge but was able to keep things at class 2 and I went up and over Florida. I descended Florida's west ridge to Trimble Pass where I was able to follow a trail into Vallecito Basin.
Ugh. That's going to blow with a camp pack.
Looking down the SE slopes of Valois.
Organ and Amherst from Valois.
Florida from Valois.
Looking across Vallecito Basin at Hazel lake. Jupiter, Grizzly and McCauley can be seen.
Since I was getting a bit tired, it was nice to have a trail as I made my around Vallecito Basin. I crossed paths with the Columbine Pass trail where I encountered some people. Not sure if I would care to go see the hoards of people in Chicago Basin. To my surprise I was able to follow a trail all the way around Vallecito Basin staying above Columbine Lake. Initially I thought I would have to descend into Vallecito Basin and then climb back up to Hazel lake but I was able to stay high in the basin on a trail to the Jagged-Hope Mountain Saddle.
Traversing around Vallecito Basin looking at Columbine Lake.
By the time I reached the Jagged-Hope Mountain saddle, more storms were starting to build and I quickly descended towards Hazel Lake on a faint trail where I was bivouacked for the evening. I arrived at Hazel Lake at 5:00 PM and set up my bivy sack, luckily, before the nasty storm hit. Naturally, it doesn't rain all week until I decided to bivy. The hail and large amounts of rain made things interesting but I was somehow able to sleep astonishingly well.
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