This is my first post/trip report, so please bear with me as I negotiate the technical aspects of posting.
I met my climbing partner for this trip last summer on Sunlight while climbing my first 14er. Malcolm (malcolml1) was leading a group up Sunlight and I ended up taking his picture on the summit block (it was also how I found out about 14ers.com since he was wearing a 14ers.com baseball cap). This summer Malcolm was back out in Colorado to work on finishing the Centennials and asked me if I wanted to attempt some peaks with him. We agreed that Jagged, Pigeon and Turret would make excellent peaks to climb together. All of my climbing to this point has been solo, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to climb some peaks that I would probably not attempt solo.
Because we hadn’t formally climbed together, we agreed to do a “test” climb of Vermilion to assess our compatibility.
That climb went very well and the next day we caught the train from Silverton to Needleton to do Jagged. Since Malcolm is thinking about doing a trip report on our Jagged trip, I’ve decided to focus on our climb of Pigeon and Turret (at the end of this report I have included some tidbits on Jagged that may be helpful to others).
We boarded the train for Needleton on August 22. It was raining when we got off the train so we took shelter in the shack just south of the stop. We had a quick bite to eat, got our rain gear on, and began the trek north along the Animas. Upon our return from Jagged the previous week we had some time to kill so we scouted the route from the Ruby Creek trail to its junction with N. Pigeon Creek. We wouldn’t have bothered if we had known the route to that point was so easy to follow, but the steepness did convince us to be ruthless about what we carried up to Pigeon and Turret.
Upon reaching the Ruby Creek/N. Pigeon Creek junction before the tree with the Columbine carved in it (described by Roach), I pulled out my compass and prepared to bushwhack. Surprisingly, the faint trail became more defined for a bit before it transitioned to merely cairns. We followed Roach’s directions and after about .2 miles in an easterly direction, took an east/southeast heading for the rest of the journey. The bushwhack was not as bad as expected (perhaps because I had mentally prepared for a disaster) and while we didn’t set any land speed records, we took a pretty efficient approach. I’ve included our GPS track for our approach to the meadow at 11,700.
We got to the meadow late in the afternoon and set up camp – the rain held off and the views were stunning.
Campsite below Pigeon PK
We knew the weather for Thursday did not look good so we agreed that if it was raining in the morning (minus lightning of course), we would do Turret first and hope things cleared up for an attempt on Pigeon. If it was dry, we’d go for Pigeon first.
We got up at 4 and planned to depart at 5. The skies were cloudy, but there was no rain so we headed for Pigeon. Since it was still dark, we followed the rock strewn gully as high as we could and then traversed left on grass ledges.
Malcolm ascending the gully after the grass ledges
Once the sun came up, it was clear that the weather would be iffy all morning. One minute the skies would clear, the next we were in the clouds and couldn’t see more than 25 feet in front of us.
Twilight Peaks during one of the few breaks in the clouds
This was the case when we got to the actual climbing on Pigeon. Instead of trying to find the start point described by Roach, we followed cairns to the peak (mostly Class 2/2+, a little Class 3). While we were disappointed at missing out on some more challenging climbing, we couldn’t see far enough in front of us to make a go at it. Luckily, once we gained the peak the clouds broke and we got to enjoy some incredible views.
View from the summit of Pigeon
Views of Arrow, Vestal, and the Trinities (L to R)
Malcolm on Pigeon PK
Me on Pigeon Pk
We could see some climbers on Turret and gave them a shout. They returned our call and gave us a wave.
Climbers on Turret (viewed from Pigeon PK)
After a break on the summit, we headed back down to make our way to Turret. When descending Pigeon, you can see a faint trail that traverses the base of Pigeon (around 12,400). We headed for this and made quick time on the descent. Once on the traversing trail, I scouted the route that we would take from the saddle back to our campsite (a much shorter option than traversing all the way back to the gully on Pigeon). The worst part of the traverse is the battle across the scree field to reach the saddle. This was the typical two steps up, one slide down. I tried to remind myself that my knees would appreciate scree skiing this down to our camp.
The route from the saddle to Turret is straightforward and you can see the entire route to the summit (unless it happens to be obscured by clouds as it was for us much of the time).
View of the route up Turret from the saddle
By the time we made it to the ridge and stashed our poles, the weather had deteriorated significantly. On the summit it started to pour and we endured a painful hail. The hail also made the descent more challenging.
Hail on the descent of Turret
We made a beeline back to our poles and quickly headed back to the saddle to begin our descent to camp.
Pigeon Pk after the hail storm
It continued to rain hard after we got back to camp so we took a nap and hoped for a break in the rain around dinner time. It never completely stopped, but it let up enough so we didn’t have to cook under the tent vestibule. The next morning we packed up our gear and bushwhacked our way back to the Ruby Creek trail and eventually Needleton.
This is an awesome trip for anyone looking to avoid the Chicago Basin crowds. The only people we saw during this trip were the climbers we yelled to over on Turret.
1. If you’re on the late train from Silverton and are planning to camp in the vicinity of the beginning of the Noname trail, the campsite just past the trail junction is awesome. It has room for several tents, benches/logs to sit on, easy access to water, and a campfire ring. It is much better than the campsite 80 yards past Noname Creek that Roach mentions.
Campsite vic Noname Creek trail junction
2. If you get to Jagged Cabin and there are people already camped there, walk to the end of the meadow for a nice campsite – in the trees, room for a couple of tents, close to water, and just past the trail junction to Jagged Pass.
3. We did not bring a rope and did not regret it. Although I’ve only been climbing for a year, my climbing partner has a lot of experience. I just made sure that as we evaluated each crux I was mentally comfortable with down climbing it. The only part of the route that really freaked me out was the very exposed step around after you climb through the notch and begin to traverse the southwest face. I let my partner lead the way and just followed his moves – if I had been solo I probably would have crawled across it (not very graceful, but it would have gotten the job done).
5. The most challenging part of the route for us was finding the start. Even though we closely evaluated the route from Jagged Pass, we still traversed too high and spent 30 minutes finding the correct start as described by Roach.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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