| 13153 only
A day dawned not only absurdly pretty, but with a 0% chance of rain. I was on the trail not a minute after 10 am. Following some ACL rehab, my goal was to hike up to the lake and then consider a route up to 13153 if weather and muscles were in my favor. Turned out they both were, and it was a hell of a day.
Distance: 10-15 miles?
Elevation gain: 4800-5000 feet maybe
In the few times I've been to South Crestone Lake, a few routes up the mountain seem evident. Cliffs guard the north shore of the lake, but a weakness in them leads directly up toward 13153, northeast of the lake. From the lake this appears passable but full of bushwhacking . Another gap in the cliffs leads up toward 12740, to the northwest of the lake, but I did not initially consider this a possible route because it would lead to a traverse on terrain of unknown steepness above the cliffs.
The best-known route is to head east, into an upper basin beneath Adams/13153/13546. From here it is an easy and well-documented hike to the 13153-Adams saddle. Kevin Baker's trip report covers this route pretty well.
The distance of this route, which I had initially considered to be low, in hindsight was deceptively great. The net vertical gain is around 4400', but there were many hundreds and hundreds of extra feet required due to the inefficiency of my route through the treed areas around the lake.
Since I didn't get on the trail (from the alternate trailhead, around 8750') until 10am, I was from the start anticipating an afternoon summit and evening descent. With my legs uncertain, I resolved to keep a slow pace to the lake. I did pass one person on his way up to camp, but ended up at the lake around 12:45.
After briefly considering the direct route straight to the summit, I gave up that plan and instead committed to the Kevin Baker route. The first issue was the lake itself, as the upper basin is on the exact opposite side from the trail. Looping to the south side lead to a swampy area with just one place to cross the creek without wading through it - a pair of adjacent rocks hidden in willows, almost exactly where the lake meets the creek. Once across, I foolishly tried to stick near the lake, then repeatedly had to abandon this plan and ascend up to 100' on slabs and through trees to make progress around the lake. This part was really tedious, and I forgot to take any pictures.
Moving past the lake, I made yet another mistake in heading up instead of down. After some traversing I eventually ended up down low near the level of the creek feeding out of the upper basin. The next goal was to hike up past a headwall-like formation that guarded this basin. Though imposing from a distance, it turned out to be a rather gentle route through surprisingly solid talus/scree all the way to the right of the headwall.
Just above S Crestone lake, looking back down. 12740 in the background.
Looking up at Mount Adams shows the route past the headwall.
Slightly blurry closeup of 12740.
From near the top of the headwall looking back at the lake
Above the headwall, the remaining terrain becomes visible
Above the headwall, the route up to the 13153-Adams saddle is easily visible. I headed in that direction, again making the mistake of going up instead of down and ending up 100' above the creek and having to descend down some slabs. I didn't care to go the whole way to the saddle, and at this point instead picked a fairly direct route straight up the southern slope of the peak.
Looking straight up at 13153. My actual route went along tundra to the right of this photo.
Naturally the views got steadily better as I ascended.
Another look back at the lake
I couldn't stop taking pictures of 12740
Adams NW ridge. Roach calls this a Class 2+, while Furthermore says it's more like a Class 2. It did not look easy.
Looking up at the north side of 13546.
Somewhere between 12500' and 13000', the comfortable tundra slope turned into a moderately steep field of disturbingly-midsized talus. Progress slowed greatly as I was careful to test every rock lest I roll one down on myself. Perhaps continuing to the saddle could have avoided this section. Not too long after though, I topped out at (supposedly) 13153 feet elevation and around 3:45 PM. Almost 6 hours to net 4400 feet vertically is a far shot from my pre-injury standards, but I consoled myself with a reminder that I was intentionally taking it slowly.
The summit is officially listed at 13153' (based on old, old surveys) and topographic maps show contour lines that match this. Nonetheless my GPS showed an elevation of 13350 feet above sea level. Go figure.
Looking west along the ridge.
Various fourteeners popped into view.
Adams seen from the summit
The summit register was in good shape, but the paper inside was neither the correct color nor the correct number of colors. It appeared to have about two signatures per year, including many of the expected names. The only ascent I could see from 2012, by a fellow whose name I forget, had a nice little paragraph about how awesome this peak was. It made me stop and look around some more.
I signed it with an appropriate RIP for Rob Jansen and Chris Gray, which put me in mind of my climb of Crestone Needle shortly after Spencer Swanger's death. This, along with the cloud that covered the sun right around the same time, made the day seem a little darker.
Fluted Peak and North Crestone Lake were absurdly pretty
Looking north, Comanche Peak (right) and Rito Alto Peak (center) were the most prominent
Originally I had several contingency routes, either headed up Adams NW ridge or across to the Adams-13546 saddle. Mount Adams lends itself to a number of loop hikes, of which I think Willow Lake -> 13546 -> 13580 -> Adams -> 13153 -> South Crestone Lake would be the best (though long). From camp at South Crestone Lake, this could be done almost equally well. Obviously I was not planning an overly long day on this trip, but I always try to have backup plans in case things go really well.
However as it was now after 4PM, I figured I'd better cut my day short. Between the newly-arrived cloud (which departed soon after) and my desire not to descend the way I came up, I decided to head directly down toward the lake. Initially I took the path of least resistance, down the western ridge, but as I descended I came across a pretty solid trail just below the ridgeline. Wondering where it lead, I ended up following it all the way to the saddle (with the intermediate, unranked peak) where I lost it.
Even more absurdly pretty: South Crestone Lake
South Crestone Lake closeup
Another ridge shot
View of the North Crestone basin
From here I had to cut back to my left (west) a bit as I descended toward the known gap in the cliffs above the lake. Had I researched it a bit better however, I think traversing across the ridge to just below 12740 would be an easier and far more scenic route, which would avoid all bushwhacking as the trail just before the lake sticks out above treeline. Though I could see that this traverse would be easy, I didn't know how to get down past the cliffs in that area.
Being far from a direct line, this descent was inefficient. However it was extremely scenic, so overall it was a good tradeoff. Looking at the lake all the way down, with the northern ridge of 13546 and the ever-imposing 12740 in the background, was almost too distracting.
From the willows visible on the slope, it is a straight shot down to the lake. Left and right have cliffs. I avoided the scree by traversing right.
Yet another ridge shot - this one shows an easy traverse across to 12740
I want to take a moment to put in a good word for Point 12740. Although I know it's a class 5.0 peak and one of the few technical peaks in the area, I had never really given it much thought before. But from certain angles (only partially captured in the pictures here) it was really, really impressive.
One last shot of 12740
As I came into the upper portion of the trees, bushwhacking was again required. Descending through these plants was slow, but at least it was all downhill this time unlike my up-and-down circling of the lake on the way up. The tedium was interrupted by a couple of deer who were themselves interrupted by my presence.
Deer around the lake (there were two in this group)
Once down by the lake, it was actually a very easy route around to get back to the trail. From where the trail meets the lake, this area doesn't appear easily passable but in fact I think it would be considerably better to navigate around the lake on the north side than on the south. I also believe there are several camping spots over here that are a bit more secluded than the obvious ones right by the end of the trail.
Looking south across the lake
I had really taken my time on the way down (including a 30-minute nap by the lake at the end), and by the time I was back on the trail proper it was well after 6PM. I made pretty respectable time back to the trailhead, getting in just a bit after dark.
SLV near dusk
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):