| Four Miles of Talus-13,060
East ridge of 13,060 in the Elk Mountains
pack in 10.5 mi round trip, 3290 ft elevation
unnamed 13,060 3.95 mi, 2965 ft elevation 8/28/2012
Mount Daly 13,300 3.7 mi, 2130 ft elevation 8/29/2012
As I slowly pick up remaining thirteens, I find I have a number of "orphan" peaks--isolated summits among higher peaks climbed years before, when I had no idea I would even try the low thirteens, much less get close to a finish. So it is with unnamed 13,060, sited east of Clark Peak in the Elk Range. This peak along with Mount Daly were the last two peaks for me to complete the Elk Range thirteens. I had not found any description of this peak or suggestions on climbing it. So using the topo quads of Capitol Peak and Highland Peak, and Google Earth I came up with a possible route.
The climbing season of 2012 started early and dry, and remained for the most part dry. As my chosen approach meant a wet crossing of Snowmass Creek on West Snowmass Trail, I took advantage of low water to pack in up West Snowmass Creek to near Moon Lake to make a camp.
Low water Snowmass Creek trail crossing
There are available descriptions of a "trail" into this area, unfortunately without decent details, but then by this time in my hiking career I should be used to difficult routes. I managed to get lost on the way in and the way out, in spite of finding the trail winding around overgrown three or four rock cairns.
See the trail? the cairns?
The most difficult areas are all in the timber, complicated by downfall, cattle trails and overgrowth. I made a camp just below 11,200 elevation.
The approach and climb the next day of 13,060 began on a hikers path on steep grass. Quickly though, the way led through various grades of talus, continued on talus and found little plant life until I returned much later to the grassy area of my camp. Hence the title of this report. I followed the rare cairn to just southeast and above Moon Lake, then I was on my own for the remainder of my route.
Near the 12,600 col, Moon Lake and Mount Daly
I traversed up and into a broad gully to the 12,600 col northeast of Clark Peak, then dropped down into Copper Creek drainage to 12,000. Here was some grass! (Perhaps ten square yards.) I had seen two levels to stay on traverse to the south towards 13,060 and took the lower. There is no advantage to going high as I needed to drop either way to 12,000.
Continuing on yet more talus southeast then south, decently behaved by the way, I found myself at the bottom of a deeply inset dirty couloir heading 600 feet up to the east ridge of 13,060.
Dirt couloir, route in red
Using all manner of third class dirt, mud and scree maneuvers I arrived at the col, looking south at Snowmass Mountain, rising above Pierre Lakes basin.
Hagerman and Snowmass from col, east ridge 13,060
The east ridge rose above me and I began the scramble of about 250 feet elevation up to the summit.
East ridge, 13,060, crux directly ahead
Quite soon I met the crux: a 30 to 40 foot mess of talus and solid rock. The north was an awful drop, the south meant going down quite a ways, then back up. So head on I went. I managed to scramble up 4th class, then found a narrow ledge heading to my right. This meant a four step 5th class move over the drop finding fingerholds on the bulging wall. I looked for a way out--finding none I made the move and was able to scramble easily up and past. I would not do this without a rope in any wet conditions.
The remainder of the ridge was fun, not without a few problems, but this area of the Elks, Capitol granite, is known for its quality rock(as long as it is solid!) The view of Capitol Peak was dominated by Clark Peak, another unholy mess of angulated talus that I climbed in 2000, using the Capital Lake approach.
Capital Peak, Clark Peak from summit of 13,060
On the summit I took my pictures, ate and drank some, and relaxed in the sun.
The register was absolutely sopping wet with only four people signing in two years earlier. If people would close the canisters and store them with the twist cap upright, water will not drip in. The caps are not watertight and if dependent will slowly allow water in. This register was so wet I couldn't sign in, so I took a picture.
Dripping wet summit register, 13,060
I was only half way on this climb so I began the descent. At the crux I looked some minutes at the 5th class moves. In the late morning sun it looked bad.
Searching a few feet to the north I was able to get down using friction and the occasional adroit five points of contact method on angled slabs. At the col, the plunge down the wet dirt was rapid. This would be an excellent early season snow pitch! I began the slow trudge, dance, trudge across the talus, back up to the 12,600 foot col. Clouds were now forming, keeping the descent to near Moon Lake cooler.
Mount Daly, Moon Lake, on descent
Somewhere near Moon Lake I began to despair of finding any level green earth--this was becoming an ordeal. Perhaps I was doomed to finish my climbing years splayed out on pieces of sharp Capitol granite. But eventually the talus slopes leading down to the climbers path and my camp appeared. I think I may have whistled some, I was certainly delirious enough to do so. At camp I enjoyed the good weather, walking about barefoot to ease my feet from the strain of talus dancing . All that remained was to read, eat and sleep.
Camp at 11,200 on West Snowmass Creek
The next day I climbed Mount Daly using the same path to Moon Lake.
Sunrise on Mount Daly, north bank of Moon Lake
There I had to circle north and above the lake, of course on nothing but talus, reaching the 12,000 foot basin east of the Capitol-Daly pass. Here however was grass, about a half mile of it--whoohoo!!
There are plenty of reports describing the ridge to summit Mount Daly, so I won't bore anyone here with it. I do have to mention though that in the early morning this is the best view of Capitol Peak I have ever seen.
Capitol Peak from south ridge Mount Daly
I recommend Daly to climbers solely on the basis of the views. There was a dry register, so I signed in for Daly and also for 13060 the day before, in case anybody cared. So I returned again to camp.
I spent some time at Moon Lake and it appeared to be a dead lake. I was sitting on a rock about five feet above the water when an eighteen inch cutthroat surfaced out of the emerald gloom and appeared to stare at me. I swear I heard it give a snort of derision at me, turned and disappeared into the green depth.
Moon Lake, Capitol pass distant
I continued on my way, for sure knowing I was probably insane.
I ate, read and slept. Feeling back to normal I reversed my pack route out the next day, actually finding the best climbers path, but still getting lost down in the timber north of West Snowmass Creek between 10,400 and 10,200 feet.
So I spent four days wandering about east of Capitol Peak, summitting two low thirteens,finishing the Elks, encountering miles of talus, one insolent trout and no people. Not bad. Perhaps there is a way to bushwack up Copper Creek from a 9,000 foot camp on Snowmass Creek to climb 13,060, avoiding the crappy paths to Moon Lake and the 1000 feet extra elevation and close to four miles of talus I suffered through. I'll leave that to one of you reading this report.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):