| The Grand Rio Grande Slam.
October 27, 2012
~29.9 miles, ~9,800 Gain
Weminuche Trail TH (2WD, ~5 hours from Denver)
Despite the recent snow storm, I was able to find some 13ers that were relatively snow free. Most of the snow from the recent storm hit the northern part of the state leaving peaks in the southern portion of the state snow free. The Rio Grande Pyramid group made for an ideal choice. I left Denver around 1 PM on Friday and made the long drive to the San Jauns.
Creede was a bit of a ghost town as I passed through town on my way to the trailhead. I debated on doing a backpack but I felt motivated, or some might say stupid, to do all of these peaks as a day trip. With such a long approach for my first peak, ~ 12 miles, I knew I would have to start early. I set the alarm for 2:20 AM and going to sleep at 6:15 PM, was quite easy thanks to a lingering hangover from the night before.
The alarm went off, I ate breakfast, and I started hiking up the Weminuche Trail at 2:50 AM. Illuminating my path, the waxing gibbous moon guided me deep into the Weminuche. Good trails on 13ers are hard to come by and the excellent trail allowed me to make good time to the CDT junction.
During my planning, I had originally thought of leaving the CDT trail at ~10,760 and making a more direct ascent of 12,724. Now that the moon had set and it was extremely dark, I decided to stay on the trail to ~11,900. This would avoid a very dark bushwhack to steep loose talus slopes.
Continuing on the trail was a good idea as I watched the sun rise and I noticed a light dusting of snow on the north facing aspects. A direct talus ascent of 12,724 would have been horrendous. At ~11,900, I left the trail and headed towards the 12,724-13,017 saddle and from the saddle, I headed up 12,724's talus class 2 west ridge where I arrived on the summit at 8:20 AM. A cold breeze had arrived but the skies were clear. I could tell that I was going to be battling the wind all day and after my short stay on the summit, I returned to the 12,724-13,017 saddle.
Approaching The Window en-route to 12,724.
Morning light on 13,017.
View to the west from 12,724
Rio Grande Pyramid from 12,724.
West ridge of 12,724.
From prior trip reports, I knew that 13,017 was going to be the most challenging peak of the day and from the saddle, I hiked on mellow slopes on the north side of the ridge to 13,017's summit monolith. I ditched my pack and started up the final portion of the ridge staying on the blocky ridge crest. Most of the scrambling was class 3 on questionable blocks. One short class 4 section was encountered.
East ridge of 13,017.
Looking down the blocky east ridge of 13,017.
Once I reached the final ridge, the climbing was exposed class 3. I arrived on the summit at 9:15 AM. On the ridge crest, there were two summit blocks and I thought the western block was higher but the summit register was located on the eastern block. The scrambling was very exposed between the two summit blocks and the dusting of snow made things interesting. Working my way back down the ridge, I knocked off a small refrigerator sized block which kept my attention for the rest of the descent.
Looking east from the western block on 13,017.
Ute from 13,017
Oso group from 13,017.
Glad to be done with 13,017, I traversed to the south of 13,017's summit monolith on talus heading directly for the Ute-13,017 saddle. At ~12,200 I intercepted the CDT which took me to the saddle. From the saddle, I climbed directly up Ute's class 2 east ridge. I arrived on the summit of Ute at 10:30 AM with excellent views of the Oso group.
East ridge of Ute.
Rio Grande Pyramid from Ute.
Chicago Basin peaks from Ute.
I returned to the Ute-13,017 saddle and followed the CDT to the 13,017-”Window” saddle. The wind seemed to be particularly brisk as I made my way towards my next peak. When I reached the 13,017-”Window” saddle, I I departed the CDT and hiked up “Window's” Class 2 south ridge where I arrived on the summit at 12:10 AM.
Nearing the summit of “Window” Peak.
Rio Grande Pyramid from the summit of “Window” Peak.
13,017 from “Window”
Due to the wind, my stay on “Window” Peak was short and I descended “Window's” northeast ridge. Once I was below the cliffs on “Window's” north ridge, I traversed below the cliffs to The Window. I didn't stick around The Window too long since the venturi effect with the wind was very strong through the gap.
Blocks from The Window.
From The Window, I traversed to the east side of Rio Grande Pyramid on talus. A direct climb up the south side on Rio Grande Pyramid didn't look very appealing. Traversing below Rio Grande Pyramid's south face was beautiful and I enjoyed the nice break from the wind. Once I was on the east side of Rio Grande Pyramid, I climbed the standard class 2 talus route to the summit where I arrived at 1:15 PM.
13,278 and 13,261 from the summit of Rio Grande Pyramid.
Looking through the register on Rio Grande Pyramid, I was astonished with the number of signatures from folks who were from out of state. More than half of the names in the register were from out of state. At this point, I was starting to feel a bit tired. I returned to the base of Rio Grande Pyramid's east ridge and took a long break. After some Goo's and food, I felt much better.
Continuing onward to 13,278, I bypassed point 13,185 on the south side and descended loose talus to the Rio Grande Pyramid-13,278 saddle. Climbing up 13,278's southwest ridge was grassy class 2 and I arrived on the summit at 2:40 PM. The constant battering of wind was really beginning to grow old. From the summit of 13,278, I descended 13,278's class 2 north ridge to the 13,278-13,261 saddle. I bypassed a large tower on the ridge to the east and continued up 13,261's blocky class 2 ridge where I arrived on the summit of 13,261 at 3:20 PM.
Rio Grande Pyramid from the RGP-13,278 saddle.
13,261 and Simpson from the summit of 13,278.
13,278 from the 13,278-13,261 saddle.
Looking up the southwest ridge of 13,261.
In the distance, I could see my last peak of the day. I descended 13,261's talus east ridge and followed grassy terrain to the 13,261-Simpson saddle. Grassy class 2 slopes up Simpson's southwest ridge to the summit where I arrived at 4:15 PM. Despite the amount of gain and mileage at this point, I was feeling pretty good.
Looking back at 13,261 on my way to Simpson.
RGP, 13,278, 13,261 from Simpson.
Rio Grande Reservoir from Simpson.
Rio Grande Reservoir.
To save some mileage, I descended Simpson's grassy northeast ridge and then descended grassy slopes east towards the Weminuche Trail. To my surprise, I saw a coyote chasing a snow hare in the valley below. Ultimately, the rabbit won. When I got back into the trees, my descent was a bit of a frustrating bushwhack back to the trail. Plenty of downed timber was negotiated. Finally, I reached the trail where I enjoyed zombie mode back to the car where I arrived back at 6:50 PM. Chef Boyardee canned spaghetti tasted pretty delicious after such a long day.
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