| UN 13,078, UN 13,317, UN 13,626 (Sawatch)
11/18/06 – UN 13,078 & UN 13,317
From: County Rd 292, ~2/3 mile west of Alpine Reservoir
Approx 7 mi, 4750 ft
11/19/06 – UN 13,626
From: Country Rd 292, ~1 mile east of Alpine Reservoir
Approx 7.8 mi, 4700 ft
These three 13ers lie along a ridge extending west from Mt. Princeton. They can be easily accessed year round from County Road 162 that runs between Mt. Princeton Hot Springs and St. Elmo. As I was pondering what mountains to climb this weekend my mind wandered toward those with routes potentially containing the least amount of snow. These 13ers with access from the south seemed like natural choices. I decided on UN 13,078 and UN 13,317 for Saturday with Sunday's plans undecided and dependent upon how Saturday's hike went.
Getting to the TH: Take County Road 162 west from Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. Shortly after the road turns to dirt, turn right onto County Road 292B. Continue north on County Road 292, avoiding any temptation to make a right onto County road 292B or County Road 292A?! Pass Alpine Reservoir. We parked about 2/3 of a mile west of the reservoir at the base of Coal Camp Canyon. The last mile or so doesn't appear to be plowed, but that wasn't an issue this weekend.
We started hiking around 7:20. Hoping to avoid the deepest snow in the basins and any possible avalanche danger, our planned route followed the somewhat bendy ridge just west of Coal Camp Canyon. This ridge is rather steep below treeline, but much gentler above. The ground was pretty much bare for most of our ascent below treeline although snow became a slight annoyance for the last few hundred feet or so. Snowshoes probably would have helped here, but this section was relatively short and we were too lazy to bother to put them on. After a little bit of scrambling over snowy talus, we arrived at treeline. From here there were great vistas of the surrounding peaks and since the weather was superb we took a break to soak in the sun.
Once above treeline, it was an easy stroll along the wind-blown ridge to the summit of UN 13,078 which we arrived at around 11. The gentle wind was still chilly enough to warrant only a 20 minute stay. A fun glissade off the east side made for a quick descent to the UN 13,078 – UN 13,317 saddle. The going to UN 13,317 was a little slower than expected from here due to the snow covered talus and the significant 12,299 ft ridge bump we had to climb over along the way. I think we finally arrived at the summit around 1. UN 13,626 to the east looked a little tempting, but it seemed like it would take quite a while to get over there and that and we would be left a little farther from the car than we would have liked. Not being the peakbagging type, my partner had no desire to give it a try so we called it a day and took a nice long summit break on the sunny south side of UN 13,317 out of the wind.
Our decent route was down Sheep Canyon. We headed south off of UN 13,317 and talus-hopped our way down into the Canyon. This wasn't very safe. The large talus on this slope was incredibly loose and we dislodged several "big ones" that bounced a fair way down before coming to rest. Once I had to do some fancy dancing to avoid being rolled over, but my trekking pole was not so lucky and it suffered a big bend. After we got past the talus, we followed a dry, grassy, tree-free strip of land down the middle of the canyon. The map shows this tree-free line and I'm not sure why its there. Maybe an avalanche path? It wasn't clear but without the threat of avalanches this is a great, easy route. We popped out on the road about 0.4 miles east of the car. Round trip time with long breaks was just over 8 hours. What a beautiful day!
We contemplated our Sunday plans over dinner at Coyote Cantina. Weather forecasts were indicating an even better day! After considering many options, we took the chicken's way out and decided on UN 13,626. Since it was right next to the mountains we had just climbed, we knew the conditions were great and that we could leave our snowshoes behind. After dinner we drove back up County Road 162 and again turned right onto County Road 292 B. This time we followed County Road 292 east for about a mile and parked in between Weldon Gulch and Grouse Canyon. The night was mild and "camping out" in the car was perfectly comfortable.
After taking some time to convince ourselves to get out of our warm sleeping bags, we finally started hiking on Sunday at 7:30. Our planned route was very similar to our route the day before. We would ascend the ridge between Weldon Gulch and Grouse Canyon. The ridge was steep below treeline and mellow above (same deal as yesterday). The terrain directly above where we parked looked very steep and cliffy. We headed a little east to avoid the worst of it and made great time up the steep slope. Again, there was very little snow below treeline.
The gentle, windswept ridge was a welcome sight after our steep ascent. A group of big horned sheep watched us from a minor ridge bump as we followed the ridge north. Our enjoyable ridge stroll ended abruptly when we had to gain the west ridge of UN 13,626. Time for more steep climbing. Once finished with this initial grunt, it was slow going to the actual summit. There was quite a bit of snow on this ridge and it was tedious picking our way over the talus.
We finally arrived at the summit around 12. From early on in the hike Mt. Princeton was looking very tempting. Now it was only 1.5 miles away from us. The connecting ridge looked rather interesting. I was hoping my partner would want to head over there since he has never climbed it, but he didn't feel like it and was worried the ridge would take a long time. Oh well. It looked like it would have been a great addition to this hike though.
Although the sun was beating down on us, we still got cold rather quickly and decided to head back. Like the day before, we chose to follow a drainage rather than the ridge for our descent. We dropped southeast off of UN 13,626 and followed Grouse Canyon. The upper portion was perfect - several inches of snow made for great cushioning. Once the canyon narrowed, however, it got kind of nightmarish. Deadfall everywhere. After some frustration, we finally found a decent trail on the east side of the creek. There were some wonderful cliffs on the west side that we were lucky to have avoided. We popped out on the road 0.4 miles east of the car. Total trip time was 7 hours.
pictures and route map