| Cimarron Summits
Heisshorn, El Punto, 13340A, 13222B, 13377, 13206, Coxcomb, and Redcliff
September 7-8, 2013
Partners: Dale Earnhardt and Daisy (via Abe)
Resources: lordhelmut’s, pkelley’s, and furthermore’s trip reports
Trailhead: Middle Fork Cimarron. Rough (3-4 washouts) 2wd
Day 1: ~13 mi, 6200 ft (first four peaks)
Day 2: ~12 mi, 4800 ft (last four)
Pictures: Assume half Boggy’s, half Kylie’s, and half mine. Might have to run the math through Excel one more time. Hint - Boggy and Kylie are no slouches in the picture department while I am relegated to a child-proof camera.
Colorado’s Cimarron Range. Volcaniclastic remnant survivors of the state’s more explosive past. A range to grow hair on a man’s chest and on a woman’s too, if you’re into that sort of thing.
A grand place for views, but perhaps not for climbing. Not that there isn’t anything to climb out there.
Our plan was simple, particularly when Boggy efficienc-izes it:
1) Kill the Batman.
2) From the Middle Fork Cimarron (MFC) TH, hike overnight gear to the Porphyry Junction (signed)
3) With lighter packs, cruise up the Middle Fork trail to the pass between Heisshorn and El Punto
4) Carefully pick our way through Heisshorn’s class 3 NE ridge and return to the pass (avoid a sheep mobbing). Might not want to take the “class 3” part lightly
5) Hike over to El Punto and access it via the W gully and brief class 3 N ridge
6) Grassy tundra walk over to 13,340A
7) Scree scree more scree sketchy scramble 13,222B scree
8) Hike out grass/trail down Porphyry Basin to the junction
9) Don overnight packs and re-hike the MFC trail to a suitable camp around 11,450 ft.
10) Dream little tiger dreams
11) Wake up bright/dark and early, grassy ramps to 13,377 and 13,206.
12) Enjoy the sunrise. If it were not for sunrises and sunsets, I would likely never have picked up hiking and pursued a promising professional football linebacker career instead
13) Climb wishlist-for-three-years-running Coxcomb
14) Extend an already overly long list with trivial items
15) Slog around to Redcliff
16) Follow the Coxcomb trail down to the MFC trail and pack out
Worked perfectly. Minus rain. And scree.
The extents of my digi-mapping skills (unless you pay me monies and I GIS-wizard for you):
A 4:30 start allows us to just break treeline when the magic happens. Yes, yes, magic isn’t real and SCIENCE and whatnot.
But sometimes, I think I believe.
At the pass, Heisshorn looms behind a gentle hill. By all accounts, that doesn’t match the description and up we continue. Ah. Here we are.
Heisshorn is only class 3 with reasonable options and exposure. Mostly ridge proper with occasional drops of no more than 15 ft to the left/east. But don’t let me sand bag it. Careful attention to the route is required and the wrong hold might be a widow maker. It’s still the San Juans, after all.
The summit takes 4 hrs from the car, with some of that time spent dropping overnight gear. As a side note, combining Heisshorn with the nearby UN via the traverse appears 5.hard with big blocky choss.
We carefully downclimb the ridge and contour through the grassy hills to El Punto’s W gully, skirting a sea of baaaaing sheep en route.
This is only the vanguard.
Wetterhorn and Heisshorn
UN13377, Heisshorn, UN13206, Coxcomb, and Redcliff
We debate skirting hoodoos on El Punto’s south ridge vs contouring below them. Either option appears miserable and we chose to skirt. It is miserable.
We take the prominent W gully that leads to a shoulder just north of the summit. This is followed by the loosest class 3 scramble of the day to a notch in the summit tower. An exposed scramble over to the unique and airy summit is required; careful of the small cars waiting to careen down the slope.
Upper route follows the gully beneath the perch
The down climb is a slow one-at-a-time-I-wouldn’t-touch-that sort of affair. We skid down the gully and hook a right/north to continue on to 13,340A. Grassy slopes, sheep-views, and a minor cliff band to scramble down via an east side bypass.
And… uhh… I’ll just leave this here for D_Baker’s amusement.
13,340A has nice views, unsurprisingly. And a cool north face.
The summit register is quite familiar.
13,222B Doesn’t look all that much higher than its northern neighbors, nor does it look particularly appealing. But it is a 13er and thus it must be climbed. We descend 13,304 towards the east and scree traverse across the connecting ridge until we hit the saddle north of 13,222. This, too, is miserable.
Climb 13,222’s class 3+ N ridge via right/west bypasses and gullies. It isn’t as bad as it looks.
We lounge on the summit, downclimb, enjoy a scree ski, and pick up the trail down the basin (N side of creek). Intermittent conversation with a couple bow hunters sees us back to our overnight cache and we grunt up the trail to a nice campsite at 11,450.
Tents are up just as the rain begins and the night is filled with its usual wonders – howling coyotes, bugling elk, thundering of the Foehn.
And rain. Relentless rain.
Perhaps Coxcomb isn’t in the cards. Ahh well. If it is not, the prospect of yet another return and attempt suddenly doesn’t seem so bad. But the Colorado weather is no longer a total stranger to us and our hopes remain high as we start the morning’s climb under clouded prospects.
Hoping to hike 13,377 in the dark via the saddle with the other UN, we pick our way through talus by headlamp on a moonless night. In the dark, we don’t realize grass ramps abound just below our tedious lurching. This costs us a bit of time, but we still make the summit, utilizing left/north side scree bypasses on the ridge (c2) by magic time.
And this one’s no disappointment.
From 13,377, we contour west around and up 13,206. The Unnamed peaks’ sole, and rather regal, purpose seems to be providing views of the surrounds: Coxcomb, Redcliff, Fortress, Precipice, Dunsinane, Turret Ridge, Heisshorn, El Punto, Wetterhorn, Uncompaghre, Dragon’s Back, Wildhorse, Blackwall, and Matterhorn. A hard list of names. And beautiful, each and all.
From here, Coxcomb looms. The price of passage being the six peaks done thus far for the trip’s genesis.
An ascending traverse left/south takes us to the southern slopes and a social trail eases the way to the gully splitting Coxcomb’s formidable cliffs.
Not a single cairn is observed, lending to initial route confusion, but we’re quickly back on track. The route begins as brief 4th class, followed by extended 3rd class, and capped by a few stretches of stiff 4th and possibly 5.0. The moves require stemming and chimneying: counter-pressure techniques that might seem foreign.
Stiff 4th – 5.0
The upper ridge is reached. Slender thoughts.
We reach the notch and it is surprisingly short. Perhaps 20-25 ft. A single 30 m is more than sufficient for both the rappel and a top rope on the return. The webbing looks good, but safety’s always nice. Boggy rappels first with a backup, Kylie goes second with both a backup and a fireman ready, and I bring up the rear. Despite the aversion, they’ll make good canyoneers someday.
The climb out of the notch towards the summit proper goes at exposed 3rd via the left/west. Perhaps a 4th class move to start. Quickly, the summit is reached. This one might be worth a repeat.
The clouds are building and our day isn’t done, so we depart. The crux climb out of the notch on top rope goes at 5.2 with a single move of ~5.4. Since we had two 30 meter ropes, and since rappelling is fun, we opted to rappel the upper chimneys (65-70 ft), utilizing one of a few stations with good webbing. We selected a clean line with an easy pull descender’s left/east of the ascent chimneys.
Naturally, Kylie shows us how it’s done.
Rappelling the chimneys. Boggy backs the webbing up for us and goes last.
Boggy’s line proves he’s a future canyoneer:
A quick rest and the decision’s made to drop low into a few basins, contouring around Coxcomb to the east via the Coxcomb trail and grassy slopes in order to reach Redcliff via the Coxcomb/Redcliff saddle. A few hundred more feet of gain overall, but significantly easier than contouring high on talus. At least we have views while we grunt out the class 1/2.
Boggy found the leavings of somebody’s good time on the summit of Redcliff. The hardest part is figuring out how to hold it (No, this really is not his)
We descend Redcliff via the initial talus and grassy slopes back to the Coxcomb trail. Our tent is at the junction between the Coxcomb and MFC trails, which is convenient for packing out. At this point, I learned my first lesson in the Curious Pace of Kylie Hockenberry. She actually gets faster as a trip wears on, rather than the usual slower. Boggy and I basically jog trying to keep up, to the amusement of passing hunters.
All in all, the Cimarron Range is not the scramble destination of the Gore, nor does it have the snow lines of the Elks, the sweeping summits of the Weminuche, or the splendor of the Indian Peaks. But it does have an inherent and unique beauty of its own.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):