| Morgan Pk, Sante Fe Pk, Sullivan Mtn, Geneva Pk & Landslide Pk
Morgan Peak – 12,474 (unranked)
Sante Fe Peak – 13,180
Sullivan Mountain – 13,134 (unranked)
Geneva Peak – 13,266
Landslide Peak – 13,238 (unranked)
Start: Beginning of Sante Fe 4WD road in Montezuma
End: Montezuma Road winter closure
Approx. 9.35 mi, +4000 ft / -3780 ft
Partner: Talus Monkey for Sante Fe, solo for the rest
Talus Monkey and I planned on hiking Sunday but it was very difficult to agree on something to climb. He was looking for a very short hike but isn't really interested in most of the lower 13ers and I was looking to pick up some new 13ers. Since we had had good luck climbing Ruby Mountain on Saturday, we finally agreed to return to the area to climb Sante Fe Peak. I of course had bigger plans for myself – there were plently of other peaks in the area.
After exploring the tiny town of Montezuma, we finally found the road leading to the Sante Fe 4WD road. It is one of the major roads in town and is located off the main road at the top of a little knoll. The road quickly became impassable at the end of the residential area and we parked at about 10,350 ft in a little parking area. We started hiking up the well tracked road shortly before 7.
After a short distance the nice snowmobile tracks disappeared but there were a few ski, snowshoe, and dog tracks. We followed the road directly for a while but then wizened up to the nice tracks that cut the long switchbacks. Whoever made them knew where they were going and even though the going was steep, I'm sure we saved some time. Snowshoes were useful if not mandatory.
Once we neared treeline there were two options: continue to follow the road and sidehill our way up to the ridge or hike more directly up to the ridge and then follow it toward Sante Fe. If Sante Fe Peak is you're only goal, the road is probably the better option. This was Talus Monkey's route. I never planned on climbing Morgan Peak, but it was right there and the prospect of lengthening my ridge run was appealing so I chose to climb directly to the ridge and nab it. It was further away than it looked from below, and by the time I summitted and started along the ridge to Sante Fe I could see Talus Money working his way up.
I sped my way along because I felt a little bad for sneaking in a bonus peak and slowing things down. We both ended up keeping our snowshoes on until pretty far up Sante Fe's northern slopes. There were many false summits along the way and it seemed to take a long time to get there. I topped out 5-10 minutes after Talus Monkey and we anjoyed a nice break on the summit. The weather was nearly perfect – not much wind, mostly sunny with a few clouds thrown in to keep the snow somewhat firm in places.
Soon it was time for us to part ways. It was wasn't even 10:30 yet and I planned on running the ridge south as far as Landslide Peak and then dropping down to the Webster Pass 4WD Road wherever I could. I asked Talus Monkey to drive my car to the Montezuma Road winter closure when he got back to save me a couple of miles of walking. In hindsight, it might not be great practice to plan a meeting at a place neither of the parties have ever been to, but it worked out OK.
The jaunt to unranked Sullivan Peak was a piece of cake and only took 15 minutes. I got in a short glissade off of the south side and continued on to Geneva Peak. The ridge got interesting near the summit and was very jagged. It could still easily be kept 2nd class and easy by dropping down a few feet to the west, but I chose to stay on the ridge proper and experience some nice exposure (the east side of the ridge was very steep here). After just 35 minutes I was on the summit. This was too easy! All that remaining was Landslide Peak, a little bump along the ridge. Ten minutes after I left Geneva I was there. Unlike unranked Sullivan Peak which felt like a real summit, Landslide Peak did not.
Now it was time to find a way down into the basin. After consulting the map, it looked like there was a reasonable gully just south of Geneva Peak that might work. I was disappointed to find that the top portion of the gulley was rather dry and not suited for glissading. However, further down, the snow became continuous and reasonably sloped. I removed my pack to fetch my axe only to find that it was not there. I somehow lost it along the way – I have no idea how it escaped. Fortunately the slope wasn't very steep and the snow was soft enough that I didn't need it. Lower down there were some funky cornices and I have no idea how they formed. They weren't on any ridges. Maybe there was some funky big rocks below them?
The glissading ended just below 12,000 ft where the slope eased. I strapped on my snowshoes and made my way northwest down into the trees toward the Webster Pass Road. The sun was beating down and my snowshoes weighed a ton from the clumping snow. Once in the basin I found some tracks and followed them north toward Montezuma. Further down I ran into a confusion of plowed roads and houses and started stressing out about finding the proper meeting place. I had imagined only one road being here. I started bushwhacking from one road to another trying to find that ill defined meeting place, hoping that somehow Talus Monkey and I would end up at the same place. Visions of hiking around Montezuma on muddy road all afternoon danced around in my head. Soon enough I found a place where there were a lot of cars and snowmobile and Talus Monkey was there. I was quite relieved. It was barely 1:30 so Talus Monkey hadn't been waiting around all that long.
This was a nice loop hike – thanks Talus Monkey for picking me up! If anyone is in the area, please keep an eye out for my axe!
pictures & route map: