| The La Plata Range 13ers: Hesperus to Lavender Traverse & Babcock
Hesperus Mtn (13232')-CO Rank 451
Lavender Pk (13220')-CO Rank 465
Mt Moss (13192')- soft ranked
W. Mancos TH to Tomahawk basin via traverse
6 miles, 3260' gain
Participants: Patrick Thornley & Kevin Baker
July 21, 2007
Patrick and I are coming to the end of our quest to climb all of the county highpoints of Colorado. There is currently a debate on whether Hesperus or Lavender is the highest point in Montezuma county in the far s.w. corner of Colorado as the La Plata quad is riddled with errors. A consensus has not been reached, so both should be climbed! Pat had already done Hesperus, so we figured out a way to do a one car shuttle so I could do both starting from the W. Mancos TH on Hesperus north side while Pat did Lavender from Tomahawk Basin on the opposite side of Hesperus.
The day started out on a bad note as Pat picked me up at my hotel in Durango and it was pouring buckets. As we drove up to the Sharkstooth TH, the rain miraculously subsided and the plan was a go. This plan could have blown up in our faces if an early storm caused us to abort as I would be far away from the car in the wrong drainage and radio contact would be unlikely.
Pat dropped me off at the insane early hour of 5am. The traverse from Hesperus to Lavender offers few bailout options, so I wanted to give myself a fighting chance. Pat drove the 40 miles or so around the range and started his hike from Tomahawk Basin around 6:30.
The standard route up Hesperus follows the W. Mancos trail initially down to the river, then the Covill & Mitchler guidebook suggest leaving the trail in about 1000 ft after the river. I think I bailed too early and steep willow bashing ensued. My shorts were quickly soaked and it was tough work, but I finally broke out of the steep willows at ~ 11400'. I was too far to the left below cliffs and had to traverse across a talus field to the proper gully. Now back on course, I slogged up the steep shale and grass to the west ridge. The columbines up the slope were amazing.
Once on the ridge, I found a decent trail that skirted more difficult terrain to the right and the summit came quick as I arrived at 7:05am. The shadow of Hesperus:
Piece of cake, but the smooth sailing was over! I sized up the ridge to Lavender and it looked daunting. I wouldn't have tried it without the beta from Teresa and Kirk, whose TR stated that it was loose but doable class 3. Here's a view of the daunting ridge to Lavender.
I set off at 7:30 down the ridge to the first obstacle, a gaping gully that forced me to drop to about 12600' before crossing it. I was ready for this, and the talus was extremely loose. A few class 3 moves, and I was in and out of the gully. A second gully had to be crossed, but it was easier to get out of as I found a ramp that dropped me onto the south face of Lavender. I then made it back up to the ridge after a steep ascending traverse. Lavender looked quite impressive as I drew closer.
I thought I was in the clear but two more notches in the ridge slowed progress, but I found a couple gift gullies that somehow kept everything at class 3. Sweet! After a traverse underneath some towers, I was now below the summit pinnacles of Lavender. I climbed up a gully that looked similar to the pics I have seen that splits the twin summits, but as I climbed it turned into 4th class terrain. This isn't it!
I backed off and traversed over to the proper gully. The rock was wet and filled with graupel leftover from the stom the night before.
This made it feel like class 4, so I took my time and clamored around the spectacular summit block, topping out at 9:45am. Wow, what a perch! There was only room for a couple on this small platform.
Video on summit block: http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&VideoID=13902838
The weather was overcast, but it looked like it would hold long enough for Pat to make it. We made radio contact when he crested the south ridge of Moss. He traversed under Moss and I gave instructions on where I went up the gully. While waiting, I gave out a yell to some folks who were on Hesperus and Centennial. The weather held, and Pat made it despite a steep cross-country slog up Tomahawk Basin.
We were on Lavender until noon and set off for Moss. The descent down the slick gully was a little spicy, so we took our time and helped each other out. After navigating the huge boulders to the Moss saddle, we quickly topped out on Moss at 12:45, which has some pretty impressive cliffs on the east side. Looking back to Hesperus and Lavender from Moss:
We didn't hang around long, and setoff down the south ridge to the U-notch at the head of Tomahawk basin. Descending down to the basin was quite steep, so we looked for grassy terrain when possible.
We then found bits and pieces of the trail through impressive fields of thousands of flowers back down to the road. The hike down the road was uneventful and we were down to Pat's car at ~3:30. That was a tough 6 miles on some extremely loose terrain! I wouldn't recommend the traverse unless you have a high tolerance for loose junk as you really can't stay on the ridge proper for very long.
Babcock Pk (13180')-CO Rank 499
5.9 miles RT, 3900' gain
via Boren Creek drainage
July 22, 2007
Since I was in the area and Babcock quite possibly is the farthest CO 13er from my house, might as well be efficient and climb it while I'm here! Babcock is a formidable peak that also is confusing on the map, as the highest point is marked incorrectly as the east summit. Babcock has 4 summits, and thanks to Gerry Roach's work I only needed to climb the n.w. summit. Traversing all 4 would be a tedious task as technical terrain lurks between them.
I had high hopes of doing the Knife traverse to unranked Spiller today, so another early start was in order. My wife dropped me off at the mining road that heads up the Boren Creek drainage, 8.6 miles up CR-124 off US-160. The road would probably have been passable for my Santa Fe SUV, although there was a tight switchback early on that could have been a problem. A tree is a show stopper at 10700', less than 1 mile from the mine at the end of the road. The road is pretty narrow and offers few pullouts, so proceed with caution if you drive it.
I set off at 4:40am into the night. It was a little spooky when my wife left and I was out there all alone, but I felt more comfortable when my eyes adjusted. I heard a big animal busting through some trees, but thankfully I didn't see any eyes all morning. I just made plenty of noise and kept going. The hike to the mine was uneventful, other than some impressive cascades that would be a treat seeing on the way down.
Upon reaching the mine, the route up Babcock isn't obvious until you crest a steep bench above the road. Here I was able to pick out my target, the left most of 3 broad couloirs on the south face. There are actually 4 couloirs if you count a tiny one on the far left. Don't go up that one b/c it looks steep and technical!
The climb to the base of the couloir is up grassy slopes which give way to more loose talus, which was the theme for the weekend. I took a break at the base and my eyes came across and ice axe in the rocks! Wow, what are the odds of finding that amidst the maze of talus? I stashed it in my pack and headed up.
The loose rock was really beginning to take its toll, so I was happy to get to the snow. I broke out my crampons for the first time in July, although I didn't need them for long as the exit gully to the right soon came. I entered it at the high side where there was a nice ramp that avoided the looser rocks and I took off my crampons. This gully is very short, the crux of which is a wet, loose class 3 step in which all handholds should be tested. This brought me to a notch that intersects the south ridge at 12750'.
From here, I headed left and pretty much stayed on the ridge crest which had some harder class 3 climbing that was fairly exposed in spots.
The rock was lichen covered and wet, so I took my time. I crested a false summit and dropped off the ridge to avoid some exposed blocks, and finally topped out at 8:20am. It took me quite a bit longer than expected and I wasn't feeling real strong today, so I decided to bail on the traverse as a 6.5 hr drive home awaited. I was the first to sign the register in 2007 and first since Forrest signed it in 6/06. This summit is seldom visited, but it is a spectacular climb. The views over to Hesperus and Lavender were quite impressive.
After a call to my wife giving her and ETA to pick me up, I setoff back down the south ridge at 9:15. The rock was a little drier now and the descent was easier than expected back to the notch. I stayed to skiers right of the ridge proper going down, as it was easier terrain. I made decent progress back down to the main couloir and strapped on my crampons again for the short 200' stretch of snow. The battle with talus resumed again and I was really getting annoyed, but you can't expect a free ticket in the San Juans. I overshot the road a little, but regained it after a final slip-n-slide down a steep talus field. The stroll back down the road was relaxing, culminating in some great views of the cascades of Boren Creek.
I made it down to the road at 12:16, just 1 minute after my ETA! There's no gimmies in the La Platas, and I felt fortunant to tag these in one trip.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):