| White Dome and Peak One from Kite Lake
Who: Scott (scotthsu) and PJ (saddlebagger)
Itinerary: shack at Kite Lake (~12140') to White Dome (13627') to Peak One (13589') back to Kite Lake
Total vertical hiked/climbed: ~2800'
RT mileage: ~6 miles (rough estimate)
Car-to-car time: 5 hrs 30 min (incl/1 hr total on summits)
Being Labor Day weekend, my primary requirement was to climb some high peaks that wouldn't be mobbed with people. I also wanted a car-to-car itinerary to keep things simple and to go somewhere I hadn't gone before. Also, since PJ had just spent a week at sea level, he felt that he wasn't ready "to go huge." So, I chose a day hike/climb to White Dome and Peak One, two bicentennial 13ers in the San Juans. I had always wanted to drive the Stony Pass Rd, and it usually doesn't take much to get me to go to the San Juans.
On Sunday 9/2, we had an early dinner in Creede and then set off to tackle the road (FS 520) toward Stony Pass from the east. My primary reference for the road/4WD approach was "4WD Trails Southwest Colorado" by Massey and Wilson. In it, I had read about deep mud and stream crossings. Luckily, both were quite manageable. The creeks were all very low this late in the season. There were some steep rocky sections, both on FS 520 (Timber Hill) and in the last mile or so on FS 506 before Kite Lake, that require a capable high clearance 4WD vehicle. We reached the shack at Kite Lake (about 2 miles past Beartown) around 8:40pm, taking a little under 3 hours from Creede, which included about 20 miles of CO149 highway and just under 32 miles of dirt/4WD road. There were many car campers along the dirt/4WD roads, but only 2 other cars at Kite Lake. We parked near the shack at Kite Lake. PJ pitched a tent on some grass, and I set up the back of my car for sleeping. We were lights out around 10pm.
It rained overnight, but we woke up to clear skies. We were hiking with headlamps by 6am. Here is a topo showing our approximate ascent route in yellow; where our descent differed is shown in blue. (The bottom blue segment is a good trail that we didn't bother to find in the dark.)
At the NW corner of Kite Lake, we headed up a mostly dry, rocky creek bed (class 2) until we intersected a good trail around 12560'. From there we followed the trail to the continental divide around 12820' and then turned south on another good trail. PJ hiking toward White Dome (w/sub-peak PT 13378' on the right):
The trail disappeared at a saddle near PT 12848, so we just continued on grass toward beautiful looking rock slabs below and to the NE of PT 13378'. We climbed these solid class 3 slabs, interspersed with nice grassy ramps, to a wide talus field to the E of PT 13378'. Here is a picture of the talus field with our approximate route (class 2/3) to a false summit (near White Dome's true summit):
Here is a picture of PJ climbing fun solid class 3 rock after crossing the talus field:
We reached the summit of White Dome around 7:50am:
You know it's going to be a good day if you have some Cognac before 8am! After a 20 minute snack break, we started down the SW ridge toward the saddle between White Dome and Peak One. This was a very nice exposed class 3 ridge with solid rock. We had fun staying always within an arm's length of the ridge proper. Scott descending the SW ridge of White Dome:
A look back at the SW ridge of White Dome from the saddle:
Shortly beyond the saddle, we went up and over PT 13401 and continued along the ridge to Peak One. This was all pretty pleasant class 2 with a few avoidable class 3 scrambles (which I usually seek out). Here is a picture of PJ nearing the summit of Peak One, with the traverse from White Dome visible behind him:
We reached the summit of Peak One around 9:10am. Here is PJ on the summit of Peak One, with Trinity (13805'), W. Trinity (13765'), Vestal (13864'), and Arrow (13803') looming behind:
The close-up view of the Grenadier Range was spectacular! There were familiar names on the summit register (our date should read 9/3/07; I forgot to check my watch for the correct date!).
After seeing SarahT on there, I was surprised not to find a TR for these peaks on 14ers.com!
After a luxurious 40 minutes snacking and enjoying views on the summit, we headed back to the White Dome saddle and descended a talus filled gully. (Make sure you head down the gully that takes you to Eldorado Lake and not the drainage below Peaks Two and Three!) We had fun getting some "turns" in on two small snowfields (ski season only 2 months away!):
A look back up at the gully with the two miniscule snowfields (where's Waldo?):
At the bottom of the gully, we contoured NE and then E above Eldorado Lake, never dropping below 12600'. Beautiful Eldorado Lake:
Kite Lake from the trail above (shack and my yellow car are barely visible if you look hard enough):
We reached the car at 11:35am. It was starting to cloud up, but we still had time to enjoy a beer! It started raining just as we got in the car to drive away. We drove back to FS 520 and headed W over Stony Pass, and then drove back to Los Alamos via Durango/Pagosa Springs.
Endnotes: This climb/hike gave us everything we had hoped for: solitude, fun hiking/scrambling, stunning views of the Grenadiers, and an exciting 4WD approach. I'd highly recommend it.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):