| Spring in the San Juans
Spring in the San Juans!
4/26: Kendall Benchmark (13,066') – Soft (North Ridge via Swansea Gulch)
4/26: Kendall Mountain (13,338') – 364th (West Ridge via Kendall BM)
Appx 4925' vertical and 5 1/2 miles RT
4/27: Trico Peak (13,321') – 376th (East Ridge via Red Mountain Pass)
Appx 2300' vertical and 3 1/2 miles RT
Partners: Shanahan96, Jamie Nellis, SarahT, Dominic
Part One – Planning
Jamie Nellis, Dominic and I all have April birthdays. For weeks along with Shanahan96, Jamie and Ihave been talking about where to go for a big climbing weekend in late April. One of the earlier ideas was the Sangres, and then Lake City was tossed around. Finally we started talking to Sarah and Dominic and Silverton became the base camp. Saturday we would head up the Kendalls, just southeast of town and then Sunday we were looking at a shorter route from somewhere off Red Mountain Pass. Seeing as Sarah had already climbed the peaks in that vicinity, she and Dominic would head to Engineer Mountain.
We met in Silverton late Friday evening at the Canyon View Motel. The reunion was short as we had to get up at 5am; so we quickly talked route strategy and went to bed.
Part Two – Kendall Benchmark and Mountain
5am came quickly and we assembled our gear and headed out the door. There was Kendall Benchmark, right across from our hotel, and looking very steep. Below is a picture taken later in the afternoon of Kendall from the hotel.
We drove the short distance to the base area for Kendall Mountain Ski Area, really just a local bunny hill, and parked there. Our initial thought was to head up the ridge in the trees but when we got to the top of the chairlift we decided to go around the steep dirt slope in front of us to find an easier passage onto the ridge. Instead we found Swansea Gulch: A steep narrow canyon that leads to the upper basin between Kendall Benchmark and Mountain. The canyon was snow filled and we kicked steps up as the town slowly got farther and farther below us.
There was evidence around of past wet slide activity from some of the steep rocky slopes on the sides of us and we decided this would not be our descent route. With the snow rock hard in the chilly early morning, however, we were safe. We made it up to the upper basin around 10,800' and admired the slopes above.
There was a great looking S-Gully splitting the northeast facing cliffs on Kendall Benchmark, maybe a good one for couloir season? Perhaps, although it did have some cornices above. We opted for the moderate snow slope to our right; the snow was well enough consolidated for a safe ascent, but not too hard to require crampons.
We crested onto the north ridge at around 11,600' and started to make our way up towards the summit. The ridge was a mix of snow, semi-stable talus, and some steeper talus with a little easy scrambling.
All the while Silverton just kept getting farther and farther below us.
Soon we decided the snowshoes, which had not yet been used, were going to be useless weight and we stashed them behind some rocks. We kept ascending the snowy talus slopes and soon were nearing the top.
The slopes rounded as we reached the first summit, a false summit just below the high point with radio towers on it.
We made the short traverse over to the Benchmark and took a break admiring the impressive views. There is virtually no obstruction from Kendall to the Needles and Grenadiers; Pigeon and Vestal were the stars. I decided that I really like the zoom feature on my camera...
After our break it was time to move on, so far we had climbed about 1.85 miles and ascended 3700'; did I mention this is a steep route? Silverton was way down there
Now it was time to descend and work our way over to the taller Kendall Mountain. We descended a mix of snow and talus to a notch in the ridge. Right at this notch was a fun downclimb with some light scrambling.
It sure felt like more than 300', but "officially" Kendall Benchmark is considered a "soft" summit with only 286' of prominence. Sarah's GPS said 12,740' for the saddle; that would make it 326' of prominence. She would recheck the numbers on the return trip and come up with the same; it could very well be that this is indeed a ranked summit! This was a nice little discovery.
Route to Kendall Mountain from descent:
We ascended over a couple of bumps in the ridge and then started up the steep and sometimes loose talus and scree to Kendall Mountain's summit.
We summit the western summit first and thought the eastern one looked taller so headed that way as well. The map marks the western summit as the higher one, however. The traverse was about a mile and gained about 750' with the bumps in the ridge. We again enjoyed the views into the needles, now Jagged had come out from behind Vestal. The breeze was getting to us and we decided to start the vertically intensive descent.
Visible from L to R include the Trinities, Jagged, Vestal, Windom, Sunlight, Arrow, Eolus:
We first had to reclimb Kendall Benchmark, about 475' of extra elevation, before we could make the descent. First we stuck to our ascent route but when we returned to the top of the snow slope opted instead to descend in the trees remembering the evidence of past slides in Swansea Gulch and wanting to stay away from them. The snow was still firm, and the snowshoes never came off the pack. The route finding back down was not too difficult, but some small gullies branched off the ridge occasionally into Swansea Gulch and we had to keep traversing to our left periodically to stay on route. We made it back out of the trees right at the top of the lift, perfect!
It was then on to dinner at the only open restaurant in town, The Pickel Barrel, and back to the hotel for a night of rest before tomorrow's adventure.
Part Three – Trico Peak
It was another 5am wake up call, this time we headed in different directions as the Jamies and I went north towards Red Mountain Pass and Sarah and Dominic headed south for Engineer Mountain. We arrived at the pass and started our ascent just as the sun was starting to warm the upper ridge.
The lower slopes were an interesting mix of rolling benches that lead us to tree line. From here the ridge becomes fairly grassy, at least based on the patches of dry slopes we found mixed in with the snow. The sequence was to climb a couple hundred feet, then traverse a flat, climb and traverse etc. This made short work of the lower mountain.
The views continued to impress as we got higher and higher and slowly new peaks would appear. We would call out, "I can see Coxcomb", or "Oh, there is Half!" as we worked our way up. There were a few more flat benches and soon the ridge was cresting on a 12,800' plateau. Before us was a steep rib that would get us to the catwalk.
This was the most interesting part of the climb, a delightfully exposed crest of snow and rock. In summer there may be some 3rd class involved, but any potential scrambling was just snow for us this day. The catwalk started fairly flat but started to slope up to the summit at the far end.
From the summit we were able to touch three counties (hence "Trico Peak"), San Juan, Ouray and San Miguel. The route was about 2300' and 1.75 miles from car to summit.
The views of Sneffels, Dallas, Teakettle and Potosi are amazing. In fact this and the Kendalls afforded us some of the best views of some of the hardest San Juan high peaks. Both trips are highly recommended if you want to admire these challenging beauties from afar!
Dallas and Sneffels in the distance:
We signed the register, which included Sarah's name from last summer as well as a few other 13er aficionados from this site before a short break. We then descended towards the south and glissaded back down into Mineral Basin. From here we loosely followed the snow covered Black Bear road back to the lower parts of the ascent ridge. We found a few more nice glissades on softening snow through our earlier benches and arrived at the car by noon. From there it was a quick drive back to Denny's in Montrose for a late breakfast and to meet back up with Sarah and Dominic.
This was a great weekend in the San Juans with great partners. These peaks may not be climbed by as many people as the higher summits but are well worth it! Get out there and enjoy!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):