| 3 days of Elk 13eeners with others. Part 1.
May 26-28, 2009
Total Trip Stats ~15.8 Miles, ~7,700 Gain
May 27, 2009
Buckskin BM 13,370
May 28, 2009
With a batch of days off, I decided to hit a group of some thirteeners that were a bit further away from home. Henceforth, I was taking a partner, Jason, from work with not a whole lot of experience; I decided on the Willow Pass four pack of Elk thirteeners with some additional twelvers. We left Denver around noon and due to some questionable weather we took the long way, I-70, to Aspen. We arrived at the Maroon Bells trailhead at 4:30 PM after a 40 minute delay in Glenwood Canyon due to road construction. That blew away my possibility of bagging the twelvers that night.
As we started hiking we were debating if it was a good idea to drive so far to hike in the rain. The rain was certainly coming down. Fortunately, the forecast, knowing how accurate they are, was calling for a clearing later that evening. We followed a wet trail to Crater Lake then made the turn off for the Buckskin/Willow Pass trail and around ~10,600 the rain turned into snow. As we climbed higher, there was quite a bit of new slushy snow accumulation. Shortly before the stream crossing at ~11,200, the trail become non-existent.
We slowly started making our way up the Minnehaha Gulch as trail breaking in 3-5 inches of new snow became time consuming and tiring. As we started the final hill climb into the basin where we were camping, the weather finally started to clear out. The views of North Maroon were dazzling.
After finding a good camping spot, in the snow, we ate dinner, melted snow for water and went to bed around 9:30 PM. We woke up at 4:30 AM, ate some pop-tarts, and starting breaking trail up Willow Pass. It was a slow start with the fresh snow and loose Elk rock. Moreover, the weather remained ominous. We made good time in our decent into Willow Basin. We stayed level at ~12,200 traversing on the north side of the basin to avoid unnecessary elevation loss.
The new snow definitely slowed things down but we made good progress as we skirted the southeast ridge of 13,020 to gain the 13,020-13,336 saddle. Once we reached the saddle we took a break and evaluated the weather as clouds rolled over the summit. We decided to give it a go. The southwest ridge of 13,336 was enjoyable as we negotiated some fun Elk-Maroon like ledges and avoided a prominent cliff to the north side of the ridge. The final ridge to the summit was tricky class 3 with snow, and again, we avoided the ridge's difficulties to the north side.
The summit of 13,336 was a good summit, as the clouds cleared up for a bit and we could actually see some neighboring peaks. After a short break, we worked our way back to the 13,020-13,336 saddle and started up the class 2 talus east ridge towards 13,020. Once the ridge leveled out, some class 3 moves were required to reach the summit. Since Jason was wearing out, we decided to pass on the 13,020-Buckskin BM traverse and we headed down the class 2 southeast ridge where we regained our trail back to Willow Pass.
From Willow Pass, Jason decided to return to camp while I continued up the east ridge of Buckskin BM (the east ridge runs into the south ridge). Although the ridge looked tough from Willow Pass, it did not exceed class 2. I was able to traverse a gray colored ledge to gain the south ridge. From the south ridge, it was class 2 to the summit. By the time I reached the summit, the clouds were clearing out and the views of the Bells and Pyramid were sobering.
I made my way back down the south ridge of Buckskin BM, climbed up and over point 12,733, and made my way over to Buckskin Pass. From the pass, point 13,039 looked tricky as there was a cliff band across the north ridge; I took a sinuous class 3 scramble to the base of the cliff band. It was loose. I decided to climb the cliff directly at the cliff band's narrowest shortest point. It was about 10-15 feet of class 4 scrambling to climb the cliff band. The rock, surprisingly, was solid. Once I reached the top of the cliff band I observed a possible class 3 alternative on the west side of the ridge. That alternative appears to have more sustained class 3 climbing on looser rock. On the final portion of the ridge, I had to avoid some massive cornices by traveling on the east side of the ridge. Nonetheless, there was fun class 3 cliff finish to climb to the summit. The views of the Sleeping Sexton and the Bells with fresh snow were awesome.
Thereafter, I started my descent back down to the Buckskin BM-12,733 saddle. I chose the more solid short class 4 downclimb over the class 3 downclimb. As I climbed back up and over 12,733, I could feel I was starting to wear out. From the Buckskin-12,733 saddle, I carefully descended a snow slope back to camp where I returned around 2:00 PM.
Jason and I then melted more snow, ate an early dinner and hung out.
Continued on Part 2.
Weather clearing out.
Climbing up towards Willow Pass.
The ride to Point 13,336. The cliff can be bypassed to the left.
Southwest ridge of Point 13,336.
Southwest ridge of Point 13,336
Looking back on the southwest ridge of Point 13,336 from the summit.
Jason working his way towards the summit.
Looking back at Point 13,336.
Point 13,336 from Point 13,020.
Jason on the north ridge of 13,020.
Pyramid from Buckskin BM.
Bells from Buckskin BM.
Summit of Buckskin BM.
Bells from 12,733.
Final push towards 13,039.
From left to right. My day so far. Buckskin BM - Point 13,020 - Point 13,336.
Bells and Sleeping Sexton from Point 13,039.
Pyramid from Point 13,039.
Snowmass from Point 13,039.
Short 'n Sweet solid Class 4 cliff on 13,039.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):