| Silverton Area Thirteeners
Saturday, June 20:
#150: Rolling Mountain (13,693')
#435: "V9" (13,260')
Sunday, June 21:
NR: Treasure Mtn (12,900')
#589: PT 13075 (13,075')
#286: Hanson Peak (13,454')
NR: Hurricane Peak (13,447')
#486: Tuttle Mtn (13,203')
#607: Houghton Mtn (13,052')
Friday was gorgeous, not a cloud in the sky all day. The kind of day you wish you had off from work, the kind of day where the only thing limiting how many peaks you climb is yourself. No pesky weather to chase you off mountains, just beautiful clear skies.
After work, the entire drive to Silverton was in clear skies, and as the sun set an abundance of stars flooded the sky.
That was Friday…
Saturday I woke up and even before I put in my contact lenses, I could tell it was overcast. What they heck happened to all the clear skies? Hmm, this might make things interesting. But I didn't drive down here to sit in my car all day.
It was probably about 6am when I drove the remainder of the South Mineral Creek road from my campsite (aka – where I parked and slept in the trunk the night before) to the end of the road, and start of the Rico-Silverton trail. Luckily Rolling Mountain isn't that far away, and I figured I would at least have a good shot at getting one peak!
Rolling Mountain is a high thirteener to the southwest of Ice Lakes Basin, and seeing as Ice Lakes Basin is such a highlight, Rolling sort of sits off by its lonely self without many feet venturing to its summit. The topo map makes it look like a spider with a series of spiny ridges heading off in every direction. The ascent begins with a short trail hike along the Rico-Silverton trail. This is an excellent trail, the only difficulty being the stream crossings were a little high on this day. I was able to find some logs near the trail each time to make that problem go away though. Soon the trail breaks into a meadow called "South Park" on the map, and then passes through a quick grove of trees before opening up to the very obvious basin east of the peak. I think the next basin (the southeast facing one) is the standard ascent route, but I didn't know that at the time. It just seems the southeast basin would be easier from when I was on the ridge above.
Anyway, this is where I left the trail and headed up the east facing basin. The lower slopes are grassy with some scattered willows as you follow the creek. I spied an interesting looking headwall to gain the southern of the two ridges, and headed that way. There was an easier route to gain this ridge that stays in the basin until much closer to the summit and is likely only class 2+.
East facing basin, ridge I took on the left:
My route took me up a typical steep San Juan Scree/Talus slope that felt similar to climbing in the Wilsons. I probably just should have taken the normal route instead, as the slopes got more and more tedious the steeper it got. I reached the base of the headwall and tried to find a good route through. The lower part was definitely class 4, and loose. All the good ledges are also covered with rubble, because nobody really climbs this peak, it hasn't been "cleaned" yet. It was a carefully planned assault, each hold tested and progress was slow and methodical. The comparison to the Wilsons seemed appropriate here as well, but with even more loose rock.
Headwall from below:
Looking back down headwall, notice debris on ledges:
After the initial step, a brief section of class 3 led to some more class 4, and then another brief class 3 section before the final step below the ridge crest. This final step was again class 4, and (as was the whole face), was a loose and exacting exercise to finally crest on the ridge. There was a brief moment of fear right before the top when a hand hold that worked fine in one direction, came out when I shifted my weight on it to move my feet. Good thing my right hand was still locked in to a good hold. Phew, glad I don't have to climb back down that! But it was a fun test for some of the harder San Juan peaks where you do.
The last bit before the ridge:
Now on the ridge crest, things were much smoother and less stressful. The ridge is mainly easy class 2, although still loose. Just before the summit the ridge steepens and there was a brief section I would call class 2+ before the final few steps to the top. So far the weather was staying just cloudy, but it was getting ugly towards the Weminuche.
Summit ridge, view 2 (Twins Sisters beyond):
Vermilion from the summit:
Weminuche from summit:
Rolling probably gets its name from its having twin summits, although "Rolling" conjures up images of more gentle terrain. Even so, the traverse between the two points was pretty straight forward, just a class 2 ridge run. There was some exposure on the right, but not the left, and I was quickly over to the western summit.
False western summit from true summit:
I began my descent down the steep upper slopes of this western summit. Due to their north facing aspect, the scree gullies were snow filled, and I used my ice axe as I plunge stepped down to gentler terrain. It sure beat the loose rocky fins that were my alternative. A more mellow snow field quickly led to the saddle with "V9" and the 400' ascent of its gentle talus covered southeast ridge began. Typical San Juan rock quality, but gentle enough to not worry about it too much. I went over to its western summit (class 2+) just to be sure I was on the highest point, but the eastern summit definitely was higher.
Descent off Rolling:
"V9" from Rolling:
From here I descended north-northeast down a steep ridge with a few loose scrambly sections through the rocky towers along the way. The route here was cairned, and except for one exposed class 3 downclimb of about 20', it was all class 2 or 2+ to the saddle with "V8". As I neared the saddle I could see that off towards the west of me was starting to look like rain moving in. I was glad it waited until I was off the steep loose stuff that wove through the towers, which would have been even worse wet. I was disappointed in having to bail on "V8" and Beattie though. I dropped down into the basin down a steep scree slope and it started raining just above treeline. It was barely 10.30am.
Crux of descent from "V9":
What happened to the nice weather from Friday?
The trek back to the car was uneventful, but wet. It stayed wet for hours afterwards. I spent some time walking around Silverton before having dinner and trying to figure out what to climb Sunday - still not knowing if the weather would cooperate. I decided the peaks around Hanson Peak would provide easy access and lots of opportunity for lengthening/shortening my outing depending on the weather.
On the drive up to the trailhead (which for me was the intersection of the California and Placer gulch roads), I stopped to walk around Animas Forks. A really cool ghost town with lots of well preserved buildings. It started raining again while I was walking around the town. Great, here we go again.
When the thunderstorm woke me up at 3am, I turned off my alarm. I figured Sunday was going to be either a washout, or one of those days where 5am is worse than 10am. Lucky it turned out to be the later.
Even with no alarm, I woke up at 6am. The clouds were there, but they looked like they wanted to break up. I started up the road soon there after, but only followed it for a short while. I crossed the creek and ascended up the slopes to Treasure Mountain. Considering I camped at almost 11,600', it didn't take long to reach its 12,900' summit. Not even an hour.
PT 13075 (L) and Hanson (R) from Treasure:
The traverse over to PT 13075 was quick and easy as well, but from here on out every summit had plenty of false ones to deal with along the way, making for a lot of extra elevation gain. It probably took an hour and a half to get to Hanson Peak from here, but the terrain was gentle. From the saddle with PT 13075, you first have to go over a southeastern false summit at about 13,300'. The ridge to Hanson from here looked like it was going to have some rough spots, but the rocky towers along the way all were split by class 2 terrain. The sun even made a few appearances along the way!
Hanson from false 13,300' summit:
From here the ridge to Hurricane Peak was mostly gentle, but the backside of one of the false summits had a short steeper down climb with some loose rock. After that it was smooth sailing to the summit. At this point a cloud passed through and veiled me in fog, but it was short lived and the weather gradually improved the rest of the morning.
Short funky down climb on way to Hurricane:
Ridge to Hurricane:
The descent from Hurricane Peak to California Pass was the hardest part of the whole day (but still a lot easier than Saturday's peaks). After a class 2+ down climb of a loose chimney, the top of the gully was steep loose talus, but it soon transitioned to snow. As with the day before, the ice axe came out as I plunge stepped down the gully, but soon the terrain rolled to a steeper section than I had expected to encounter this weekend. The snow was soft enough to kick steps, but it would have been better with crampons. After I cleared the bottom of the rocks on the side of the gully, I traversed across the rest of the snow back to the ridge crest and followed the gentle ridge to California Pass as it passed some rocky towers.
Looking back from California Pass at Hurricane:
Tuttle Mountain looked far away, but the terrain was so gentle between here and there. Seeing as the mileage of staying on the ridge vs following the road back to the car was basically a wash, I decided the extra elevation gain was a worthy trade to go for it. Hey, it was 9.30am and the weather was a lot better than it was at 5am, why not!
Long gentle ridge to Tuttle:
Indeed the gentle terrain made short work of this traverse, it was about 45 minutes for me to get to the summit from California Pass. Tuttle ended up being my 175th 13er (only 409 more to go!). Of course there were a few false summits along the way, but the terrain was gentle rolling tundra and talus. There were great views of Engineer Pass from here, as well as down towards the headwaters of the Uncompahgre River. I could see my car off in the distance and could trace my ridge tour to date with my eyes, man it seemed like a long way.
Hanson (far L) and Hurricane (C) from Tuttle:
I wasn't sure what time it was (all times in this report are from the date stamps on the pictures, I had no watch) but I was glad I decided to go this way instead of just descending the road. If it meant I got home a little later tonight, so be it. Today was sure making up for Saturday's fiasco of weather. One more peak to go? Sure, it looks so close, and besides, I was parked at the bottom of it anyway!
Houghton from saddle with Tuttle:
The descent from Tuttle involved going over a false eastern summit, then crossing the rolling tundra of the saddle before a pretty straight shot up the southwest ridge of Houghton Mountain (which is fun to say, 'cause it rhymes). The summit is much lower than its neighbors and feels suspended in a sea of San Juan giants. A pretty cool place to end the day, playing "name that summit" while planning future trips.
Houghton summit views:
Back at the car, I had a relaxing lunch and then checked out the Frisco Mill ruins on the way out before the drive home. Despite some negative surprises in the weather it turned out to be pretty successful weekend. I was surprised by the lack of snow on the 13ers in the area, the San Juans sure melted fast.
Houghton from back at my car:
Now its Monday, and wouldn't you know it? The weather looks like it did on Friday…
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):