| The San Juan 12 pack. 12 Thirteeners: 1 Long Day.
Chicago Peak 13,385
"Tomboy Peak" 13,095
"T 7" 13,359
"T 8" 13,315
Hayden Mountain South 13,206
Hayden Mountain North 13,139
Trico Peak 13,321
"T 10" 13,477
Three Needles 13,481
"T 11" 13,510
~ 23.3 Miles, ~8,600 Gain.
With an impeccable weather forecast, I couldn't resist on trying a monster climbing day. After climbing South Lookout Peak and "V 5" the day prior, my wife and I made the drive to Ouray where the many Winnebagos pissed me off. Finally, we were driving up Imogene Pass. Since I was planning to start my climb in the dark, we decided to drive to the top of Imogene Pass to make sure there weren't going to be any surprises with the road in the dark. We backtracked down a bit on the road and camped high in Imogene Basin. I was lucky and made it to bed around 6:30 PM but didn't sleep all that well.
As some people were going to bed, I was waking up at 12:45 AM. I cooked up some oatmeal and had my wife drive me to the top of Imogene Pass where I started hiking at 1:15 AM. I stashed some water at the pass to save some weight.
It was dark and the half moon was hiding behind a low stratus cloud bank. The ridge to Chicago Peak for the first .6 miles was easy to follow but when the ridge bends northwest, it became a bit more difficult. I bypassed these difficulties on the north side of the ridge by only descending no more than 50 feet from the ridge proper. After bypassing this stretch of ridge, it was an easy class 2 to hike to the summit where I arrived at 1:55 AM. The moonlight was beginning to shine as it crept out of the clouds and I could see the lights of Telluride below.
After a quick break, I headed off of the north ridge of Chicago Peak for about .5 miles and then started west down the steep class 2 talus slope toward "Tomboy" Peak. The moonlights' shadow made this descent tedious as my weak headlamp could not penetrate the deep darkness below. It made the slope seem steeper than it actually was. Once I reached the saddle, I made the quick class 2 hike to the summit of "Tomboy" Peak were I arrived at 2:30 AM. The best views were of the few lights of Telluride below.
I made my way back up and over Chicago Peak where I arrived for a second time on Chicago Peak at 3:00 AM and made my way back to Imogene Pass. From the pass, I picked up my stashed water and made my way towards "T 7." It was class 2 from Imogene Pass to the summit of "T 7" where I arrived at 4:15 AM; it was still dark.
The traverse from "T 7" to "T 8" was more tedious than I anticipated and I can't recommend that traverse in the dark. I started down the north ridge of "T 7" towards "T 8." About 1/3 of the way along the traverse I ran into my first crux. A tricky down-climb into a notch. The rock was loose and my headlamp could not pierce the darkness deep enough to see what could be viewed ahead. I made the down-climb into the notch and was faced with my next crux; a nasty tower that needed to be climbed. I could not climb down below this tower as the cliffs from the notch were too steep to down-climb. I climbed up a chimney, 5.0, for about 15-20 feet hoping that the ridge would continue on easy ground but it didn't. I was stuck on top of a nasty tower.
Several years of caving experience paid off as I down-climbed the 5.0 chimney back to the notch where I ascended back up the north ridge to ~13,000. I bailed off the side of the ridge to the northwest where I dropped about 400 feet back into Imogene Basin avoiding any cliffs that the "T 7"-"T 8" traverse might unearth. At this point, early daylight was beginning to break, and I found a steep loose rock couloir to climb up to gain the "T 7"-"T 8" traverse leaving all the ridges' difficulties behind me. I regained the ridge and made the gentle hike up to the summit of "T 8" where I saw the sunrise over the eastern San Juan's.
Re-energizing on a granola bar on the summit of "T 8" had me moving toward Hayden Mountain South in no time. I headed northeast from the summit of "T 8" down some grassy slopes and headed directly toward Richmond Pass. After reaching Richmond Pass I started up the class 2 south slopes of Hayden Mountain South. There was a faint trail which I followed and prior to the summit, the trail headed northwest intercepting the northwest ridge of Hayden Mountain South. I arrived on the summit at 6:50 AM were Hayden Mountain North looked far away. I almost skipped Hayden North but I decided to give it a go.
My original plan for Hayden Mountain North was to descend the northwest ridge of Hayden Mountain South, descend into the Fall Creek basin, and then re-climb to the Hayden Mountain North - 13,023 saddle. From Hayden Mountains South summit, it appeared like I could follow the east ridge and traverse on the south side of 13,023 which would avoid a massive amount of elevation loss. I started down the east ridge which at first was docile. I passed a building and climbed to Point 13,009. From the summit of Point 13,009, I encountered the crux of the traverse. A 100-150 foot cliff band.
I very carefully descended the cliff band which at first was class 3 then developed into sustained class 4 and when I reached the bottom, I was relieved. Fortunately, the rock was solid. I started skirting Point 13,023 on the grassy south side. I made good time across this traverse but overshot Hayden Mountains North's south ridge. After retracing a bit, I carefully descended a class 3 gully to gain the 13,023 - Hayden Mountain North saddle. From the saddle it was a easy class 2 hike to the summit of the Hayden North where I arrived at 8:05 AM.
From the summit of Hayden North, I retraced my route almost back to the summit of Hayden Mountain South. Just prior to the south summit, I traversed on the north side of the summit to the Hayden Mountain South - Point 13,003 saddle where I then descended directly down into Richmond Basin. Once I was in Richmond Basin, I followed the Richmond Basin 4x4 road back to the Imogene Pass road where I met my wife.
At this point, I was feeling pretty spent. After all, I just climbed 6 13eeners. At the junction where I met my wife, I was going to meet my friend, Tony, from Durango at 9-10 AM. I arrived at the car at 10:15 and there wasn't any sign of Tony. I pulled out my sleeping mat and took a nap and just prior to 11:00 AM, after getting eaten by some insects, I woke up. Still no sign of Tony.
Maybe I will just call it a day and head back down. Just after we started the car and just prior to starting down, we heard Tony on my radio. He was running behind but making his way up the Imogene Pass road. After Tony reached us, we had a debate whether I was going to try the second half of my grand peak day. Tony and my wife had their doubts. In the end I decided to give a shot. The weather looked like it was going to cooperate and I could always bail early if I had to.
Tony piled into my car, and we drove back to the top of Imogene Pass and started hiking to my 7th summit around noon. We did a descending traverse towards Ptarmigan Lake where we skirted the east side of the lake. There was plenty of interesting mining history and debris near the lake. After traversing around the lake we headed directly toward the northeast ridge of Point 13,510. We gained the northwest ridge and made the pleasant class 2 hike to the summit where we arrived at 12:55 PM. Surprisingly, as we were ascending this peak, we saw someone descending the peaks' south ridge.
On the summit, I had a Power Bar Gel packet were solid food wasn't sounding too appealing. We started down the south ridge of 13,510 and were debating if the north ridge on Trico was going to be doable. Once we got closer, it appeared to be climbable; however, the rock looked extremely loose. Even climbing, the rock appeared to be super sketchy but was surprisingly somewhat solid as we made our class 3 climb to the summit were we arrived at 1:40 PM.
After inhaling another Power Bar Gel packet, we made our way down the class 2 ridge of Trico Peak towards Black Bear Pass. I was feeling good, and Black Bear Pass was going to be one of our bailing points if I ran out of energy. We kept going.
From Black Bear Pass, we started up the loose San Juan scree of the north slopes of the twin summited "T 10." This climbing was some of the most unpleasant climbing of the day. We reached the north summit of "T 10" at 2:30 PM. I skirted low on the east side of the south ridge heading toward the south summit while Tony stayed high. Tony made a better choice as I battled some more scree. We arrived on the south summit of "T 10" and started down the southwest ridge of "T 10" towards the "T 10" - Three Needles saddle.
Consequently, we saw people milling around in Porphyry Basin. From the saddle, we traversed, again, on more crappy scree, on the east side of the impressive Three Needles summit block. Tony decided not to climb Three Needles and to save energy for the peaks that lay ahead. At this point, I decided to complete my 12 peak day. I proceeded up a scree gully on the southeast side of the Three Needles summit block. It wasn't the gully directly below the summit but rather the gully to the south of the summit.
I scampered my way up the gully to the summit ridge, and was relieved to see some mellow class 3 ledges to the summit; this peak had me a bit worried. The climbing was a blast on the south ridge where I arrived on the summit at 3:50 PM. This peak had the best climbing of the day. Too bad Tony missed out. I then worked my way back down the south ridge, down the gully, and then around some cliff bands to regain the ridge.
Another Power Bar Gel packet was in order and after consuming, we were on our way towards "T 11." We followed the long south ridge of Three Needles and bypassed Point 13,375 by skirting to the west side of the ridge. From the Point 13,375 - Point 13,434 saddle we traversed directly to the Point 13,434 - "T 11" saddle and then made the class 2 climb up "T 11's" east ridge to the summit. We arrived at 5:10 PM.
Point 13,159 looked far away from the summit of "T 11," but I only had one summit left and the weather was holding out perfectly. Tony decided to head directly to the Columbine Lake trail where I would meet him at ~12,600 level after climbing Point 13,159. I started down the easy southwest slopes of "T 11" and hiked directly toward Columbine Lake. Once I reached the lake I hiked around the north side of the lake aiming for the Point 13,300 - Point 13,159 saddle.
After reaching the saddle, I made the class 2 hike up the west ridge of Point 13,159 where I arrived at 6:20 PM. My 12th and final summit of the day. Whew, what a day. I covered a lot of ground and climbed some sweet peaks. Now for the hard part. Going down! I proceeded down the east ridge of Point 13,159 where I found a large rock couloir and now I could scree ski my way back down into Mill Creek basin. I found the Columbine Lake trail, met up with Tony and we followed the trail, with what felt like a million switch backs, back to the car where my wife was patiently waiting. Oh, the beauty of a car shuttle.
We arrived at the car at 7:50 PM, and then made the drive back to Imogene Pass to pick up Tony's car. After what felt like forever, we finally made it to Tony's house in Durango at 11:30 PM. Boy, did the beer taste good. I was out 20 minutes later like a rock.
Morning light on Chicago Peak and Imogene Basin.
"T 8" from Richmond Pass.
Hayden Mountain South from Richmond Pass.
Class 2 south ridge on Hayden Mountain North.
The class 4 headwall on the Hayden Mountain South - Hayden Mountain North traverse.
Easy hike to the summit of Point 13,510.
Trico Peak (north ridge can be viewed), Black Bear Pass and "T 10."
North ridge of Trico.
Tony working his way up the north ridge of Trico.
North ridge scrambling on Trico.
Three Needles from the summit of "T 10."
Tony descending the southwest ridge of "T 10." The double summit can be viewed.
Three Needles from the descent off of "T 10."
Class 3 climbing to the summit of Three Needles.
Looking south from the summit of the Three Needles.
Traverse to "T 11." "T 11" is on the right of the photo.
Point 13,159 from Columbine Lake.
Summit push on Point 13,159
"T 11" from Point 13,159
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