| A Grande Introduction to the Weminuche
An Adventure in the Weminuche
Rio Grande Pyramid 13,821
"Window Peak" 13,157
Chief Mountain 13,014
Day 1: Monday, August 24 Squaw Creek Approach, A Day in the Clouds and Rain
We hiked up to the Squaw Creek crossing on Sunday night and camped there Sunday night. Monday we woke up to the sound of rain on our tents, let the soaking begin. We left camp at 8:00 and headed up into the clouds and fog. Anyone who has not hiked up Squaw Creek needs to do so; it is an enchanting place, especially in the clouds. It sprinkled on and off all morning, we saw two trail runners. These were the only people we would see for over two days. At 13:00 we arrived at Squaw Pass and found a nice campsite on the west edge of the pass along the CDT. I had hoped to climb a few 12ers west of the pass in the afternoon. This proved to be difficult because of the rain and wet rock. Instead I napped in the tent until in cleared out a little. We explored the area around the pass for the half hour or so that it cleared out only to see gray clouds coming in from the west. Commence the re-soaking. It rained into the night. My shoes weren't properly dry until Wednesday. I think I should invest in some gore-tex hiking shoes when I need new ones.
Day 2: Tuesday, August 25 Quantity over Quality and Wild Animal Encounters
It had cleared up overnight. We were greeted with clear skies and a beautiful sunrise. I left camp at 7:00 intent on climbing everything I could within about a three mile radius of the camp. I hiked east on the CDT until a 12,400 ft. pass where I left the CDT to climb Chief Mountain. It was an easy class 2 walk-up with impressive views of the eastern Weminuche. The skies began to look questionable so I made haste back to the pass. At the pass I had the choice of grabbing three quick 12ers east of the pass or one more difficult 12er right by the pass. I chose the easier ones east of the pass in hopes that the weather would hold. I ran down the pass and climbed Unnamed 12,699, 12,740, and 12,615 and got back to the pass at 11:00. I figured I would need at least an hour and a half to climb the interesting looking 12,620. I was already storming over the Sunshine-Redcloud area, so I headed back for camp. Not 15 minutes after I started heading down did it start to hail on me. When I got back to camp there was lightning, so I made the right decision on not attempting to climb 12,620, even though it looked like so much fun. Oh well, next time I will go for quality not quantity. It stormed for two hours before clearing up around 16:00. I used this opportunity to try and grab Unnamed 12,536 and Cimarrona Peak with the possibility of adding Hossick BM and Unnamed 13,010. I hurried west along the CDT to about treeline and headed up a minor ridge which would provide easy access to the higher ridgeline. I hiked over a little rise and found my pathway blocked by 3 moose, a calf, cow and bull. They were only 40 feet from me. I freaked out a bit and ran down to a safe distance. When I looked back the moose were still grazing unconcerned that I interrupted their supper. I still did not want to chance a violent encounter with a moose so I headed back down to camp.
Day 3: Wednesday, August 26 A Tolkienesque Traverse on the CDT
We packed up camp and left on the CDT by 7:00. My original plan was to climb Unnamed 13,010 but in looked like it was more that a half hour side-trip so I left it for another day. We marched on through scenery which would make Tolkien proud. It really felt like we were in LOTR. I almost felt like Samwise with pots clanking in my pack. The only difference between Samwise and I is that I am 6 foot 5 and he is 3 foot 6. After a grunt up to a 12,400 foot saddle near some lakes I made my first side trip up 12,940. It was a short steep class 2 scramble up semi-stable talus. I saw about a half dozen Bucks strutting their stuff near the summit. My next stop was 12,860 which the CDT almost summits. This was the highpoint of the CDT trail on the section of trail. After descending to 12,100 we made the climb up to a broad plateau at 12,480 feet. I made a quick trip over to grab 12,505. The next part of the CDT went through thick willows. I thought there was no chance my shoes would stay dry through this saddle. Yet somehow they did, even with a trip out to 12,300. My final objective of the day was 12,334, an easy stroll over volcanic ash. If I had researched the area more closely I would have seen Unnamed 12,045. I didn't so I will have to leave it for another day, maybe. The descent to Weminuche pass provided so stellar views of Rio Grande Pyramid and the Window. When we arrived at Weminuche Pass I was shocked by the vast expanse of grassland that greeted us. I was reminded of my home state of Kansas. A note for people planning on hiking the CDT, there is no trail through the flats, make sure to aim for the correct valley if heading south on the CDT. It is quite obvious heading north which is the correct valley. We crossed the plain and headed up the Rincon La Vaca. At 10,800 in a meadow we found a grove of trees near the creek and set up our final camp. Near the camp there was a fun little boulder which provided some easy bouldering problems.
Day 4: Thursday, August 27 My Real Introduction to San Juan Volcanic Rock
This was the day I had been looking forward to the most. I would get to climb Rio Grande Pyramid and peer into the Window. I decided to start the traverse from 13,261 and end with either "Window Peak" or 13,017. I hiked around the north side of 13,278 and was shocked to see a convoluted ridge blocking easy passage to 13,261. As I got closer I saw a reasonable passage through the volcanic ridge. It was crumbly and loose. I am not sure if this is the way you are supposed to climb this peak but I made it work. I hiked up the easy ridge to 13,278 and was in awe of Rio Grande Pyramid. While descending 13,278 I wondered how Gerry Roach gets away with calling this ridge class 1. Now it was time for the steep ascent up the Pyramid. The scree gully was a tough slog, it reminded me of 14er Pyramid Peak. At the small saddle at 13,100 feet I stopped and admired the difficulty of the last .25 miles and 700 feet. I attacked the relentless ridge and tried to follow the most stable route even though it made my climbing class 2+ or class 3-, I would have to say it was more enjoyable than trying to keep the climbing at class 2. I quickly reached the summit and was in awe of the view. I stayed on the summit for 20 minutes before downclimbing the east ridge. I had no inclination to try and find the gully on the south side of the peak from above. I spotted a red scree field which looked like it would provide quick access to the Window with minimal elevation loss. I skied down the scree and walked over the boulder field to the Window. As it was getting later in the day I only stopped long enough to re-hydrate before moving on the "Window Peak" I followed the cliff face until I found a weakness to climb up. It was steep loose ash with rocks poised to come out of the ash. The steepness relented and I saw the summit. I was unsure which of the summits was the actual high point so I visited all of them. I decided at this point that it would be a bad idea to attempt 13,017 but I still wanted to get a closer look at the summit ridge so I descended towards the saddle and studied the upper difficulties of 13,017. It was a 2 hour hike down to camp making for a 10 hour day. While we were eating supper a moose and her calf practically joined us for dinner. They came within 50 feet of our camp completely unconcerned with our presence. It was a really cool experience.
Day 5: Friday, August 28 The Hike Out and BeauJoe's Pizza
Friday morning we packed out and watched the moose and her calf leave the creek after a night of grazing. It was an uneventful hike out other than seeing more moose and what could have either been elk or moose. I couldn't tell from a distance. We drove back to Denver and ate all the Pizza we could at BeauJoe's.
All in all it was a great end to the summer season. I can only hope that the fall season will be just as good. I will finally be moving out to Colorado for good in September and would love to join other people for hikes or climbs. I will be living in Boulder.
Here are some links to a few of my other summer adventures
Elk Range Fun
Winfield Peak to Unnamed 13,253
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):