| Rinker Peak from Big Willis Gulch
September 13, 2009
Rinker Peak (13,783')
Hikers: Carson Black, Denise Snow, & Darin Baker
Trailhead: Willis Gulch Trailhead
Approach: Big Willis Gulch
Route: South slopes leading to the east ridge
Distance: ~11mi RT
Elevation Gain: ~4400'
Gear: daypack w/Essentials
Resources Used for Trip Planning: Mike Garratt & Bob Martins' Colorado's High Thirteeners guidebook and Trails Illustrated map #127
With less than twenty bicentennials to go, Carson has several peaks in the Sawatch Range to do.
I've had the desire to go to the Sawatch, so we planned a weekend there to hit up one of his bicentennials, but first we climbed a centennial (on Saturday) that was on my list.
From Carson's list, he threw out a few options and Rinker became our goal for Sunday. We were already on Hwy 82 for our hike on Saturday, so the short trip down the road to another TH was trivial; but not before driving to Buena Vista to visit our friend Cathy on Saturday afternoon.
Denise was also invited, and late in the week she expressed interest in joining us even though she has hiked this peak before. For her, this trip was more about the company and conversation with old friends than hiking up a peak. Either way, it was guaranteed to be a good time with these two!
The plan was to camp in the van on Saturday night, and get an alpine start (7am) on Sunday morning. Denise would drive out in the morning from her home in Divide.
It's too bad she didn't car-camp with us, because she missed out on my homemade apple pie! Mmm…apple pie.
To me, apple pie signifies fall time. Growing up in Vermont, in the fall we would pick apples at a local orchard and my mother would bake a pie or two with them. I wonder why I was a fat kid?
Ok, on with the hike….
The Hike up Rinker Peak
The forecast for Sunday (when we left town on Friday) was calling for rain/snow before 8am, but we think the storm tracked a little early so we had dry skies overhead to start our day. In fact, Carson noted the snow on the peaks when he got out of the van that morning. Should make for a pretty hike with fresh snow and the aspens already turning. I love the fall!!
As planned, Denise showed up just before 7am and we were quickly on the trail. We headed up the familiar Willis Gulch Trail with beautiful views of the peaks to the north along the way.
I think that is Parry Peak (12,682').
We reached the Little Willis and Big Willis split at 8am.
Little Willis goes to Mount Hope and Hope Pass; the trail we wanted is Big Willis that would take us to the south slopes of Rinker Peak.
We take our right (SW) turn, and head up the well maintained trail.
We reached treeline around 9:15 or so, and admired the views looking down the gulch. There was fresh snow on the NW slopes of Mount Hope, as well as on the E facing slopes of the thirteeners at the head of the basin.
Skies overhead were still a pretty blue with some white clouds, but nothing compared to what we were expecting. What a break!
Speaking of break, walking through a thick section of trail, I managed to trip on a branch and my left shin landed on an edge of a rock. Ouch!
Denise and Carson both asked if I was ok, and I said, "yeah, I'll walk it off." More like limp it off.
(Secretly, I think they were hoping this fall would slow me down. Not to be the case! Hah!)
By 9:30ish, we were heading up the S/SE slopes of Rinker, aiming for a saddle between it and Twin Peaks.
Denise meandering her way up the slope.
We came across a good trail part way up the slope, so we opted to use it.
Eventually it peters out, so we went back to going our own way up the moderate grassy and sometimes rock/dirt slope until we hit the saddle.
And the weather was still holding!
From the saddle, we headed up and to the west onto the ridge. The terrain is pretty tame, a mix of tundra and stable talus.
We didn't have much snow to contend with, so the going was easy.
Denise and Carson making their way up the E ridge on Rinker.
I topped out at 11:25am, Denise and Carson soon followed but kept going over to the SW side of the summit to get out of the wind as I signed the register.
On the SW side of the summit there's a nice notch that was protected from the wind, which today wasn't super strong, but a little cool.
Here in our notch, we sat and had lunch and enjoyed the views. Oh what a day!
Looking down on Willis Lake and other peaks to the SW.
Looking east at the Mosquito Range.
Carson and Denise with La Plata in the background.
Views to the N/NE
We left the summit around noonish, and made our way back down to the saddle. We talked about going over to Twin Peaks, but I was in favor of heading down.
I also had a multitude of excuses on why we should head down.
They were ok with it, so down we went.
Denise at the bottom of the south slope we used for the ascent and descent. Rinker's summit is left of center.
We headed back down the trail, talking away and enjoying our luck with the weather.
I reached the van at 2:40pm.
Hindsight & Personal Notes
Don't always believe the forecast.
Carson and I were expecting to get rained or snowed on Sunday morning, but as I mentioned, the storm tracked early. In fact, around midnight we had a decent storm with quite a bit of thunder/lightning! Made for a nice light show out the window of the van.
Also on Saturday evening while eating Carson's famous spaghetti, Carson noticed a hunter sitting outside near his pack. Carson invited him in to join us (because it was starting to rain), so the man sat with us for a little over an hour until his brother came back to get him.
It turns out that he shot a goat on Twin Peaks and it took him a good part of the day to quarter it and pack it out! (Now I wish I asked him for a steak because I'm curious what it tastes like!)
He was a nice guy from Illinois, and he told us it took him 10 years to draw a tag. The hunter (I forgot his name) put in a lot of miles in the mountains scouting, prior to this day. His hard work payed off!
Lastly, this trip to the Sawatch reminded me of my early days of hiking 14ers over there. With a couple of 13ers under our belts for this weekend, it makes me want to return for some more!
Carson still has a few more bicentennials on his list, so maybe we can return at least one more time this fall.
Time to plan another trip!
Thanks for reading,
The map above shows our approximate route for the ascent and descent.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):