| Montezuma Revenge -- Santa Fe and Geneva Peaks
SANTA FE PEAK (13,180), SULLIVAN MOUNTAIN (13,134; unranked), and GENEVA PEAK (13,266)
Trailhead: Quail Mine on the Santa Fe Peak 4WD Road above Montezuma
Route: North Slopes/Northeast Ridge of Santa Fe Peak; Continental Divide southeast to Sullivan and Geneva (out and back)
RT Milage: 6.77
This is my first trip report, so thanks for reading!
The past month, I've been using some time between jobs to get back into prime (and hopefully permanent) climbing shape. I decided to start working on the centennial 13ers in the Front, Tenmile and Mosquito Ranges. However, even that can lead to a little burnout and last Thursday I wanted to get further off the beaten path. Of all the great possibilities, I chose Santa Fe Peak and Geneva Peak, two ranked 13ers southwest of Grays Peak along the Continental Divide. These peaks would aid my long-term goal of all ranked 13ers, provide some needed solitude, bring great views from a unique angle, and add a third unranked 13er in Sullivan Mountain.
Although SarahT provided a great winter trip report (thank you!) I couldn't find much in the way of summer beta on this route, but it is very straight forward. This is a great hike for anyone looking for a half-day excursion in a new stretch of peaks. It also serves as a good training hike, since the entire route is above 12,000 ft. Although this is a fun above timberline out-and-back, you must spend a lot of time on the Divide exposed to storms -- asses weather carefully.
To reach the Quail Mine trailhead, drive 8 miles south of I-70 on US-6 to Keystone, take the Montezuma Road exit off of Highway 6, and drive another ~5.5 miles to the tiny, secluded town of Montezuma. You'll know you're there by the "Montezuma" sign hanging across the road. Turn left at the first stop sign in Montezuma, which is the start of the Santa Fe Peak 4WD road.
Turn left up the Santa Fe Peak road at this bucket-o-stop-sign (complete with pop-culture reference) in Montezuma:
The Santa Fe Peak road was passable for my Subaru Outback with cautions driving. Although the Ormes guide says passenger cars can drive this road to Quail Mine, it may have deteriorated over the years and I would suggest having at least an all-wheel drive/decent clearance car like an Outback. At mile 2.9 (11,920 ft.), park at the Quail Mine ruins and start your hike here. This will save your car and provides a good compromise between starting in Montezuma and driving too far up the road.
Looking down on the Quail Mine TH from the first switchback above the mine:
From Quail Mine, hike north and then southeast on the 4WD road as it climbs through two longer switchbacks, the first of which you can see in the above photo. The town of Montezuma passes in review below through this section. At approximately 12,300 ft., the road levels off briefly on the saddle between 12,474 ft. Morgan Peak and Santa Fe Peak. From here, you can see the 4WD road as it continues to switchback up Santa Fe's North Slopes toward the Northeast Ridge, although the summit remains hidden.
From 12,300 ft. on the Santa Fe/Morgan Peak saddle:
This photo looks down on the route so far from 12,620 ft. You can see the first two long switchbacks that climb to the Morgan/Santa Fe saddle; the Morgan/Santa Fe saddle with Morgan behind; and several switchbacks above the saddle. Parking is just out of view above the trees on the bottom left:
At 12,690 feet, the 4WD road forks -- take the left fork. As you can see on the topo map at the end of this report, I mistakenly ascended up the right fork, which dead-ends at a mine a quarter-mile up the road and forces a short but loose and unnecessary bushwhack back to the correct road. Mistake corrected on the way down.
Fork at 12,690 ft. -- take the left road:
After several more switchbacks above the fork, the 4WD road reaches Santa Fe Peak's broad Northeast Ridge at just over 13,000 ft. This ridge is on the Continental Divide and the boundary between Summit and Clear Creek Counties. From this point, you can see the nearby summit of Santa Fe Peak; Sullivan Mountain and Geneva Peak are also visible to the south. Continue to hike southwest on the 4WD road as it ascends very gradually towards Santa Fe's summit.
At ~13,000 on Santa Fe's Northeast Ridge, the 4WD road continues its ascent southwest toward Santa Fe's now visible summit:
Near Santa Fe's summit, looking back towards the point where the previous photo was taken as the road disappears back down the North Slopes.
Although not marked on the Montezuma Quad, the 4WD road continues to climb towards Santa Fe, wraps around the west side of the peak, contours ~70 ft. below the summit, heads south down Santa Fe's Southeast Ridge and then descends west toward the Snake River drainage. You must leave the road to reach Santa Fe Peak. As the road levels out on its contour west of and just below Santa Fe's summit, look for a faint climbers trail on the left that makes the very short jaunt up to the top (marked on map below). Welcome to Santa Fe! From the summit, you can survey the remainder of the route out to Geneva Peak and make your weather assessment. The next 2.5 miles are an out-and-back on the Continental Divide above 12,700 ft. and the quickest escape is down into the Snake River drainage, many miles from your car!
Climbers trail off to the left from the 4WD road to Santa Fe's summit:
The Divide ridge from Santa Fe Peak looking towards Sullivan Mountain (unranked) and Geneva Peak (two unranked peaks are beyond Geneva: Landslide Peak to its left and Point 13,214 to its right):
Descend Santa Fe's Southeast Ridge toward the broad, gentle Santa Fe/Sullivan saddle at 12,850 ft. You can use the 4WD road for several switchbacks, but it quickly veers down into the Snake River drainage. In its place, the Continental Divide Trail ("CDT") springs forth and guides you through the saddle and up Sullivan's also broad and gentle North Ridge. Although the CDT is not yet visible as a trail in this area, cairns (many with wood sticking out the top) mark the correct path. Connecting these cairns in-lieu of overland travel is important for two reasons: it reduces the impact on the tundra and will help develop the intended route of the CDT. Look for several very large cairns in the middle of the Santa Fe/ Sullivan saddle and follow the rest of the cairns south to Sullivan's summit. When a cairn is not visible, take the most efficient looking route and the next cairn will likely be found shortly. You will quickly reach Sullivan's unranked summit.
Sullivan Mountain's North Ridge from the Santa Fe/Sullivan saddle at 12,850 ft.:
Looking back at Santa Fe from the same saddle; note the CDT cairn:
From the summit of Sullivan, head southeast towards Geneva Peak. Start down Sullivan's Southest Ridge towards the Sullivan/Geneva saddle, again connecting large CDT cairns over gentle terrain. Once at the 12,720 ft. saddle, ascend a climbers trail for ~550 ft. up Geneva's increasingly narrow and rugged Northwest Ridge. The CDT cairns continue to Geneva's summit, but the trail becomes more and more visible as you ascend. The trail to Geneva ascends to the west (right) of the ridge crest and avoids some brief Class 2+/3 difficulties on the ridge proper. Once past these obstacles and a false summit, the trail gradually gains the ridge for the final 50-100 Class 2 yards to the actual summit. Although Geneva's Northeast Ridge is the steepest part of this hike and crosses some loose dirt and talus, the difficulty never exceeds Class 2 and the hiking is still gentle by comparison. The highpoint of Geneva is the southernmost of two summits separated by a few dozen yards.
From Geneva's summit, you have unique and largely unobstructed views of South Park, the Tenmile, Mosquito and Gore Ranges, the Snake River drainage, Bierstadt and Evans and the Continental Divide as it heads north and east toward Grays, Torreys and beyond.
Looking towards Geneva's Northwest Ridge and the Sullivan/Geneva saddle from Sullivan's Southeast Ridge; the route up Geneva follows a trail to the right of the ridge proper.
Looking up and back down Geneva's Northwest Ridge from 12,870:
Looking up the final portion of Geneva's Northwest Ridge from ~13,175, a few hundred yards before it gains the ridge proper (note the good trail and cairns):
Just below Geneva's summit looking back down the Northwest Ridge proper; the trail meets the ridge here from the left:
Lenawee Mountain, Grizzly Peak, Torreys Peak, Grays Peak and Mount Edwards from Geneva:
From Geneva's summit, return to Quail Mine on the same route. However, a few notes on this return hike. First, avoid the temptation to skirt Sullivan to the west and instead cross back over the actual summit. Sullivan's West Slopes are loose and steep -- you would not gain any time and would likely loose energy on them. Next, you do not need to regain Santa Fe's summit. Instead, intercept the 4WD road on Santa Fe's Southeast Ridge and stay on it as it contours below and to the west of Santa Fe's summit. Finally, don't forget you have to regain about 600 feet on the return trip!
The return trip back to Santa Fe from Geneva:
My route. BLUE is outbound; GREEN is inbound. Note the track variations on my return as I found more cairns, skirted Santa Fe's summit and took the correct fork in the 4WD road on Santa Fe's North Slopes. Finally, I include the following waypoints: Quail Mine; the fork in the 4WD road (Fork); and the start of the brief climbers' trail from the 4WD road to Santa Fe Peak (Santa Fe Trail).
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):