Peak(s):  Boulder Mtn  -  13,528 feet
Mamma, Mt  -  13,646 feet
Date Posted:  11/03/2011
Date Climbed:   10/29/2011
Author:  Papillon
 I Like The Chaffee County Girls Who Do  

Are you gonna step into line like your Daddy done?
Punchin' the time, and climbing life's long ladder.

Ray Lamontagne

I was about three miles beyond Johnson Village last Friday night when the red and blue lights lit up my rearview mirror. The Man had clocked me at 74 in a 60. I gave him my license and registration and he flashlight-scanned the gear in my backseat.

The Man: Where are you headed?
Papillon: Mount Princeton trailhead.
The Man: Son, if Mount Princeton were a chick she'd be a 50-footer...
Papillon: I'm not climbing Princeton. I plan to head up Baldwin Gulch in the morning.
The Man: Baldwin Gulch? Son, if Mount Antero were a chick she'd be nothing better than a backup for your right hand...
Papillon (grinning): I'm not climbing Antero either. I want to hit Boulder and run the ridge to Mamma and then try to pick up the road near Baldwin Lake. Should be a great day in the hills if all goes well.
The Man: Shoot, I need both of those peaks to complete the Saint Elmo quad. Any chance you can drop me a conditions report when you get back?

No citation but he gives me his card. Nice guy.

Fifteen minutes later I pull into the Mount Princeton trailhead only to find it completely full. No BS. There are easily 150 cars and the place looks like a dealership. I don't know if there's a wedding or a spaghetti dinner fundraiser taking place at Young Life or what. Maybe J.C. himself is in town?

So we continue up CR 162 and swing into the Agnes Vaille Falls TH. This will be night #33 in the back of my car since June 4. Yeah, I've got problems.

As fall has crept toward winter, the luster of car camping has faded. Howling winds and chilly backseat interiors. Frozen digits and shivery wee-hour pisses. Locked gates under frosted billion-star skies.

Wooderson and I have since resorted to "parking". This entails sitting in the front seat with the heater going every fifteen minutes or so and the windows cracked so we don't asphyxiate on the Oskar Blues. We spin digital iPod records and talk about things like the rise and fall of MTV, the art of gaperdom and what it would be like to live in the San Juans - all under the watchful eye of a dark boogeyman night.

At 8:20 A.M. the next morning, we are standing at the base of CR 277, aka Baldwin Gulch Road. I see ankle-deep snow and dedicated tire tracks. We don't even think about bringing flotation. After 30 minutes or so, we hit the spur for CR 279 and jump on it. The shelf road zigs and zags for five or six miles all the way up to a mine at 13,000 feet. We will see nothing but elk prints the rest of the way.

Around 11,600 feet, the road swings way to the left. I look to my right and see a window of opportunity - 1500 feet of snowy grass and cocktail ice talus. Continuing on the road looks long and serpentine so we begin a stiff and tiring ascent to the mining remnants on the skyline above.

We finally reach the ridge and the wind pounces. We turn left and lumber up the final 300 feet of Boulder Mountain. Numb class 2. There are jenga-shaped cairns on top but no summit register in sight. I take in the ridge to Mamma and let my guard down for a split-second. What transpires next is your textbook crash and burn. A trainwreck at 13,528 feet. Both trekking poles go javelin and one almost takes out my girl. I land hard on my side.

Wooderson: Dude, get your sh-- together!
Papillon: You think I want to actually bivy up here with my hip in three pieces?

We don't linger long. The ridge to Mamma runs 1.56 miles and undulates a few times en route. While I don't think it will take too much time, I'm not sure about the trail-less deproach to Baldwin Creek. The valley floor 2,000 feet below my left shoulder looks tame but I don't relish the idea of navigating it in the dark.

There is nothing difficult about the ridge traverse, but snow deposits here and there make it somewhat taxing terrain. There is one spot where the wind has loaded a bit of snow and I wonder if this stretch may pose problems for travelers in the next few months.

I pulverize my shin between two rocks a few moments later and feel a kiwi-sized knot begin to form. I say many bad things but such is life on the shoulder season circuit.

We top out on Mount Mamma and devour string cheese and margherita pepperoni. I check the time and realize it is a long friggin' way to treeline. I take several quick photos, choose my line and begin the descent.

The rocks are wobbly and slick and the snow is no help at all. The wind really picks up and I've got the watery eyes and snotty cheek thing going on. It'll be a miracle if I don't break my neck here.

Down. Down. Down. I encounter knee-deep snow in stretches as the wind goes 360 degrees. A f--- you panorama if there ever was one.

We get to within the vicinity of Baldwin Lake but I can't locate the road. It has to be somewhere. We press on until we're faced with 100 yards of the thickest and nastiest willows I've ever encountered. Cue Jungle Boogie by Kool & The Gang. The bashing is futile and I wonder if we'll ever make it out. Tiny creeklets appear here and there, soaking our boots, amplifying the frustration. I stumble and almost get turned into a popsicle. Grope City baby. Somewhere along the way I lose my Outdoor Research mitts...

But everything worked out in the end. Locating the road. The creek crossing. The two-track cadence and the parking lot Modus. Not to mention the post-climb feast. A 12-inch steak hoagie and fries is just what the doctor ordered after nine hours, 13.5 miles, 4900 vert, and a Sawatch double.

CR 277 aka Baldwin Gulch Road

CR 279 entrance

The shelf road

The grunt


Numb class 2

The summit of Boulder Mountain


The ridge run

A closer look


Hero Shot

Looking back at Boulder Mountain

Mount Mamma finish

Grizzly Lake

Grizzly Mountain

Down. Down. Down.

Exit... Stage Left

Baldwin Lake

Jungle Boogie

The creek crossing

The feast

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
Chicago Transplant

Very timely
11/03/2011 20:02
Heading off on Saturday to climb Boulder and finish the St Elmo quad myself... maybe I will run into ”The Man”? On the mountain, not speeding of course - I'm a good boy.

Thanks for posting, looks like I will be walking the road, but at least I know what I am in for now!


11/03/2011 22:56
If that is anything like the east side of Cronin, I don't envy you guys at all. Nice report and climbing plans got me out of a ticket once too. Seems Silverthorne cops respect a Slate Lake hike.


Nice report!
11/04/2011 01:36
... and stunning shots! Especially loved images 14 & 15 of the Grizzlys! Thanks for the post!


nice guy
11/04/2011 06:12
I wasn't so fortunate when I met the guy at the Alma speed trap a couple of years ago. You two are sure knocking them out lately. Nice pics btw!


Cops, Willows, Modus and steak sandwiches
11/04/2011 13:48
The latter 2 make up for the first 2.

”The Art of Gaperdom”. I guess its a good thing you were climbing something obscure and interesting. Had you rolled down the window when ”the man” pulled you over, wearing Columbia Sportswear, finger on the PLB submit button, a CO Ski & Golf bumper sticker, planning to ”bag” Princeton in calender fall with the intent on updating your facebook wall on the ride home, you might've had to contribute to Chaffee County's local economy.


11/04/2011 16:35
After last Saturday night at Lost Man TH, I prefer the ”steam up the windows” version back in high school to the shoulder season in the mountains version.

Great stuff, as usual. Two Gonzo TRs in one week!

Even though he was cool and you all bear zero resemblance to anyone in this clip, I've had this on my mind since you told me about the cop last weekend.


11/04/2011 18:36
Good on ya for getting Mt. Mamma on the first try (the hubby insisted that it be done on Mother's Day ... we didn't make it until the 3rd try ... yup, failure on the first two year's worth of Mother's Days ... was I glad to not hike up that road again after we nailed it or what ). Those two peaks combine very nicely. Beautiful photos ... and, as always, love the food shots. 8) What is that tasty-looking veggie thing going on there, Wooderson? (looks like some type of yummy sauteed fresh spinach thing-a-ma-bob). Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


11/04/2011 19:11
You are correct, Terri, that was a veggie sub with sauteed spinach and mushrooms. Mighty tasty. And thanks for noticing, since the carnivorous feasts always seem to get all the attention around here!


11/04/2011 20:38
Thanks again for the feedback.

@Mike - Tomorrow looks to be chilly willy, have fun.

@Floyd - I'll see you in 27 hours...

@MtnHub - That area is a honeypot of 13ers and definitely worth multiple visits.

@Unclegar - Great partners and great weather equals not too bad of a year...

@helmut - I thought facebook was just photos and vids of cats climbing drapes and type II diabetic tee-ball coaches getting jacked in the crotch. People put climbing stuff on there? Be leery of the art of gaperdom tomorrow morning...

@Matt - The Lost Man morning temps definitely put the F.U. in fun.

@Presto - A May ascent would definitely be interesting. I try to get Sarah to actually eat after these things but... I think a photo of her in front of some greasy carnivorous dish would be as rare as that Honus Wagner baseball card that comes up for auction every few years.

Chicago Transplant

11/06/2011 02:53
The snow forecast scared us off, it was looking better along I-70 so we did the 12er Silver Plume Mtn instead. I may try and give Boulder a go next weekend though if the weather holds...

   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2017®, 14ers Inc.