Peak(s):  Fitzpatrick Pk  -  13,112 feet
UN12780 - 12,780 feet
Date Posted:  02/10/2012
Modified:  02/25/2014
Date Climbed:   02/05/2012
Author:  kimo
Additional Members:   wooderson, Papillon
 A Ship in Harbor is Safe, but That is Not what Ships are For  

We sail the high seas on a ship named Desire. Our next stop is Fitzpatrick Peak.

A Ship in Harbor is Safe, but That is Not what Ships are For

Fitzpatrick Peak - 13,112 feet (Colorado rank #557)
UN12780 - 12,780 feet (Colorado rank #798 )
Climb date: Sunday, February 5, 2012
Trailhead: The old town of St. Elmo at approx. elevation 10,000 feet.
Total distance: Approx. 14 miles roundtrip.
Total vertical gain: Approx. 4,000 feet.
Difficulty: Snow hike, mostly class 1 and 2, sections of class 2+ on steep talus on UN12780.
Weather: Light snow, little wind, cold temps. Temp gauge showed minus 5 degrees at the trailhead in the morning.
Avalanche hazard: Per CAIC, the Sawatch zone was considerable on NW-N-NE-E-SE aspects at all elevations. The danger was moderate on S-SW-W aspects at all elevations.
The intrepid crew: Papillon, Wooderson, and Kimo

Our navigation chart.

Captions on top of photos.

We sleep in our vehicles parked near St. Elmo. I wake cold at 2 AM and check the thermometer. It's 8 degrees below zero. I push deeper into my down sleeping bag. Its limit has been reached. But soon enough the sun comes up and we prepare for departure. By 8 AM the air has warmed to a balmy minus 5. We navigate by road sign and turn toward Tincup Pass, in search of warm sunlight.

Snow machines have packed the road. It's full steam ahead.

Ahh...there's the sun.

We pass an avalanche path that is high to our left. The slope doesn't threaten us today. The view over our shoulder is big and breathtaking.

We sail up the road in good time.

Fitzpatrick Peak appears through a gap in the trees. We stop and study its features. We will ascend the right-hand ridgeline to the summit and then descend the eastern slope seen here.

We reach treeline after five miles of hiking. Tincup Pass lies ahead. Our first destination, UN12780, is the distant peak on the left. To our right, a steep south-facing slope looks like it could be trouble in the wrong conditions. We keep moving.

Closing in on Tincup Pass. We will follow the left-hand skyline toward UN12780.

We leave the packed snowmobile track and start our ascent of UN12780 in earnest.

The slope steepens. We stick to rock on the right-hand side of the ridgecrest.

We quickly gain elevation.

The talus is steep. And some of it is loose. Care is taken.

Don't fall in.

The first 400 feet was more tedious and time-consuming than we expected.

Eventually the ridge peels away and Fitzpatrick Peak appears like a ghost ship cloaked by the tousled veil of a storm cloud.

But first, before Fitzpatrick, we must give our attention to UN12780.

Thin white line.

We make our summit push on slabby downsloping rock coated with snow and ice.

Peak surfing.

UN12780 provides an impressive vantage.

The mountains give us happiness and in exchange we leave only footprints.

On the summit of UN12780.

We carefully study our route to Fitzpatrick Peak. Our ascent will follow the right-hand ridgeline. We will descend on exposed scree and talus on the east slope, wary of wind loaded terrain above and below, as we continue down towards the left-hand basin. Snowmobile tracks are visible near the left edge of the image.

"What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous."

The view looking east from the saddle between UN12780 and Fitzpatrick Peak.

We leave UN12780 behind...

"The crow wished everything was black, the owl, that everything was white."

...and we look toward our next destination.

Fitzpatrick Peak.

We ascend the north ridge at a brisk pace. Dark storm clouds cloak the high peaks to the west. The storm moves our way. White-out conditions will seriously complicate our untracked descent of the eastern slope. We open the throttle all the way.

The mountain offers little resistance to our approach. The sky on the other hand looks more and more menacing.

The final pitch before the summit.

We drift into port with a sense of relief.

The magnificent view to the south from the summit of Fitzpatrick Peak.

Our rest is short lived. It starts to snow. In the high mountains, we are passengers and crew. We batten down the hatches and push off into cloud.

We identify a reasonable descent route into the basin below. We backtrack off the summit a hundred feet, and then cut right on exposed scree.

Kevin is our navigator.

The steepest section on the descent is a wind-blown grass rib covered with soft shallow snow.

The slopes to our left are loaded. We steer away from the danger by remaining high on the rib.

"What is more mortifying than to feel you've missed the Plum for want of courage to shake the Tree?"

Thank you Fitzpatrick Peak. The mountain winks back at us.

We raise the sails and get caught by the breeze.

Clouds roll past like waves in the ocean.

We're on easy street now. Just five more miles. It's 3:30 PM.

We lower our sails and glide through falling snow, on our way home. The scene is idyllic.

Daylight lingers a little longer these days. We approach St. Elmo by 5 PM.

"Ah, life is a gate, a way, a path to Paradise anyway, why not live for fun and joy and love...why not go to your desire..."

Fair winds and following seas...

"A ship in harbor..." by John Shedd.
"What can we gain..." by Thomas Merton.
"The crow wished..." by William Blake.
"What is more..." by Logan Smith.
"Ah, life..." by Jack Kerouac.
Photos by Papillon, Wooderson, and Kimo.
Valuable route beta from Chicago Transplant, Kevin Baker,, LOJ, and Summitpost.

 Comments or Questions

02/11/2012 04:39
the theme and the full on B&W!


02/11/2012 04:48
fantastic pics. nice work!


02/11/2012 06:05
Happy you liked it Barry. We'll try to bring it home to you while you heal. And that's not necessarily a bad thing because hiking at five below is best experienced vicariously. Some of my non-hiking friends ask ”how can you go out in those temperatures when you have a warm couch at home?” And I laugh.

I've been wanting to try a full B&W winter report for a long while now. But this is the first adventure that I thought would be perfect for it. And then I was inspired towards the sailing theme after I converted the first photo to black and white and Fitzpatrick Peak and the connecting ridge looked like a wave in the sea. It all just kinda clicked after that.

Thanks WDavis. The choice of mountain and route were fantastic (and I need to thank my partners for making that fine choice). Just enough spice to make it interesting but not death defying. And snow and clouds always make for good mountain pics.


Great TR!
02/11/2012 19:01
Kimo, I was in that area yesterday - if you're interested, here's another look at your route, from ”Tincup Peak.”


02/11/2012 15:15
I absolutely LOVE the B&W pics. Nice...


Holy B&W, Mateys!
02/11/2012 16:45


Thanks for sharing
02/11/2012 16:55
Love the Black & White. Nice job Kimo.


02/11/2012 19:43
Great TR. Thanks for sharing!


great report and pics
02/12/2012 16:09
need to add this one to my list

I have been getting into the black and white pictures and I really like the way they look especially on those kinds of winter days

Chicago Transplant

02/12/2012 21:40
Glad you guys had a nice day, it can be quite a nice area on the right days, and you captured it well.

The architect in me really liked the St Elmo town shots, nice work


Just beautiful !
02/12/2012 22:35
For some reason, the little summary on the home page does not indicate that there are photos in this TR ... and I almost passed it by. Wow, stunning shots. And the trip looks like it was exhilarating. Thanks, as always, for sharing.


02/13/2012 01:25
As always, great shots Kimo. Something about that black and white...


02/13/2012 01:28
amazing TR, puts mine to shame.


02/13/2012 02:22
You have a real talent for capturing an experience in images and words. Heck, the report almost looks better than the real thing! Almost...

The frigid campfire in the snow, the bitter cold start on the road (complete with ”beardcicles”), the bluebird day that turned into a winter wonderland... What can I say but thanks for another great adventure, Kimo. Looking forward to the next one!


Incredible Photos Kimo
02/13/2012 04:18
You certainly have a knack. Strong work, excellent report.


Sweet report ..
02/13/2012 06:09
and some top notch photography.


02/13/2012 16:48
Love the black and whites. Simply amazing.


02/13/2012 19:25
Super pics! I can look & almost feel like I went with you. Thanks for sharing.


Good Stuff
02/13/2012 19:33
Thanks for putting this one together, kimo. Truly awesome. I must admit the anticipation was building as the week went on, especially after you sent us the opening photo on Tuesday.

Way to deliver the goods again, my friend.

Sorry we missed you this weekend. We've had a pretty good run together dating back to December. Let's keep it going.

And yes, I think we could make bank selling a fake frozen beard spray this summer on Guanella Pass.



02/14/2012 15:47
The depth and clarity in some of the photos is astounding.

Thanks for sharing.


The pictures
02/15/2012 14:58
I'm a happy guy if I can bring home photos with just a quarter of the beauty of the real scene as it was experienced firsthand. The images illustrate a great adventure, and each image has a story behind it. That's what I love most about reading and posting trip reports on The photographs may be beautiful, but the photographs come from the experience. The whole point is the experience. And the mountain lovers on 14ers can relate with the experience.

So Barry, WDavis, Jay, Darin, Kane, Bill, Bobby, Piper14er, Mike, LoneStar, Derek, Tockelstein2005, Sarah, Scott, TheOtherIndian, Jeff, Rich, Kevin, Jim, and all who liked this report - thanks for the encouragement. This was a lot of fun to live, write, and post. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Bill - That's a good angle on UN12780 and Fitzpatrick from Tincup Peak. It shows the varied terrain found on our route very well. Tincup Peak caught my attention while up there. It seems very approachable in winter conditions. It will be a good one to return for next winter on another visit to that historic St. Elmo area.

Kevin and Sarah - Buy the ticket, take the ride. It was a pleasure as always. I was looking at our streak. It's a good number - the plan has always gone down as planned. Let's keep this streak going thru the last weeks of winter and beyond.

Burrito cart with fake frozen beard spray...we might have our out from working for the man. Come'on summer!


Black and white ...
02/15/2012 18:46
Allow for an interrupted, focused involvement in your presentation. Thanks for posting, Kimo. And, you do keep such good company. Happy trails!

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