Peak(s):  "Pk Q"  -  13,230 feet
Peak S - 12,857 feet
Peak R - 12,995 feet
Peak P - 12,965 feet
Date Posted:  06/13/2012
Date Climbed:   06/10/2012
Author:  Furthermore

 Into to Slate Lake  

“S” 12,857
“R” 12,995
“Q” 13,230
“P” 12,965

June 9-10, 2012
~30.9 Miles, ~9,400 Gain.
TH: 1.2 miles below the Brush Creek TH. 4WD highly recommended.

(All photos are by Steve, I forgot my camera)

Ah the Gores. The weather forecast for the weekend didn't look good in the Sangres where we were originally planning on climbing. Wind gusts up to 50 MPH didn't look very appealing; however, the Gores only showed gusts up to 30 MPH which was much more reasonable.

Steve met me at my house around 8 AM on Saturday and we made the short drive to the Brush Creek TH. Anything with a drive under 2 hours for a 13er is a novelty. Rutted and rough, the first quarter mile up the Brush Creek 4WD road was pretty rough and unfortunately, we were cut short about a mile from the trailhead due to downed timber on the road. The forest rangers have their work cut out for them removing all of the downed trees.

Hopping over many trees, all 97 of them, to the trailhead (counted them on the way out), we were hiking up our remaning mile up the Brush Creek road around 9:45 AM. 30 minutes later, we were hiking along the Gore Range trail towards Slate Lake. The trail was in good shape except for 2 sections of hellish downfall. After 3 hours of slogging we reached the Slate Lake junction and for some reason, I thought the total hiking distance from the Brush Creek TH to Slate Lake was 8 miles. I was mistaken.

Near the Slate Lake Junction.

Slate Creek.

Unexpectedly, ruthless mosquitoes were out in full force and not bringing Deet was a bad idea as I am still scratching several bites. Almost 6 hours after leaving our car, we finally reached Slate Lake and found an excellent camping spot. We lounged around camp, ate dinner, and tried to get to bed early since we were going to have a 3 AM wake up call.

“Q” from Upper Slate Lake.

Zoom of “Q”

A 3 AM wakeup call, without a doubt, wasn't easy. It never is. In the dark, we started our bushwhack towards “South America” Lake. Wallowing around, we couldn't find an obvious route and ended up climbing ~200-400 feet on the south side of the valley to avoid a vegetation nightmare in the bottom of the valley proper.

Traversing west, we eventually reached our moderate snow climb to the S-R saddle. The snow was firm so we put on our crampons. Considering other climbs I have done this year, the snow was in the best condition I have seen with almost perfect styrofoam snow.

Moderate snow climb to the R-S saddle.

Moderate snow climb to the R-S saddle.

Peak “L” from the R-S Saddle.

Only about the last 50 feet of the snow climb was on loose talus. We ditched our packs and started up the west ridge of “S.” The first part of the climb up the west ridge was class 2 on large stable talus until we reached a very large blocky section. At first, we tried to stay high by only dropping about 20 feet off of the north side of the ridge where some exposed class 4 moves were required. On the way back, we descended about 60 feet to a grassy ledge and then angled back to the ridge which worked out much better with only some minor class 3 moves.

Start of the west ridge on “S”

Minor traverse avoiding the difficulties on the west ridge of “S.”

Views of “T” were impressive as we topped out on “S” around 6:45 AM. Our stay was short due to an arctic wind and we returned to our packs. Our traverse to “R” from “S” ended up being technically the easiest portion of our day. From the R-S saddle, we descended ~150 feet down the south side of the ridge on some very icy snow and then followed some grassy ledges west as we traversed below the south side of the ridge. A short class 3 section was required before we regained the east ridge of “R.” Once we regained the east ridge, it was class 2 talus hike to the summit of “R” where we arrived at 8:10 AM.

East ridge of “R”

From the reports I have read, I thought the west ridge of “R” was going to be a grassy ridge romp that was going to take very little time. I can assure you, the west ridge is everything but a grassy ridge romp. Thinking this section of our traverse was going to be easy, we casually started down the west ridge. Almost immediately, we encountered sustained class 3 scrambling.

With a better look at the ridge, we could tell that the ridge was going to be challenging. What happened to my grassy ridge romp? Once I arrived back home and looked through some trip reports, I discovered that everyone takes the north ridge which is gained by a grassy ramp at ~12,400 from the R-Q saddle.

Continuing downward, we carefully made our way along the ridge before we encountered much harder climbing. Any further progress on the ridge proper would be high 5th class. At a miniature saddle, we contemplated on the best plan of action. Both sides of the ridge didn't look good. We decided to descend down the the north side of the ridge on some class 4 friction slabs.

Class 4 on the R-Q traverse.

Carefully working our way down the friction slabs, we encountered a 20-30 foot cliff band which required solid, exposed, class 4 to descend. Once at the bottom of this cliff band we were able to walk on grassy ledges across the north face of the ridge. A large 100-200 foot cliff guarded our descent back into the valley proper.

Class 4 on the R-Q traverse.

Thin grassy ledges on the north face of the west ridge of “R”

More class 3 on the R-Q traverse.

Following grassy ledges west, Steve luckily found a class 3 weakness across the north face of the ridge. Some extremely exposed class 3 moves were required. Fortunately, being the Gores, the rock was solid. As we meandered our way west, we reached the Q-R saddle.

More class 3 on the R-Q traverse.

“Q” from near the R-Q saddle.

Looking back on the west ridge of “R.”

Our approximate route down “R.”

Steve decided to try the east ridge directly on “Q” while I decided to climb the standard snow route. I re-donned my crampons and started up the snow on the northeast face of “Q.” Steve quickly got cliffed out and decided to take his time traversing over to the snow field. I decided to summit “Q” and try for “P” and “K.” Steve was alright with this option so I bolted ahead for “Q.”

Upper snow field on “Q”

I continued up the northeast face snow field until it ended. At the top of the northeast snow field, I had about another 100 feet of scrambling before intercepting a snow field on the north face. Once at the top of the second snow field, I encountered the crux of “Q.” A short class 4 cliff band. The rock was solid, and I made the short 30 foot class 4 climb to the ridge. From the top of the ridge, it was fun solid class 3 scrambling to the summit where I arrived at 10:30 AM. My stay was short and I returned via my ascent route.

Summit ridge of “Q”

Short class 4 section to gain the summit ridge on “Q”

Slate Lake and “L” from “Q”

Powell and Peak “C” from “Q”

About ½ way down I ran into Steve and we talked about where to meet after my attempt at bagging “P” and “K” and decided to meet at “South America” Lake. I didn't take the ridge proper from “Q” to “P” due to a trip report reporting exposed class 4. Something I really didn't care to descend. From just below the Q-R saddle, I glissaded north towards “South America” Lake and ~300 feet above “South America” Lake, I traversed west below the north face of “Q” toward “P.”

The ugly west ridge on “R”

Route up “Q”

Working my way to the western edge of the basin, I climbed up a moderate snow slope to the P-Q saddle and from the P-Q saddle, I hiked up the east ridge of “P” avoiding rugged rock ~100 feet below the ridge on the south side. The climbing was mostly class 2 with a few short moves of class 3. I arrived on the summit of “P” at 12:20 PM. From the summit of “P,” “Q” looked very reasonable and should have stayed on the ridge proper. I would have probably saved more time.

Since it was getting to be early afternoon, realistically, bagging “K” and hiking back to the car was going to be too close to an epic for me so I decided to return to “South America” Lake and wait for Steve. Shortly after my arrival at “South America” Lake, Steve arrived and we hiked back to camp at Slate Lake. We took our time and arrived back at camp around 4:00 PM. My Pasta Primavera dinner went down quickly and I was glad that I packed the extra dinner before hiking out.

We packed up camp and started our very long hike back to the car around 5:00 PM. The downed timber along the Gore Range Trail made things more painful than usual. We arrived back at the car around 10:30 PM. 2 days for a Slate Lake climb isn't quite enough.

Route map.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Welcome to Slate
06/13/2012 17:54
That route up R-S looks SOOO much nicer with snow. The grass descending R (left in your route pic) is real easy but I like the class 3-4 variation you took. Wow, now you have to go back for L, that's the best of the bunch back there. Congrats on great trip into one of my favorite places.


06/13/2012 19:36
Can't wait to get into the Gores more this summer. Thanks for sharing!


L and K
06/13/2012 20:19
Are peaks worth heading back there for. Hell, that site from camp alone is worth it. Fine effort on S through P though. Thats a tedious ridge and yes, 2 days is not enough time in that drainage.

Thanks for the quality TR!


Far and few between ...
06/13/2012 20:42
That describes trip reports with photos of you in them. I'm kinda glad you forgot your camera, though I must note that some of the photos of you are blurry and I am assuming that is due to the speed with which you climb. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


Stunning pictures, Steve
06/13/2012 21:01
And Furthermore, Stellar Beta.
Did you just call something in the Gores ¯ugly?¯
I can now see why some of the above commenters are so gung-ho about Q.

Matt Lemke

Screw the list...
06/13/2012 21:38
I'm living in the Gores from now on...and will write a guidebook

(but seriously, I am living in the Gores this summer lol)
Nice write up!

Steve Knapp

Love that place!
06/13/2012 21:43
Nice job Derek! This brings back good memories, hard to believe it was just last Sept some of us were up there. You packed a lot into two days, too bad you didn't have one more day for K and L. Not a bad place to have to return to, just a lot of work to get there. It's pretty brutal to pack out on the same day you do peaks, for sure. I can see the wheels turning now, maybe you are planning on day-tripping K and L? That would be impressive, in line with some of the things you manage to pull off.

Were you the first party up there this year, anybody else sign the registers yet?

Chicago Transplant

Good Times
06/13/2012 23:28
Great trip! That area is a wonderful place to hang out for a few days. Ditto what Floyd said, L is the best one back there, you are going to have fun going back for it!

The Q-P Ridge is 95% good, and 5% crap-your-pants-ball-bearing-on- hardpack-ledge-with-cliff-that-you-be-maimed-if-you-fall-off-below-you. We probably should have gone your route just to save the pucker factor. That ledge was pretty scary last fall dry, and with snow it was even worse, we turned around the first time (fresh unconsolidated fall snow). Maybe good solid spring snow with crampons might be okay? In either case it looks easy from P, but the final ledge below the summit of Q was scary and a fall would be serious.


06/14/2012 00:21
Steve K, your name was the last on the ”S” register before Derek and I recorded our names. So it would seem we were the first on the peak this year, although there were other footprints up to the lake. Getting Derek to stand still for a photo is a tall order.


strong effort indeed
06/14/2012 02:13
lordhelmut has told me stories of the grunt it takes to get back there. Impressive!!


06/14/2012 04:51
Nice report and info, thanks for sharing!


06/15/2012 16:49
for all of the wonderful comments. Steve did take some fine pictures.

Matt- Maybe ”Challenging” is better than ”Ugly”

Steve- I do have plans to day trip K,L,N. It's a healthy day but very reasonable.

Mike- Good to know about the final bit on ”Q.” I'm glad I went down and around now.

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