Peak(s):  "Pk H"  -  13,100 feet
Peak J - 12942
Peak P - 12965
Date Posted:  07/05/2012
Modified:  07/06/2012
Date Climbed:   06/30/2012
Author:  jbchalk
 The Saw, Gore Range   

Based on recent information from Gore Galore on this site regarding the correct ridge names per Robert Ormes, I wanted to edit this TR for ridge name accuracy.

I haven't seen much beta (any really) on this section of ridge in the Gores dubbed "The Saw", so figured I'd include some text and pictures for those wanting to get some isolation and solitude in the middle of Colorado's best range. Having scrambled Ripsaw Ridge from Peak C to Peak G last Fall, I wanted to see what Peak H and beyond had in store. I've heard many different opinions on where Ripsaw officially ends, whether at Peak H, Peak J, West Partner, or Frisco. Well, who knows...its all subjective. However, I like to get names right when possible and per Gore Galore on this site and his information from Robert Ormes "The Saw" is indeed the ridge from Peak H to Peak J, Peak J to Peak P doesn't officially have a name, and Peak P to West Partner is "Rockinghorse Ridge" given it's name by the four distinct towers on West Partner's north ridge. Personally, I like Ripsaw Ridge ending with Peak H, The Saw from Peak H to Peak J and then onto Peak P since it's all very similar ground (endless towers), and Rockinghorse Ridge starting from Peak P to West Partner. Peak H seems like a natural barrier and distinction between Ripsaw & The Saw since the ridge drops considerably in elevation south of Peak H. Nevertheless, the plan was to traverse The Saw & Rockinghorse Ridge from Peak H to West Partner and camp another night in Upper Piney Lake basin. However, the mosquitos were so bad and we were so not prepared for them that we had to get out that day. We aborted on Rockinghorse Ridge and descended between Peak P & West Partner. Rockinghorse Ridge will have to wait a bit longer.

I've wanted to get back into the Gores asap after some Casacades ski mountaineering ventures and taking some folks on the Gore Grand Traverse 2 weeks prior. My good friends J, Chuck, and Baba (who used to live in Vail but had flown in from New Hampshire the day before) and I packed up and made the long backpack into the Upper Piney River Basin from Piney Lake on a late Friday afternoon. I've only ever been as far as the Peak C southwest couloir turnoff, so heading further south on the faint Upper Piney Lake trail towards the base of the Spider's north face was a treat. We eventually found a vague horsepack trail that led in the direction we wanted to go, i.e. the Upper Piney River Basin. After some steep side-hilling, we leveled out and broke out of treeline into the swampy upper basin before Upper Piney Lake. Not having brought any mosquito repellant, no tent, and b/c of the fire ban, our battle with the horrendous mosquitos was fully on. I've been in some bad areas for mosquitos (the worst before this was in the Winds attempting Gannett Peak way back in high school). But, this took the cake. It was absolutely horrendous, so we set up our bivouac high on a good slab of rock, ate our burritos, and got in our sleeping bags fast. I haven't slept much worse than I did that night, despite the gorgeous surroundings, with mosquitos biting and buzzing all night at my face. It was too warm to put my head under my sleeping bag. Up at 5am and leaving our bivy at 6:30am, we headed up the relatively easy south slopes of Peak H.

Peak 12,200' & The Spider (12,692') from Peak H's south slopes

Sunrise over The Saw from Peak H's south slopes

The minor class 3 gully we ascended on Peak H's south slopes

After about an hour and a half, we topped out on Peak H on a spectacular morning. Peak H has two summits separated by the top of the "Straight Arrow Couloir" dropping off to the southeast. We found a register on the north summit with a very short list of entries dating back to the early 70s. We then looked to the southeast at the intimidating ridge to Peaks J & P and beyond. However, we were very excited to begin the adventure.

The Saw to Peaks J & P from the summit of Peak H

The descent off Peak H's southeast ridge drops you several hundred feet of class 2/3 down to the ridge proper to begin the large slab section as could be seen from our bivy down in the basin. Perhaps this slabby knife-edge is why Ormes named the Peak H to Peak J ridge "The Saw".

J on the slabby ridge section

The slab ridge proper ended in a cliff with no climable way over it without the need of a rope and some pro. So, we dropped 20 vertical feet to our right (south) to find a climable 4th class weakness.

Baba climbing our 4th class exit off the slab and back onto the ridge

Some easier terrain after the initial slab section and a few towers

Chuck on a knife-edge portion of the ridge proper

There are a few larger towers that make up the middle ridge section between H & J and most of these can be climbed on the ridge proper with 4th class/low 5th moves. However, one tower would not go ridge proper much less than a 5.10 I would bet, so we traversed around to the ridge's north side for some steep and exposed grass ledge scrambling.

Baba approaching the few towers that encompass the middle section between H & J - we went around the upcoming tower to our left (north)

Steep gassy slopes on the ridge's north side

We then came up to an awesome looking tower that I wanted to find a way up and over. Fortunately, it worked out.

The hardiest of towers between H & J which we went up and over (route shown in red)

The crew descending the last tower after the grassy ledge system section

Chuck climbing the tower

Chuck & Baba negotiating the final moves up to the tower's summit

More fun sections up to Peak J

One of the advantages it seemed going from H to J and not vice versa was that every time we'd climb up 4th class/low 5th towers on their northwest side, there would be a relatively easier 3rd class descent off each tower's southeast side. Thus, we didn't have to down climb serious terrain, which was nice. This is something we obviously did not know before hand and just worked out for us. So, in that respect, I would recommend going from H to J.

Baba & J on a semi-walking portion of the ridge

Baba making his move up another smaller tower

3/4 of the way across to J, Chuck spotted an old hex deep down in a crack. J & I spent 10 minutes freeing it

After a few more smaller towers, yet still extremely fun, it was easy class 2/3 terrain up to Peak J's summit. J was stoked to be on Peak J We had great views of Peaks K, L, Q, R, S, & T towering above the Slate Creek Basin to our east.

The ridge to Peak P from the summit of Peak J (West Partner in the distance)

Looking back at The Saw to Peak H (the "Straight Arrow Couloir" can be seen coming down off Peak H's summit)

We then set out for Peak P. This section of ridge between J & P was definitely much easier and shorter than from H to J, yet still fun all the same.

Baba climbing a relatively easy tower en route to Peak P

Leaving Peak J behind

J skywalking on the way to Peak P

Chuck & Baba climbing up the one significantly exposed tower with tougher moves

After some easier class 2/3 terrain, we reached Peak P's summit around 1pm. I had heard of folks using the west slopes from Upper Piney Lake to reach Peak P, so this was always a descent option in the back of my mind. If we were going to stay another night out, Rockinghorse Ridge up to West Partner would have definitely been on our agenda, but we had made up our mind we were going to pack out to Piney Lake that day b/c there was nothing worse than the swarms of mosquitos in the Upper Piney Lake Basin. Even Rockinghorse Ridge was worth saving for another day in order to not have to spend another night out with the mosquitos.

Summit of Peak P with West Partner behind

Looking back from the summit of Peak P to where we came with Ripsw Ridge & Mt. Powell beyond

We then headed south towards West Partner over easy class 2/3 terrain and found some manageable terrain to descend down to Upper Piney Lake from the Peak P/West Partner lowpoint (better & safer than the descent gully between Peaks F & G to the west for those that know that one).

Rockinghorse Ridge to West Partner Peak from the Peak P/West Partner saddle

On the descent, we were all admiring the fun that Rockinghorse Ridge up to West Partner looks to be - another day

Our descent routes from the Peak P/West Partner saddle to Upper Piney Lake (several options)

Upper Piney Lake Basin with Peak H to the right

Upon being back in the hot, mosquito infested Upper Piney Lake basin, a dive into Upper Piney Lake was just what the doctor ordered for all of us.

Had to do this - Upper Piney Lake dunk

After a 30 min swampy hike back to our bivy, we packed up for the long haul out to Piney Lake finally arriving back at the trucks around 6:30pm for a 12 hour day.

Despite our ill-preparedness for the mosquitos, this was a wonderful trip with great friends in the remote heart of the Gore Range. Truly a spectacular area and if you are willing to put in a long haul and bushwhack into the Upper Piney River basin, you will be rewarded with solitude and very remote peaks and ridges. I think all of us would recommend The Saw for a ridge run you can have all to yourself full of high quality scrambling. One of our favorites thus far. Its always exciting not having any beta on ridge runs yet finding a way through.

Thanks for reading.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

Way to Go!
07/05/2012 20:40
Congrats on a great day in an aesthetic place. I know what you mean about finding your way along a ridge like that. Just seems fulfilling not knowing what's coming and then figuring it out. P.s. I know you've done the Ripsaw, so knowing what you know now about Rockinghorse what are your thoughts on running the entire thing from C to West Partner? Feasible? Totally mental?


Gore Traverses and Lake Swims
07/05/2012 20:43
Make a great day out (last time up for me was Snow-Valhalla with a Deluge Lake swim). We found J-P was pretty easy last fall but H-J looks like a trip. Geez, with the more beta you give him, Helmut is going to get even more hot and bothered over going Powell-Buffalo.

LOL @ Ben


07/05/2012 20:51
Put that hex on your rack and make an effort to use it! It's now your lucky piece. Mosquitos like that will keep you moving fast! Great route finding. Nicely done TR.


Nice place for a dip
07/05/2012 20:59
Brandon, I can see the look of desperately trying to locate the shoreline in those initial moments of total shock when you hop in 35 to 40 degree water. Fine way to end a day.

Ever think of this?

Day 1 - eagles nest to peak H
Day 2 - H to East Partner
Day 3 - East Partner to Snow
Day 4 - Snow to Buffalo (car shuttle back to piney lake)

Totally feasible with good weather. Thanks for the very solid Gore TR


And away we go...
07/05/2012 21:06
(Where is the eating popcorn emoticon?)

If you guys do this, I'll drive everyone to Piney from Silverthorne and join you for only day 1 (or as much of it as I can handle) so you won't need the shuttle.


Thanks fellas
07/05/2012 21:32
Fun ridge for sure.

Ben: C to West Partner is totally feasible only very physical, and yes, extremely mental. Be fun to give her a go one day and by that I mean a full day, like 24 hrs Everything is there - the one crux I see is enough water. Dropping down so low to a lake/river might be enough to put you over so you wouldnt climb back up. Maybe do it when there is still areas of snow up high on the ridges so you could refill the water bottles. Fun to plan and think about most definitely.

Floyd: Yep, you called it. This stuff is Helmut's wekness Glad you got a dunk in over in Deluge. Man, does it make you feel better. Appreciate the shuttle offer.

rickinco123: Hex is already on the rack. Used several cams yesterday but no day for sure when it matters.

Helmut: Yes, that feeling you know so well, buddy, is written all over my face. Damn, but at least after the pain subsides, you're ready for the long haul out. Dude, I have thought of your itinerary. Other then the Grand Traverse, I wish I knew the East Partner to North Traverse section...maybe sometime soon I will. Yep, feasible with good weather for sure. I guess if you had a week of Fall bluebird autumness, you could always drop down to escape t-storms, ridge yetis, or whatever and regain the ridge and continue.


To fuel the fire...
07/05/2012 22:06
East Partner to Solitude would be easy enough(may need to drop a bit on the EP side of Usable Pass) I have pics of the ridge. I bet Mike or others would have photos on the ridge coming off of Solitude to get to the Keller saddle. Good luck with that whole Zodiac Ridge-Thing though. From there you're home free!


Good to hear, Floyd...
07/05/2012 22:09
Yep, that whole Zodiac Ridge thing may be a totally different animal. Would want to hit that first separatly before the whole shebang!

Chicago Transplant

Ridge Runs
07/05/2012 22:44
Love those Gore ridge runs! If you want to go up the Zodiac sometime I'm your huckleberry Not sure what kind of trouble we can get into there, but worth a trip to find out!

I probably do have pics of the ridge coming off Solitude, should be in the background of North Traverse summit photos or even from climbing that SW ridge on Keller...


Definitely worth a trip to the Zodiac, Mike...
07/06/2012 12:46
...perhaps this Fall. My summer is pretty busy. Thanks for the insight on these ridges.


07/06/2012 16:42
Thanks for posting the information. This one just might have be climbed this summer!! Helmut/Benners......

gore galore
Gore Range Ridge Names
07/06/2012 21:34
Here's some background information on the misplaced ridge names in the trip report. The Ripsaw Ridge runs from Peak C to J. The basis for this is found in Ormes' Guide to the Colorado Mountains, Sixth Edition, 1970 as ”the stretch of Ripsaw Ridge points (C to J)...” When Ormes self published his Gore - Tenmile Atlas, 1978 Ripsaw Ridge did not appear on the map but The Saw is shown for the ridge portion between H and J. The ridge between J and P is not named but is simply the headwall of the Upper Slate Creek cirque. The Rockinghorse 12,680 as shown on the Ormes' Atlas is the northernmost high tower of about four on the north ridge of West Partner Peak or as it is sometimes known as the Rockinghorse Ridge. The ”awesome looking or hardiest tower” in the report is Point 12,690 of The Saw. The ”Straight Arrow Couloir” of Peak H is a name I used when I first saw it from the Slate Creek peaks in the 1980's and subsequently climbed it from the south fork of Black Creek. I have seen the name used quite frequently these days.


Many thanks, Gore Galore!
07/06/2012 22:16
Wow, thanks so much for the insight. I guess we were all mistaken. Great to know H to J is The Saw and Rockinghorse Ridge is the north ridge of West Partner perhaps all the way to P? While names don't seem all too important as ridges are just ridges, I'd like to get it right and this is great info. Now if I could change the name of this TR to The Saw.


TR revised...
07/07/2012 01:52
...many thanks, Gore Galore.


Awesome, Brandon!
07/10/2012 16:07
I was hoping you'd write something up on this. Solid day and good luck on the return to Rockinghorse and on Kosi... I forget how to spell it. Australia.


Thanks Ryan
07/10/2012 16:11
Knowing you, you would definitely enjoy that ridge run buddy. Thanks for the well wishes down under. Kosciuszko should be fun. I think you guys were successful on Rainier, so congrats!! Thats wonderful. Love to hear about it at some point.

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