Peak(s):  Precarious Pk  -  13,380 feet
PT 13,260 A  -  13,260 feet
"Cassi Pk"  -  13,232 feet
Date Posted:  06/07/2013
Date Climbed:   06/03/2013
Author:  Furthermore
 Precariously Fun  

Precarious Peak 13,380
Point 13,260
"Cassi Peak" 13,232

June 03, 2013
~12.9 Miles, ~4,900 Gain
TH: ~0.5 Miles short of the Rustler Gulch TH. Stopped due to snow drift. 4WD mandatory for crossing East River in high water. High clearance otherwise.
Max difficulty: Sustained class 3.


Night shifts. I am not a fan and I prefer my 8 hours of good sleep a night. I got off work at noon on the 2nd and started my drive towards Crested Butte. As a leg stretcher I added 12,792, 12,581 and 12,580 off of Cottonwood pass. The peaks went at easy class 2 or class 1 with ~4.9 miles and ~1,900 gain. Ryan was able to join me for 12,581.

Unsure of how far we could drive, we discovered that the road up to Rustler Gulch was open but didn't venture up the road that evening. We both slept in our cars at the 2WD Judd Falls parking area and set up for a car shuttle in the morning in the event we decided to add White Rock Mountain and White Benchmark. Conditions and weather permitting.

Exciting. Now that is a good adjective for crossing East River at 4:00 AM. The water was flowing at a good rate and was surprisingly deep. The crossing was even more exciting in the afternoon as the wake of the water flowed over the hood. Probably will not do that again. More sleep needed.

Further up the road in my sleep deprived state, I missed a snow drift and plowed my car into a ditch and dented the under armor on my car. Ryan, where were you on that one? Opps. We found our parking spot 50 feet beyond the first snow drift and we started hiking up the Rustler Gulch road at 4:25 AM.

Soon the road ended and we were hiking on a good trail up Rustler Gulch. A few stream crossings later, we arrived in the upper basin where snow was persistent above 11,000. Good consolidated snow led us to the south face of Precarious. Two options for snow climbs presented itself; the south face or the southwest couloir. Both appeared to be equally difficult and we decided to climb the south face since it appeared to be a more direct line to the summit. It would also put us in a better position for climbing other 13ers in the area.

Gothic Mountain in the morning light.

Pretty approach.

Avalanche debris

Point 13,260

Looking up the couloir we ascended on Precarious from the base.

Gearing up at 12,400, we donned our crampons and started up perfect Styrofoam snow. A few lines of snow presented itself on the south face and we took the furthest left line without going into steep cliffs. Deciphering a good route wasn't easy at the base. The snow line we took veered right into a more prominent couloir which we couldn't see from our approach from the west. A sweet snow ridge between the couloirs presented some very enjoyable snow climbing as the snow ridge steepened to 40-45 degrees.

Ryan on the lower section of the couloir.

Sweet snow ridge.

Snow ridge (it's not that steep)

Ryan wishing he had mountaineering boots. (it's not that steep)

Once in the main couloir, we encountered a mixed section with some ice and rock before finishing the couloir on 45-50 degree snow. Since the main couloir doesn't ascend directly to the ridge, we had to exit the top of the couloir to the left onto more gentle terrain. The upper portion of the mountain eased to 30-40 degrees where the snow slopes deposited us on the ridge

Mixed ice and rock section.

The steep upper couloir.

Ryan exiting the steep couloir.

Upper mountain.

Ryan working his way up the upper mountain. "Cassi" Peak in the background.

Views from the summit ridge were amazing and the great snow made for one of the more enjoyable 13er summits I have visited. We arrived on the summit at 8:20 AM. The Bells loomed to the north with expansive views to the south. We carefully down-climbed and descended the more prominent couloir to our snowshoe stash at 12,400.

Final bit to the summit ridge. Point 13,260 in the background.

Steep north face from the summit.

Ryan approaching the summit of Precarious.

Bells and Pyramid from the summit of Precarious.

BW of the Bells and Pyramid.

Ryan on the summit of Precarious.

Down-climbing the steep couloir.

Without a doubt, Precarious would go from one of my favorite 13ers to one of my least favorite 13ers without snow. The amount of choss under the snow would be not be enjoyable and both Ryan and I agreed that this peak should be done as a snow climb. Why take a stellar snow climb and turn into a dangerous choss fest? Unless, of course, that is someone's fancy.

With plenty of good weather ahead, we hiked to the "Cassi"-13,260 saddle and ditched our packs for our quick ascent of 13,260. The snow covered northeast ridge made the climbing enjoyable and quick. We arrived on the summit at 10:20 AM. Without snow, the climb would be a class 2 hike on undesirable rock. Again, snow made 13,260 a worthy adventure.

Summit ridge on 13,260. "Cassi" Peak in the background.

Ryan on the summit of 13,260.

Precarious from the summit of 13,260.

As we descended back to the "Cassi"-13,260 saddle, we both agreed the snow was softening at a rate that by the time we descended to Copper Creek and back up to the White Rock group, that the snow would be much too soft for enjoyable climbing and probably too dangerous for any couloirs or glissading.

"Cassi's" southwest ridge wasn't as straight-forward as a class 2 climb since rock towers lined the ridge. Climbing through bands of snow mixed with a class 3 move or two, we sinuously weaved our way between the rock towers up to the summit where we arrived at 11:00 AM. A more direct snow covered northwest face was more appealing for a descent.

Southwest ridge on "Cassi"

We glissaded the northwest face of "Cassi" traversing south back to our packs. Collecting our packs, we descended back down into Rustler Gulch. Snow was softening quickly but we were able to avoid using snowshoes. We arrived back at my car at 1:45 PM for another fine Elk 13er adventure.

Precarious Route

Route Map.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

 Comments or Questions

06/07/2013 15:38
That area has been on my short list for an extended snow climb trip for far too long. Thanks for posting. Roach seems to be right on with his classic peaks.


06/07/2013 16:07
Not a fun peak without snow for certain. The pics on the Pit Stop Traverse certainly look steeper than it was. Nice pano too. Thanks for accommodating a partner and plowing through streams and dirt in addition.

Pics with the elusive Furthermore:


06/07/2013 16:33
I like how ~4,900 gain is a ”leg-stretcher.”


06/07/2013 16:38
That was a typo. 1900*

Lady McClimbsalot

Very impressive
06/07/2013 18:12
This is inspiring! I just climbed Yale last weekend as my first 14er... can't wait to get to this level someday!


Nice camera tilt
06/07/2013 19:24
I never knew 87 degree slopes could hold that much snow. Nice job!


good call for a snow climb
12/16/2013 12:35
Ah, I guess after climbing 500 13ers or so you you've learned a thing or two, Derek. Taking a look at the TR's and deciding to try a snow climb, that's a real good call. As you noted, there's a bunch of broken rock up in that basin and you just hopped right over it. Although as somebody who did the south face route last year (your ascent route and SarahT's route as initiated by Kirk M.), we had a party of four on the face and never really considered the loose rock hazard to be exceedingly, uh, precarious. The summer route goes reasonably well even with all the choss around, but I agree, if you're looking for snow climbs and to bag 13ers, I think you're on to something here for Precarious.

Nice job guys, and another fine report. Looking forward to the report on Ice, which is another one of those peaks where snow might make it a lot easier.

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