Peak(s):  Belleview Mtn A  -  13,233 feet
PT 13,140  -  13,140 feet
PT 13,180 B  -  13,180 feet
PT 12489
Date Posted:  08/21/2013
Date Climbed:   08/17/2013
Author:  Chicago Transplant
 Beyond the Bells   

PT 13140 A - 533rd highest
PT 13180 B - 503rd highest
Belleview Mtn A (13,233') - 450th highest
PT 12489 - 1,012th highest

East Fork/ West Maroon Pass (10,400')
Access from Crested Butte, follow Gothic Road past town and over Scofield Pass (rough 2WD) to trailhead on north side of pass by appx 1 mile.

Appx 16 miles, 6750' vertical (from TOPO!, I forgot to turn on my GPS)
Some short 3rd class, about 10 hours

Belleview and Maroon from early on ridge


It was time for another visit to the Elks, a range that so far in 2013 I had not visited. Spring work schedule kept me from getting in there during snow climb season when the notorious loose rock is buried behind much more pleasant snow travel, so I would have to deal with the dry conditions and hope for the best. In researching what peaks to climb dry, I decided something that was predominantly a ridge traverse would the best way to go. Seeing a few long days on spring reports of these peaks, it seemed that maybe dry was even preferred for this particular group and a plan was set. I drove over Kebler Pass and through Crested Butte to the trailhead and headed to sleep in the car. It seems most people climb these from the Aspen side, but the Crested Butte side is a great alternative to the crowds and porcupines of Maroon Lake, so I thought I would share.

With sunrise starting to move a little later, my usual start time became a predawn start, but the trail was easy to follow by headlamp and quickly opened up to pleasant meadows. In prime wildflower season, this meadow is a sea of color, but most of them were past prime save a few pockets of brilliant purple. The trail is not too difficult, rising gently as it makes it way to West Maroon Pass with only a few shorter steep sections along the way, mainly near the pass. I reached the pass at 7am for breakfast and was treated to some amazing early morning views of the Bells and Pyramid groups towering over the valley beyond.

Early terrain on ridge (taken on return trip)

The 13er points looked far away, with a long undulating connecting ridge, that unfortunately I would have to traverse twice. I thought bypassing the initial bump would be a good idea, but this ridge is best kept nearly to the ridge crest the entire way. The initially rocky ridge gave way to a grassy section and soon I was halfway to my first peak. The ridge steepened and then traversed a rough section, but surprisingly the difficulty remained class 2/2+.

Little bit rougher section

I was heading straight at the rising sun, and the glare made it difficult to see much ahead, almost the way a fog would yet it was clear.

Rugged up climb

Easier than it looks

Cresting the final false bump along the ridge, I started the ascent up to PT 13130, which is marked on the map and listed on this site and a few other sources as the summit. This is not the highest point on this peak, however, that lies slightly to the southeast and is a good 10' higher. Lists of John indicates this peak at PT 13140 A, having more prominence than the unnamed 13140 point in the Sawatch with that name here. These unnamed 13ers can get confusing and hard to keep track of sometimes!

Eases up towards summit area

The views from the summit were great in every direction, and it felt good to finally be on the first peak of the day, nearly 6 miles away from where I began.

Maroon Bells zoom

Precarious Peak

The second peak is much closer, but connected by a slightly ominous looking ridge. I noticed several potential steps on the ridge and a rugged looking summit tower beyond. The ridge steps were easier than expected, however. The first was right off the 13130 point and a little loose buy easily traversed on the right, the second traversed on the left on a climbers trail.

Starting towards 13180

The third had a small notch that some easy but slightly exposed 3rd class moves overcame before traversing a classic Elk "hidden ledge" across the small tower.

"Secret Ledge" bypass

The next on was easily taken head on and the rest of the way to the saddle was smooth sailing, as was most of the ascent up the other side.

Route up PT 13180

Nearing the summit area there was a funky white rock cluster I bypassed on the right on a narrow ledge and then I traversed to the final class 3 chimney to the summit area.

Funky rocks

Looking at PT 13631 and seeing how close it was, was certainly tempted, but I know people who said once was enough on that ridge and I would have to do it twice. The complicated ridge looked, well, complicated! I spied potential lines through the first half, then it started to lose its appeal. Besides, climbing the other side in snow season is probably more pleasant.

13631 - not today

I reversed the ridge off 13180, and along the way crossed paths with Terri Horvath. I had met her once before on a winter Huron ascent, but hadn't seen here since. Its amazing the amount of times on obscure lessor climbed 13ers that you will cross paths with people you know!

Along the way the views I could not enjoy in the early glare were opening up nicely and I took advantage to have a short break along the way before reaching the pass.

Precarious, Cassi, 13260

I continued over the final bumps in the ridge towards West Maroon Pass, which now that it was nearing 11.30 was becoming quite the hangout spot and made me glad I took my break early. I counted at least 30 people on either one side of the pass or the pass itself as I approached and crossed through! Most don't bother with the peaks though, and soon I was starting up Belleview's ridge alone.

Belleview overview

There is a climbers trail from the pass around some initial towers to a steep class 2+ gully on the left side. Above this point the peak gets a familiar Elk feel to it of stepped ledges that peaks like the Bells and Pyramid are famous for. As you reach a steeper step, the route traverses left below the cliffs to easier terrain and Belleview's false summit.

Ledges below tower

From here the route drops slightly and follows the unique sort of double ridge to the imposing summit tower. While the peak can be intimidating in looks, the route can be kept to class 2+ through the earlier gullies and ledges, and by going right on the summit tower. Follow the scree slope to a steep gully, then up the ridge to the summit.

Summit tower

Access gully to keep it 2+

The views are indeed "Belle", including views of the peaks and of the impressive valleys below. When I climbed Maroon I was particularly fond of Fravert Basin, and this peak rekindled those feelings.

Fravert Basin

The weather was looking good and I had my eyes on a 12er above the trail, so I decided to give it a shot. I headed for Frigid Air Pass and found that this part of the ridge is easier than the part from West Maroon Pass, although loose and not something that would be too appealing to ascent.

Long way to 12489

The ridge parallels Fravert Basin, and the views along the way of Maroon were particularly impressive, I wonder if there is a good climbing route from this side? I have some ideas that seem to meet up with the standard route, might have to try it some day.

Maroon over Fravert Basin

The route became grassy and I was soon at Frigid Air Pass where I descended slightly on the trail, and picked up a different trail to bypass unranked PT 12648 and followed the ridge crest over a few bumps towards PT 12489.

Long way from Belleview

I could have bypassed them in the valley to the left, but it was full of sheep. Not wanting to irk a sheep dog, I stayed to the ridge.

Lots of sheep in basin

The summit was grass and not even a cairn existed. Sometimes that is how it goes with 12ers, as the 13ers gain in popularity, the 12ers still remain reasonably untouched. My original descent route was to go back down the ridge I had come up and pick up the Hasley Basin trail, but the trail went right through the sheep herd so that was off!

No thanks, don't feel like getting mauled by a sheep dog today

I continued down the southeast ridge until I was clear of the herd, descending grass and some loose talus to a plateau near 11,800, and then down the steep slopes back to the main trail.

Descent with no sheep

This was a nice basin full of tall grasses and flowers, although most of the flowers were past peak. There were some pieces of trail here and there, probably from the sheep herding?

Beautiful basin!

Back on the main trail I made quick time back to the car, enjoying the pockets of beautiful purple flowers that hadn't wilted away yet. Then it was off to town of dinner and on to another campsite to read and do it all over again tomorrow.

Wildflower holdouts

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

yay for.........
08/22/2013 13:53
Relatively untouched 12ers! Nice report!


Restoring faith in mankind
08/22/2013 14:17
Thanks for the report Mike - it's a nice refreshing break from the craziness that surrounds the 14ers at this time of year. A nice long alpine ridge walk with some fun scrambling here and there is right up our alley. We are planning well into autumn now...this lonesome loop is going on the short list.


As usual...
08/22/2013 14:32
nice report Mike of another area we don't see very often.


Image 14
08/22/2013 15:11
begs for exploration. thanks for writing this up. we both need to spend more time in that range. the rock sucks but the basins are so unique and lush.

Discretion the better part of valor
08/22/2013 16:06
IMO you made the right call in not continuing to 13631. I recently did the 13631->13180->13140->Belleview circuit starting at Maroon Lake and found the 13631->13180 segment to be far and away the crux. From the summit of 13631 to the saddle was slow going but otherwise reasonable, but from the saddle to 13180, whew! Unenthusiastic about losing more altitude I decided to attack 13180 head on. Kevin Baker's assessment of the ensuing passage as ”steep and very loose, possibly low 5th class” was fairly accurate; I was quickly committed and ardently hoping that the way would go because I had no desire to downclimb back to the saddle. If I were to do this again (unlikely) I would try to repeat KB's route as it sounds a lot more sane than the directissima turned out to be. It took me more than twice as long to get from 13631 to 13180 as it did from 13180 to 13140 even though the later passage is nearly twice as far.


08/22/2013 16:19
You really get things done. Looks like an amazing day.
The Elks look to have a lot of quality and adventure beyond the 14ers.


08/22/2013 17:31
Thanks for allowing me to relive a traumatic experience with that pic of the ridge to 13631.

I found 13180 -> 13140 -> Belleview to be very enjoyable (my partners will agree). Scrambles, air, lush terrain below - everything great about the 13er circuit.

Nice writeup, Mike.


Very helpful ...
08/22/2013 20:41
Beta and wonderful photos. Fravert Basin is just magical with all its greenery and floral splendor. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


Two trip reports of a cairnless 12er in one summer
08/22/2013 21:25
Nice write up, I need to get back there for 13180 and 13140 and the 12er belleview, had weather cooperated I would have climbed two belleviews in one day.

Chicago Transplant

Thanks all!
08/22/2013 23:10
12ersrule - Yep, 12ers rule I actually saw horseshoe prints on the summit ridge of all things.
kimo - This was a lot of fun, but you might want to wait for next flower season, a shutterbug like you will appreciate it!
gdthomas - I like to try and cover new ground, glad to see its appreciated.
Floyd - yes sir we do! Those Rustler gulch 13er apparently hold some snow lines for a future spring weekend trip.
dhgold - I didn't even give 13631 much thought after reading Kevin's TR, I knew it would be a lot of work to run that ridge once, let alone twice!
hoosierdaddy - indeed there are, and I need to explore more of them!
Papillon - Sorry bud, but thanks for the being the guinea pigs so I knew better The rest of that ridge was well worth it though.
Presto - Glad to help, and yes Fravert is magical!
mennoguy - I saw your report as well, of course you had much better flowers, some really nice shots!

Steve Knapp

Looks beautiful
08/23/2013 05:16
Thanks for the report Mike, that's a pretty good day. I'm sure I'll refer to this someday, it has been too long since I've been to the Elks. Great range with so much variety and lush foliage. Yeah some of that red rock gets interesting too.


My One Regret
08/23/2013 20:52
thus far in my hiking career is not getting into the Elks more, and this TR is a great reminder of that! Solitude, rolling green pastures, and grand views of the Bells and Fravert Basin. Hard to beat that in CO. Thanks for posting Mike!

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