Peak(s):  Stewart Pk  -  13,983 feet
Baldy Alto  -  13,698 feet
San Luis Peak  -  14,014 feet
Organ Mtn A  -  13,801 feet
Date Posted:  06/14/2018
Date Climbed:   06/13/2018
Author:  Wentzl
 Two days 4 Peaks  

This trip report will provide information for those looking to connect Stewart, Baldy Alto, San Luis and Organ Mountains. Extra attention is paid to the traverse from San Luis to Organ with a descent of the East Slopes of Organ Mt. Going up San Luis via Stewart Creek and descending Organ by the East Slopes makes a really nice day and I was surprised I did not find other reports on this loop. But I only came to this conclusion by a roundabout way that began when I set out to climb Stewart, Baldy Alto and Organ in one day. That turned out to be a bit more than I was up for and so I break this report into two parts. First, Stewart Peak and Baldy Alto from Stewart Creek trailhead. Then, the second part, I returned a week later to do the San Luis/Organ Mt. combo.

From Gunnison to the Stewart Creek trailhead is 48 miles, 28 of those are on dirt. The road is in excellent condition and the two stream crossings are very low this year. Just about any vehicle can cross these streams right now.

18632_01
Nutras Ck 6/6/18

Driving in at around 6:00 p.m. I spotted my first moose in the San Juans

18632_02
San Juan Moose

The Stewart Creek trailhead has several nice camping spots nearby.

18632_03
Pull out about 1/4 mile north of the Steward Creek trailhead.

The Roach 13er guide calls the combination "Organ Stew". I set off with the info provided in that book and began with the North Slopes route on Organ and then turn north after 4 miles at around 12,000'. This didn't make too much sense on the ground, but I did follow the Stewart Creek trail clear above treeline and turned north at about 4 1/2 miles and 12,500'. This got access to Baldy Alto NE Ridge which I took to the summit and then descended the NW ridge. The Roach guide for some reason only shows up and down the NW ridge. The traverse up one and down the other works well and is recommended. After gaining Stewart Pk I returned by traversing below the B.A. summit to the NE ridge well above the point Roach suggests.


18632_04
Looking down Steward Creek from the lower flank of Baldy Alto


18632_05
NE Ridge Baldy Alto


18632_06
Saddle between Baldy Alto and Pt.13,795. Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn in the distance. Smoke from 416 fire not bad


18632_07
San Luis Pk from Baldy Alto summit

It took about 4 hours to summit Baldy Alto from the trailhead. Another hour to make the summit of Stewart.



18632_10
Last push up to the summit of Stewart

Looking at Organ from the summit of Stewart I pretty much knew I didn't have the gas to make the triple I set out for in the morning. The view was both inspiring and disheartening. The route to Organ requires dropping all the way back down to 12,000' or so and heading up the drainage and switch backing up the slope show in the next photo.


18632_08
Organ from Steward.

Organ would have to wait for another day, which turned out to be the following week. The effort on this day totaled about 16 miles and took 9 hours.

This area has been pretty hard hit by the spruce bark beetle, at least that is what it looks like from what I saw. Just about all of the trees are dead and looks like they will be ash and smoke in pretty short order.


18632_11
Dead Forest

PART II

San Luis via Steward Creek with Descent via Organ Mt. East Slopes

At the Stewart Creek trailhead the sign says San Luis Pk 5.5 miles. The first 4.5 miles of this trail present a gentle grade on a well maintained trail clear above treeline. The trail continues with some switchbacks up to the saddle between San Luis and Organ. This is very straightforward, scenic and uncrowded. The trail up to the summit continues with a well groomed trail to the top.


18632_12
Trail to San Luis summit

While hiking up San Luis you have plenty of time to view the West Ridge of Organ.


18632_13
Organ from about 13,000' on San Luis


18632_14
Organ from the Summit of San Luis

It was noon on the summit of San Luis, taking 4 hours from the car. The weather was looking marginal, which some dark threatening skies, but also a broken overcast with sun poking through here and there and thankfully, no thunder so far.

The hike to Organ from San Luis took 2 hours. The class III rating for the West Ridge is fair, but I have to say, that for about 10 minutes there was a fairly serious pucker factor. I did find it necessary to remind myself "only class III" as I put together some pretty delicate moves on very loose rock. The need for care cannot be overstated. Getting into the notch is easy enough. I read one report that said going south made the crossing easy. I could see that might be the case, but it would be at the expense of maybe another 100 or so vertical feet. Small price to pay if you don't want an adrenaline rush. But if you are trying the West Ridge for the thrill of doing something exposed and slightly dangerous, drop down from the notch to the north and look for a small, improbable slot for an exit. One out, you get a chance to catch your breath, but the fun is only about 1/2 over. It appears there are several ways to gain the ridge. All should be attempted with caution. This part of the mountain is about as loose and crumbly as anything that can still be climbed. Every foothold and handhold is suspect. It seemed as if 1/3 of everything I touched broke free. But all of this excitement was over in just a few minutes. Once the ridge crest is reached the rest of the climb up Organ is uncomplicated.


18632_15
Organ from the Saddle with San Luis


18632_16
Looking back at San Luis from lower part of West Ridge


18632_17
Just before the notch


18632_18
Looking back at the terrain before dropping into the notch


18632_19
This chimney offered a relatively easy access into the notch


18632_20
Looking north from the notch. The exit is the gully at the highest point of the snow.


18632_21
Looking back up to the notch just before exiting the gully


18632_22
Exit Notch Here


18632_23
Excitement done, cruise to the top.


18632_24
Small snow squalls on the summit of Organ

The Roach guide describes the East Slopes of Organ Mt. a "classic". For this reason, I made an assumption that there would be an obvious trail down the East Slopes. There is NOT. If you do this loop, bring a map, or study one before hand and be ready to figure out how to get down. It is a beautiful and peculiar area. I do recommend this descent, but just want to say that if you are counting on finding a trail to get down, think again. I followed the east slopes to the east clear to treeline. This was a mistake as the "trail" such as is shown on any map, turns north about 1/2 way down the east slopes. I took a photo of googlemaps showing the area. The red line shows my descent and the green the usual way down.


18632_34
Either way works fine

Once I got to the treeline at the far eastern end of the grassy slopes I just followed the obvious drainage down to the Colorado Trail. It seemed a bit sketchy at times, but after about 90 minutes I saw a house and knew that it was fine. Not too overgrown. No cliffs. All in all, a pretty nice alternative which I might do again on purpose should I find myself up that way again. These last photos show the descent and the bush wack.

On this day, I left the car at around 8:00 a.m. Summit of San Luis at noon. Summit of Organ at 2:00 and back to the car at 5:00. I estimate that had I found the trail down Hondo Creek I would have saved about an hour on the day.


18632_25
Heading down the East Slopes


18632_26
About half way down the East Slopes. Most of what is ahead would not be traversed using the standard route


18632_27
Start of bushwack


18632_28
Just follow the drainage


18632_29
Coyote?


18632_30
Might be swampy in a normal year, but easy and dry this year.


18632_31
Dead trees everywhere


18632_32
About an hour into the woods. Glad I have a headlamp!


18632_33
Civilization ahead. A good detour after all!





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 28 29 30 31 32 33 34


 Comments or Questions
SnowAlien

Long day
06/14/2018 21:16
I did those 4 peaks as a day hike, but it was a looong day. Cool that you found a nice way out of the Notch - I ended up descending pretty low.

Organ TR


Wentzl

4 peaks
06/15/2018 06:36
I think going from Baldy Alto to San Luis on the connecting ridge, then Organ might actually be easier than Stewart to Organ as I set out to attempt. Is that how you managed all 4 in one day?


Bird

Skull picture
07/13/2018 09:50
Yes, that is a coyote skull in your picture.



   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here


Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. 14ers.com and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless 14ers.com and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the 14ers.com Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.




© 2020 14ers.com®, 14ers Inc.