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Last summer I drove out to Telluride to hike the west S group. I was planning on starting my trek from where Furthermore ended his, since I didn't have a car shuttle. But when I got to the intersection of Last Dollar Road, there was a house. I couldn't park there, let alone sleep in my truck! So I drove east - away from the peaks, and found the next trailhead. It was late, around midnight by this point, I would figure it out in the morning.
Next morning, I still didn't have a viable solution, so I just started hiking from where I was. It would add on lots of miles to the day, but I didn't know what else to do at such a last minute. First section of trail I was just contouring west to approach the trail I needed to get close to the S group, the Whipple trail.
Along the way, I was treated to an amazing sunrise
I was cruising along on the trail, but then I met a junction, I thought it was the one I needed (it wasn't). But I hustled up for awhile, until I noted that Mears Peak was ahead of me. This was NOT the way I wanted to go. Thankfully I hadn't gone that far, so back down I went. That's when I saw Lizard Head lit up, giving me the middle finger. I should have bailed then!
Got back down to the connector trail, and finally found the Whipple Trail and started up. The trail was faint, and got worse the longer I travelled. Soon the trail was mostly overgrown and barely a single track. From the previous weather days, all this overgrown undergrowth was coated in moisture. Soon I was soaked from the thighs down. Even my boots were soaked!
I kept going, for some stupid reason. Eventually I looked at the time, and the fact I was still well under 10K, and it was after 9am. I was soaked and my chances for making even 1 summit were slim. I would have to turn around and do this peak group another day.
So I hiked back to the trailhead, a bit demoralized. Since Furthermore had the only TR on these peaks, I guess his beta is now partially obsolete. I broke out my map, and checked out where he started the trek, and I found the Whipple trailhead nearby (not where he started). It would mean an up and big down to begin and end the day, but it would work. So I took my time and drove up to that trailhead and camped.
Next day at 3am. BOOM. Thunderstorm. The TH has cell service, so I checked the radar. A line of storms was going to be hitting this zone all morning, one after the other. Even if I waited till past sunrise, I would get soaked again. Time to bail on these peaks, AGAIN! So I waited till after the first storm and started driving down the pass. This is where I remembered the sign I saw at the start of the road. Slippery when wet. Sooooo true. Even with my truck in 4Lo, 1st gear, I was riding my brakes. Too slippery! My tires weren't exactly new, but the mud filled every nook and cranny of them and made the drive down terrifying! (Chains would have helped)
At the base of the switchback, a suburban was coming up. At 3:30am! I was flashing them repeatedly. Don't come up. There isn't room on that switchback to pass. Yet they kept coming. So I had to speed up and head them off. When I met them at the base, it was 2 teenaged boys, fried off their gourd on something. They kept offering me a bump - to help me drive straight. Somehow I convinced them to turn around and drive another way. May have saved their lives.
After that, I drove over to hike San Miguel Peak (and bail on the other 4 peaks planned due to time), and got at least 1 peak on the trip!
Successful: September 22, 2018
Elevation gain: 7,791'
Fast forward to the present. After my last trip into the mountains, my brakes went out on my truck, quite suddenly. My truck is 16 years old and has 136K on it, and the first set of brakes finally went out! So I called up my 4x4 shop, and they could get me in on Tuesday. Ok. My "weekend" might be shot. They called to tell me there was more work to be done than just the brakes and it would be ready late on Friday. Dang, there goes my weekend, and the normal weekend (since I won't drive weekends, let alone with leafers). But I need brakes. I also wasn't inspired to drive the 3.6R Subi to go 13ering. The places I wanted to go need real clearance, not soccer mom car clearance!
So as I was working in my front yard, I get the call before noon on Thursday. My truck was done! What?!? The mechanic said it was because my truck was fully covered in a mud puddle I hit coming down from Pikes. I hit that puddle so hard, the mud went up and over both the cab of the truck and all the way over the topper, to dribble down the back of it! The mechanics were so impressed, they worked on my truck before other vehicles. Imagine that, a 4x4 shop likes to work on vehicles who actually USE their truck, versus just having one for show. So many 4x4's in Boulder are for show, and are pristine. The mechanics make fun of those vehicles. So let that be a lesson for other 4x4's, don't take your vehicle in clean. Hit that puddle!
So here I was with my truck early, and I could salvage a normal weekend. Bonus! So I decided to go for the peaks I had to bail on twice already. This time from a route that I knew would go, if be long and have a brutal 1.6K uphill at the very end.
The drive in was interesting, as most of the Dallas Divide was green, but when I turned the corner to get to Whipple TH, the colors were popping. Many S and W aspects were turned, and some even dropped already. What an interesting year. Dry aspects are ready, while wetter ones are still green.
I settled into the TH after sunset and ate my dinner. With it being the last day of summer, with fall arriving just after sunset, I had all day to hike. No storms on this horizon!
I got started just after a hunter walked up the trail a bit after 5am. Made such good time up the trail, I had lots of time before sunrise, so I decided to add on Whipple Mtn for sunrise. It's only another 300', so NBD. Even then, I got up top and had to wait around a little bit for the money shot of the Wilsons at sunrise. No clouds like the last time, but still pretty nice!
Quick hike back to the pass, and then for the 1.6K loss down to the valley. Got treated to another local sunrise along the way
I hadn't exactly planned to hike all the way to the trail junction with Deep Creek trail, but as I descended, it made the most sense. The Deep Creek trail is faint, very faint, and easily lost. As I turned uphill, now below 10K, the big uphill now began. The trail started off nice, but quickly faded. Crossing meadows became problematic to find the trail on the other side. Some spots had cairns, but that ended soon. It was mostly following game trails at best. I lost and found the trail multiple times, but once on the east side of the stream, the trail stays there and continues in fits and starts.
Once I got up above tree line, my route was visible and the trail pretty much disappeared all together. But I didn't really need it anymore either.
Once above the nice grassy tufts, it was all talus up to S 10. There was a fairly good game/use trail to follow though, so it made things a bit easier, even if the "trail" was quite steep.
Once on the saddle, the trek up to S 10 was easy.
Took a nice break on the summit, since the worst of the mornings uphill was over. Just 3 more peaks along a ridge run. Even then, I didn't stay too long before starting the ridge to the next peak S 9.
The first part of the trek over to S 9 was pretty uneventful, then I got to the saddle below the peak, and the loose talus scree dance began. It looked heinous from afar, but up close it was manageable. I went from solid rock island through the loose crap, to the next solid rock island to rest. Made my way up, and thought I would go to the far saddle/ridge area, but decided at one point that gaining the solid ridge to my left/north would be more fun. So I scrambled my way up to the summit on solid rock with some loose on top. MUCH more pleasant than that loose crap!
These peaks must get just enough traffic, from either the human or elk variety, as there was a "trail" most of the way around this loop! Was not expecting that, on some of the lowest 13ers there are.
Didn't spend a lot of time on the summit, just snapped a couple photos and found my short scramble down the other ridge back onto the loose crap. There are some more rocky prominences along the ridge. Some I went over, but most is just better to go down the loose talus/scree and get below and contour over.
The second half of the ridge to S 8 is super easy talus, so I quickly closed the distance and got on my 4th summit of the day
Nice views from the summit of S 8. The route over to S 7 looked a bit more involved, but still not bad. Even with the time being well into the afternoon, I still had all day to hike. ALL day.
Still I couldn't dawdle too long, so off I went to S 7 and the 5th and final peak of the day.
Once up to the summit ridge to S 7, I could see that it would be the toughest of the day. Not bad, but still more involved. It was narrow and rocky. Nearing the summit, I chose to stay ridge proper and got in some more scrambling. I preferred that to a loose lower traverse. Since this peak would mark my half way mark through the San Juan 13ers, it was going to make me work for it!
Quite a nice summit view. I could tell the route over to Mears looked horrific, and based on BoggyB's choss comment, I didn't have any desire to add on that peak. That south face of Mears is prime for a ski in spring!
With it now getting into the later hours of the day, it was time to drop and go back up Whipple pass area.
Back to the main ridge, I dropped back down to the saddle with S 8 and found the easiest grassy path down the drainage. When the grass ran out, it was a talus hop almost all the way to where I left the trail below to go up S 10. Some cairns here and there amongst the talus. Telluride peeps must get out up here just often enough!
Back down to the "trail" I quickly pass the mile or so back down to the Whipple Mountain trail. I missed a few spots, but the trees are sparse enough that the bushwhack was easy.
Then I just had 1.6K or so back up to the pass. Here I would be able to prove that I have better uphill legs than downhill. I hate hiking downhill. But would my legs like all this uphill??? YES! I crushed that 1.6K in much faster than my usual pace. #uphilllegsfordays
Though even with my fast pace uphill, I didn't beat the sunset. I did get to watch the moon rise, so that was pretty special
At the pass, I then just had 1K downhill to the truck. Uggg, I hate the downhill, and my legs told me so.
Back at my truck before 8:30pm, I had some decisions to make. I needed a good nights rest to recover from today, but the next peaks planned were a 3 hour drive away (I know, bad planning). So after much deliberation, I decided to punt and go with T0 the next day. From my vague rememberances from Furthermore's TR, it was a peak he did one day to beat the monsoons. A ho hum, get it done kind of peak. Little did I know it would actually be an awesome peak and day!
T 0 & Campbell Peak September 23, 2018
Elevation gain: 5,371'
Trailhead: Mill Creek
NEW Route up: NO steep scree / NO steep grass / NO dead fall bushwhacking => SUPER Pleasant!
So after sleeping in, a lot. I finally got on my way to the trailhead well after sunrise. I got to Mill Creek and drove all the way up to the gate. There are only 2 T0 TR's with maps (The only TR's I typically open. Words are great, maps are best. Don't make me interpret your sometimes incorrect words). One from Furthermore and another from Doug62. Hmmm Furthermore described hellacious scree on on his uphill. I guess I'll go his descent route. Doug62's route up the ridge looked good, but I didn't want to drive back to the lower trailhead. But if I went with the Furthermore downhill section, I could always chose my options later, since I could still ascend to the ridge with Campbell Peak.
At the super casual time of 8:30am, I was finally on the trail. I quickly ran into a bunch of bow hunters after their dawn shift. Others were still hiking up though. The turn for the Last Dollar trail came quickly, and up the switchbacks I went. The sunlight was already filtering its way in, and I quickly lost the puffy and soon the R1.
Fall has certainly come to Telluride in pockets. Lots of green still, but also lots of zones where the leaves have turned and fallen already.
On top of the hill, I reached the Sneffels skyline trail and turned off, just as another bowhunter passed by.
Then I got to the open spot on the highland trail, and could get my first views. Dang, spectacular!
I followed the skyline trail till 11.4K where the trail switchbacks and started a nice easy contour along a game trail. Like it was made for me! After the first set of trees, I got a look a the saddle between Campbell and T 0, it looked bad. Like a big ol NOPE!. So I would go with the ridge. I’m not sure that even #richardsonwouldpoundthis
Overall it was an incredibly pleasant side hilling traverse into the drainage below T 0 and Campbell. From there I followed game trails as I zig zagged up to the ridge with Campbell Peak. Quite easy!
Once on the ridge, that rocky prominence began to capture my imagination. Was it easy? Would there be scrambling or route finding involved? This is the fun part of 13ering! Anticipation.
I was approaching the first little bump on the ridge, and I saw 2 women descending. Hmmmm! That must mean the rocky bump is easy, they're not even wearing helmets. Nope. They turned around. They didn't even know the name of the peak they were hiking up! They asked where I was heading, and didn't recognize the name of the peak. But they were super concerned that I was going solo. They mentioned that they went all around the rocky bump and couldn't find a way. Plus the rock was really loose, they said. I calmed them down by mentioning how many peaks I've done, and most of them solo. I also told them I would turn around if necessary.
Oooooo now the real fun begins! Route finding on loose rock to find the class 3 in the cliffs! The anticipation was growing. I like this part of 13ering!
The last section up to the base of this was pretty loose talus, but it was only annoying because of the strong wind buffeting me around. Downhill proved easy enough with poles.
I chose to go up the slightly harder, but more solid class 4 at the left, and then followed the loose rock up the staircase. While loose, the rock won't go anywhere, as long as you aren't a bull in the china shop. Nearing the top, I turned left at a cairn and wound my way up to the top. Not bad at all. Just a little bit of spice!
From the top of Campbell, it was an easy 600' up talus to the top of T 0. Only the red rock band was slightly loose, but closer to the cliff side was stable on the descent.
The summit of T 0 was breezy, but still quite pleasant, I sat up there for quite a while. No matter how fast I descended, I was in for a long night of driving. Might as well enjoy the summit!
As soon as the wind chilled me thoroughly enough to put my puffy on, it was time to go back downhill. I took a use trail that contoured a bit west up Campbell Peak, but you still have to gain the unranked summit.
Finding the spot to scramble down the rocky bump was a bit interesting. But as soon as I saw the cairn marking the broken staircase, I knew I had the spot.
Once below the scramble section, the poles made quick work of the trek down the breezy ridge. I had decided to try the route down the steep grass, through the deadfall and to the Last Dollar trail. I wanted to see which way was best. I don't tend to like steep downhills, as they are slow and painful for me. But, I also wanted to get back to the trail ASAP. What I can say is that I prefer my uphill route. Much more pleasant than this steepness. The bushwhack through the downed trees was just as onerous as advertised. My path of least resistance kept dragging me east, paralleling the trail. So much for my “quicker to a trail option”. At least I managed to catch the trail at the last switchback corner. But, I did get some amazing fall color views on this descent that made up for it.
Once the sun set, I made quick work of the remainder of the trail. Just before I needed to break out my headlamp, I saw 2 deer cross my path, totally uncaring about my presence. I know they can see better than me! Smell me too! Not a few minutes later, and a dark form came crashing out of the bushes. A hunter, using a smart phone for light. Phew! Not a bear.
Got back to the trailhead with only 1 other vehicle left. I quickly set up my tailgate party and ate my dinner. I had a long drive home, starting after 9pm, so might as well eat a good dinner!
Not bad for my 200th trip report!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
for great TRs and beta. I agree, TRs without maps are very hard to follow, and I usually give up reading in frustration Always thankful for maps in both yours and Furthermore's TRs, and quality photos. Keep it up!
T0 as a bicent has been in my spring ski list, like forever (after all the loose choss horror stories), but after this report I am not so sure anymore! Looks like you picked a great route.
True, maps are a great, quick way to get most of the info you need. That's always my first pass when I want to do some research. But others did in fact come up with this route. I've been expecting to use this route since I saw Chicago Transplant's (mapless) TR from 2017. Also, illusion7il just put up a condition update a couple of weeks ago indicating he used this route. So the word is getting out! I'd better get up there before it gets super crowded.
CarpeDM - Chicago Transplant (and illusion7il) went up and down the steep grass (the way I went down), I did read his TR. See, no map leads to misinterpretation. CRĂ˘‚¬„˘s? I never assume thereĂ˘‚¬„˘s much info there on what I do. Haha.
Britt - These were only the best photos too! I took a ton. It was actually 2 days
Anastasia - Got lucky with the leaves, didn't know what to expect with everything turning so rapidly at different stages. Almost back to beast mode! These big days are only possible outside of monsoons, why I didn't bother hiking in July/Aug for the most part.
Those "universe-doesn't-want-me-to-summit-today" challenges are annoying, but they kind of do make the ultimate success that much sweeter.
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