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Peak(s):  Pole Creek Mountain  -  13,722 feet
"Northwest Pole"  -  13,670 feet
Date Posted:  10/03/2018
Modified:  10/04/2018
Date Climbed:   09/27/2018
Author:  bergsteigen
 Pole Dancing my way into Beartown   

Day 1: NW Pole, Pole Creek Mountain

  • Mileage: 11.92
  • Elevation gain: 4,125'
  • Trailhead: Rio Grande Reservoir Road
  • Partners: Solo
  • Class: 3/4

I didn't quite get the early start driving to Beartown on Wednesday that I would have liked. Since I only got home at 4am on Monday from Telluride and the last trip, I had a short turn around. So I did most of my research for the peaks I wanted to do upcoming, that morning. So when I got to the top of Stoney Pass for a nice sunset, I realized that I wouldn't make Beartown till well after dark. Not ideal, so I decided it was best to hike the Poles on the way. I had been looking at those for a while now.

Stoney Pass sunset. The Beartown peaks for Friday and Saturday's hikes in the sun

I found a nice campsite just before the intersection with Beartown. Just after that intersection is the trail that passes by the Poles. I set up my solar panel and cooked my dinner as the light faded rapidly.

Next morning I woke up to ice in my unfinished drink and the air hurt my face! Dang I'm not used to these cold mornings yet. What a shock after the heat of summer! I decided to walk down the road and start on the trail, so I wouldn't miss it in the moonlight dark.

Made pretty fast time up the great trail to where I would leave it to go up the steep slope up NW Pole. I followed a few cow paths up the steep section, and once out of the trees, the slope eased.

NW Pole from trail in early morning light
Almost above the trees to the first ridge bump
Grassy slope below first ridge bump

Took a short break below the first ridge bump and then decided to contour around the worst of the talus. On the other side, a large cairn on the ridge drew me back to ridge proper for a while.

Ridge cairn learning the way

Some fun large blocks to climb over and around and through on the ridge. Lots of fun!

Looking back on the fun ridge blocks

Before the next set of cliffs on the ridge, I once again contour around to the right/east. Immediately afterwards, I regained the ridge to make travel easiest.

Grassy slope to the right of the 2nd ridge roughness

Closer I got to the summit, the more the anticipation of the fun summit block got. I knew it would be the cherry on top!

Summit ridge
Cool fracture patterns
Hint at the summit exposure

The last bit of talus contour to the base of the summit wasn't bad at all. I dropped my pack and poles directly below the summit pitch, and only took my camera. I went up to the right/north and then traversed across the face to get to the class 4 option mentioned in Furthermore's TR. I prefer less exposure when I scramble.

Summit block scramble

Traversing the summit block

Summit cairn

Such a fun summit! The scrambling wasn't too hard, but enough to get the attention!

Old summit register. Back to 2003
Pole Creek Mountain

Summit pano SW
Summit pano east

Centennials and 14ers

I stayed up top long enough to get my photos and enjoy it. My pack with snacks was below. So I could take more of a break a bit lower.

Looking down on the summit block north

Looking down on the class 4 scramble to my pack below

After another short break, I noted that the face does go all the way down without cliffs, so down the steep talus I went and back onto nice cushiony tundra

NW Pole's east face
Pole Creek Mtn with ice in a stream still around

NW Pole from saddle
Zoom of NW Pole's summit from saddle

From the saddle it was an easy walk over to the talus slopes of Pole Creek Mtn. The first section is pretty steep, but then it relents. Quite a lot of interesting geology to be seen! The weathering of the conglomerate is pretty awesome. Pre made boulders, ready to pop!

Pole Creek Mtn from saddle
Above first steep talus section
Weathering conglomerate
Approaching the summit plateau
Such cool weathering!

Quite nice to be up on the wide summit plateau of Pole Creek Mtn. Almost felt as large as Longs summit.

Summit pano west
Summit pano east

Ice Lakes Basin!
Sneffels group
San Luis and snow mesa

Quite the grand, clear view from the summit. I even had enough cell reception to watch a weather video from Chris Tomer. Weather would be coming in on Monday, and last for a while. So I would have to make the best of the perfect fall weather that I could.

I thought about dropping down the south ridge and then into the drainage below, and even walked over there. But there were a couple steep drops, and I wasn't sure if it cliffed out in the end above tree line. It would also be a long route of bushwhacking, while I could get back to a trail easier going the way I came up.

Looking down the south ridge

All the other TR's mention dropping down a gully to the drainage below, but as I descended off the summit plateau, that looked heinous. Painful and sloooow. So I decided to go back to the saddle on easier terrain and then drop into the drainage below. Sometimes the longer path is more efficient!

Nasty steep gully some seem to prefer

I almost went all the way to the stream in the valley, when I turned and saw a nice game trail that contoured along the Pole Mtn side of the drainage. It looked nice, and it was!

Game trail as I neared the center of the saddle/drainage
Contouring around on game trails
NW Pole's south face. Ridge I ascended on left
Nasty gully from below - bet I went faster my way!
Further down the nasty gully

Once I met up with the nasty steep gully, I followed the ridge down into the valley. Very minor willow bashing in a few spots, where I missed game trails. But still a very comfortable descent.

Once down in the main stream valley, I tried to follow game paths as much as possible to avoid the worst of the bushes and undergrowth. I even followed a path back uphill to another ridge for awhile, until it ended and I had to go back down. From there it was a short bushwhack back to the trail where I made excellent time back to my truck. I even followed a path from the trail down to the road that would cut off some distance.

The Poles from the trail, near to where there's a gate.
Ute Ridge from the TH
NW Pole from camp

I cooked up my dinner, packed up and drove up to Beartown in the late afternoon light.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

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 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44

Comments or Questions
Drawn to the Poles
10/3/2018 4:15pm
Loved those peaks. Kind of it's own world up there: gateway to the Weminuche. I followed about seventy elk on game trails descending "Pole." They pounded out a superb game trail. It looks like you found a more efficient way, since I tried to take a short-cut down a steep drainage. Thanks for sharing!

10/4/2018 8:03am
A little bit of frosting on the cake when you find a summit register like that
Thanks for the TR

10/4/2018 5:27pm
Rob - That was my first time all the way back there, felt quite isolated! Game trails in the SJâs are key!

Fepic1 - Not the oldest Iâve seen, but pretty good for a bicent! The ones back to the â80s are the rare treats!

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