Peak(s):  "Pk C"  -  13,220 feet
"Pk C Prime"  -  13,100 feet
"Pk D"  -  13,047 feet
"Pk E"  -  13,220 feet
"Pk F"  -  13,230 feet
"Pk G"  -  13,260 feet
Black BM  -  13,129 feet
"Pk H"  -  13,100 feet
Date Posted:  09/02/2019
Date Climbed:   08/25/2019
Author:  xterra-james
Additional Members:   Krisochs
 Ripsaw Ridge C --> H   

This is the story of our 17.5 hour hike from Piney Lake up to Peak C, across the Ripsaw Ridge to Peak G, over to Black Benchmark and Peak H, then straight down to the valley floor. We had a GPS watch with us but it died half way through our traverse. Late August weather in the high country yielded perfect conditions for the effort. Started out chilly and warmed up nicely throughout the day, with a cool breeze for most of our time above 13,000'.

As we drove up to Piney, we were caught off guard by the amount of camp sites closed down for water shed reconstruction , the thought of not finding a spot crept in. Luckily the last camp site before the ranch had an opening. We parked the truck and set up camp, having a few beers and gazing at the crackling camp fire. The clear sky above offered shooting stars and a few failed attempts at taking a Milky way shot at the edge of Piney Lake.....

Waking up for our 445am alarm , leaving the camp site at Piney Lake by 530am. Fired up the Jetboil and ate a hot breakfast of oatmeal and coffee. Gazing at the stars again, we hit the trail loaded up for the day. We both carried 3 Liters of water, 50 oz of Gatorade, a final summit beer, a few sandwiches, bars, trail mix, and a block of cheese with summer sausage. Luckily only a few minutes in, Kris realized he forgot his sunglasses at camp, so I waited at the water while he got his first run in for the day.

Peak C and Ripsaw ridge with the reflection of kayaks on the water at dawn. Drooling knowing that in just a few short hours we will be running across that skyline.
The Spider up ahead.

From Piney Lake Trail, look for the right hand turn to Upper Piney Lake. Shortly after the Spider comes in to view, turn left off of the trail, looking out for a waterfall leading to Tarn Basin. Our departure from the Upper Piney Trail was at about 8:00am (2 hours) in from the lake.

Kris on top of the waterfall.

When approaching the waterfall, stay right as you gain elevation into the basin where the couloir between Peak C and C Prime begins.


View of Piney Lake from the Tarn Basin. Sunrise is catching up to us.

Entrance to the couloir where the fun begins.
Class 4/5 terrain topping out. Had to skirt a few lingering patches of snow on our way up.
All smiles now that we are on the RIDGE !
Airy fun on the way up to Peak C

There are easier routes to the south and west of the ridge proper. The same can be said for pretty much the rest of the day, if exposure becomes too much there are almost always safer, less exposed options by descending to the right and going around.

Scoping out the day's work from the summit of Peak C.

After topping out on Peak C at 9:30am (3.5 hours), we descended back down to the SW couloir. A couple of hundred feet below the saddle, there is a branch off of the main couloir to the looker's right, which serves as the access point to C Prime. The loose gully quickly opens up to a solid class 3/4 scramble on the SE face to the summit of C Prime.

James making quick work of the gully to C Prime.
Out of the gully and on to the steep and slightly exposed SE ramp to C Prime.
C Prime summit block soaking it in.

From the summit of C Prime around 10:00am (4 hours in), we descended back down the ramp and followed the ridge line directly over to the base of Peak D. This section goes quickly and is pretty straightforward class 2 travelling.

On the edge heading to Peak D


Tempting to climb, but thanks to lordhelmut and jbchalk's excellent guidance we knew that going directly up and over the top of the gendarme (above) would not be possible so we followed their lead and skirted around to reach Peak D from the southwest at about 11:30am (5.5 hours). Once on the other side of the gendarme, it became clear that there was no feasible route down the back side. Thanks guys!

James on cloud 9 with the adventure in full swing.
Picture time on Peak D summit at high noon. (6 hours in)


Its hard to see way out there, but in red are Peak E, G, Black Benchmark and Peak H. We had documentation out to Peak G and were feeling good about making it at least that far. However, the faint glimpses of Black Benchmark and Peak H throughout the day were the carrot that we were really chasing.

Peak E approach.
Closing in on Peak E.

The section between D and E was a bit blurry now having been on the ridge for a few hours. It is mostly class 2/3 along the way, with any questionable sections at first glance proving to be very manageable. The only notable section between D and E is the Peak E's subsummit, which can be climbed over the top with a few 5th class moves, but also easily bypassed by working around it to the south and reaching the col just below the real Peak E summit. From there, it's a quick scramble to the top. We arrived at Peak E at about 1:30pm (7.5 hours).

Whats my name again?

Summit register dating back to 1948. We were #3 and 4 signatures dated in 2019 and only a few pages worth in total. Pretty amazing to be able to leave our mark in history along with the lucky few who stood there before us.

1,000 miles from nowhere...Peak F (right) and G (left) further south. The section between them and I would prove to be a challenge.

After descending Peak E, things slowed down quite a bit with several towers between E and F which are not really efficient or safe to try and stay at ridge line. This seemed to be an endless sequence of blind corners, turning one after the next hoping that what's on the other side is passable. Fortunately, it was all mostly passable only having to backtrack once or twice but definitely one of the larger mental efforts of the day.

Peak G with Ripsaw Ridge behind us and Mt. Powell at far right.

After reaching Peak F, we descended to the F/G saddle on mostly class 3/4 terrain. After Peak G we were faced with another large tower/gendarme. Staying right and traversing high lead us to a gully were we could see the ridge. Attaining the ridge presented us with an amazing scramble / climb !

Lost in all its glory, we didn't take many pictures while on the ridge. Taking in the sights and living in the moment. No camera in hand, just rocks and air...

Beginning of Black Benchmark

These are now only stellar memories...

Looking back to peak F and G from somewhere among the Black Benchmark bliss...
Black Benchmark summit
On the summit of Black Benchmark looking down the ridge at Peak H and our descent to the valley floor
Looking at

Black Benchmark had the best scrambling and climbing of the day. Exposed, airy, spicy, ridge proper Gore Range fun. The section between the two vertical snow patches (above) all went ridge proper and it was glorious! After the southern terminus of Black Benchmark, it turns to grassy slope for a mellow victory lap up to Peak H and back.


On Peak H looking down at the little connecting ridge to Peak Q or West Partners

Suffering down the gully from Peak H to the valley floor
Black Benchmark on the left, Peak H on the right . Descent off the peak aimed down and right to the drainage
fun scrambling / climbing

We wanted an adventure and we sure found it ! The 17.5 hour day was a long one to say the least. Since the watch died we aren't sure of the exact distance or elevation gain... whatever it was , we felt it.

A few things that made this trip attainable and enjoyable:

First was the use of hiking poles on the loose, steep descent. If it weren't for the poles, I may still be out there. We both wore a layer for wind protection, a lightweight hoodie made for fishing works great. Hard rubber soled boots gave me confidence as we climbed around the ridge. A softer lightweight trail running shoe would not have... In case of an emergency we had a Lifepen to filter water out of a stream, an emergency blanket, first aid kit, compass, and many more things that ensured the packs weren't too light.

Also, as most people seem to have, we used the trip reports from lordhelmut and jbchalk

Thank you guys

Having the use of previous trip reports saved us a lot of time. We stayed ridge proper for most of the day, but knew to skirt around a couple towers that seemed climbable. We did find our own way across Black Benchmark and over to Peak H. Also, we now know that the drainage off Peak H goes all the way to the valley floor following a stream with a few steep sections but nothing that can't be navigated through or around safely.


James & Kris

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 42 43 44 45

Comments or Questions

09/02/2019 09:20
Looks like a blast! Great first TR. I'll definitely reference this in the future.


09/02/2019 19:10
Looks like a fantastic trip! Awesome report too

09/06/2019 09:40
Nice work. I've been dreaming of that ridge for a while now and this got me stoked to go try it!

   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. 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 and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2021®, 14ers Inc.