Peak(s):  Santa Fe Pk  -  13,180 feet
Sullivan Mtn  -  13,134 feet
Geneva Pk  -  13,266 feet
Landslide Pk  -  13,238 feet
Date Posted:  03/03/2020
Date Climbed:   05/11/2019
Author:  supranihilest
 Montezuma's Revenge   

Everyone knows what Montezuma's Revenge is. Rather unpleasant, no? Unlike that Montezuma's Revenge the mountains above Montezuma, a small town near Keystone, are rather pleasant. They form a long ridge and wall to the east and southeast of Montezuma, and south of 14ers Grays Peak and Torreys Peak. Unlike their higher neighbors these 13ers are quiet and unassuming, a nice reprieve from the typical 14er hordes.

Early season in this year's high snow year meant that I had to contend with said high snow. I didn't know much about these mountains except that they appeared to be relatively easy. None of the other peaks I'd climbed nearby, be they 13ers or 14ers, held many dark secrets so I figured the Montezuma Mountains would be a good continuation after climbing the great Sawatch monolith Mount Ouray. The snow kept me on my toes, and I had to ascend to the ridge and descend off of it through avalanche terrain, a questionable proposition at that time.

The hike starts off right in Montezuma. An old mining road switchbacks up Santa Fe Peak's northeast slopes to a saddle with Santa Fe Peak and 12,474-foot Morgan Peak. There's a small parking lot at the bottom of the road, which was closed still due to snow, and it is this road that's key to an easy ascent to the ridge. I found tracks on the very first leg of the road's switchbacks, and then the tracks cut straight up the slope through the forest, touching the tip of the second and then the last switchback prior to opening up at treeline.

Initial ascent on the road.
On the road looking up in the general direction of Santa Fe Peak, on the right.
If you've ever seen these and wondered what animal this could be, it's a rabbit/hare. The prints side by side are the rear paws and the ones in single file are the front paws, so this rabbit was moving towards the camera.

The ascent up through the tress was steep but not arduous. I had a single track of boots, snowshoes, and skis to follow up instead of breaking my own trail, though that only lasted until treeline. Past that I diverged from what had become a narrow skin track going directly to the ridge. Instead I stopped to strap on my snowshoes while talking with a pair of skiers I had overtaken, then left them behind and made an ascending traverse south across the open slopes to an area I knew would be lower angle.

Skin track leading up to Morgan Peak.
Completely untouched snow all for me!

The wide open, smooth slopes gave me pause. This seemed like prime terrain for a low-probability, high-consequence avalanche. The snow appeared very stable and there wasn't any evidence of previous slides here but my senses were tingling. This was the first of two areas that had potential for danger; I tread lightly but quickly through it.

Morgan Peak. This was the skier's target.

I snowshoed to just below a large bump on the ridge, then turned due south. Santa Fe Peak's north slopes were broad and inviting and would make for a quick, easy ascent.

Santa Fe Peak's north slopes. By making a direct ascent one can simultaneously avoid all steep terrain.
Torreys Peak on the left, Grays Peak on the right. I'd never seen them from this angle before, which was cool.

Santa Fe was deceptive. From a distance it didn't look like it was that far away, yet the closer I got somehow the farther it seemed to stretch into the distance.

Chugging along on some of the smoothest snow I've ever seen.
That still isn't the summit.
Unique perspective of Mount Evans in the rear center, the Sawtooth in the middle foreground, and Mount Bierstadt on the right.

Once I topped out on what had appeared to be the summit I was presented with yet more to go.

True summit of Santa Fe Peak.

I got to the top and was just a few feet short of the magical 3,000 foot mark, so I snowshoed south a little bit, since it was steeper and would get me the elevation faster, then back to the summit to just over 3,000.

Not good enough.
That's better.

If it hadn't been close I wouldn't have bothered, but there was no excuse to scrimp here. With that out of the way I could move on to unranked Sullivan Mountain. Unranked and uninspiring Sullivan Mountain, that is.

The remaining climb in view. Sullivan is the barely-there bump in the left foreground. That's a peak? I'd call that a subsummit of Santa Fe.

There was almost nothing to Sullivan and it only took me 25 minutes to reach from the summit of Santa Fe.

Summit slopes to Sullivan. Woo. spins ratchet

At least Geneva looked somewhat interesting. It was the second of the two ranked peaks on this loop and entailed a good chunk of elevation loss and re-gain, far more than for Sullivan, and an unknown but narrow summit ridge.

Geneva Peak. Interesting looking summit ya got there, Geneva.

Down I trudged, still wearing my snowshoes. They probably weren't strictly necessary but I was just too lazy to take them off. I'll climb a mountain (or four) but I won't change footwear, that's just too far! It was about 400 feet down and another 550 up to the summit, and like the first two peaks of the day was largely uninspiring until I got close to the summit. Things did get more interesting, much to my delight.

More open slopes up Geneva Peak.
Ok, this looks like it might hold something just out of view...

A small block on the ridge stood directly in my way. To the east was a sheer drop off the Continental Divide. The west was also quite exposed. Guess I'll just have to scramble over it, cool!

Exposure to the west.

The scrambling up and over the block was short and sweet, going at a nice Class 2+ with snowshoes on. Would it have been easier without the snowshoes? Yeah. But laziness reigns supreme. The block ended up being the only interesting and even mildly notable part of this climb, but it was not Geneva's true summit. It was close, only a few feet short of being the true summit, which was just a short walk beyond. Well, that was fun. A perplexing situation lay in front of me.

What's perplexing about this? I must've lost my mind.

Let's take a closer look at this scene.

On the left we have Landslide Peak. This is a peak.
On the right we have... nothing. What.

Now to be fair to my hypoxic brain the distinction is largely visual; Landslide Peak is slightly higher and as best as I can tell has slightly less prominence than its unnamed neighbor. I often wonder how peaks are named and what makes little bumps on a ridge worthy of being considered peaks, and this was no exception. I snowshoed over to Landslide and tried not to think too hard about it, lest my poor little brain overheat and steam began to whistle out of my ears.

Pokemon is somehow relevant.

Boulder on the summit of Landslide Peak. Yes, I stood on top of it.
Looking back at Geneva Peak's gentle southern slopes.

I should have gone over to the unnamed peak, which sits at an elevation of 13,214 feet, just in case it ever gets added to "the list" at some point, but I skipped it for today. If it does in fact make its way onto the list I'll just do the entire ridge from Santa Fe to Webster Pass and take the road back down. As it were that's probably what I should have done, since it likely would have been safer than the descent route I took down a loaded gully; the lexical similarities to a loaded gun are obvious.

Loaded gunny. snicker

While there wasn't a ton of risky terrain in the gully there was still some, as well as a sizeable cornice on the rib immediately to my north, which I wanted to avoid. Temperatures were warm and solar gain was high, and the snow all day had been very stable, but I still approached the gully with care; I wanted to go fast to get away from the objective hazard (an avalanche) there, but not fast enough that I'd trigger that objective hazard if I were straddling that line. Because the hillside to my left (south) quickly rolled over into flat terrain that pointed away from me I tried to stay farther left. That way if an avalanche did break I wouldn't be at the bottom of the gully to take the full force of it, and the snow to my left would slide away from me straight down the hill instead of into the gully. I tread lightly as I went, and the farther down I went the softer, deeper, and stickier the snow got until I was wallowing around in wet slop. While I was still in a runout zone at least I had made it out of the immediate danger zone.

Gentle terrain from here on.

The snow at this point was slowing me down but at least it was all downhill. I showshoed into the trees and angled west-northwest, searching for the road. I wasn't sure if it would still be snow covered or melted, but it should at least be an obvious wide path through the trees to give me direction. I located the road and took a look back at the gully I'd come down - a nice view but I was glad to be out of there.

Geneva Peak on the left and the unnamed bump on the right.

I had a few miles to go on the road at this point, so on I went until the road had melted into a muddy mess. I surveyed my work for the day as I marched onward.

Montezuma Mountains.
Large gully coming off of Santa Fe peak with ski tracks.

A few private roads led off to homes; I obviously stayed on the main road. A car came down and the two older gents (and their cute dog) in the car generously offered me a ride back to the trailhead, an offer which I readily took up. I'd already done the hard work, no point in wasting time and effort while chewing my boots up in the mud. They dropped me off at my car and then went skiing, thanks guys! With the exception of short sections at the start and end of this route that could be potentially dangerous with snow this is a fun, easy loop that nets a high number of 13ers relative to the amount of effort required.


Climbers: Ben Feinstein (myself)
Trailhead: Santa Fe Peak Road
Total distance: 8.96 miles (this number reflects hitching a ride at the end)
Total elevation gain: 3,850 feet
Total time: 6:04:57
Peaks: Four thirteeners (two ranked, two unranked)

  • Santa Fe Peak, 13,180'
  • Sullivan Mountain, 13,134' (unranked)
  • Geneva Peak, 13,266'
  • Landslide Peak, 13,238' (unranked)


Starting Location Ending Location Via Time (h:mm:ss) Cumulative Time (h:mm:ss) Rest Time (m:ss)
Santa Fe Peak Road Santa Fe Peak 2:57:22 2:57:22 0:00
Santa Fe Peak Sullivan Mountain 0:25:16 3:22:38 0:00
Sullivan Mountain Geneva Peak 0:49:50 4:12:28 0:00
Geneva Peak Landslide Peak 0:14:29 4:26:57 0:00
Landslide Peak Middle of nowhere on Montezuma Road¹ 1:38:00 6:04:57 Trip End

¹I got a ride from a couple of nice gents back to my car instead of hiking the entire road.

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

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 3 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50

Comments or Questions

Rabbit tracks...
03/04/2020 08:30
I sure wish I could move as fast across snow as they do.

Nice report, Ben. It isn't clear to me if you caught Morgan or not? As I recall, it's a nice view from Morgan. And your thoughts about how Santa Fe seemed so close but just kept seeming farther away was spot on.

I have only done these peaks in the summer. Looks like I need to get back there when there is a lot of snow! Nice, nice report, Ben - as always.

PS - Assuming we do end up doing some mountain (or couloir) together, remind me to tell you my story about Landslide Peak....


03/04/2020 13:27
Jay, did you climb Landslide Peak so friggin' hard that you sheared the mountain right in half and caused an epic landslide? I'm still planning on doing Skywalker and the Arapaho traverse with you this spring, looking forward to hearing your Landslide story then.

Edit: no, I didn't do Morgan. I wasn't thinking about doing 12ers at the time. Now that I've done kaboodles of 13ers I should start taking the 12ers seriously too.


"rabbit tracks"
03/03/2020 20:11
I mean, we allllll know what those really are.

Side note, how do rabbits all have my exact sense of humor?


Code word rabbits wink wink
03/04/2020 13:29
@yak: Those are definitely the tracks left behind when I whip out my pogodick, er, uh, I mean pogostick. Works great in the snow. XD

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