Red Pk B - 13,189 feet
Red Pk B - 13,189 feet
|Round Up of Stray Summits On Red Peak Massif, Gore Range|
ROUND UP OF STRAY SUMMITS ON RED PEAK MASSIF, GORE RANGE
by gore galore
I sometimes liken myself to those cowboys of yore who set out to find and round up those stray animals on the open range and bring them back into the fold just as I set out to find and round up those stray summits on mountain massifs and bring them out from hiding.
I have to say that I look at a mountain as more than just a summit because most mountain summits are part of mountain massifs. In this respect there are all types of geographical features and in this instance different types of summits on mountain massifs.
There are main summits and sub summits and false summits and directional summits. Some summits are mountain tops; others are peaks, points and pinnacles. Some summits are triangulation stations and bench marks and elevation points; others can be noticeable contour line summits.
In other words there can be a vast array of summits on mountain massifs and like those cowboys of yore with their horses and lariats I often find myself setting out to find and round up those stray summits on foot with map and compass.
RED PEAK MASSIF
A good example of finding and climbing and rounding up stray summits is on Red Peak, one of the larger massifs in the Gore Range. Red Peak has a tremendous location in the southern part of the range where it is a part of everyday life to those in Dillon and Silverthorne. Most will view this mountain as a long ridge with twin summits but Red Peak really has twelve total summits as part of its massif.
A brief orientation of these summits before some climbing adventures is in order first. On the main northeast trending ridge of the massif is the West Red Peak Sub Summit, 13,005; then the Main Summit of Red Peak, 13,189; the East Red Peak False Summit, 13,080; the East Red Peak Summit, 12,945; and the East East Red Peak Summit, 12,885.
Little Red Peak, 12,450 is located on the west slope of the massif; Red Point 11,980 in the south cirque; Red Point 11,902 in the southeast cirque; Red Point 11,895 on a southeast spur ridge; Red Point 11,145 on the east slope; Red Point 10,812 on the north side in the Willow Creek valley; and the “Loose Goose” pinnacle somewhere on the north ridge.
Except for the “Loose Goose” which I haven't been able to conclusively locate, I have climbed all of the remaining eleven summits as part of the round up of stray summits on Red Peak massif.
I climbed RED PEAK on 6/28/1980 which was the first of many climbs of this peak by varying routes to the main summit and its stray summits. I used the south cirque route which ascends the moraines of the cirque and passes to the right of Red Point 11,980. I was summit minded in those days and it wasn't until 2019 that I set out to climb Red Point 11,980 as a round up stray summit.
RED POINT 11,980 is a small appendage that juts eastward into the cirque below the south ridge of the main peak. It is probably the resistant escarpment of the glacier that formerly lay in this cirque. It is something of a neat conical summit at the end of the appendage wearing a jacket of krumholtz on its right side of which its edge is the short ascent route from the moraines in the cirque to its unmarked summit. Red Peak rose tantalizing above and I repeated my south cirque route of 39 years ago in 1980 to its summit again.
In 1984 I hiked into the Willow Lakes and climbed the broad north ridge of talus to RED REAK'S summit. This north ridge proper rises from the uppermost of the Willow Lakes. Sometimes the Gore Range dividing ridge further west on which the Zodiac Spires reside is mistakenly called the north ridge of Red Peak. This dividing ridge is actually the north ridge of the West Red Sub Summit, 13,005. Unfortunately I have not yet climbed this route.
On my 1984 trip I crossed to the WEST RED PEAK SUB SUMMIT, 13,005 and then descended the south ridge to Red Buffalo Pass and the Gore Range Trail in the South Willow Creek valley. The reverse of this route of the south ridge is usually the standard route to Red Peak.
A detour few people probably take from the standard south ridge route to Red Peak leads one to the western slopes and the two contour line swirls of LITTLE RED PEAK, 12,450. I climbed this stray summit in 2017 and wrote of it in my trip report “A Connoisseur of the Obscure and the Tools of the Trade of the Topographic Map.”
From this unique vantage point one can see just how big the Deming Drop face of Deming Mountain really is, peer into the Gore Lake Sanctuary of Snow Peak or look over the tops of the Zodiac Spires into the rarely entered south cirque of Mount Silverthorne.
THE MYSTERY OF THE “LOOSE GOOSE”
The north ridge proper of Red Peak also holds one of the great mysteries for me in the Gore Range. In 1956 Mark Addison and partners made two exploratory climbing trips into the Willow Lakes region taking the liberty of naming the western pinnacle ridge the Zodiac Spires and climbing seven of the nine spires for first ascents.
Their first trip concentrated on Red Mountain as they called it and its faces and pinnacles. Addison's trip report wrote that their climb led up a 300-foot face to the north ridge itself. “Though we were roped for this section of the climb, technical difficulties were not numerous.”
They moved along the ridge and climbed “a gendarme which we dubbed the “Loose Goose” due to the poor quality of its rock. This proved to be an interesting technical climb of two leads up a shallow chimney with two pitons for protection.” Proceeding upwards “we found several pinnacles which offered good practice on the way to the top.”
Their report also had a hand drawn map with a simple straight line for the north ridge of Red Mtn and an asterisk mark for the location of the “Loose Goose.” I looked upon this crude map as something of a treasure hunter's map as I set out in 2013 to find and possibly climb the “LOOSE GOOSE” of fifty seven years ago.
The hike in from the Willow Lakes trail revealed a promising pinnacle rising from the ridge edge bordering the north cirque. I found the direct approach to the north ridge on slabs and ledges to the right of a wall as Addison might have where “technical difficulties were not numerous.”
Once on the ridge I climbed the talus to a minor and then the major pinnacle that I saw from the trail. But both of these were short easy Class 2 climbs from the ridge and nowhere could I find a “climb of two leads up a shallow chimney with two pitons for protection.”
I proceeded upwards as Addison did but stopping below the summit as the hunt for the “Loose Goose” seemed over. I will probably never find the location of the “Loose Goose” as it remains a mystery to me.
NORTHEAST RIDGE CLIMBS
In 1992 I decided to take a look at the northeast ridge of Red Peak from the EAST RED PEAK SUMMIT, 12,945 expecting to continue on to the main summit. But this ridge would have more in store than I was prepared to handle at the time. Later in time it would be called the Red Diamond Ridge.
I approached it from the southeast cirque beginning from the prominent talus field that the Gore Range Trail skirts in the South Willow Creek valley. I climbed the talus and a partial avalanche path to the moraines of the south east cirque without attaching any importance to the stray summit of Red Point 11,902 that I passed by unnoticed in this cirque.
More important to me at the time as I wrote in my notes was that “ahead is the rough ridge and head wall of Red Peak's southeast cirque.” I was able to climb the upper southeast spur ridge to the East Red Peak Summit, 12,945 marked by a wooden post. The Red Diamond Ridge would have to wait for me at another time.
During my round up of stray summits on the Red Peak massif, RED POINT 11,902 assumed its importance in 2019. I used my compass for direction for I could not readily see this summit as I climbed upwards on the same approach route as above to the southeast cirque and then below the terminal moraine veering left across small timbered escarpments and morainal debris to a draw and the east side grassy slopes to the unmarked bare summit ringed by krumholtz growth.
The view of that “rough ridge” ahead now known as the Red Diamond Ridge is outstanding as is the “head wall” or southeast face of the East Red Peak False Summit, 13,080. And like in 1992 I have to wonder if anyone has climbed this face which is a prominent feature of the mountain from far below in Dillon and Silverthorne.
The northeast ridge of Red Peak became of interest again in 1997 because of the EAST EAST RED PEAK SUMMIT, 12,885. On this trip I bushwhacked up Middle Willow Creek from the Gore Range trail to this summit at the beginning of the northeast ridge. I don't think I paid particular attention to the deeply inset couloir on the north face of the East East Red Peak Summit which would become of importance to me a decade later.
My interest then was to rock scramble across three ridge points to the EAST RED PEAK SUMMIT, 12,945 marked with a wooden post that was still there from 1992. I remember several wooden posts on this stretch of the northeast ridge with a wooden cross one point short of the 12,945 summit. This is one of three wooden crosses that I have come across on high alpine ridges in the Gore Range.
I reversed my descent route to the East East Red Peak Summit and then along the south edge of the east side basin of the Red Peak massif to the Gore Range trail. This descent route took me close to Red Point 11,145 in the basin but I didn't have that interest in 1997.
I came back with interest two decades and two years later in 2019 to round up the stray summit of RED POINT, 11,145. I left the Gore Range trail and began bushwhacking the east slopes through fallen timber and snow patches into the heavier timber that shaded the snow from October's first storm.
The slope steepened considerably as I gained the small basin under the east face of the Red Peak massif. My compass pointed in a southerly direction along a ridgelet at the outer edge of the basin with stunted tree growth to a small unmarked bare summit surrounded by the growth.
I was rewarded by surprising views of the Lake Dillon area and the goat trails crisscrossing the east face above the basin. Perhaps I will remember most the descent from the basin down those steep and slick snow covered upper slopes using groups of trees and their branches to “rappel” to more level ground and back to the trail.
RED DIAMOND RIDGE
In 1992 I had turned back at the beginning of the ridge between East Red Peak and Red Peak. Stan Wagon and Bill Briggs climbed this ridge in 1995 for a first known ascent. They called it the Red Diamond Ridge. Bill placed a query in “Trail and Timberline” magazine of the Colorado Mountain Club as to whether it had been climbed before. “Does anyone have information or history about the traverse of the rugged ridge that connects East Red Peak to Red Peak?” Perhaps no one knew.
After another traverse of the ridge was done by Stan Wagon and two others in 1997, Stan Wagon and myself and two others set out to climb the Red Diamond Ridge in 1999. We left the Gore Range trail and bushwhacked the lower slopes above the cliffs that border the north side of the South Willow Creek valley and which has seen some rock climbing activity on a feature called the Waterfall Buttress.
We gained the curving southeast spur ridge at RED POINT 11,895. I don't remember much about this timberline stray summit because we were on our way to bigger things. Perhaps someday I should climb this as a primary objective.
The Red Diamond Ridge begins at the EAST RED PEAK SUMMIT, 12,945 and this was the third time I had come to this summit point. I have the particulars of this climb written down and we used the rope with the Red Diamond Arete being the crux.
When we arrived at the EAST RED PEAK FALSE SUMMIT, 13,080 I took some pictures and set my camera down as I traced the route we had just done. We continued to the main summit of RED PEAK where I realized I had left my camera behind and had to go back. So I am able to say that I have been on the East Red False Summit twice in time.
As if I hadn't climbed EAST RED PEAK SUMMIT, 12,945 enough, I returned for another climb of this summit in 2017. I had wanted to climb a route from the north cirque of the Red Peak massif from the North Willow Creek valley.
Red Peak actually has two north cirques one on each side of the north ridge of the peak. The larger cirque is on the east side where I climbed a loose rock route of talus and scree gullies of the cirque face to the 12,945 summit for the fourth time. And if by happenstance a wooden pole still marked this summit. It felt good to be on the cusp of the Red Diamond Ridge again knowing that I probably will not climb it again.
“WHAT BIG EYES YOU HAVE” COULOIR, EAST EAST RED PEAK SUMMIT
In 2007 the deeply inset north couloir of the EAST EAST RED PEAK SUMMIT, 12,885 that I saw ten years earlier attracted my attention. In May of that year this couloir was skied from the summit into the North Willow Creek valley. This ski descent route was called “What Big Eyes You Have” in keeping with the theme of the Little Red Riding Hood names in the vicinity of East East Red Peak.
In June of the same year I descended into the valley from the Willow Lakes trail and climbed this moderate snow route in boots and with ice axe. I called the route “For Your Eyes Only” as a play on words and because of the narrowness of this couloir.
I entered the couloir at the “Door Way” then straight up the narrow “Hall Way” to the bulge of “The Squeeze” and then to the wind deposited “Welcome Mat” below the ridge. From the ridge it was ten minutes to the East East Red Peak Summit.
A N UNEXPECTED SATISFYING SUMMIT
It is sometimes said that some of the best comes in small packages and RED POINT, 10,812 proved to be no exception. This stray summit hides in the North Willow Creek valley nestled up against the north side of the Red Peak massif.
I didn't have much expectations for this one as I set off from the Gore Range trail on a bushwhack in the creek valley following my compass in the deep timber on a grand fall day in 2019. A talus deposit below some initial cliffs in the timber indicated I was getting closer to rounding up of this stray summit.
I took to the right on timbered rising ground and then turned left meeting the forefront cliff face of this glacial escarpment. A traverse left revealed the summit cliff face ahead where from below I found a break between the two cliff faces to the summit bulwark.
And what a satisfying summit with marvelous views of the Zodiac Spires in the distance and a full look on at the massive rockfall scar on the East Thorn from 2016. Red Point 10,812 takes its place among the great Gore Range peaks of 10,000 feet along with Wichita Mountain, 10,855 and Point 10,660 with its IMAX view of the Slate Creek valley.
Rounding up stray summits on the Red Peak massif is part of my same effort for other massifs in the Gore Range. In this respect I have climbed something on the order of over 200 summits in the range. There are a number more to climb but I don't really know how many more because some of these hide out in remote corners and the far reaches of the range. But I continue to search them out and round them up with my compass and map.
And I find that the satisfaction of a round up in the Gore Range is that many of these stray summits provide adventure and exploration, challenging route finding, unique vantage points, sometimes a mystery and the fact that one will never see anyone else on these summits which sometimes gives thought to whether some of these have ever been visited before.
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