"Tincup Pk" - 13,345 feet
Emma Burr Mtn - 13,538 feet
Fitzpatrick Pk - 13,112 feet
"Tincup Pk" - 13,345 feet
Emma Burr Mtn - 13,538 feet
Fitzpatrick Pk - 13,112 feet
|The Peaks of Tincup Pass: Fitz-ing Emma Burr Into My Busy Schedule|
A couple of weeks prior I had day tripped "Tincup Peak" and Point 13,050 but had a couple of peaks in the area remaining. Emma Burr Mountain to the north of "Tincup" could have been linked in but Fitzpatrick Peak (which I affectionately call Fitzy) far to the southwest didn't make much sense to add on. I left both and intended to return as soon as I could, not being one to leave orphans for too long. Because Emma Burr and Fitzy were a big day together I decided to camp near treeline. This would also give me an opportunity to test out my new Hilleberg Soulo, a lightweight, one-person, double walled, 4-season tent I had bought over the summer and hadn't had an opportunity to use.
Friday, December 20, 2019
In St. Elmo I put my snowshoes on my back and my pack on my feet. Strike that. Reverse it. I began snowshoeing up the Tincup Pass Road, which had been groomed into nice corduroy.
Despite having a heavy pack on I cruised the easy, groomed road, reaching treeline after four and a half miles and two hours. Right when I hit treeline I realized I'd forgotten my extendable spork for eating my freeze dried dinner. Aw hell. Well, too late to go back for it now. I'd either have to get creative or forgo dinner.
I hopped the road embankment and found a relatively flat spot, where I started to dig a tent platform.
There was nothing for me to anchor my tent to and the ground was frozen solid, so I just set it up and figured if it got windy overnight I'd be enough weight to keep it from flying away. I also planned to tear down in the morning before setting out for the peaks, returning for it on my way out. I setup my pad and sleeping bag and crawled in, then began melting snow and boiling water.
I still had the matter of not having any eating utensils, so I put my thinking cap on. How can I eat a rice-based dish without utensils? I cooked with far less water than the freeze dried dinner called for so there wouldn't be any excess liquid that could make a mess, and when it was done cooking I used my knife to cut the packaging wide open and sliced part of the stiff material into a sort of trowel shaped thing to use as a scoop. It wasn't ideal but it worked well enough that I was able to eat my dinner, huzzah!
Having eaten my fill I zipped up tight in my sleeping bag. I didn't bother setting an alarm, since I had the full next day and good weather to do several non-technical peaks, and went to sleep.
Saturday, December 21, 2019
I awoke in early morning twilight. I was feeling great and quickly packed up my camp gear and stashed it under a tree. I once again put my snowshoes on and began up the road in the now bright, shining light.
The snowshoeing on the road went very quickly, and the groomer had made a more direct line towards the pass instead of following the switchbacks the road usually takes. Fitzpatrick Peak was my early morning companion all the way to the pass.
The grooming ended a few tenths of a mile from the pass, and the snow in between was about knee deep.
At the pass I looked up the now familiar slopes of "Tincup Peak".
There was a little more snow this time than last time but this just provided easier cover for snowshoeing. I made quick progress up the slopes and easy ridge to "Tincup," taking only an hour and a half from camp.
When I orphaned Emma Burr last time (poor Emma) I hadn't gotten much of a look at the connecting ridge. I orphaned it mostly because it was really far away and I wasn't sure if I'd have enough time to nab it on my day trip. At a distance it's always difficult to tell what a ridge might actually hold, but Emma didn't look too bad.
The final bit to the saddle didn't make itself clear - does the ridge narrow significantly? - until I was directly in line with it. It was nothing to worry about, and was mostly a flat, tundra covered catwalk with a couple of easy hands-on moves, nothing more.
The route from the saddle was obviously even easier, just a snow-covered, rocky walkup. There were several small bumps in the way.
The amount of rock on the open slopes was kind of annoying as I had to bob and weave through it all, but I made up for it by skirting the bumps instead of going directly over them.
I startled a large herd of mountain goats along the way, and they ended up too far away to get a nice, clear photo. I'm not sure if I would have liked the company when I topped out on Emma Burr Mountain, since the solitude, as usual, was delightful.
Since Fitzpatrick was now approximately a million miles away in the opposite direction I quickly made my way back across the ridge, back up "Tincup Peak," and down to the pass. A small 12er, Point 12,780, stood in the way of the long ridge to Fitzy, and the ascent from the pass held some potentially suspect snow slopes. I tried sticking to where numerous rocks poked out and made my way up 12,780 as quickly as I could to get out of said suspect areas.
Because 12,780 narrowed into what appeared to be a knife edge on top I wanted to find an easier way around. A large, snowy bench on the peak's south side provided the answer, and only at the end did it become steep and exposed enough for the hairs on my neck to rise. I scrambled up to the ridge crest to avoid it, then stayed on the crest to the summit.
Some minor Class 2 and Class 2+ scrambling along the way provided the last remaining bit of entertainment on this hike. I didn't bother taking my snowshoes off for any of it, even a couple of short slabs near the top.
From Point 12,780 Fitzy was now only a half a million miles away.
Moderate snow led down to the saddle which was far nearer 12,780 than Fitzy, much to my chagrin. The wind had also kicked up significantly and was belting snow across the open ridge.
The hike to Fitzy was boring and altogether too long, but it's a 13er, and therefore it must be climbed!
Now all that was left was the descent back to my camp. Oh, what a joyous descent this was not to be. Fitzy's east slopes were mostly mellow enough to not be a concern, but there were pockets of 30 plus degree snow hidden all over and it wasn't really possible to avoid all of them. The foreshortened east ridge-like thing directly off the summit seemed like the best bet, though it held the steepest snow on its flanks, so I had to stick as close to the crest as I could.
Lower down the "ridge" gave way to more open slopes with grass tufts poking out. I was satisfied this was safe enough and quickly made it to the flats.
Before long the willows started. Oh god the willows. How I hate thee. These stupid plants can all die for all I care. Don't give me that look, because here's the facts on these godawful monstrosities: fuck willows. Ya dig? There was perhaps a half mile of pure willow hell where I was sinking anywhere from knees to waist deep into a slab/sugar combination on top of thick, grabby willows, with snowshoes on, and generally just having a total absolute blast of a time. That's sarcasm for those of you who have a sarcasm detection deficit. I questioned whether I should have gone back towards 12,780 and curved around on a bench back to the road instead, but too late now. I shouted myself hoarse cursing every willow and their ugly mother's uncle's brother who can all rot in-... OK, breathe. For real though, this part sucked tremendously. It didn't take as long as it felt like it did, but it was utterly exhausting and infuriating work and I don't recommend coming down the way I did with snow cover; I can't speak to this area when its dry, but if you can avoid the willows, go for it.
Once back on the road and out of Satan's Domain I headed straight to camp, which I had thankfully torn down earlier, and repacked my bag. I grabbed the freeze dried dinner package I had wedged into the crotch of a tree across the road (with it being cut open I didn't want it anywhere near the tent) and began the long but easy and peaceful snowshoe back to St. Elmo.
I ground out the road miles quickly and arrived back in St. Elmo after sunset. For being the first winter camping trip of the season it went very well (in spite of the willows) and would prove to be a good start to the winter season overall. I missed calendar winter by a day on this one but what the heck, climb peaks err'day, right?!
Climbers: Ben Feinstein (myself)
¹Cumulative reset after overnight.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
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