Peak(s):  PT 13,016  -  13,016 feet
PT 13,051  -  13,051 feet
Silver Mtn A  -  13,714 feet
PT 13,681  -  13,681 feet
PT 13,100 B  -  13,100 feet
Date Posted:  07/14/2020
Date Climbed:   07/10/2020
Author:  naivon
 Three Day Ridge Trip   

Full trip:
22 miles
7000 ft gain
Trailhead: Fall Creek TH

July 10, 2020
2.56 miles
258 ft

July 11, 2020
8.02 miles
4456 ft

July 12, 2020
11.21 miles
2266 ft

The purpose of this trip was to stick on a ridgeline and cover as many mountains as we could, while seeing as few people as possible. I always appreciate when people have thorough trip reports to help with my planning, so I'll try to be thorough with mine as well! We left as soon as my partner got out of work on Friday and arrived around 9:30 pm. The plan was to hike about 3.3 miles in and set up camp, but the spookiness of darkness caused us to set up camp just 2.5 miles in around 11 pm. We got up around 7 am, made breakfast, and got moving around 9:30. This was a "casual" trip for us, so we were in no rush to get moving fast. Whereas most people hike further south on the defined Fall Creek trail, we cut up immediately onto the left ridge after the river crossing. The forest had many downed trees to climb over and near the top of the ridge, it got pretty dang steep.

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Many downed trees
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Immediately out of treeline on top of ridge

The ridgeline was just a casual walk on dirt with a few rocks here and there. Up ahead was a 12er of some sort, nothing more than a class 2. Right after climbing the short class 2 section, the mountain became a giant flat grass field. You could play baseball or football up there it's so flat.

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Random 12er


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Flat

At the far end is what I believe is the summit of this 12er. Immediately after summit, you have to downclimb maybe 10 ft of a class 3 section. Nothing too challenging -- the rock is pretty stable.

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Downclimb

PT 13016 came after this, and it's pretty simple. A grassy saddle until you reach some small talus fields near summit. Upon descent, we noticed all of the little specs of animals down in the valley. We assumed they were elk because of previous trip reports here, but later on we discovered there were hundreds of sheep in the valley. It explains why the valley smelt so bad on the hike in. There's a shepherd with two border collies who lives in a tent up here. The shepherd ended up being the only human we saw on the whole trip. Between PT 13016 and 13051 is a lake. We stopped here to refill our water, but the mosquitoes were absolutely terrible. We set up our tent just for some protection from them. We stayed here for probably 50 minutes before continuing on. PT 13051 was also pretty simple. Nice and grassy up until the final hundred feet maybe, then grassy again at the top.

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Summit of 13016 looking towards 13051, Uncompahgre, and Silver
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Alpine lake, 13051, and Silver
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Silver on the left side


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Sheep! Looking backwards: PT 13016 on the left, 13051 on the right

The next task was to climb Silver mountain. We had been staring at the ascent path for the past 3 miles and still were unsure if we were capable of doing this. Quite honestly, from a distance it is very intimidating. There are 2 distinct sections that look impossible without gear. We were coming up to the base of it around 6pm and had to make a go/no-go decision. We still had 2.5 hours of reasonable daylight. We were confident we could get up the first section but not as confident with the next. Downclimbing in the case of a bail looked horrendous and would obviously take more time than the ascent. We decided to push as far as we could go and we were not going to climb anything that we thought we would not be capable of downclimbing. The entirety of this section ended up being class 3. "No problem", you may think. The problem arises with how loose the rock is. Although this is "only" class 3, there are no solid holds. Almost anywhere. I have done class 3's before and this is one of the sketchiest lines I have ever done. Sometimes you just have to pray that the rocks you're holding don't slip and that's the most you can do. At the top, my partner and I agreed we were glad we did it, but we are glad to never do it again. This is not a section I would recommend downclimbing. I would say route-finding is relatively straight forward with this ascent. You can definitely keep it class 3 pretty easily by just heading up. In the end, from the beginning of the class 3 section to the summit took us about an hour. We were so exhausted and so thankful to be done with that part. We ended up camping on the saddle between Silver and 13681. It was a little windy but nothing too crazy. In our original trip plan, we had planned to camp in the trees below Sheep this night. It was only supposed to be something like 11 miles and 5500 ft, which we have done longer and more gain than that, but I guess we were going much slower than anticipated.

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First class 3 section
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The first of the class 3 section
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Is it over yet?
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Final Section of Silver
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Near the top of Silver
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Looking back down the ascent ridge
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View of Uncompahgre, Matterhorn, and Wetterhorn from Silver Summit
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Camp Spot. Saddle between Silver and 13681

On the way down to the saddle, we replenished our water from a melting snow patch. We ended up at camp around maybe 7:30 or 8 pm. The next morning, we got up again at around 7:30 am. We knew today would be long since we were not able to make it to our originally planned campsite. This would be a 3 mountain, 14 mile, 3500 ft, 5 hours of driving back home day. The first chore of the day was 13681. This was just some grass and scattered rock to summit. However once at the top, it's all talus between this mountain and the next. This next part, we did not choose an ideal route. I'll try to outline what we did and what we would do differently next time. In the picture below, you can see a nob on the right side on the ridge. We thought we saw a path going around the right side (east), so we followed it. It then kind of dropped us off to nowhere, so we climbed up on top of the nob. Then we thought the nob cliffed out at the end, so we downclimbed just a little further along than we had climbed up it. Where we downclimbed was very loose talus and it sucked. You can see this in the 2nd picture below. Then we realized that maybe the ridge is where we wanted to be all along and got back onto it. The ridge had, for the most part, pretty stable rock. The rock and talus only continued until the base of the next climb, at which point it became a nice rock/grass combo again. What I think would be better for next time: Either stay on the west side of the nob (it looked more stable and had grass tufts), or stay on top of the nob all the way to the saddle.

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Summit of 13681 looking towards 13100 B and Sheep
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Eastern Side of 13681
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Looking back towards PT 13681

This next mountain after 13681 (which I don't believe is actually ranked as a mountain) required a class 3 downclimb. It was relatively straightforward. We went far north on the summit, climbed down a small section, looped back southeast maybe 10 or 20 feet, then continued down.

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Summit of unnamed 'mountain' looking towards 13100 B and Sheep
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Looking up at the downclimb
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Distant view of downclimb

Up next is what ended up being our last summit of the day: 13100 B. The saddle between this unnamed mountain and 13100 was very cool. Lots of pinnacles and spires with striations. And of course one of the things we were most looking forward to -- the arch! Come to find out there's a smaller arch directly in front of the big one people are always taking pictures of. At this summit, it was maybe 1 or 2 pm, we were exhausted, our feet hurt, we had seen a lot of cool things already, and we still had about 9 miles to go. We decided to skip out on Sheep mountain and descend. We already saw a lot of sheep and we could see the cairn on Sheep mountain from the distance so it's kind of like the same thing? Right....?


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Striations!
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PT 13100 B
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Pinnacles
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Arch!
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Pinnacles and cool reservoir in the background

There were a ton of elk in this valley, but they spotted us and ran while we were still pretty far away. Between 13100 and Sheep is a river. You will want to descend this on the north side of the river, at least for the first part. There is a game trail which will lead you to the northern side. After this is again where we made some route choice errors. We continued on the north side of the river, which is steep but fine for the most part, until you reach a cliff. We thought about ascending a little bit and go even more north to avoid this, until we realized crossing the river might be a better idea. We crossed back south and were immediately greeted with a trail. It looked like an actual developed trail, not a game trail, however it did kind of end randomly and pick up in the form of game trails at least 3 different times, so really I have no idea. It eventually dumped us out onto the Cimmaron trail, and there is no chance anyone coming from the opposite direction would find that trail. We built a cairn where it dumped us to try to help those coming from the Cimarron East TH, however please be aware that even with the cairn at the entrance, this trail will be hard to follow. It trails off into several game trails before picking up on the more developed looking trail. I can't imagine trying to navigate this at night.

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North side river descent. South side (on the right) would have been ideal

The Cimarron trail was such a great change of pace. After several days of ups and downs, this trail was just miles and miles of flat. There were quite a few downed trees on this trail. I don't think anyone has been up with a chainsaw this year. There was also a river crossing with (as far as we could tell) no way to go around or get over it. We took our socks and shoes off and waded through. It's not that deep, but the rocks are very slippery! After who knows how many hours, we reached the Cimarron East TH, but unfortunately our car was at Fall Creek. This meant 4 more miles and 1500 ft of walking on the road. We dumped our packs near Cimarron East and started the haul. I guess something was on our side that day because a car came driving up the road maybe 15 minutes into the walk. It was a girl and her two dogs, going for a late start backpack. It was around 5:30pm at this point, so we were ecstatic someone else had come up. We stuck our thumbs out and hitchhiked it with her to the Fall Creek TH. She cut off probably 2 hours from our hike. She was such a nice person and her dogs were great too! Thank you to the hiking community for always being such great people.

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River Crossing

Here are my final thoughts on this hike:

  • It's long! I give props to those of you who can do this in a single day.

  • This is a great ridgeline hike, especially if you want to be by yourself. Based on the summit logs, my partner and I were the 4th and 5th people to do this hike for this year so far!

  • Route-finding isn't as challenging as you may think. There are routes that are better than others, but none that put us in dangerous situations which required backtracking.

  • Starting from Fall Creek seems to be the optimal option. Silver is just a huge undertaking counter-clockwise (even clockwise it's pretty tough).
  • If you can't shuttle cars, you can try putting your luck on hitchhiking at the end (but don't count on it just in case)

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




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Trotter

nice
07/15/2020 09:21
really good beta


Tornadoman

Nice report and views
07/16/2020 15:58
Been thinking about this area for a while now. Thanks for the repot!



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