Peak(s):  "Northwest Pole"  -  13,660 feet
Pole Creek Mtn  -  13,716 feet
"Quarter Pk"  -  13,674 feet
PT 13,164  -  13,164 feet
Date Posted:  09/02/2020
Modified:  09/03/2020
Date Climbed:   08/07/2020
Author:  Mtnman200
Additional Members:   RandyMack
 Who Knows Where The Time Goes   

Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. Randy and I left our home around 8 AM and made the long drive to the Lake City area to begin working on some of Randy's 16 remaining San Juan bicentennial (top 200) peaks. We drove up the Wager Gulch road to about 12,300', parked in the small parking area, grabbed our backpacks, and headed south and west on the Continental Divide trail toward Cataract Lake.

Looking west along the Continental Divide trail near Unnamed (UN) 13581

Near the saddle between UN 13580A and "Tundra Top"

The Continental Divide trail is a good one, and the miles went by quickly. Rather than camp at Cataract Lake, we chose a site at about 12,200', approximately 1/4 mile SE of Cataract Lake and about 100' higher. This was a windy location, so we anchored our tent with guylines.

Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. Lots of stars were visible when we got up, so Randy took some photos while breakfast was cooking.

The small lake at 12,200' from our campsite

Another early morning photo from near our campsite

Today's goals: "Northwest Pole" (13,660') and Pole Creek Mountain (13,716'). We headed west on the trail to about 12,400' and then ascended Northwest Poles's broad north ridge.

The north ridge of "Northwest Pole"

Once on the ridge, it was smooth sailing until we reached Northwest Pole's crumbling summit block. It was also quite windy on the ridge.

The summit block of Northwest Pole as seen from the east side of the ridge

A closer look at the summit block of Northwest Pole

We scrambled up the northeast side of Northwest Pole's summit block and relaxed on the summit for a few minutes.

Pole Creek Mountain from Northwest Pole

We saw some familiar names in the 1992 summit register on Northwest Pole, including Darin Baker, who had alerted me to the fact that...

...a troublemaker/troll had signed the register on 7/7/1994. Naturally, this was followed by another troublemaker/troll on 9/2/1994

My current climbing partner wasn't even born when I first climbed Northwest Pole. Who knows where the time goes?

We descended SE toward the 12,820' saddle north of Pole Creek Mountain before heading south along the ridge toward the summit. There were a few ridge obstacles that we bypassed on the right (west) side of the ridge.

Looking south at Pole Creek Mountain's north ridge

Northwest Pole from the same location as the previous photo

Approaching rock formations on Pole Creek Mountain

Interesting rock formations on Pole Creek Mountain's north ridge

On the summit of Pole Creek Mountain

To return to camp, we bypassed Northwest Pole on its east side. We reached camp early enough to nap in our tent for a few hours before cooking dinner.

Cataract Lake with Half Peak and Quarter Peak to the northwest

Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020. Quarter Peak (13,674') and UN 13164 were today's goals. Chances of rain today were essentially zero percent, which would turn out to be a recurring theme for the next two weeks.

An early morning view of our campsite with lots of stars visible

We headed NW past two small lakes to the 12,940' Half Peak - Quarter Peak saddle. Our initial plan was to contour NE at about 13,000' to get around some ridge spires, but we ended up climbing a bit as we contoured. An ugly descent north on loose rock brought us to a point directly east of Quarter Peak's summit. From here, we climbed NW until we reached the ridge north of the summit. We went over a 13,620' false summit to the summit of Quarter Peak and in hindsight should have contoured around the false summit. Quarter Peak's makeshift summit register had been left in 2015.

Half Peak

Looking back toward our campsite (not visible)

Looking north from the Half Peak - Quarter Peak saddle

We had to descend steep scree to bypass the cliffs at left; Quarter Peak is to the right

Looking south at Half Peak (right) from Quarter Peak's summit

Looking north at Quarter Peak's false summit (with Sunshine Peak and neighboring thirteeners in the background) from Quarter Peak's summit

On the descent, we bypassed the false summit and then descended east over talus and grass to reach the Cataract Creek trail at about 11,400'. From here it was an easy hike back to our campsite. After a lunch break, we took the East Fork Middle Pole trail west to the Continental Divide before heading up the slopes to UN 13164.

Looking east at the East Fork Middle Pole trail from near the Continental Divide

Looking west at UN 13164 from the East Fork Middle Pole trail near the Continental Divide

Mellow slopes on UN 13164

Mike Garratt had left a register, and we noticed the name of someone who likely will finish the 13ers later in 2020

The summit cairn on UN 13164, with Half Peak in the background at right

Looking back at UN 13164 as we descended

We returned to our campsite, pleased to have completed all of the 13ers near Cataract Lake.

Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020. We slept in before backpacking to the trailhead. We were able to snag the last tent site at Woodlake Park campground near Lake City and spent the rest of the day relaxing. Hamburgers from Packer Saloon & Cannibal Grill topped off the day.

Tomorrow we would move camp to Burrows Park for our remaining climbs of bicentennial peaks near Lake City.

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

great trip
09/04/2020 15:13
I like the night photos of your camp. That approach of the Poles from the north looks much more enjoyable. Ben and I hit them from the south, and, while shorter, the bushwhack to reach the ridge to Pole was not anything to recommend. (In fact, another member along for that little jaunt muttered something profane and turned back.)


register & approach
09/05/2020 03:38
Eddie, it was fun to "stalk" your summit register signature from so long ago, along with your Dad's!

I did these two as a day hike from the Cataract Gulch TH, somewhere around 19-20mi's RT and 5500'+ gain.
The miles went by pretty easy with that approach.


Thanks, Steve & Darin
09/18/2020 12:29
I always appreciate your comments.

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