Peak(s):  "Finnegan Peak"  -  13,346 feet
New York Mountain 12,550
Date Posted:  10/11/2021
Modified:  10/14/2021
Date Climbed:   09/23/2021
Author:  bergsteigen
 A tale of totally tedious talus, told in two parts   

Finnegan Peak

  • Trip 1: New York Mtn to east gully (failed on Finnegan summit)
  • October 3, 2020
  • Mileage: 5.16
  • Elevation gain: 1,834'
  • Trailhead: FS 418
  • Partners: solo
  • Class: 4

Last year after a successful hike of Pika Peak, I drove up to the trailhead and camped along a switchback. I got started around civil twilight and found the sign split for NY Mtn and NY Lake. But I did neither on the ascent to NY Mtn, since I wanted to hike along the ridge, hoping for a good sunrise shot or two. I was planning to return along the trail anyway.

Choose your route. I went with option 3

With all the forrest fires in Colorado, the skies were pretty smokey and hazy still, but the fall colors were popping!

Hazy moon to the west

As I got closer to the summit of NY Mtn, the sun peeked up over the horizon and the play with the smoke was pretty nice.

Ridge to NY Mtn. Finnigan summit behind NY summit

The remainder of the route up to the summit was pretty easy talus. I was still hopeful for another summit today, even if I knew the route would be tedious and long. I had all day!

Fancy unnecessary cairn on route up NY Mtn

I didn't stay too long on the summit, since I figured it would be a long day ahead of down and up and down and up and down.

NY Views. Finnegan on left

From the summit, I continued along the ridge line until I found the spot where Furthermore descended a steep grassy gully.

Following the Ridgeline to the south

From the top of the ridge, you can't see the bottom of the gullies, so I took it on Furthermore faith that I was in the right spot. I can always reclimb back up if needed...

Looking down from ridge. NY Lake in distance
Further down the gully

Soon the wide gully face became narrow, and much much steeper. The walls on each side got higher and were quite smooth. I got to a technical section with a choke stone and did a class 4 move down it. I figured this was the crux.

Gully gets narrow above chokestone #1
Below chokestone #1

With that "crux" behind/above me, I continued down the narrow gully until the gully cliffed out with chokestone #2.

Above the chokestone #2

I went down and looked at it. A smooth face to the left with no hand or foot holds, and the rock in the center preventing passage. I got fairly nauseated and my inner voice said "I don't wanna die". So without taking a photo over the edge, since I was dizzy enough as is now, I went back up the gully and over the other chokestone. I found that the scrambling was better a bit further south as I regained the ridge. I figured that I needed to traverse further south into another gully to descend, but I had wasted too much time on this gully, I knew I wouldn't have time to get to Finnegan.

I vowed: Another Day, Another Way!

At least the fall colors made for a spectacular ride out!

Golden tunnel

  • Trip 2: Finnegan Peak - Success!
  • Mileage: 9.64
  • Elevation gain: 4,424'
  • Trailhead: End of road FS 418
  • Route approach: FS 2221 NY Lake
  • Partners: solo
  • Class: 3+ Bonus class 4/5.easy

For my return, I contemplated all the options I had. Redo the Furthermore gully, do the Piper14er route, or take an actual TRAIL to the lake. Trail for the WIN. This is the best and least erosive route you can take on the approach. In fact, this trail could use some more footprints and actual "trace". Use it people!!!

This time I got up a bit earlier and was on the ridge by the big cairn for civil twilight. I caught a pika looking to the east for the first rays of light.

Pika before sunrise
NY Mtn from cliff side

Fall colors

I looked down the trail from the ridge, and it appeared nasty with scree. Thankfully that was very short lived and became very solid after the first few feet.

Looking down trail from cairn on ridge

Almost immediately down the trail, I came to a class 3 dihedral that was pretty fun so early into the day

First class 3 scramble of the day

From there, the trail steeply descends and traverses to the first bench below the cliffs. I heard some rockfall, and I look to my right, and see a mountain goat making his way up to the sunshine.

Mountain goat climbing to the sun
Mountain goat

As I got down into the valley below the cliff band, I turn around at one of the frequent cairns to see my return trail, marked by a few trees in the cliff crack.

Cairn points to the trail with the trees

There are frequent cairns all along this trail which sees so little use. Quite convenient as at times the trail is just matted down grasses. Every time you think the talus hopping surely has to start, there's a good trail through it.

Hello birdie

After making my way up to the first uphill on the trail, I see the remains of a mining camp, and how they thought it was going to expand. There's plenty of little ups and downs on the trail, but this mini pass is the biggest.

Old building

expansion materials

I head downhill and find another 1 move class 3 section on the trail, and below is the metal remains from old miners. Lots of remains.

Quite the historical mess!

From there, the trail follows a grassy bench above the stream valley, but below the cliffs above. Snaking it's way to the lake.

Such a good little trail!
Follow the bench
Can you spot the trail? Look for the matted grass

The plentiful cairns continue as I get close to the lake. Any time you're uncertain, just scan the surroundings till you find another!

Pretty fungi
Tombstone cairn

Top of the last hill before the lake, I finally get a view of my first destination, or where the trail ends.

First view of lake

The only route finding on this section comes as you near the lake. The cairns become harder to spot along the rolling smooth rock and scrubby trees. At least you can see where you want to go, should you get mini cliffed out.

Almost to the lake

I debated where to cross over to the talus hell, but ended up going to the lake edge to get a nice photo, and just went up from there.

At the lake edge
Looking down valley from lake edge

From here on out, the terrain is on tedious slow talus, steep loose scree and talus and some solid rock poking through. Slow going!!!

Talus hopping starts at the lake edge

I decided to go slightly to the left/north on what appeared to be slightly lower angled ridgy terrain. There's some cairns amongst the talus, but I think it goes straight though this mess. Pick your poison - it all sucks.

On the way up, I got to a talus bench and got a good view of my narrow gully from last year. I could see the cliff underneath the second chokestone. From here, it's hard to tell which of the 3 gullies is best. BUT the far right/north one does NOT go.

NY Mtn on right. Dirty gully to left of prominent ridge bump is what I tried last time.
Zoom of gullies. My narrow gully on right with 2 chokestones.

From that talus bench, I headed back to the south to access the nasty loose steep scree gully.

Talus bench. Finnegan above

I got to the center of the gully and viewed my options from below. To the right of the solid fin looked horrific. To the left looked less horrific. I went left, and stayed in the shade as I utilized the solid rock fin to scramble up and avoid as much of the unstable steep loose talus in the center.

View of nasty gully. Went left of rock fin in the shade
Along the shady left side of rock fin

After awhile, it looked like the exit to my gully was going to get spicy, too spicy. So I found a convenient spot to crest the rock fin and drop into the sun on the other side.

On the rock fin looking up the nasty slope to the ridge above

From here I picked my way along the fin as best I could. A few times I had to venture out into that nasty steep scree, looking for solid sections to crawl to.

In the center of the nasty...

I kept getting drawn to the left/north, following the solid rock. I got to the ridge and looked up at my destination. Woohoo!!! Is this "close enough" to count?!?! Bad thoughts

Ridge to Finnegan from too far north

The ridge is airy and exposed, but the rock is surprisingly solid here. Surprisingly. I got to my first airy downclimb, and was wondering if this was necessary. I didn't want to backtrack and traverse on scree - just yet - so I continued. That's where the intense scrambling began. I found a class 4/5.easy section that I could do, so I tossed my trekking poles down below. Now I'm committed. I find my way along a tiny crack in the boulder with my feet, as I carefully make my way down.

Class 4/5 boulder
View of my boulder from ridge. Descent along left face

Phew! I made it. Went back up to the ridge, thinking the worst was over. Then I look down the next downclimb

Looking down a class 5 downclimb. It's fuzzy cause I have vertigo!

Ridge to Finnegan where I said NOPE!!!

At this point I had no confidence I could get down this class 5 behemoth solo. Hell no! I want to live with my bones intact!!! So I went back down the ridge to the north, and found a way to traverse the scree below the ridge crest.

Class 5 from the other side. NOPE!

Once on the other side of this ridge obstruction, I find a cairn. A glorious CAIRN. Back on the route! Never have I been so happy to see a cairn before!

My precious cairn!

From this point, it was dodging mostly to the east/left of the ridge where things got difficult. There are cairns, and only 1 is tricky to spot on the return. I built that up a bit better so you can see it from below.

Go left, and down crack

Looking down the dihedral. Spot the cairn in the sun?
Looking back up the dihedral

On the east side, there's a grassy bench that you scramble along, up and down a little bit. Just a little, not much.

View on the east side of grassy bench. This is the cairn spot that is trick to spot from below.

Once off the ridge, and closer to the peak itself, the scrambling eases and is just class 2.

Looking back on the ridge
Cool slab along ridge

Once you get to the final pitch up to the summit, it's like Wetterhorn on speed. Wetterhorn south face is easy class 3. This is hard class 3+ with class 4 everywhere else! This was challenging and fun. In fact, if there wasn't that HORRIFIC gully to go up and down, this would be a favorite scramble! Quite the heavy payment for such fun scrambling. Dues Collector II.

Start of class 3+ face
Mid face, ridge on left
Last scramble to summit

There are 3 mini gullies on the face, and you traverse up and through all 3 before the summit. There's a few cairns, but you can choose your own adventure. I went up harder way than I went down.

The true summit is a few feet away once you pop on top of the summit ridge. Oh my, so much hard work for one of the least climbed 13ers in the state! I couldn't enjoy the views for too long, since I knew the descent would take as long as the way up did!

Summit pano north
Summit pano south

Gold Dust Peak
NY Mtn, fall colors and my narrow gully across the way

Looking down the face to ridge from summit.
On the face

Hi Cutie!!!

I made my way down the scramble pitches as fast and efficiently as possible. Went along the grassy ramp, and couldn't figure out if I needed to go up or down more. Then I remembered the steep little down scramble with the barely visible cairn.

Scramble up this, cairn above

After that little route finding and cairn building section, I found the dihedral back to the ridge

Below the dihedral, lower section is loose

Back on the ridge, I went back to the spot where others should gain the ridge. You don't want to go further north or south of this spot! Its an orange dirty spot on the ridge

Notch to gain and loose the ridge

Once below the ridge crest, I made my way back to the rocky rib on horrifically loose terrain. Once on the rib, I tried to stay on it's crest for as long as I could, scrambling on solid rock in spots.

On the rocky rib looking at the lake far below

After many hours of my life passed in painful tedious travel, I found myself back on the blocky tedious talus below. Sloooooow, but at least most things didn't move, much.

~7 hours after I left the lake to go uphill, I was finally back. Back to easy trail and an easy stroll back to my truck. F YEAH!!!!

Happy to be at the lake again!

As I made my way back to where the trail starts again, I found someones backcountry gear stash. Looks like it was once encapsulated in a tub... Lots of trash and an old frying pan. Too much for me to carry out today.

Busted gear stash

A bit above the lake, I get a view of the nasty slope in the sunshine, Goodbye and Good Riddance!

Looking back on the scree slope from hell. Center left is the notch you want. Not left or right of that!

I made quick time hiking along the trail back, much better than going up the Furthermore gully to the NY Ridgeline. Plus my feet would have hated the loose gully ascent! Trail is best!

I was quickly loosing the sun, but it meant I also got some great views of the peak in the sun with shadows!

Sun and shadows on Finnegan
Finnegan summit pitch - Wetterhorn on speed!
Last golden light on Finnegan summit pitch

The trail was so nice, I have to mention it over and over again!

Trail under the cliff
Winter is coming! - tassled fireweed predicts winters arrival in Alaska

The sun was rapidly losing altitude as I was nearing the ascent back up to the ridge. Quite the color display!

Last drop down, before the climb up to the ridge top
Colorful hillsides

What? Grouse butt!

I got back up onto the ridge for sunset, which I failed to capture well enough in photos. Quite the long tiring day on one of the least summitted 13ers. I knew it was going to be tedious, and this time around I was prepared for it, just not quite the length of time needed for that nasty scree slope! Prepare yourself and plan enough time for this peak. At least the ridge and summit scramble will be the cherry on top of the turd sandwich on this route!

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
Jon Frohlich
10/12/2021 15:30
That gully looks like a horror show. I think I'll skip this one unless I get really bored (and forget to look at this again).

The traverse is exciting!
10/12/2021 16:38
Nicely done! I went up Finnegan peak about 10 days before you. I had read of the horrible scree climb from new york lake many times and felt like I wanted to avoid it so came up with an alternative approach. So, I did it from dead dog trail from Lake creek outside of Edwards. After Dead dog trail I then dropped down into Middle lake basin area and up very easy slopes to the unranked 13er point just north of finnegan, then the more engaging traverse over. I was surprised at how much scrambling there was on the traverse and how difficult it was if you wanted to stay ridge direct (which I mostly skirted as you did). I definitely took the exact dihedral you did to get east of some difficulties half way on the traverse and that cairn on the ledge served me well too both coming and going! I also thought the summit pyramid of Finnegan was stout but really enjoyable! Not your typical sawatch peak that's for sure! For those interested in avoiding the 2000 foot talus climb from New york lake, the dead dog approach was fantastic but it comes with another "wilderness entrance fee" as it was about 18 miles round trip. I'll try to post a report when I get some time this winter as I think the only reports on Finnegan on this site all involve the scree gullies up from Mordor... uh I mean new york lake. Is Finnegan the Sawatch's most difficult peak to summit do you think? Surely has to be up there based on what I have done. Well done again!

10/13/2021 20:40
Jon - Yeah, I thought about the long ridge route or the gully as a snow climb. This one is just tough!

Dobsons - Please do post up a TR of your route! Having route options for these obscure peaks is great! That way people can pick their poison. Maybe someone will find the Secret Stairs to avoid the Mordor slope! Since I only have 6 Sawatch 13ers left... I'd say that Finnegan ranks pretty high on the overall difficulty scale. I've done a bunch of other multi peak class 4 ridge runs that were harder, but those were all multi peak, so I couldn't choose the easiest way up in a combo (Billy traverse or Wayah 10 etc). So yeah, probably the hardest single peak in the Sawatch.

10/18/2021 14:26
A friend and I took that far gulley on the SW side of NY last fall and had an awesome day, but it seems like you preferred the actual lake trail? It looks a bit sketch on the first pitch which has always deterred me to find another way (IE that far gulley). I am a bit partial to NY and that ridge route, even though it takes longer.

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