Peak(s):  Peak X' 12688
"Peak X"  -  13,085 feet
"Pk Y" 12951
"Peak Z"  -  13,245 feet
Pk Z' 12967
Date Posted:  09/10/2022
Modified:  09/14/2022
Date Climbed:   09/03/2022
Author:  pgres
 XYZ Traverse Primed   

XYZ Traverse Primed

Featuring: and @altitoots

The XYZ traverse is a seldom done linkup in the Gore Range that starts at the Pitkin Lake Trailhead in Vail. The standard XYZ traverse combines ranked peaks X and Z with a stop at Y in the middle. However, this route skips over some of the best scrambling in the area which is found on the ascent and descent of unranked peaks X' (X Prime) and Z' (Z Prime). I read through a few trip reports, but none of them covered all of he peaks (X', X, Y, Z, and Z'), so I wanted to do a quick writeup that covered them all! We did this scramble during a Saturday on Labor Day Weekend and didn't see a single soul for 15 hours. Who says you can't find solitude in the mountains? It was an amazing day with classic Gore Range views and solid scrambling. A note about trip reports that I write - I don't actively seek out the easiest terrain and typically try to aim as high on the ridge proper as possible. This approach risks getting cliffed out, backtracking, etc., but typically finds the most stable rock and the exciting scrambling. Before going out into the Gore or on any other ridge that doesn't have a ton of beta please make sure that you have good route-finding capabilities, know how to scope potential bail options, make sure you prepare for a weather window greater than you think you need, have a satellite communicator, and don't climb anything you can't subsequently downclimb!

Route Overview:
From Pitkin Lake Trailhead, proceed up the trail before eventually turning off and heading up into a mini basin to the right of Pitkin Lake up to Usable Pass. From usable pass, follow the ridge proper (or just below for easier terrain) to X', then on to X, Y, Z, and finally Z'. After summiting Z', retrace the ridge back to the saddle between Y and Z and descend down into Boulder Lakes Basin to approximately 12,000'. From there, hike back to the top of Usable Pass and descend back down to pick up the Pitkin Lake Trail

Route Information:
Mileage: Approximately 14 miles
Elevation: Approximately 6,500-7,000'
Class: 4
Time to Complete: 15 Hours

Exposure: Extreme
Rockfall: High
Route-Finding: Very High
Commitment: High

Resources: MAP with Approximate GPS Track


Follow the Pitkin Lake Trail for roughly 3.5 miles before splitting to the right where you'll cross a creek. On the way up into the basin, following close to the creek will lead you into some moderate bushwacking and some marshy areas. By heading up on the edge of the talus field in the right side of the photo, you can avoid most of the brush, but the terrain will be more rocky. Regardless, the bushwacking isn't too bad. The ascent to the pass is steep, but doable.

Splitting off from the Pitkin Lake Trail

Ascent to X'

Turn left from the pass and work your way along the ridge, eventually traversing to the right below the prominent slab. Climbing the slab would be stiff 5th class. Just to the right of the slab is a large dihedral feature, which is also 5th class, but has been climbed per a blog trip report. Gina and I climbed up a prominent crack just to the right of the dihedral - there are plenty of hand/foot holds to the left of the lower portion of this crack. Once at the top of the crack, the terrain briefly relents. From here, there's a second crack you can take to the ridge just to the right of the X' summit. A few funky moves will put you on top of the small X' summit. All of the scrambling is a lot of fun and fairly solid on this section, but there are a few loose rocks. Solid 4th class... maybe low 5th. I can't tell the difference anymore to be honest.

At the top of Usable Pass, looking towards X'
Traversing below the prominent slab
Climbing the first crack - it may be easier to climb the slope just to the left for the lower portion.
Side view of Gina climbing the first crack
Me climbing the first crack, Gina took a photo form the top
Heading up the second crack to the ridge just to the right of the X' summit
Gina climbing the second crack
At the top of X'

Traverse from X' to X

The scrambling from X' to the saddle before X will contain the best scrambling of the day with a series of ledges, slabs, and knife edges. All of the rock felt very solid and was a blast. Have fun! From the saddle, the terrain transitions to Class 1/2 tundra plodding with some loose dirt and possibly a bit of easy Class 3 terrain near the summit block. Route finding was fairly intuitive. We stayed ridge proper nearly the entire time, but dropped to the right a few feet if complications arose.

Descending from X' - The small summit is the shorter looking peak middle-left.
Starting into the slabs - Peak X in the background
One of the more difficult portions with a narrow ledge traverse
Same ledge traverse from the side
The slabby slabs
More Slabs
A small notch in the slabs to contend with
Knife Edge
Just after the saddle between X' and X, the terrain becomes MUCH easier
Tundra Plodding
Some slightly more difficult terrain just bellow the summit of X (Class 3)
Looking back on the Class 3 Terrain
From the summit of X looking over towards Y (small lump in the middle) and Z back and to the right

Traverse from X to Y

Y is unranked and is more of a bump on the ridge than anything, but it's still worth including in this connecting ridge. The initial ridge proper from X to Y frequently cliffs out and requires you to drop down to the left in Class 3/4 terrain. I believe we dropped to the left 3 or 4 times before the ridge became continuous once again. Luckily, none of the cliffs required backtracking and we were always able to find a route down to the left. Eventually, the cliffs will end and you'll be able to stay ridge proper (more or less) to the summit of Y.

Typical downclimbing form the ridge proper to circumvent the cliffs
Looking back on X and the cliffs that will require you to descend off the ridge proper (or rappel)
Oh hey, another cliff
Following a series of grassy ledges to the left of the ridge proper to reach the saddle between X and Y.
Another view of the ledges/terrain below the cliffs
After the saddle, follow the ridge proper to the summit of Y - Catwalks are common
Looking back at one of the towers along the ridge
Summit of Y!

Traverse from Y to Z

We stayed ridge proper until it cliffs out just before the saddle between Y and Z. Once you reach the cliff (it's hard to see from the ridge until you're right above it), you may be able to rappel (there was no rap station), but the easiest option is to backtrack about 100' along to ridge where you'll find a dirt gully (on your left if looking towards Z, on your right if backtracking). It's loose, but manageable. There may be a ledge system through the rock bands below the ridge, but we decided to descend and traverse below the cliffs on the talus before looping back up to the saddle. From the saddle, you can either head straight up the slope on loose dirt and rock or follow a rock rib just to the left (looking towards Z) that's a combination of more stable Class 2 and 3 terrain. At the top of the rib, the terrain will level out on a grassy bend below the Class 2+ summit block of Z.

Knife Edge below Y's summit block
Getting close to the cliff
At the saddle, looking back at our route below the cliffs and towards Peak Q
Looking up towards the summit block of Z
Looking out towards Z', AKA the appendage, AKA the barnacle begging to be climbed.

Traverse from Z to Z' and Return

The ridge form the Z/Z' saddle to the summit of Z', like X', holds some of the best scrambling on the traverse. Most difficulties can be bypassed if desired, but the ridge proper goes at a solid 4th Class. I've heard a few horror stories about the talus field that leads down to the Boulder Lakes Basin from the summit of Z', so we went out to the summit and back before descending down from the bench below Z. From the bench, descend down a combination of talus and grassy slopes before following a contour right around 12,000' that will eventually level out onto a flatter talus field at the bottom of Usable Pass. The best route follows a boulder field up below two gullies that lead to the saddle. The one that goes up to the true saddle looks very loose, so we took the gully to the right, which was narrower and had a more stable rock rib that we used to scramble back up before descending back down towards the Pitkin trail.

Heading over towards Z'
Fun Knife Edge
Error - Maximum number of files exceeded, be here's the terrain getting close to the summit!
Short dowclimb
One of the notches
Caption Here
Caption Here
Looking back towards Z'
A nice lake we stopped at after our descent from Z
On the boulder field - aim for the narrow notch/gull to the right of the pointy rock in the center for more solid terrain
In the gully
Looking back down the from the top of the notch
Finally some nice, soft terrain! X' is the unassuming lump above Gina's head

Cheers and happy scrambling!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
seeking timberline
09/12/2022 11:23
Great pictures in spectacular terrain. Thanks for sharing.

Nice report and photos
09/14/2022 17:08
Cool looking peaks. They seem to warrant and are more deserving of more creative names than peak X,Y and Z!

The Alphabet Peaks
09/15/2022 19:11
For some reason half of the Gore Range is named after letters of the alphabet despite having unofficial names that are a lot more fun! You'd think someone could have at least used "pin the tail on the thesaurus" to come up with SOMETHING more original...

gore galore
Lettered Peaks
09/16/2022 14:58
One has to know something of the history of climbing in the Gore Range to understand the reasoning of the lettered peaks. They don't need "more original" or "more creative names." They are historic climber designations from those who came long before.

Gore Galore
09/16/2022 16:52
Easy Mr. Quotations - it's a joke. Pretty sure indigenous peoples had named those peaks long before white people came in and started butchering animals and climbing peaks anyway

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