Peak(s):  Jagged Mtn  -  13,824 feet
Peak Six - 13,705 feet
Date Posted:  09/23/2008
Modified:  09/24/2008
Date Climbed:   08/20/2008
Author:  DHatfield

 Jagged Mountain - North Face  

Jagged Mountain (13,824') and Peak Six (13,705')
Partners: Steve Mueller, Shane Jordan, and Jason Cleckler
Trailhead: Needleton
Distance: Approx. 18.80 miles
Elevation Gain: Approx 6,052 feet

This peak has been on my to do list since last summer when I had a chance to go; however the plans fell through then and now a year later Steve asked if I would still be interested in joining him on his final Centennial and of course I couldn't refuse - so here I am.

After a little breakfast at the hotel in Durango we headed to the Silverton Durango Railroad Depot that we would use to get to Needleton for our nice little 5 day trip into the beautiful Needle Mountains. This would be my 3 time riding the train and after backing my first time into Chicago Basin a few years ago I much prefer the train, since it really shortens this already long hike. After getting our ticket we boarded the train right before departure time - I hate running late. The weather was beautiful and warm and I was really hoping that it would last through the duration of our trip, however I know that the part of the mountains I was going to is notorious for weather. Some 2 ½ hours later we arrived at Needleton, where about another dozen climbers or so got off as well. Looks like Chicago Basin is going to be a really busy place, we were lucky however in that no one came our way. After a lunch stop at Needleton we holstered our heavy packs full of regular camping gear as well as climbing gear. We crossed the new Needleton bridge and started following the well used trail on the east side of the Animas River to "Campers Meadow" and after almost hiking completely past our turnoff we had to pull out the directions again, and after some searching on the northwest side of the meadow we saw a small trail running northwest toward the river - this junction is not marked other than by a small cairn. Once back on trail we were back to moving quickly until things slowed down at the arrival of Water Tanker Hill. I didn't think it was quite as bad as I have read.

Once on top of Watertank Hill we had some great views back down to the Watertank and river valley below. The north side of Watertank Hill was much steeper and started with a nice little 2+ steep trail followed by steep loose talus, and I was not looking forward to climbing this on the way out. We took a break at the bottom of Water Tanker Hill before proceeding on. The trail north of Ruby Creek was very hard to follow and after a while we lost it completely and just started following game trails and bushwhacking and eventually we found the trail that took us to Noname Creek. After crossing Noname Creek we continued on the trail north on the trail for a couple hundred yards to a junction marked with a large cairn with the trail leading north up onto rock slabs, and then, very shortly, we saw a telephone pole.

From here the trail headed east up Noname Creek and was much easier to follow although it was tough going with it getting steeper, being hot outside, and in some places lots of deadfall over the trail. After hiking for what seemed forever we arrived at a small meadow that offered great views to the Needle Mountains that we would soon be entering. After arriving at Jagged Cabin, about 3 ¼ miles up Noname Creek, that sits below the incredible north face of Animas Mountain we set up camp. From Jagged Cabin, Knife Point, Peak Ten, and Grey Needle dominate the skyline to the east.

Camp at Jagged Cabin with Peak Ten (center) and Gray Needle (left) in distance


Sunset in the Needle Mountains


For this day, since we were only going to be backpacking from Jagged Cabin up to the lake that resides under Jagged Pass, we slept in and that was nice to do for once. After having a nice little breakfast and packing up we all followed the trail from Jagged Cabin east and a little after ½ mile we came to a trail junction in where we headed north (left) where the trail becomes very steep and as we passed through a large meadow I was in awe of the fantastic views of Monitor Peak, Knife Point, and many other rugged peaks come into view. You can get you first view of Jagged Mountain here too. At the east end of the meadow we arrived at another junction where we climbed steeply uphill again. This was tough going with a heavy pack, but on the good side the views of all the peaks got much better. We had a break next to a little waterfall and admired the views of Sunlight Peak, Monitor Peak, and Animas Mountain. We could also see the Jagged Pass so I knew camp was near. After our brief break we continued on up to the lake; this was rather uneventful other than losing the trail again around a large meadow/swamp.

Shane, Jason and myself near camp with Monitor Peak and Animas Mountain in distance


Once at camp I took a nice little nap and just enjoyed the evening in preparation for the next day's adventure up Jagged Mountain, I was so jazzed that I was finally doing it. It was great to watch the sunset in that wonderful place.

Camp at lake below Jagged Pass, a home with a view


Steve and his lucky balloon, Walmart is everywhere!!


Sunset on Gray Needle


The day had finally arrived and at the same time I was highly concerned when I found out in a bad way that my climbing partners aren't morning people. We didn't leave camp until 9:50am and I had too much invested into the trip to not summit due to afternoon weather moving in. From camp we hiked around the lake and made quick time through the boulders up to Jagged Pass. We had to be careful climbing up the last bit to the pass as it was very steep and contained lots of loose rock. We arrived at Jagged Pass at 10:30am and took a brief break and looked at the route up Jagged Mountain. Jagged is one impressive mountain when seen in person, I have seen photos, but that is one thing. I was getting concerned as clouds started to build to the north of us.

Impressive view Jagged Mountain from Jagged Pass


After a brief break we started to traverse the grassy slopes to the base of the wet chimney above the boiler slabs. Immediately after climbing the wet chimney we reached the first crux that was a nice 30 foot tall rock/grassy chimney where Shane did an excellent job of leading and setting up a belay for everyone.

Jason starting up the first crux


From above the chimney we continued to ascend up steep grass that thankfully had nice foot holds notched into the slope.

Once above the first crux there is some grass/rocky scrambling


After the grassy ledge we somehow got off route momentarily as we entered the prominent gully in the north face of Jagged and I didn't think we were supposed to do that, but it worked never the less. Once at the base of the summit cliffs we started to traverse across the north face to where we reached the second crux that involved a steep scamper up a loose gully followed by a large 5 foot step.

Looking across the route toward the notch after you reach the summit cliffs

Once above the 5 foot step we continued heading west to the base of the notch which is about another 30 feet of steep rock climbing. I thought this was the hardest of the 3 cruxes on the north face.

Shane leading up the 3rd crux up to the notch


Once above this crux we sat at the top of the notch briefly and I mean very briefly since at this point it was very nasty looking and we started to hear a couple rumbles of thunder, YIKES. I would normally descend quickly at the first signs of thunder however I found that very hard to do at the moment since the summit was so close. So from the notch we traversed onto the south face and followed the nice and very narrow ledges at times with major air below us, that was exciting. We continued on the ledge back east until it's end, where you see the final crux of 20 feet up a class 3 chimney that contain great holds, with only one slightly awkward move at the top of it.

The narrow ledge on Jagged Mountain's south side


Steve heading up the last class 3 chimney leading up to the summit


From there we had a short and brief scramble to the summit where we arrived at 1:15pm with thunder and all!!

Me on the summit


Congrats Steve on your final Centennial Peak, I hope to make it there myself someday. We quickly signed the register, took pictures and departed as weather continued to move in - the thunder seemed to be more often and louder, as well as the visibility dropping rapidly and we wanted to get across the narrow ledge system before any rain/hail fell.

Jason and Shane scrambling down to the chimney below the summit


We all quickly got down and across the ledge system safely and just as we reached the notch and started to rappel down from the notch the hail storm hit. The first thing I though was "OH SHIT" since this is not the mountain to mess with in bad weather, not to mention my well used boots were not a good idea right now So we sat at the base of the notch seeing if the storm would pass and after about 30 minutes of hailing it still didn't stop, so we thought we needed to head down, so we very slowly and carefully started down.

Jason rappelling down the 2nd crux


Arrow Peak and Vestal Peak in distance with Peak Six in foreground


Me rappelling down the 1st crux


This was probably one of my most nerve-wracking moments on a mountain since pretty much every place is a no fall zone. The storm finally passed after we were a little half way down off the peak. Even with the wet rock and grass, and mud making things just a bit spicy for the descend, we all made it down in one piece, thank goodness. As we traversed back toward Jagged Mountain I decided not to head up Leviathan Peak since I felt I had enough excitement for the day. The descend back to our camp went uneventfully.

From about midnight on the gates of heaven just opened up on us as the rain just never seemed to stop. I was so happy that we were able to squeeze in Jagged as we almost missed our window. I set the alarm for 5:00am in hopes of doing Peak Five and Peak Six however with the rain I went back to sleep hoping it would stop and it didn't so by 10:00am I though "screw the rain" - I wasn't going to let it get me down so I headed up Peak Six anyway. Shane also decided to come along, while Steve and Jason decided to remain in their tents. From camp we headed up the rocky slabs/grassy ledges (I mean greasy) up to the lake that sits in the small basin between Peak Five and Peak Six. We skirted around the lake on its west side and then once on its north side we started to head east for a gully that leads to the ridge just south of the summit of Peak Six. This climb was mostly large talus and some boulders with lots of loose crap as you near the ridge. With the rain it was slow going, but we made it. Once on the ridge we hopped along on talus toward the summit and with of course again no views whatsoever. I would imagine the views of Jagged would have been incredible from here, oh well. After taking some pictures we headed back to camp and the safety of our tents to get out of the rain. By 2:00pm the rain was still falling so we all decided it was time to get out, so we packed up with the plan of staying at the Jagged Cabin again, however, after getting to Jagged Cabin the rain was still falling so we took a short break and all decided to hike down to the start of Noname Creek hoping that by the time we got to camp it would have stopped raining. All tired and wet we reached the bottom of Noname Creek and luckily the rain stopped long enough for us to pitch camp.

The next morning the sky was clear and the sun was out so we all spent the first part of the morning laying everything out to dry - it looked like a huge garage sale going on. After several hours we started packing everything up in order to catch the afternoon train. This time we stayed on the trail much better than on the way in by staying close to the Animas River, and we realize what our error was - even though it was a faint trail at times it was much better than the bushwhacking. In short, if you get too far away from the river you are off route. Due to all the rain the river crossings were raging torrents so we pretty much removed our boots and walked across in sandals. Starting up Watertank Hill was brutal on the way back to Needleton, but we got back to Needleton with plenty of time to look at the pictures from the trip, take a nice nap, read a book, and in general just have a good time.

Out of all the Centennials that I have done so far this is the hardest.
Thanks again Steve for letting me tag along on this trip and congrats again on finishing your Centennials!!
Thanks Shane for your excellent leading on Jagged. It was great hiking with you all.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Just Jealous
11/30/2010 17:20
Glad you had a successful summit, Doug, EVEN THOUGH YOU WOULDN'T LET ME GO – heck no, I'm not bitter!
Congrats to you Steve – nice job! I didn't realize you were so close on the big C list. You picked one nasty peak for a finisher…
"Save money. Live better." Indeed.


09/24/2008 03:46
Nice job Doug.
This latest accomplishment of yours means you HAVE to do Wham, and not the other way up! many cents. do you have left?

Kevin Baker

09/24/2008 05:17
Hearty kudos to you, Doug! I know Steve was waiting for a Jagged summit for a long time. Too bad you were rushed by the weather and your leads weren‘t peak baggers! I‘m hoping to make the trip next year, so thanks for the report.


Thanks for the comments
09/24/2008 20:33
Darin - 9 more to go and counting down.

Kevin - Yea Steve was so happy to finally of done the peak. You will love that mountain. Actually I am hoping to hook up with Shane again for some of the technical climbs since he likes to climb peaks just not a major peak bagger like you!!


Great report!
09/24/2008 14:33
Congrats on the summit ... it is indeed a challenging climb! And, yes, the views of Jagged from Peak 6 are incredible. Happy trails!

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