Thirteen Squared
(Thirteen Summits above 13,000' in 10 Days)

30 Jun - 9 Jul 2005 - by T Colorado

What a wonderful vacation this turned out to be (and sooo successful)! The weather was perfect for 10 days (in fact, it would have been nice to have a break from the sun but, alas, it was not to be ... hehehe). There were five us for just over half of the trip ... Michael and I, our friend Ron (working on completing his 14'ers), his friend Diana (working on completing her 14'ers), and Diana's boyfriend, Chris, climbing 13'ers with Michael and I. After a long drive from Denver on June 29th, we arrived at the Silver Creek Trailhead parking (and camping) above Lake City at about 11:30 p.m.

Day 1 (06/30/05): After about 4-1/2 hours sleep, we were up and ready to go (yeah, right). Michael and Chris and I climbed Unnamed 13,832' and Unnamed 13,811' (14 miles roundtrip, 5000' elevation gain). You follow the same route description for climbing Redcloud to the point of the high 13,020' pass to the north of Redcloud. Turn left (or northeast) and hike along the ridge. Go to the right of a 13,561' ridge point on a good foot path and ascend 13,832. From here, you have a good view of the long ridge walk (descend, bypass 13,632', ascend) to Unnamed 13,811'. Return via the same route. Gerry and Jennifer Roach had signed into the 13,832 register; and Aron Ralston had signed into the 13,811. (Ron and Diana summited Redcloud and Sunshine this day.)

Day 2 (07/01/05): Michael and Ron and I climbed Unnamed 13,691' and Unnamed 13,688' (12 miles roundtrip, 4,000' elevation gain). From the Silver Creek trailhead hike (or drive) about 1/2 mile further up the road (towards Cinnamon Pass) until you come to the Cooper Creek trailhead. Follow the well-defined trail until you come to a split as the basin turns to your right (south). Take the left fork and follow the trail up to a bench (below the beautiful waterfalls of Cooper Lake) and then to the ridge. Turn right and follow the ridge proper to the summit of 13,691' (after many ups and downs). You can see 13,688' to the southeast. Make the easy ridge walk down and then up to 13,688'. Gerry and Jennifer Roach, and Steve Hoffmeyer, had logged into these summit registers. We descended to the northwest into the Silver Creek drainage and back to the parking/camping area.

Day 3 (07/02/05): The five of us decided to knock off some of our hiking distance for the next climbs by backpacking high into the Grizzly Gulch basin. It was about 2.5 miles (1,800' elevation gain) in to where we camped above treeline. We arrived and set up camp early in the day. Michael, Ron, Chris and I climbed Whitecross Mountain, 13,542' from camp (3 miles roundtrip, 1,200' elevation gain). Ascend the grassy slopes heading north to intersect the ridge between Handies and Whitecross. Turn right and walk up the ridge to the summit.

Day 4 (07/03/05): Michael and Chris and I climbed Unnamed 13,795' and Unnamed 13,454' including the interesting ridge in between the two (over and back)(7 miles roundtrip, 2,800' elevation gain). We traversed from our campsite to a trail leading to the small lake below 13,795. Ascend steep talus to the high basin below 13,795'. Ascend the grassy slopes to intersect the ridge to the right of 13,795 to the right of a low point in the saddle. Turn left and walk to the top. For 13,454', descend south along the ridge (following the ridge) until you come to some gendarmes that you will need to bypass on the right (lose elevation and contour your way along slabby, Class 3, steep slopes intermixed with loose rock and dirt). Continue contouring (now heading east) ascending and finally descending to the low point on the ridge. Ascend to the summit of Unnamed 13,454. Return via the same route. (Ron and Diana ascended Handies Peak this day.)

Day 5 (07/04/05): Ahhh ... the rest day (hehe). We packed up and hiked back down to our cars, drove into Lake City. Ate lunch at Iguana's (good mexican food; better margaritas) and did laundry (which was convenienty located next door). Then, we drove north and west and then south to Montrose to re-stock on food supplies. Then, drove further south to spend the night at Orvis Hot Springs Resort (soaking our old bones) and had a great steak dinner at the True Grit Cafe in Ridgway.

Day 6 (07/05/05): We drove into Yankee Boy Basin to a small parking area where the ascent route for Teakettle begins. Please note: there is NO camping in Yankee Boy Basin (though we did get away with it for 2 days, but received a "warning notice" on Day 3 in this basin ... lucky for us, we were leaving at the time anyway). This sucks (sorry); we have been coming to Yankee Boy Basin for years and always enjoyed camping high; that is no longer an option. Oh well, enough whining on my part. There is an official camping area lower down the road (that charges a fee). Michael and Chris and I climbed Cirque Mountain, 13,686' (5 miles roundtrip; 2,500' elevation gain). To climb, continue up the road a short ways until Dyke Col comes into view (the saddle between Kismet and Cirque). Ascend to the saddle. Turn right and follow the ridge to the summit. Incredible views from this summit! The absolute BEST view for photographs in the basin (and we have been on many summits in the basin). Descend via the ascent route. (Ron and Diana climbed Mt. Sneffels this day.) Well, Chris and Diana left after this day of climbing. It was fun to have them along and we hope they will join us again in the future on other climbs!

Day 7 (07/06/05): Michael and Ron and I climbed Teakettle Mountain, 13,819' this day (5.5 miles roundtrip, 4,000' elevation gain). During the entire trip, this is the only climb that required rope and ice ax. Ascend the steep grassy slopes and then pick a combination of loose rock gullies/talus rock ribs to a point below the Coffeepot. Follow the ridge towards Teakettle and descend a loose gully. Traverse to the base of a black couloir (still with some ice in towards the top). Ascent the couloir; we opted for the right side towards the top. Continue following the ridge until you curve to the right and ascend sandy gentle slopes to the upper reaches of Teakettle. We needed ice axes at this point as there is much snow blocking the footpath to the summit block. We traversed high on the snow, and then worked our way on sandy gullies to the "handle" of Teakettle. Traditional pictures (and video) were taken of us standing in the hole. Snow/ice filled the gully next to the summit pyramid. We kicked steps in and Michael did an amazing job of leading (without belay) the final summit pitch. He belayed Ron and I up. There really was no more room for anyone else on this summit! And, the rock quality of the summit pinnacle was very good compared to the rest of the peak. After signing in the register, we took turns rappeling off the summit block. We descended back down to a broad, scree gully below the saddle of Coffeepot/Teakettle. Much loose rock to be had here; just be aware of others. Then, we contoured back to our ascent route (on the grassy slopes) and back down to the truck. We packed up (as we had received our no camping notice whilst away climbing this day) and drove to a camping area on the east side of Owl Creek Pass.

Day 8 (07/07/05): Michael and Ron and I climbed Recliff, 13,642' (11 miles roundtrip; 3,300' elevation gain). From the trailhead (heading up to West Fork Pass), hike to treeline and ascend to the saddle between Coxcomb and Redcliff. At the saddle, pause to enjoy the great view of Uncompaghre, Matterhorn, Wetterhorn and other numerous 13'ers. Turn left and walk to the summit. There was a register put up there by Kirk Mallory (boy, this Kirk Mallory guy put up a lot of registers on peaks we climbed on this trip ... busy man). Descend via the same route. We then packed up (yep ... we were there less than 24 hours) and drove to Gunnison to get strombolis to go from Mario's (wonderful Italian food). From Gunnison we drove to the trailhead at Stewart Creek (setting up camp near the trailhead).

Day 9 (07/08/05): Michael and I climbed Baldy Alto (13,698') and Stewart Peak, 13,983' (15.5 miles roundtrip; 5,000' elevation gain). Follow the long and gradual Stewart Creek trail to the saddle between Organ and San Luis (we went this route in order to hang out longer with Ron as he climbed San Luis this day). Michael and I turned right (or north) and followed the ridge up and down over to Baldy Alto. From Baldy Alto, Stewart Peak is a long ridge walk down and then up to the north. Much wildlife between the peaks ... we saw about 20 head of elk (including babies) and 10 big horn sheep (including babies) which we were lucky enough to capture on video. The summit of Stewart Peak is covered with many many wonderful smelling flowers. To return, descend to the saddle between Stewart Peak and Baldy Alto. Make a contouring traverse to the left (east) side of Baldy Alto. Descend grassy slopes to intersect the trail in the valley. This was a long day and we were treated to the singing of a coyote and the viewing of a beaver on our way back to camp.

Day 10 (07/09/05): Michael and I climbed Organ Mountain, 13,801' (11 miles roundtrip; 3,300' elevation gain). Hike up the Stewart Creek Trail. Above treeline, when the trail is very near the creek, cross the creek and follow the north ridge to the summit. Descend the ascent route. We packed up, drove to near Buena Vista, had mexican food and savored the victories of this trip.

All of our 13'er summits had registers on them! Bully bully to those maintaining these registers. There were no registers (nor canisters) on some of the 14'ers. Too bad. Well, until the next climb ... Happy Trails!

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