Peak(s):  "Phoenix Peak"  -  13,895 feet
American Peak  -  13,806 feet
Pigeon Peak  -  13,972 feet
Monitor Peak  -  13,695 feet
Animas Mountain  -  13,786 feet
Turret Peak A  -  13,835 feet
Arrow Peak  -  13,803 feet
Vestal Peak  -  13,864 feet
Teakettle Mountain  -  13,819 feet
Half Peak  -  13,841 feet
Date Posted:  09/15/2014
Modified:  08/18/2015
Date Climbed:   08/27/2014
Author:  Mtnman200
Additional Members:   RandyMack
 Success & Failure in the San Juans: 2014 RTM Climbing Trip   

Little Finger, Peak Sixteen, Peak Fifteen, and Turret Peak rise dramatically from the Ruby Creek basin

The Republic of Texas Mountaineers' goal for 2014 was to climb about a dozen centennial peaks (i.e., peaks that are among the 100 highest in Colorado) so that Randy (19) and David (18) could perhaps complete the centennials in 2015. We also planned to climb Eddie's three remaining unclimbed peaks (Monitor Peak (13,695'), Animas Mountain (13,786'), and Peak Fifteen (13,700')) of Colorado's 200 highest mountains.

August 8, Friday. Eddie, Randy, and David left our home in Austin and drove via Walsenburg, Alamosa, and South Fork to Creede. We then drove north along East Willow Creek on an increasingly rough road, stopping in Phoenix Park at about 10,320' shortly after crossing Whited Creek. We discovered that we'd knocked off a center cap on a rock and had pulled loose the right front mud flap on the rough road. Oops!

August 9, Saturday. We got up to clear skies and frost on the car and tent and began hiking east, soon crossing East Willow Creek. We then followed the old Center Stock Driveway to a trailhead sign at 10,380'. The trail then headed east on the north side of a creek before crossing to the south side of the creek right after the last of numerous beaver ponds. We'd read of others crossing the creek too soon, but simply staying on the trail leads directly to the proper place to cross the creek. The trail continued east to timberline at about 11,720', and at that point we left the trail and crossed to the north side of the creek. From here we headed north to the ridge and then followed it to the summit of Phoenix Peak (13,895').

The ridge approach to Phoenix Peak. Can you see the summit cairn in the distance?

Eddie, Randy, and David on Phoenix Peak's summit

We were the first climbers to sign the summit register since it was placed here on 8/6/14. The summit cairn is a seven-foot tall monstrosity! After a half hour on the summit, we headed back the way we came and returned to our campsite.

We broke camp and, after retrieving our stray car parts along the East Willow Creek road, drove to Rio Grande Reservoir for tomorrow's planned climb of Rio Grande Pyramid. After getting our backpacks ready, we set out on the Weminuche Trail toward Weminuche Pass. A pleasant hike up the excellent trail brought us to a creek crossing at about 10,500', and we stopped shortly after this creek crossing and set up camp. Several coyotes howled in the distance as we ate dinner.

August 10, Sunday. We got water from the creek and then followed a trail that angled southwest up the slope near our campsite and then ran parallel to the Weminuche Trail. In hindsight, we should have stayed on the Weminuche Trail instead of taking the other trail, but this was a minor error that didn't slow us down much. After about a mile, our informal trail disappeared altogether where it reached Weminuche Creek.

Soon after crossing Weminuche Creek, we found the proper trail toward Rio Grande Pyramid that heads directly west from Weminuche Pass. This trail was once called the Skyline Trail but is now called the Opal Lake Trail. The trail went through an area of downed timber, but we had no trouble following it. After a while, we could see The Window, a huge rectangular cut on the ridge south of Rio Grande Pyramid.

The Window from the approach to Rio Grande Pyramid

Rio Grande Pyramid from the approach on the Opal Lake Trail

We reached a trail intersection at about 12,200' and turned right (northwest) onto a lesser trail that took us toward the 12,645' saddle east of Rio Grande Pyramid. We stayed on the trail a bit too long before leaving it and heading west toward a 13,120' shoulder. A climber's trail helped us gain altitude, and we continued west up the rocky slopes to the summit of Rio Grande Pyramid, arriving just after light hail began.

Eddie and David on the summit of Rio Grande Pyramid

After signing the summit register, we headed down. Light rain fell off and on for two hours but was never a problem. We returned to camp, packed up, and started backpacking toward the trailhead. Once there, we drove to Lake City. Due to the late hour, we attempted to find lodging but were unsuccessful. However, we did discover a restaurant (Restless Spirits Saloon) where we had pizza for dinner. We then drove to Williams Creek Campground (CG) and camped for the night.

August 11, Monday. When we were ready to leave Williams Creek CG, the starter wouldn't engage! We knew our battery was good and were checking the connections at the battery when a former auto mechanic from Marble Falls who happened to be camped next to us saw our hood up and stopped by to see if he could help his fellow Texans. He crawled under our car, whacked the starter with a hammer, and the car started up right away! We hadn't considered performing percussive maintenance...

We were glad that our campsite was not up a jeep road as originally planned. The nearest place for repairs would be Gunnison, so we drove there and went to Precision Auto. When we explained what the problem had been, the service advisor immediately asked if we'd hit the starter with a hammer. Apparently, the brushes in the starter eventually get worn out and will stick enough that the battery can't overcome the resistance. Hitting the starter with a hammer will knock the brushes free but is only a temporary repair. They wouldn't be able to get to our car until late afternoon, but at least they could fix it today.

After retrieving our car about 5:45 PM, we drove back to Lake City and continued over Cinnamon Pass. We had planned to drive up the Burns Gulch jeep road but, due to the dwindling daylight, instead found a campsite site below Animas Forks and set up our tent as darkness fell. We had to cancel a climbing day due to the car repair, but at least the starter wouldn't leave us stranded now.

August 12, Tuesday. We drove as high up the Burns Gulch jeep road as we could, parking at about 11,600' just below a rough section that stopped us.

Looking toward Niagara Peak from Burns Gulch

We began hiking up the jeep road and at around 12,000' left the road and followed a climber's trail up the tundra to the Niagara Peak - Jones Mountain saddle. Once there, we turned right and followed the ridge to the summit of Niagara Peak (13,807').

Randy on Niagara Peak

After 20 minutes we were on our way back to the Niagara - Jones saddle. We continued along the ridge to the summit of Jones Mountain (13,860'). We could see a number of people on Handies Peak, but we had the thirteeners all to ourselves today.

Niagara Peak from Jones Mountain

The clouds were moving in as we gazed at American Peak's summit about one mile away and debated whether to continue along to it. We certainly did not want to get caught in bad weather on a long ridge, but the clouds were not yet threatening so we decided to go for it.

The long connecting ridge to American Peak (right) from Jones Mountain. Handies Peak is visible in the background (left of c

As it turned out, a nice climber's trail enabled us to make good time to American Peak (13,806'). After 15 minutes on the summit, we headed back to the 13,340' Jones Mountain - American Peak saddle. We descended toward the upper part of Burns Gulch and to a lake at 12,500' before angling left and then descending to an old road that we followed back toward our car. Along the way, we stopped to look at two old mines. We returned to our car and drove to Silverton, where we checked into the Triangle Motel for two nights.

We called the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and ordered "backpacker special" tickets for Thursday's trip into the Weminuche Wilderness. Our plan was to take the 2:30 PM train to Needleton, backpack up the Ruby Creek trail past Ruby Lake, and climb six adjacent mountains before heading over the Monitor Peak - Peak Twelve pass to the Noname Creek drainage for a climb of Jagged Mountain. The "backpacker special" tickets for the afternoon train from Silverton are less expensive than tickets for the morning train from Durango and also would allow us to park for free at the train station. The downside, however, is getting dropped off at the Needleton bridge over the Animas River at 3:35 PM, some 4 hours later than getting dropped off there by the morning train from Durango.

August 13, Wednesday. Today would be a much-needed and well-deserved rest day. After getting our backpacks ready for tomorrow's trip up the informal Ruby Creek trail and picking up our train tickets at the train station, we took a two-hour tour of the Mayflower Mill, which shut down in 1991. The biggest hits were the interactive exhibits.

August 14, Thursday. After doing the final packing of our backpacks, we toured the San Juan County Historical Society Museum. There is a halftrack parked in front that looks like a lot of fun to drive; perfect for a first date. After lunch, we dropped our backpacks near the train and then Randy drove the car to the train station and walked back to the train. We were going to have to hustle to get to our Ruby Creek campsite before dark and didn't want to waste energy doing unnecessary backpacking before we even got on the train.

The train left on time and dropped us off at Needleton at 3:40 PM, and we quickly grabbed our backpacks and immediately headed left toward the Ruby Creek trail while all the other backpackers headed toward Chicago Basin, presumably to climb fourteeners. We were glad that the train had been early and even gladder that today's persistent rain stopped by the time the train let us off. After we'd been backpacking for about an hour, a goat came charging down the trail, saw us, and immediately headed downhill off the trail.

The scenic Animas River Valley from the Ruby Creek trail (taken the day we headed back to Needleton)

We reached Ruby Lake at 7:30 and had only about an hour of decent daylight left. Decision time: do we push on, or do we camp at Ruby Lake? We decided that we should be able to reach an 11,300' camping area adjacent to Ruby Creek at timberline, even if we couldn't reach the upper meadow at 11,600' below the peaks that we planned to climb. As darkness began to fall, we reached the timberline camping area. Four guys were already camped here, and we set up the tent at a site that wasn't too close to our neighbors. We were tired but glad that we'd pushed on to this camping area. It would make tomorrow's climb easier than if we'd camped at Ruby Lake.

August 15, Friday. We headed southeast up the Ruby Creek drainage and then climbed southwest up the rocky slopes to the 13,100' Pigeon Peak - Turret Peak saddle. One of our neighbors was at the saddle and had decided not to continue with his three friends to Pigeon Peak.

Pigeon Peak from the Pigeon - Turret saddle

We descended west to a 12,780' saddle southwest of Pigeon Peak and then descended west-northwest to about 12,200' in the basin west of Pigeon Peak. After contouring north mile on a climber's trail to a drainage, we climbed northeast and east up steep grassy slopes toward Pigeon Peak's north ridge. A second guy from the group of four turned back in this area. From just west of the ridge, we climbed more directly toward the summit as two of our campsite neighbors, Dillon Sarnelli and Nate Watts, descended from the summit block. The Roach book describes a 4th class crux, but we never encountered anything more difficult than straightforward 3rd class climbing. We reached the summit of Pigeon Peak (13,972') and were the 11th - 13th to sign the summit register this year.

David and Eddie on the summit of Pigeon Peak

Randy has a lofty perch on the summit of Pigeon Peak

We enjoyed the great views of the rugged mountains surrounding us before starting down. It had been a beautiful day, but clouds were building. When we returned to the Pigeon- Turret saddle, we decided to skip Turret Peak today due to nearby lightning. This would mean that we'd have to climb Turret Peak on Monday, which would leave us one day short of food for our planned attempt on Jagged Mountain and forced us to postpone Jagged until another year.

We returned to camp and packed up for the move to the upper meadow at 11,600'. We explained to our neighbors that we weren't moving because they hadn't showered but were just moving camp to where we'd intended to go all along. Our neighbors said that they were planning to climb Monitor Peak, Peak Thirteen, and Animas Mountain tomorrow. (That was our original plan, but we'd already decided to attempt Peak Fifteen tomorrow.) When we reached the upper meadow at 11,600', we set up camp and decided to get up a half hour earlier than usual tomorrow due to the difficulties in climbing Peak Fifteen.

August 16, Saturday. We set out under clear skies and moonlight. The scree slope to the saddle east of Little Finger was a loose and annoying climb but is the most direct way to approach Peak Fifteen from Ruby Creek.

Little Finger, Peak Sixteen, Peak Fifteen, and Turret Peak in the early morning light

We reached the saddle shortly after a mama goat and her baby goat rolled rocks toward us. From the saddle, we descended about 300' to the south-facing couloir that leads to the Peak Fifteen - Peak Sixteen saddle. A couple of cairns gave us confidence that we were in the right couloir, so we began ascending it.

Eventually, we reached a wet headwall and tried to find a way around it on ledges to the left (west). After wasting about an hour in this futile effort, we returned to the couloir and decided that we simply needed to climb straight up the wet headwall. Randy put on his Spiderman climbing shoes and was up the headwall in no time. Once there, he belayed David and Eddie up. Both climbed the headwall without needing a belay, but it was nice to have the security of the rope due to the wet rock. We continued up the couloir and then climbed up ledges to the left (west) until reaching the Peak Fifteen - Peak Sixteen saddle.

We peered down the precipitous north side of the saddle at Ruby Creek far below before turning our focus to routefinding. Garratt and Martin's book suggested climbing 50 vertical feet before traversing right 10 yards to the edge of the north face, climbing another 50 vertical feet, and then traversing west across the south face 75 yards to a gully that allows access through a cliff band to the summit ridge. The problem was that we could see no reasonable way to climb 50 vertical feet from the saddle.

We descended on ledges on the west side of the couloir and looked for a location where we could traverse on the south face and then climb to the ridge. Because Randy was wearing his Spiderman shoes, he led the way and traversed and then climbed to a perch some 50 feet above David and Eddie but could see no obvious way to continue. We may have started the traverse too high but in any event decided to bail out.

Disappointed, we headed down the couloir, rappelling once at the wet headwall and again lower down to avoid a steep downclimb. As we returned to our campsite, we saw that two new neighbors had set up their tent further up the meadow from us, but we never had the chance to talk to them.

August 17, Sunday. We climbed northeast toward the basin south of Animas Mountain.

The basin south of Animas Mountain, with Peak Thirteen in the center of the photo and Monitor Peak to the right

At 13,000', we headed up a ramp that climbs southeast across Peak Thirteen's southwest face. This ramp is the upper (and easiest) of several possible ramps and has whitish cliffs above it. The ramp took us to the Monitor Peak - Peak Thirteen saddle, where we descended west about 20 feet and then began traversing south. After scrambling across gullies, probably too high, we climbed to Monitor's west ridge and followed it to the summit of Monitor Peak (13,695'). The climbing never exceeded 3rd class.

Animas Mountain & Peak Thirteen from Monitor Peak. Peak Thirteen is best climbed by traversing to the right and then climbing

We headed back the way we'd come. Once back to the Monitor - Peak Thirteen saddle, we headed north to the base of cliffs on Peak Thirteen's south face. (From here, some people have climbed directly toward Peak Thirteen's summit, but this route is more difficult than necessary; i.e., 4th class rather than 3rd class.) We turned right and did a slightly-descending traverse to the east before going around a corner. Next, we scrambled west and north on ledges to the summit of Peak Thirteen (13,705'). The climbing difficulty on our route never exceeded 3rd class.

David and Eddie on Peak Thirteen's summit ridge with plenty of San Juan "kitty litter" visible. Monitor Peak is

We descended toward the saddle northwest of Peak Thirteen and then contoured northwest on the south side of the ridge until we were past a 13,620' ridge point. After climbing to the 13,500' saddle between Animas Mountain and the 13,620' ridge point, we climbed northwest to the base of a cliff band and then moved right into a gully that we climbed to a short 4th class chimney. After climbing the chimney, we scrambled up ledges to the summit of Animas Mountain. We spent 35 minutes on the summit, enjoying the great views of the rugged mountains surrounding us.

The 13,620' ridge point, Peak Thirteen, and Monitor Peak from Animas Mountain

Jagged Mountain from Animas Mountain (Rio Grande Pyramid and The Window can be seen in the background on the left side of the

Little Finger, Peak 16, Peak 15, Turret Pk, & Pigeon Pk from Animas Mtn. The route to Peak Fifteen uses the orange scree to t

From Animas Mountain, the Weminuche Wilderness looks like a sea of mountains covered by a blanket of clouds

We returned to the 13,500' saddle immediately east of Animas Mountain and descended on scree that was very suitable for skiing. Once we reached a cliffy section, we traversed right (west) until we were two gullies farther over. We then continued descending through the cliff band and soon reached the grassy slopes. Clouds were building by now but all in all it had been a "bluebird day." Now that we were on easier terrain, we took our time descending the rest of the way to camp.

Our campsite in Ruby Creek with Animas, Thirteen, and Monitor above us. A Ruby Creek basin goat is visible in the photo'

Because we hadn't climbed Turret Peak on Friday when we bagged Pigeon Peak, we decided to climb Turret tomorrow morning and then backpack to Needleton. That would enable us to catch the morning train to Silverton on Tuesday.

August 18, Monday. We set out toward the 13,100' Pigeon Peak - Turret Peak saddle. We were able to follow trail segments part of the way. Rather than climb all the way to the saddle, we began angling toward Turret Peak. It was an easy climb up the ridge, and we soon reached the summit of Turret Peak (13,835'). We were the 13th - 15th signatures in the summit register this year. The sky was cloud-free so far today and the views in all directions were superb, so we spent a leisurely hour and 15 minutes on the summit. We watched a rather fearless and surefooted goat bounding up and down the cliffs of Pigeon Peak's south side.

Randy, David, and Eddie on Turret Peak with Pigeon Peak in the background

After returning to camp, we cooked lunch and packed up. With no shade available, it was quite hot in the meadow where we were camped. After lunch, we began backpacking down the trail. Upon reaching the campsites near Needleton, we found that we had the entire area to ourselves. We built a fire and discussed military history until 9:30 PM. Rain began right after we went to bed and continued until about 5 AM.

August 19, Tuesday. After breakfast, Randy and David played a game of horseshoes with the rappel rings before heading to the Animas River to clean up before the train arrived. By now, skies were overcast. We relaxed around our campsite until 10:00 and then broke camp and backpacked 15 minutes to the Needleton bridge. There were eight other backpackers here, and all had come from Chicago Basin. The 11:15 AM train arrived on time, and we loaded our backpacks into the boxcar after the backpackers who were just starting their journey retrieved their backpacks.

A rough-looking trio waiting for the 11:15 a.m. train at the Needleton bridge. The matching shirts are from OA SR2-3S Section

After returning to Silverton, we checked into the Triangle Motel, bought groceries, and headed to the city park where David cooked grilled cheese and ham sandwiches for lunch. They were delicious, especially after nearly a week of freeze-dried dinners. Back in our motel room, we got our backpacks ready for tomorrow's trek up Vestal Creek for planned climbs of Arrow Peak, Vestal Peak, and the Trinity Peaks.

August 20, Wednesday. We drove to the Molas trailhead. Rain was in the forecast for the next few days, and it was already partly cloudy when we set out on foot at 8:20. The early portion of the trail was extremely muddy but soon improved after it joined the Colorado Trail.

Snowdon Peak from the Colorado Trail near Molas Pass

Randy started counting the switchbacks as the trail descended toward the Animas River but soon lost count. After crossing the Animas River footbridge near Elk Park, the trail headed south along the train tracks for 500 feet before climbing above the tracks on the Elk Creek Trail/Colorado Trail.

Mt. Garfield from Elk Park. The Colorado Trail is visible in the lower right corner of the photo

After a couple of miles, we met a Chicago Bears fan who said that he was also an Aaron Rodgers fan and lamented that the Bears had Jay "Paints His Toenails" Cutler as quarterback. In another mile, we reached a large beaver pond and turned right onto the informal Vestal Creek trail around the east side of the pond. The trail soon descended to Elk Creek, where we stopped for lunch. It was very cloudy now, and some light rain fell after we began hiking again but was not a problem. As we headed up the Vestal Creek drainage, we met two forest rangers who had been removing illegal campfire rings. (No fires are allowed in the Vestal Creek drainage.)

When we reached a camping area at about 11,300' below Arrow Peak and Vestal Peak, it took a while to find a campsite that would hold our four-man tent. Overall, the weather had been good today despite the rainy forecast. Because the weather might be poor tomorrow, we decided to climb Arrow Peak before Vestal Peak to minimize the chances that we'd be caught in bad weather on Arrow Peak's steep ramp and summit pitch. A coyote howled in the distance in the early evening.

August 21, Thursday. We ascended southwest toward the basin between Arrow Peak and Vestal Peak and soon found a climber's trail that took us to the top of the headwall. We then headed more or less directly toward an obvious place to climb up to the broad ramp that heads southwest to the top of Arrow Peak.

Looking up the ramp on Arrow Peak

We entered Arrow's ramp and climbed directly up increasingly steep rocky ledges to Arrow's northeast ridge and then turned right for a short scramble to the summit of Arrow Peak (13,803').

Randy, Eddie, and David on top of Arrow Peak

The summit register was in a ziplock bag that had been chewed on, most likely by Bucky the Marmot, so we put the register in a new ziplock that we had with us to protect it from the elements, at least for a while. We enjoyed the great views from the summit, especially of Wham Ridge on Vestal Peak.

Vestal Peak and its Wham Ridge (far left) as seen from Arrow Peak's ramp.

We descended from the summit a bit east of our ascent route and realized that this would have been an easier route up Arrow Peak. We returned to where we'd gotten onto the ramp and then headed toward the rocky couloir that leads to the 12,860' Arrow - Vestal saddle. Once at the saddle, we did an ascending traverse southeast across Vestal's south face. From the east side of Vestal's south ridge, we scrambled up ledges on the left side of a broad gully. Eventually we climbed to the ridge and turned left and scrambled to the summit of Vestal Peak (13,864').

Arrow Peak from the top of Vestal Peak. The correct ramp on Arrow Peak is the lower ramp that climbs to the summit ridge lef

We returned to the Arrow - Vestal saddle and headed down the scree and rock to the top of the headwall, where we followed the climber's trail down to the valley. We were refilling our water bottles at Vestal Creek when heavy rain began. The rain was coming down hard enough that we waited it out under trees for 15 minutes before returning to our campsite. Like last night, we had the entire valley to ourselves.

August 22, Friday. Rain fell most of the night, which caused us to cancel our plans to climb the Trinity Peaks today, given that Middle Trinity Peak includes a 4th class section and is not a peak to take lightly. We took our time getting up and cooking breakfast. Our rainfly was quite wet from the rain, so we kept it separate from the rest of the tent when we packed up.

We began backpacking toward the trailhead, stopping to cook lunch when we reached the beaver pond. After we started hiking again, some light rain fell off and on before we reached the Animas River footbridge. We had climbed most of the way above the Animas River valley when light rain began. The final 45 minutes to the trailhead were in heavy rain, so the trail was even muddier than it had been on Wednesday. We began driving toward Silverton and called the Triangle Motel as soon as we got signal, but they had no vacancy. We then called the Grand Imperial Hotel and were able to get their last available room. (This room only had one queen size bed for the three of us, but we figured that we could make it work.) While we were checking in about 10 minutes later, the hotel staff turned away a potential customer who would have taken our room if we hadn't gotten it first.

August 23, Saturday. During the night, Randy decided that he'd have more room if he slept on his thermarest and sleeping bag on the floor. The rain had stopped by the time we got up. We drove north through Ouray and Ridgway and toward Telluride for our planned backpack to climb Dallas Peak (13,809') (our primary objective) and T0 (13,735'). Between Placerville and Telluride, we saw a couple of old car seats just off the roadway, turned away from the highway so they faced the scenery. In Telluride, we continued our pizza tour of Colorado by going to the Brown Dog Restaurant for an all-meat pizza. We then drove about three miles to the Mill Creek trailhead and began backpacking. Soon we turned left at a trail intersection and continued to a ridge at 10,620' where we turned right onto the Sneffels Highline Trail. This trail was a big improvement over the climber's trail that had been the route up the ridge when Eddie and his dad climbed Dallas Peak in 1989. (The Sneffels Highline Trail was constructed sometime between August 1989 and July 1993.)

Rain began and was coming down hard enough that we had to put on our rain gear and pack covers. After hiking on the Sneffels Highline Trail for about 1.2 miles, we should have seen a camping area on our right, shortly after we crossed a small stream. Instead, distracted by the hard rain, we accidentally overshot the camping area and had to backtrack a half mile. On the plus side, we saw where to leave the trail to climb Dallas Peak. Back at the camping area, we set up our tent and cooked dinner during a break in the rain. Hard rain began at 8:00 PM, so we retreated into the tent.

August 24, Sunday. Because Dallas Peak is a difficult climb, we had planned to get up at 4:30 AM but somehow overslept until 5:30. To make matters worse, it was very cloudy and threatening already. Finally, the rock on Dallas Peak most likely would be wet (or snowy/icy) from yesterday's precipitation. Consequently, we realized that it would be best to put off Dallas Peak until another trip.

Sunrise from our campsite near Dallas Peak. You can see why we decided not to attempt Dallas Peak this morning.

After cooking breakfast, we rested or slept for about an hour in the tent. No more rain fell but the sky was an ominous mix of blue sky and clouds. We packed up after getting our gear as dry as possible and began backpacking toward the trailhead. Once we reached the trailhead, we drove back to Ouray and toward Yankee Boy Basin, stopping at Thistledown CG. After not even attempting Dallas Peak, we were determined to succeed on Teakettle Mountain tomorrow.

August 25, Monday. We drove up the Yankee Boy Basin road to about 11,300', where we parked in a small parking area. We climbed north on a climber's trail up a steep grassy slope toward the Coffeepot. The slope became steeper, rockier, and looser as we approached the base of the Coffeepot, a little over 2100' above our starting point. Winds were blowing at 20 - 30 mph, and it felt like September had arrived early this year.

The view of Yankee Boy Basin as we climbed toward the Coffeepot

We descended about 150' southwest on a vague climber's trail, continued west to get below a cliff band, and then contoured north and northwest toward the infamous black gully that is located southeast of Teakettle Mountain's summit block. We climbed about 250 feet up the black gully, mostly staying on the sides of the gully, to where the gully splits into western (left) and eastern (right) branches. The right branch is supposed to be 4th class, but we think it's no more than 3rd class. In fact, it was so windy that one of us climbed most of the black gully with his hands in his pockets.

Teakettle Mountain is well-armed with cliffs. The hole in the handle appears as a black oval from this angle due to shadows

Once we exited the black gully, a climber's trail took us northwest toward the summit block. A couple of gullies took us through cliff bands, and soon we were at Teakettle's handle.

David is in Teakettle's handle for the obligatory photo. No climb of Teakettle is complete without one

The summit tower looked easier than Eddie had remembered from when he and his dad climbed it in 1991. We had brought along our climbing gear this time, however, so Randy put on his Spiderman climbing shoes and scampered up the summit block to the small, airy top of Teakettle Mountain (13,819'). Randy then belayed David and Eddie up, though we would have felt fine climbing the summit block without a belay. You can hear how windy it was in this short video of Randy climbing the summit block:

Eddie downclimbed the summit block, while David and Randy both chose to rappel. Just below the handle, we found a camera in a case. A photograph on the memory card indicated that the camera had been here since 7/2/06, and we were surprised that no one had found the camera for over eight years. If it's yours, PM us so we can get the memory card back to its owner, even though the camera looks like it's history.

Potosi Peak and its flat summit is clearly visible from the summit of Teakettle Mountain; the Coffeepot can be seen in front

We returned to the Coffeepot and continued toward Potosi Peak (13,786') by descending the ridge southeast to the 12,980' Potosi - Coffeepot saddle. Once at the saddle, the threatening skies, Potosi's fierce-looking cliffs, and the relatively late hour (early afternoon) convinced us to head down. We angled right and headed toward where we were parked, crossing some deep gullies on the way and descending down some rather steep sections.

After returning to the car, we drove back to Silverton and stocked up on water at the city park before driving over Cinnamon Pass to Burrows Park, where we set up camp. We were glad that we'd skipped Potosi Peak because we might have been setting up camp in the dark if we hadn't.

August 26, Tuesday. We set out on the Silver Creek trail to climb Unnamed (UN) 13832 and UN 13811. Above treeline, a short section of the trail was buried beneath snow that included the remnants of small trees, and we speculated that there had been an avalanche last winter.

Tree parts in the snow along the Silver Creek trail

After reaching the 13,020' Redcloud Peak - UN 13832 saddle, we turned left and headed along the ridge, staying right of a 13,561' ridge point and bypassing some false summits. We then climbed directly up the rocky slopes to the summit of UN 13832. A climber was visible on the summit of our next objective, UN 13811.

We continued northeast along the ridge, bypassing another false summit. From a 13,260' saddle, we climbed to the summit of UN 13811 in light rain. The climber we'd seen an hour earlier was long gone. Hail began, so we headed back the way we came, except for contouring around UN 13832 rather than reclimbing it. We stopped for lunch in sight of the Redcloud - UN 13832 saddle, figuring that if the weather got nasty, we didn't have far to go to descend into the valley.

UN 13811 from UN 13832. The route along the ridge contours around a few ridge bumps

As we finished lunch, hail began falling again, so we headed to the saddle and down the trail toward the trailhead. The hail was short-lived, but light rain began falling about 20 minutes before we reached our campsite just below the trailhead. The rain continued, so we cooked dinner and ate in the old cabin across the road from the trailhead. We reviewed three possible routes for tomorrow's climb of Half Peak. Eddie and his dad had climbed the east face approach in 1989, but we settled on climbing the south ridge as an easier, though longer, route. We also decided to skip Thursday's planned climb of Huerfano Peak. The rain was still falling when we went to bed.

August 27, Wednesday. The rain continued until 2 or 3 AM. We drove about four miles to the Cataract Gulch trailhead, and at times the patchy low-level fog made the road hard to see in the dark. We set out on foot up the trail toward Cataract Lake and had been hiking for about a half hour when a donkey on the trail above us saw us coming and ran off into the forest. The recent rain had made the willows next to the trail annoyingly wet, especially for Randy because he was leading.

Some hail fell as we passed a camper and a dog in a tent near a small lake at 12,180' southwest of (and above) Cataract Lake. The Roaches' map indicates that the route goes around the small lake, and the Roaches then suggest leaving the trail and contouring west into a small drainage. Neither is correct, apparently because the book predates the Cataract Gulch trail being connected to the Cuba Gulch Trail. The correct way to proceed is to simply stay on the trail near the lake at 12,180'.

We continued on the trail almost halfway toward the pass to Cuba Gulch as hail began falling for about 15 minutes. When the trail curved to the left, we exited the trail on the right and began climbing to Half Peak's south ridge. A strong hailstorm began, accompanied by very strong winds, and we turned sideways while climbing the ridge to keep from getting pelted in the face with hail. As we neared the narrow connecting ridge to the summit plateau, we met a guy on his way down who has fewer than 20 centennial peaks to go.

Half Peak's south ridge with this morning's hail visible on Half Peak's tilted summit block

The connecting ridge was fun, and the route was straightforward and easy to discern, and soon we found ourselves on top of the huge tilted summit plateau of Half Peak (13,841').

Randy on Half Peak; the camera's flash lit up the hail that was pelting us

More hail fell as we descended a bit farther east than we'd ascended. We found a cut through the cliffs and headed east down steep slopes toward Cataract Lake. Once we were off the steep slope, we stopped for lunch in a low area that was fairly well protected from the strong winds that were still blowing. We then continued east and northeast, aiming for Cataract Lake and eventually intersecting the trail. We reached the trailhead after hiking in light rain for the last half hour and began driving toward home, stopping near Clines Corners, NM.

August 28, Thursday. We left at 6:35 a.m. MDT (7:35 CDT) and reached our house in sunny central Texas at 7:55 p.m. CDT. On this trip, we climbed 16 mountains in 10 climbing days, including:

10 thirteeners in the 100 highest peaks in Colorado
5 thirteeners plus one non-separate peak in the second 100 highest peaks in Colorado

David and Randy have now climbed 84 of the 100 highest mountains in Colorado. With our climbs of Monitor Peak and Animas Mountain, Eddie has now climbed 201 of the 202 highest mountains in Colorado. The remaining peak (Peak Fifteen (13,700') in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado) is high on our priority list to attempt again (and hopefully redeem ourselves) next summer from Ruby Creek.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Love it ...
09/16/2014 18:37
This is a great trip report! Very much ”to-the-point”, matter of fact commentary, successes and failures, beautiful photos, and colorful ”additives” like the old car seats set up for a view, the tour-de-pizzas, NFL opinions, and an 8 year old lost camera. You guys got a lot done in sketchy window of time considering the weather we were having. If I recall correctly, the route to that saddle between Arrow and Vestal SUCKS (everything moves ... 1 step forward, 2 steps back). Thanks for posting. Hope you get your goal next year on your trip up here. Happy trails! Oh, and I am absolutely not surprised on the hospitality of people at trailheads/parking areas ... been the benefactor of that myself.

Thanks, Presto
09/16/2014 20:28
Thanks for the comments. I think the impromptu car repair at the campground might be karma from last year when we used our tow strap to tow a disabled SUV about a half dozen miles to where the owner could get it fixed.

And yes, the climb to the Arrow - Vestal saddle was loose but better than I remember from my 1988 climb of Vestal. Maybe my route choice was better this time...

Nice write-up, nice blitz.
09/17/2014 18:15
Can't speak to the Arrow-Vestal saddle, but descending Vestal was bad enough. Wholly agree that nothing in Teakettle's Black Gully exceeds Class 3, at most. Good luck on Peak Fifteen next year!

sweet pics
01/08/2015 12:50
Enjoyed reading through your report and seeing great photos of one of the state’s most spectacular areas.

08/18/2015 12:59
Eddie, I never saw this report until just now! What a long great trip this was for you guys and an excellent trip report to go along. Very glad I got to meet you in there. Headed into Vestal Basin next week to go for Arrow, Vestal and the Trinities. Can’t wait to get back in there. Oh and thanks for the shout out! Cheers!

great report
02/25/2016 17:14
I have 6-8 of these on my list for this summer's SW CO trip. Enjoyed the write up and great job getting all these done!

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