Peak(s):  Peak Eleven  -  13,540 feet
Vallecito Mountain  -  13,428 feet
Date Posted:  09/08/2017
Modified:  01/20/2019
Date Climbed:   09/04/2017
Author:  Mtnman200
Additional Members:   RandyMack
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 Still Raining, Still Dreaming (in the Weminuche)   

Rain in the Weminuche? That never happens...

Friday, Sept. 1, 2017
Randy Mack and I left our home mid-morning and made the long drive past Rio Grande Reservoir to the Hunchback Pass Trailhead where we ate dinner while waiting for moderately heavy rain to let up. When it finally did, we grabbed our backpacks and started hiking toward Hunchback Pass, stopping at a campsite about 1/4 mile past the intersection with the Nebo Creek Trail. Someone had left canned oxygen (and other trash) at the site.

Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017
We followed the Vallecito Creek Trail about two miles past Rock Creek to a cairn in an open area south of Sunlight Creek that marked the start of the Sunlight Creek Trail. Four creek crossings and numerous downed trees later, we found ourselves at a campsite at about 11,550'. Around dinnertime we were subjected to one of the hardest hailstorms I've ever encountered in Colorado; not the hardest, but definitely top five. Thankfully, the hail (and rain) only lasted about a half hour and didn't keep us from eating dinner.

Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017
Today's goals: Jagged Mountain and Vallecito Mountain. We left the Sunlight Creek Trail not far beyond our campsite and then headed NNE and NNW to the basin NE of Jagged Mountain. Lots of hail from last evening was still interspersed among the grass and rocks. Uh oh. We headed to the first crux on the route as described in the Roaches' book. The crux included sections covered in hail that had consolidated into sheets of ice. Much of the rock that wasn't icy was wet instead, and neither rock shoes nor boots inspired confidence on the wet rock. Randy and I pondered our options and decided the safest thing to do was to postpone Jagged. Blah! I'd been looking forward to climbing it again.

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Leviathan Peak (13,528') and Vallecito Mountain (13,428') from the basin north of Jagged Mountain


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Jagged Mountain from the basin north of it


Time for the consolation prize. We headed across the basin and aimed for the saddle between Leviathan Peak and Vallecito Mountain. It was a bit of a scree slog, but not difficult. From the saddle, an easy scramble brought us to the summit of Vallecito Mountain.

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Jagged Mountain and Leviathan Peak from the summit of Vallecito Mountain


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Windom Peak, Sunlight Peak, etc. from the summit of Vallecito Mountain, with Jagged Mtn. at the far right


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The wobbly-looking summit cairn on Vallecito Mountain


Back in camp, we had most of the afternoon to nap in our tent and review our plan to hike over the Windom Peak - Sunlight Spire saddle to climb Peak Eleven (13,540'). At least three groups had reported doing this approach to Twin Lakes Basin (above Chicago Basin), so we were confident we could do it. The info for Peak Eleven that we had with us was from the Climbing Cooneys and Furthermore, although there are a handful of other trip reports available for Peak Eleven.

Monday, Sept. 4, 2017
Skies were clear when Randy and I got up. We followed the Sunlight Creek Trail to Sunlight Lake and continued hiking to an unnamed lake at 12,545'. We contoured around the north side of the unnamed lake on ledges -- in hindsight, the south side would have been easier -- and then headed toward the saddle between Windom Peak and Sunlight Spire. What looked from a distance like a potentially-tricky cliff band partway up the slope was actually easy to navigate. Snow below the saddle also turned out to be a non-issue.

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Contouring on ledges above the northern shore of the unnamed lake at 12,545'


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Looking back at the unnamed lake at 12,545' from the Windom Peak - Sunlight Spire saddle. The snow could easily be bypas


The descent into Twin Lakes Basin was on rocks of all sizes, some of which were unstable. We kept to the north side of the basin and did a descending contour toward Twin Thumbs. The better option would have been to head to the south side of the basin and pick up the Windom Peak Trail (easy to find with its three- and four-foot tall cairns) and then descend to just north of the twin lakes. 20-20 hindsight again. Regardless, our route worked and kept us from losing as much elevation as descending the Windom Peak Trail but was probably slower.

Once Randy and I were south of Peak Eleven, we ascended up tundra and scree toward a saddle just east of Twin Thumbs. We contemplated taking Furthermore's route across the south face of Peak Eleven but decided it looked harder than expected. Instead, we continued up to the saddle and did not regret this decision.

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Peak Eleven (center), with Twin Thumbs clearly visible to its left (west); photo taken from the Windom Peak Trail on our retu


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Looking up at the saddle between Twin Thumbs and Peak Eleven's western subpeak. The true summit is at the far right


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Just below the saddle between Twin Thumbs and Peak Eleven's western subpeak


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Looking down the scree toward Twin Lakes (Photo taken from the same location as the previous photo)


Once at the saddle, we peeked around the corner to the north side of Peak Eleven's subpeak and found an obvious route that went at no more than Class 3.

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From the saddle, we did a climbing contour east across the north face of Peak Eleven's subpeak


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Looking back (west) toward the saddle between Twin Thumbs and Peak Eleven's subpeak


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Traversing across the north face of Peak Eleven's subpeak (Looking east, so Randy's using his hand to block the sun


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There are a few spots where it's necessary to climb up a step that's several feet tall


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Peak Eleven's summit is just left of center


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Once you've contoured around Peak Eleven's subpeak, the summit is an easy stroll


We were disappointed to find that the 1960 summit register was gone. In its place was a wet makeshift register and a pen that didn't write.

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Randy on Peak Eleven's summit


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The view from Peak Eleven's summit


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Another view from Peak Eleven's summit


Randy and I headed back to the saddle between Twin Thumbs and Peak Eleven's western subpeak and descended almost directly to the twin lakes and SE to the Windom Peak Trail. We followed the trail as high in the basin as we could and then climbed to the Windom Peak - Sunlight Spire saddle. After descending to the unnamed lake at 12,545', we contoured around the south (easier) side of the lake. Soon, we were back on the Sunlight Creek Trail, and soon the inevitable Weminuche rain began.

As we descended the trail toward our campsite, we encountered a group of seven guys from Kentucky who were headed to Sunlight Lake. They planned to climb Greylock Mountain (13,575'), so we gave them beta on Greylock that we happened to have with us but no longer needed.

After breaking camp and having an early dinner to re-energize ourselves, we backpacked to the Vallecito Creek Trail and stopped at a campsite after hiking another 30 minutes toward Hunchback Pass.

Monday, Sept. 4, 2017
We backpacked over Hunchback Pass and to the trailhead. It felt good to take our packs off! The only notable thing about the drive home was CDOT's six incorrect signs along State Highway 149 where the road crosses the Rio Grande three times. I'm getting an urge to write CDOT and troll them about their failure to have even the most rudimentary Spanish skills.

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Randy drives his 4Runner across a bridge over the "Rio Grande River" (sic) along State Highway 149


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Blue = ascent route on Vallecito Mtn.; red = descent route


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Blue = ascent route on Peak Eleven; red = descent route that we should have taken on the ascent as well



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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