Peak(s):  Mt. Adams A  -  13,931 feet
Unnamed 13541  -  13,541 feet
Unnamed 13517 B  -  13,517 feet
Unnamed 13580 A  -  13,580 feet
Date Posted:  09/17/2018
Modified:  09/26/2018
Date Climbed:   08/18/2018
Author:  michaelgrundy
Additional Members:   rohit
 Long day with the Adams Family   

It has been a while since we have gone out hiking and because of small children, I do not get out as frequently as I would like. As such, Rohit and I tend to favor the larger routes to spend an entire day in the mountains. We started eyeing the Pyramid Traverse, but with the weather report not looking favorable, we opted to spend some time in the Sangre de Christo range instead. After scouring the web a little bit, we decided to give the ridge from Mt. Adams towards “Obstruction Peak” a go. A special thanks to bergsteigen for her trip report that we found highlighting the route that we would take.

We left Denver around 6:30 PM on Friday to head to the town of Crestone Colorado. Once we got there, we drove up towards the trailhead but stopped about a mile short at a small pull-off to set up the tent. We quickly set up the tent and tried to get to sleep. With a 1:15 am wake up time, we would be lucky to get 3 hours of sleep before a big day in the mountains. Neither one of us slept, so at 1:15, we slowly got geared up and ready to go. We packed up the tent, ate some breakfast, and drove the rest of the way to the trailhead.

Looking at Orion

On the trail at 1:53 am, we were already slightly ahead of schedule. That’s a small miracle for us as we always tend to start a little late. It has been just about 5 years since I have been on the approach to Willow Lake and back then, we completed the hike in to the lake in 2 hours and 15 minutes. This time we decided to save some weight by carrying only 1 liter of water with the plans of refilling in the upper basin. We put our heads down arrived at the lake in 2 hours – not a bad start – just about 20 minutes ahead of schedule!

We went up and around the lake following the standard route towards Challenger Point. Once we started to climb the slope, we turned southeast to head further up in the basin.

At this point, we were loosely following a GPX track that we had for this route. It was kind of a “choose your own adventure” at this point because we were dodging pockets of willows that we really didn’t want to go through. We kind of burned up all of our extra time in this section trying to avoid the creek and the willows. Finally, we crossed the stream near the lake at 12,325 ft. At this point, we stopped and re-supplied our hydration bladders with fresh water that we treated from the stream.

After the resupply, we started to make our way up the slope between peak 13,541 and peak 13,398. The slope wasn’t too steep but I could tell I was “out of mountain shape”.

Looking back towards Willow Lake.
Climbing the slope before sunrise.
Looking over to Kit Carson and Challenger Point.

We finally reached the ridge line just below peak 13,541 at sunrise and took a few pictures. After a brief stop to admire the views at sunrise, we continued up to the summit of our first 13er of the day, peak 13,541!

Sunrise from high on the ridge.
Looking at Macey Lake from the ridge.
Sunrise on KC and Challenger Point!

The route was difficult with some scrambling to contend with. After some sketchy route finding, we finally climbed up a slab to the summit! We signed the summit register (which was a tiny notebook that had very few signatures on it – some going back to the early 90’s!), had some snacks, and enjoyed the views.

Ramps leading up to 13,541
Some slabby conglomerate rock.
Summit! (Photo by Rohit)
On the summit of 13,541
Departing the summit and continuing on the ridge.

We departed the summit and stayed on the ridge proper for as much as we could and eventually climbed up peak 13,517. The ridge up to this point was pretty straight forward and easy to navigate. At this point, we were done with the easy stuff. The rest of the route would contain difficult route finding and some sketchy climbing.

The "Easy Stuff" up to 13,517
Looking back to 13,541
Mt. Adams in the distance
Rohit with Mt. Adams.

It was at this point that we should have followed the advice given by bergsteigen in her trip report… and that was to drop about 300 feet below the ridge and traverse along the ledges. Well, we were stupid and stayed up on top of the ridge as much as we could. This led to us climbing on some slabby conglomerate rock that we had to traverse Spiderman style. The first part of the traverse involves crossing over several flat fins that are all separated by loose red gully’s. The first fine wasn’t too bad, but the following ones got more difficult. Finally, we were the final gully looking at the final fin. This one seemed a little different and we wondered if we could climb to the top and just sneak around it on the east side. When we climbed to the top of the gully we were greeted by cliffs. At this point, we decided that we would finally drop down the required amount.

Some light downclimbing.
Getting a little more hairy. (Photo by Rohit)
Lots of air under me. (Photo by Rohit)
Climbing back up a fin.

We hadn’t descended more than 100 feet before Rohit noticed a chimney that led to where we needed to go. At this point, we had to channel Spiderman again and climb an overhanging class 5 chimney whose only hand hold was an arm wide crack. After making a committing move that was nerve-racking, we climbed back to the top of the ridge and continue to peak 13,580A.

The final fin. We climbed up the gully to the gap to see if we could cross over. We couldnt, so we had to climb down to the 'Spiderman chimney"
Starting to get more serious. (Photo by Rohit)
Downclimbing a little ramp. (Photo by Rohit)

The rest of the trip up to peak 13,580A was uneventful and we finally took a break on the summit. At this point, we had used up quite a bit of our allotted time and we still had one more peak that we wanted to grab. As we were contemplating the rest of the route, we noticed that the weather was starting to take a turn for the worse. Down low it looked fine, but as the wind was driving up the mountain, the moisture was condensing and forming clouds. One moment we could see Mt. Adams, the next we couldn’t.

Looking south along the ridge.
Clouds starting to lower along KC and Challenger Point.
Clouds starting to lower on the ridge.

We decided to head towards the saddle and see what we thought when we got there. Since we would have to go to the saddle to descend anyhow, it was a no brainer to keep going. Once we got to the saddle, we reevaluated and decided to head for Mt. Adams. There was no sign of thunder or rain so we were feeling lucky.

Looking back to the Willow Lakes Basin
Last little bit up to Mt. Adams.

The ridge up to the summit of Mt. Adams is pretty easy to navigate and shortly after deciding to go for it, we were standing on the summit of Mt. Adams. The views were amazing (sarcasm) and the weather was holding.

Summit. I promise we are on the summit! (Photo by Rohit)
See, there is the benchmark!

We took a short break and left the summit to head back to the car. As we were descending the southwest slopes of Mt. Adams, the weather decided to clear up and we were treated to beautiful views of Willow Lake and the surrounding mountains.


Descending off of Mt. Adams. The clouds opened up and we had sun for the rest of the hike out.

This traverse is not for the faint of heart and to be honest with you, I found it more difficult than most of the traverses on the 14ers. This one contained difficult route finding (which will eat up more than their fair share of your allotted time) and a few sketchy moves. I mentioned only the worst one in this trip report but rest assured, there are several moves.

Looking up the slope between 13,546 and Mt Adams (hidden)
Coming down through some willows.
Rohit looking at Willow Lake.
My turn.
On the way out, we took 5 minutes to soak our feet in the ice cold water of one of the stream crossings
Parting shot of the basin on the way out.

All in all, it was a good day in the mountains. Even if I was out of shape and in precarious positions. Any day in the mountains is a good day in my book!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Adams Views
09/18/2018 20:37
Too bad you missed out on Adams summit views, they are superb! Good report on some interesting terrain.

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