Peak(s):  "Tincup Pk"  -  13,345 feet
Emma Burr Mtn  -  13,538 feet
Fitzpatrick Pk  -  13,112 feet
Date Posted:  03/25/2020
Date Climbed:   12/21/2019
Author:  supranihilest
 The Peaks of Tincup Pass: Fitz-ing Emma Burr Into My Busy Schedule   

A couple of weeks prior I had day tripped "Tincup Peak" and Point 13,050 but had a couple of peaks in the area remaining. Emma Burr Mountain to the north of "Tincup" could have been linked in but Fitzpatrick Peak (which I affectionately call Fitzy) far to the southwest didn't make much sense to add on. I left both and intended to return as soon as I could, not being one to leave orphans for too long. Because Emma Burr and Fitzy were a big day together I decided to camp near treeline. This would also give me an opportunity to test out my new Hilleberg Soulo, a lightweight, one-person, double walled, 4-season tent I had bought over the summer and hadn't had an opportunity to use.

Friday, December 20, 2019

In St. Elmo I put my snowshoes on my back and my pack on my feet. Strike that. Reverse it. I began snowshoeing up the Tincup Pass Road, which had been groomed into nice corduroy.

The start of the road to Tincup Pass.

Despite having a heavy pack on I cruised the easy, groomed road, reaching treeline after four and a half miles and two hours. Right when I hit treeline I realized I'd forgotten my extendable spork for eating my freeze dried dinner. Aw hell. Well, too late to go back for it now. I'd either have to get creative or forgo dinner.

Fitzpatrick Peak still super far away.

I hopped the road embankment and found a relatively flat spot, where I started to dig a tent platform.

Evolution of
a winter
tent platform.

There was nothing for me to anchor my tent to and the ground was frozen solid, so I just set it up and figured if it got windy overnight I'd be enough weight to keep it from flying away. I also planned to tear down in the morning before setting out for the peaks, returning for it on my way out. I setup my pad and sleeping bag and crawled in, then began melting snow and boiling water.

Taken the next day but shows the size of the Soulo. This tent is a gem and I've used it several times since.

I still had the matter of not having any eating utensils, so I put my thinking cap on. How can I eat a rice-based dish without utensils? I cooked with far less water than the freeze dried dinner called for so there wouldn't be any excess liquid that could make a mess, and when it was done cooking I used my knife to cut the packaging wide open and sliced part of the stiff material into a sort of trowel shaped thing to use as a scoop. It wasn't ideal but it worked well enough that I was able to eat my dinner, huzzah!

Using a tiny, flexible scoop for chana masala isn't my idea of fun, but it's more fun than not eating at all.

Having eaten my fill I zipped up tight in my sleeping bag. I didn't bother setting an alarm, since I had the full next day and good weather to do several non-technical peaks, and went to sleep.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

I awoke in early morning twilight. I was feeling great and quickly packed up my camp gear and stashed it under a tree. I once again put my snowshoes on and began up the road in the now bright, shining light.

Tincup Pass.
So delicious.

The snowshoeing on the road went very quickly, and the groomer had made a more direct line towards the pass instead of following the switchbacks the road usually takes. Fitzpatrick Peak was my early morning companion all the way to the pass.

Fitzpatrick Peak standing proud and alone.
Point 12,780, which blocks easy access to Fitzy from the pass.

The grooming ended a few tenths of a mile from the pass, and the snow in between was about knee deep.

End of the grooming just shy of the pass.

At the pass I looked up the now familiar slopes of "Tincup Peak".

Looking up the first pitch of "Tincup Peak" from the pass.

There was a little more snow this time than last time but this just provided easier cover for snowshoeing. I made quick progress up the slopes and easy ridge to "Tincup," taking only an hour and a half from camp.

"Tincup Peak" from most of the way up to the elbow.
Bah gawd, if that don't look 'zactly like a tincup then nothin' do!
Ridge to Point 13.050 with Mount Princeton far in the distance.

When I orphaned Emma Burr last time (poor Emma) I hadn't gotten much of a look at the connecting ridge. I orphaned it mostly because it was really far away and I wasn't sure if I'd have enough time to nab it on my day trip. At a distance it's always difficult to tell what a ridge might actually hold, but Emma didn't look too bad.

Emma Burr Mountain from the descent off "Tincup Peak".

The final bit to the saddle didn't make itself clear - does the ridge narrow significantly? - until I was directly in line with it. It was nothing to worry about, and was mostly a flat, tundra covered catwalk with a couple of easy hands-on moves, nothing more.

Rocky, Class 2+ ridge to the saddle.

The route from the saddle was obviously even easier, just a snow-covered, rocky walkup. There were several small bumps in the way.

Past the difficulties and looking up towards Emma Burr's summit.

The amount of rock on the open slopes was kind of annoying as I had to bob and weave through it all, but I made up for it by skirting the bumps instead of going directly over them.

Bumps and boulders en route to Emma Burr.
Dry on the western side, snowy on the eastern side.

I startled a large herd of mountain goats along the way, and they ended up too far away to get a nice, clear photo. I'm not sure if I would have liked the company when I topped out on Emma Burr Mountain, since the solitude, as usual, was delightful.

Bah gawd, if that don't look 'zactly like an Emma Burr then nothin' does!
Looking north towards the majority of the Sawatch.
Looking southeast. Mount Princeton is on the left and Mount Antero is on the right.
Looking west towards Taylor Reservoir and the Elk Range.
The route from "Tincup" over Point 12,780 to Fitzy.

Since Fitzpatrick was now approximately a million miles away in the opposite direction I quickly made my way back across the ridge, back up "Tincup Peak," and down to the pass. A small 12er, Point 12,780, stood in the way of the long ridge to Fitzy, and the ascent from the pass held some potentially suspect snow slopes. I tried sticking to where numerous rocks poked out and made my way up 12,780 as quickly as I could to get out of said suspect areas.

West up Point 12,780 from the pass.

Because 12,780 narrowed into what appeared to be a knife edge on top I wanted to find an easier way around. A large, snowy bench on the peak's south side provided the answer, and only at the end did it become steep and exposed enough for the hairs on my neck to rise. I scrambled up to the ridge crest to avoid it, then stayed on the crest to the summit.

A very snowy shelf I traversed below the ridge crest.

Some minor Class 2 and Class 2+ scrambling along the way provided the last remaining bit of entertainment on this hike. I didn't bother taking my snowshoes off for any of it, even a couple of short slabs near the top.

Some minor scrambling to get up 12,780.
Final Class 2+ section on 12,780. Those were goat tracks if I remember correctly.
Not quite at the summit yet but looking down on the fun part of 12,780.

From Point 12,780 Fitzy was now only a half a million miles away.

Fitzy in all its glory!

Moderate snow led down to the saddle which was far nearer 12,780 than Fitzy, much to my chagrin. The wind had also kicked up significantly and was belting snow across the open ridge.

Wind sculpted snow.
Well that's no fun.
Snow crystals suspended in air.

The hike to Fitzy was boring and altogether too long, but it's a 13er, and therefore it must be climbed!

A full year later I'm getting close.
Why hello there, Fitzy!

The day in full: ridge to Point 12,780 to "Tincup Pass" and up the namesake "Tincup Peak", then back to Emma Burr in the background.
I can see my camp from here! A pile of 13ers and Mount Antero visible from Fitzy.

Now all that was left was the descent back to my camp. Oh, what a joyous descent this was not to be. Fitzy's east slopes were mostly mellow enough to not be a concern, but there were pockets of 30 plus degree snow hidden all over and it wasn't really possible to avoid all of them. The foreshortened east ridge-like thing directly off the summit seemed like the best bet, though it held the steepest snow on its flanks, so I had to stick as close to the crest as I could.

There's really no true ridge here but it's visible on topo maps as a small protrusion.

Lower down the "ridge" gave way to more open slopes with grass tufts poking out. I was satisfied this was safe enough and quickly made it to the flats.

OK, good enough.
That's roughly flat. Flat-ish.

Before long the willows started. Oh god the willows. How I hate thee. These stupid plants can all die for all I care. Don't give me that look, because here's the facts on these godawful monstrosities: fuck willows. Ya dig? There was perhaps a half mile of pure willow hell where I was sinking anywhere from knees to waist deep into a slab/sugar combination on top of thick, grabby willows, with snowshoes on, and generally just having a total absolute blast of a time. That's sarcasm for those of you who have a sarcasm detection deficit. I questioned whether I should have gone back towards 12,780 and curved around on a bench back to the road instead, but too late now. I shouted myself hoarse cursing every willow and their ugly mother's uncle's brother who can all rot in-... OK, breathe. For real though, this part sucked tremendously. It didn't take as long as it felt like it did, but it was utterly exhausting and infuriating work and I don't recommend coming down the way I did with snow cover; I can't speak to this area when its dry, but if you can avoid the willows, go for it.

Burn it all down!
That's literally all willows. Lord have mercy.

Once back on the road and out of Satan's Domain I headed straight to camp, which I had thankfully torn down earlier, and repacked my bag. I grabbed the freeze dried dinner package I had wedged into the crotch of a tree across the road (with it being cut open I didn't want it anywhere near the tent) and began the long but easy and peaceful snowshoe back to St. Elmo.

Western sub-summit of Point 12,650.
I think this is Point 12,876 and Point 12,650

I ground out the road miles quickly and arrived back in St. Elmo after sunset. For being the first winter camping trip of the season it went very well (in spite of the willows) and would prove to be a good start to the winter season overall. I missed calendar winter by a day on this one but what the heck, climb peaks err'day, right?!


Climbers: Ben Feinstein (myself)
Trailhead: St. Elmo ghost town/bottom of Tincup Pass Road
Total distance: 19.1 miles
Total elevation gain: 5,788 feet
Total time: 10:58:08 active time over approximately 24 hours
Peaks: Three ranked thirteeners, one ranked twelver

  • "Tincup Peak," 13,345'
  • Emma Burr Mountain, 13,538'
  • Point 12,780
  • Fitzpatrick Peak, 13,112'


Starting Location Ending Location Via Time (h:mm:ss) Cumulative Time (h:mm:ss) Rest Time (m:ss)
St. Elmo Camp at treeline 2:02:20 2:02:20 Overnight
Camp at treeline Tincup Pass 0:29:17 0:29:17¹ 0:00
Tincup Pass "Tincup Peak" 1:00:48 1:30:05 0:00
"Tincup Peak" Emma Burr Mountain 0:59:08 2:29:13 0:00
Emma Burr Mountain "Tincup Peak" 0:54:11 3:23:24 0:00
"Tincup Peak" Tincup Pass 0:34:47 3:58:10 0:00
Tincup Pass Point 12,780 0:38:48 4:36:58 0:00
Point 12,780 Fitzpatrick Peak 0:54:08 5:31:06 0:00
Fitzpatrick Peak Camp at treeline 1:14:55 6:46:01 17:09²
Camp at treeline St. Elmo 1:52:38 8:55:48 Trip End

¹Cumulative reset after overnight.
²Packing camp.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
03/26/2020 16:17

Nice report!

Back over the 12er
03/27/2020 14:04
I think that's what I will probably do. As we talked about before, am eyeing this one for next winter. Those willows look awful and I suspect would lead to a temper tantrum (or two). Getting Tincup/Emma/Fitzy is a big outing for sure in snow season!

03/27/2020 14:57
@Jay: They're all things evil taken plant form. I would be happy if they never existed!

@Andrew: That's almost certainly the way to do it in winter. I'd expect it to take about the same amount of time but vastly less effort and frustration.

05/05/2022 08:30
nice report Ben, I think I'm going to try to hit 50 Colorado peaks this year. Instead of my usual 5 as of recent. haha. Starting with Fitzpatrick tomorrow. Maybe Tincup. Maybe Emma. Thanks for the report. This looks like a great slog!!!!!

05/05/2022 09:12
Go get 'em, Dillon!

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