Peak(s):  Unnamed 13517 B  -  13,517 feet
Unnamed 13541  -  13,541 feet
Date Posted:  12/02/2020
Date Climbed:   06/21/2020
Author:  supranihilest
Additional Members:   whileyh, MWatson
 Death March or Pleasant Stroll?   

Having beat ourselves half near to death (OK, not really) the day before, with a 20-mile, 10,000-vertical foot climb of every ridge on Mount Adams, we wanted something slightly easier today. We wanted to complete our climbs out of Horn Creek Trailhead, and at this point only had a couple left - Point 13,541 and Point 13,517 B together, and Colony Baldy (13,705') by itself - so we went for the former, hoping to get a sunrise climb of Colony Baldy on the third straight day, since storms were predicted that afternoon and I had to work as well. I was also interested in getting Horn Lakes Basin over with, so we went up the two unnamed thirteeners, which thankfully proved to be significantly easier than the Adams mania.

We took the spur from the trailhead to the Rainbow Trail and then headed north for just a tenth of a mile or so to the Horn Lakes trail heading west. We were familiar with this trail now and quickly ascended despite being tired from the day before.

I rarely see the Sangre this green, so this is a wonderful welcome to a wonderful area.
Little Horn Peak from the trail.

Along the way the wildflowers were absolutely popping.

Photo: Whiley H.
Photo: Whiley H.

The trail runs for about four miles before it reaches the upper creek. There are two choices here: rock hop to the right across the creek and ascend farther up towards Mount Adams, or stay on the trail to the left and ascend to the lower lakes.

Pretty self-explanatory.

The trail to the left is badly eroded in spots and goes through six foot tall willows, sometimes through a narrow channel, before ending abruptly at the lowest of the Horn Lakes.

One of the many Horn Lakes. The back wall is made up of Point 13,517 B, Point 13,580 A, and Mount Adams A. Photo: Marisa W.
The "peak" to the left is part of Adams' northeast ridge, and the "peak" on the right is part of the ridge between Fluted Peak (behind) and Little Horn Peak (off to the right).

Since we'd been to this lake inadvertently the day before we'd been able to scope a route up Little Baldy Mountain which would then give us access to Point 13,517 B and Point 13,541. The access consisted of a simple but steep slope of grass and talus almost straight up to the ridge crest. Had we continued farther west up the valley we would have encountered wet, marshy ground and eventually cliffs at the base of the ridge. Heading directly up the slope from the lake was the best option, so we approached the slope through the nearby forest to stay drier.

From the bottom of the slope.

It was a stiff climb but infinitely easier than the opposite slope up Adams' northeast ridge, which was quite loose.

Not much to this slope. Photo: Whiley H.

All in all it was about 1,000 feet from the bottom to the ridge crest, all of it Class 2. From here there were a couple of Class 2 bumps up the summit of Little Baldy Mountain. The rock here was surprisingly poor for the Sangre, more akin to Bells mudstone than the wonderful Crestone conglomerate expected in the area.

False summit on Little Baldy. I dub this "Little Little Baldy".

At this point I think Whiley and Marisa were dying. Whiley announced she was going to call 13,517 B "Death March Mountain". I laughed since I was feeling not necessarily great, but not like I was on a death march either. We ascended the first bump which was actually a set of twins then descended towards Baldy's summit.

Top of the first bump with its twin on the left and Baldy's summit in the middle. The route between the two thirteeners is the large grassy saddle in the back.
Nearing Baldy.
Scraggly rock on Baldy.

From Baldy's unranked summit the route to Point 13,517 B was obvious. We wanted to do the higher, farther summit first but it made sense to go up 13,517 B, across the ridge to 13,541, then traverse back to the ridge with Baldy.

The route ahead. Nothing to it.

The small drop to the saddle with 13,517 B went quickly and simply. Along the way were the pretty views we'd come to expect in the Sangre.

Neat rock window on the ridge. Photo: Whiley H.
Macey Lake with Humboldt Peak and Crestone Needle standing watch.

From the saddle there was a few hundred feet of mild, rocky ridge to the summit.

About 600 feet from here to the top.
Mellow terrain between our objectives today.

There were a couple of opportunities for some light Class 2+ scrambling on 13,517 B, but nothing to write home about. The peak could easily be kept to pure Class 2 if desired.

"Lieutenant Whiley, you ain't got no legs!" - Benjamin Gump
Good view of the full ridge to Baldy, which is the more rounded, brownish lump in the middle of the ridge.

Views from the summit of the peaks north...

Point 13,546 and Mount Adams. Point 13,580 A is in the right foreground and blends in well with Adams' west ridge.

... and south were superb.

Columbia Point, Kit Carson Peak, and Challenger Point. One doesn't get an appreciation of how steep Challenger really is until viewed from across the valley.
The aptly named "Obstruction Peak" with Crestone Needle and Crestone Peak behind.

It was getting windy and we threw on jackets to keep the wind at bay. Lenticular clouds were forming overhead so we bounced off to 13,541 expecting the weather to deteriorate. Whiley once again graced 13,541 with a name, this time "Autopilot Peak". They were officially zombies. I was having a great time.

Moderate grass slopes to the saddle.
Willow Lake and the San Luis Valley. Photo: Whiley H.

At the saddle grass gave way to talus, though the angle of the connecting ridge generally stayed the same.

From the saddle with 13,541.
More of a point than either of the Points.

The western face of 13,541 looked fun but gnarly.

Steep and technical. Photo: Whiley H.

We continued up the easy Class 2 ridge to the final summit ridge which was narrow and exposed.

Rocks and grass, grass and rocks.
Solid conglomerate we skirted. Photo: Whiley H.
For some reason 13,517 B looks farther away from 13,541 than the opposite. Photo: Whiley H.
Some more easy scrambling which we probably could have avoided. Photo: Marisa W.
Marisa and the balancing act.
Tough cookies!

The true summit at the end of the ridge was maybe Class 3 but it could be crawled to, so perhaps a bit easier than that. We hung out on the summit for a few minutes enjoying the exposure and expansive views.

Five fourteeners, one photo.

With the wind whipping around us we started getting cold so we began making our way back to the saddle between the thirteeners.

There was some scrambling, it just had to be searched for. Photo: Whiley H.

Had we gone in a straight line back to the ridge with Baldy we would have been forced to lose and regain a small amount of elevation as well as cross more rock than would otherwise be necessary.

The traverse back to the ridge. We went to the saddle before traversing.
I'm pretty sure this ridge got longer while we hiked...

Our climb back up Little Baldy seemed to take forever. I was finally feeling it. All three of us agreed by now: this hike had worn out its welcome.

Sloggin' it out. Photo: Whiley H.

When we got back to the top of the slope own to the lake we were relieved knowing it would go fast and would be the last remotely difficult part of the day, and only because we were tired.

1,000 feet to freedom.

We reached for forest at the lake and bid our home for the last two days adieu.

Back to life.
See ya Horn Lakes Basin. No more peaks left to climb here.

Back on the trail Whiley and Marisa decided to run back to the trailhead. I walked and enjoyed the solitude, not seeing anyone until I was back. I washed off my feet, got into my van, and just vegged out. It had been a long but fun and productive couple of days, and I planned on getting up early to catch sunrise on nearby Colony Baldy so I would officially be done with Horn Creek Trailhead, at least until next time I wanted a fun and beautiful day. That's pretty much all of the Sangre though. I'm sure I'll be back for more.


Climbers: Ben Feinstein (myself), Whiley H., Marisa W.
Trailhead: Horn Creek
Total distance: 13.72 miles
Total elevation gain: 5,314 feet
Total time: 7:28:40
Peaks: One ranked thirteener, one soft ranked thirteener, one unranked twelver

  • Point 13,541
  • Point 13,517 B (soft ranked)
  • Little Baldy Mountain, 12,982' (unranked)


Starting Location Ending Location Via Time (h:mm:ss) Cumulative Time (h:mm:ss) Rest Time (m:ss)
Horn Creek Trailhead Little Baldy Mountain 3:12:55 3:12:55 2:39
Little Baldy Mountain Point 13,517 B 0:37:45 3:53:19 7:37
Point 13,517 B Point 13,541 0:23:47 4:24:43 7:57
Point 13,541 Little Baldy Mountain 0:40:53 5:13:32 0:00
Little Baldy Mountain Horn Creek Trailhead 2:15:08 7:28:40 Trip End

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

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 8 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47

Comments or Questions
Beautiful Flowers!
12/02/2020 19:55
Another great trip reports. I met your friend Marisa on the summit of Fowler and we chatted briefly. Of course it's only after they left that I realized that she was doing the route with the great Steve House!

Nice report & photos
12/02/2020 23:04
Looks like a fun day. Was the 1992 summit register still on 13541? Also, in 2017 I lost a Packers hat somewhere along the ridge between Little Baldy Mtn. and 13517B. (It fell out of my parka pocket.) Any chance you found it? I know it's a long shot but figured it couldn't hurt to ask.

Putting in the miles
12/03/2020 18:31
Great work! You and Whiley are nuts in the best kind of way. You are right about the fun and gnarly scrambles gaining 13,541 from the west. That was one of my favorite summits of the year when approached from near upper willow lake. Glad to see you posting up reports again as well

12/03/2020 20:52
@Yusuf: Whiley and I are envious you got Fowler. We did NOT like the thick scree atop rotting rock over deathfall ledges. Also envious you got to meet Steve, even if you didn't know it was him at the time. Too bad we didn't all have a party up there!

@Eddie: Nay on both. I don't remember there being a register on either peak, and we saw no hat. Extra sad that it was a Packers hat!

@Vera: You might have to be my guide on these peaks from Willow Lake! I like the idea of the traverse all the way to Adams but it looks like a spicy meatball!

Just missed you!
12/04/2020 19:20
By about 4 months...
Those were the last peaks (541' & 517B) I did before coming to CA, and Valerie was with me on those too!
We went all the way to Horn Lake and went up the slope from there and for me that route works well. Some talus but mostly stable.
Super strong winds the day in October we were there, so our stay was very short.

12/04/2020 19:43
I might write a report for Fowler. I spent a considerable amount of time in the final section trying out different "routes", even came across the rap station you had mentioned in your condition report. Finally took the big gash that looked impossible from far, but it went class 3 loose!

Ships passing in the night
12/07/2020 11:17
@Darin: Four months in geologic time is like we were there at the same time!

@Yusuf: Please write a Fowler report! It's a peak that needs more beta, and Whiley and I are curious how you did it. Our route was like 891237591% sketch.

Fowler Peak
12/08/2020 13:49
When I did Fowler Peak in Sept. 2016, it was still informally known as Big Bear Peak. I'm fairly sure I ascended a more difficult gully than I needed to, but it worked. There are only a handful of trip reports on Fowler, so more beta would be good.

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