Peak(s):  Gladstone Ridge  -  13,209 feet
Unnamed 13078  -  13,078 feet
Unnamed 13317  -  13,317 feet
"Mascot Peak"  -  13,435 feet
Mt. Yale  -  14,200 feet
Date Posted:  06/12/2021
Date Climbed:   06/10/2021
Author:  Mtnman200
Additional Members:   RandyMack
 Total System Failure   

Why is "Total System Failure" the title of this trip report? Randy knows, and you will too if you keep reading.

Monday, June 7, 2021. Initially, Randy and I planned a multi-day trip to the far eastern San Juan Mountains. However, we learned from the Forest Service of road closures that would prevent us from reaching the trailheads. We revised our trip plan to focus on peaks near Buena Vista, mostly near the Cottonwood Pass road.

First up: Gladstone Ridge (13,209") from South Cottonwood Creek. We drove about 9 miles west of the Cottonwood Pass Road on County Road 344 and set up camp at a nice site on the south side of CR 344. This campsite is conveniently located at a good starting point for Gladstone Ridge.

Our campsite at latitude 38.759847 and longitude -106.355646; Photo credit: all photos by Randy Mack

Tuesday, June 8, 2021. We crossed CR 344 and headed slightly east of north through the forest.

The route includes bushwhacking through pines...

...and young aspens

Eventually, the forest opens up a bit in places

Looking back at a pond at 11,660'; above timberline, it's easy going on tundra (with a few willows to avoid)

Above the trees, we headed to the saddle between Gladstone Ridge and a 13,038' ridge point.

A small tarn just north of the Gladstone Ridge - Point 13,038' saddle

Gladstone Ridge from the Gladstone Ridge - Point 13,038' saddle

Almost to the summit of Gladstone Ridge

Looking toward Cottonwood Pass from the summit of Gladstone Ridge; we did not find a summit register

We descended the southeast ridge on easy tundra and then headed southwest to Jonesy Gulch, reaching CR 344 about 1000' east of our campsite. It's a good thing we had books in our car, because we had eight hours to kill before dinner.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Today's goals: Unnamed (UN) 13078 and UN 13317. Randy and I drove about a mile to the Green Timber Gulch trailhead, grabbed our daypacks, and headed across South Cottonwood Creek on a well-constructed bridge. (This will be important later.)

We found some snow and the occasional downed tree on the Green Timber Gulch Trail

Sometimes, the trail was totally buried by snow. Some occasional postholing ensued, but often the snow was firm

Above timberline, the trail headed toward the saddle west of UN 13078. To avoid some steep snow, we left the trail and climbed southeast to the west ridge of UN 13078. Here, an informal trail headed up the gentle slopes to the summit of UN 13078.

Looking east at UN 13317 and a 13,299' ridge point from UN 13078's summit

Randy takes a selfie on the summit of UN 13078

The last signature in the summit register was from Dave (CarpeDM) Mattingly on 12/9/2020. Sarah (Sarah T) Meiser made an ascent on 1/7/2021 but did not sign the register.

After enjoying the summit views for a few minutes, we headed east toward the 13,299' ridge bump between UN 13078 and UN 13317. This section of the ridge continued to be an easy stroll.

Looking back (west) at UN 13078 from the saddle between it and the 13,299' ridge bump

Looking east toward the 13,299' ridge bump from the same location as the previous photo

UN 13317 and the 13,299' ridge bump

Looking west at UN 13078 from the 13,299' ridge point

The ridge became a bit rockier the closer we got to UN 13317 and even offered some easy scrambling opportunities. The summit of UN 13317 provided some fine views as well as a summit register.

A sea of mountains were visible from UN 13317's summit

Looking east from the summit of UN 13317; the building in the center of the photo intrigued us, and we felt compelled to investigate it up close

Rather than return via our ascent route, we headed down UN 13317's north ridge (seen here) before turning east (right) toward the building we'd seen

We were able to avoid most of the snow on our way to the saddle east of UN 13317

The building at the saddle was fairly new and built like a bank vault. You'd have to pick four locks to open the front door

An artistic sign above the door memorializes John Goodwin

The jeep road we followed from the saddle east of UN 13317 to County Road 344 turned out to be a bit snowier than expected

A frozen pond below the jeep road

Further down was a side road with a locked gate and two totem poles. The two buildings behind the gate were collapsed and hardly worth protecting

We continued down the road to where it crosses South Cottonwood Creek at 9880', expecting an easy one-mile hike along CR 344 back to our car. Remember this morning's well-constructed bridge near the Green Timber Gulch trailhead? Well, Randy and I looked at the deep, strongly-flowing, and fairly-wide creek and immediately realized we'd failed to consider crossing the creek. Total system failure on our part...

We watched a Jeep cross the creek, and the front bumper was fully submerged and water was lapping at the doors. No way could we safely wade across this snowmelt-swollen creek.

It took us the better part of an hour to build an adequate bridge out of the only construction material available: flimsy, dead aspen trees. We both agreed that the most tiring part of today's climb was building the bridge.

After returning to our campsite, we relocated to another site about a mile west of Cottonwood Lake to cut down on the drive time to the Denny Creek trailhead for tomorrow's planned climb of "Mascot Peak" (13,435').

Thursday, June 10, 2021. After driving to the Denny Creek trailhead, we hiked to about 12,600' on the trail to Mt. Yale . Here, we left the trail and contoured east toward the Mt. Yale - Mascot Peak saddle.

The morning sun shines brightly over Mt. Yale

After traversing for about 1/4 mile, I decided to skip Mascot Peak (it would've been a repeat) and meet Randy on the summit of Mt. Yale after he soloed Mascot Peak and Mt. Yale's south ridge.

Looking west across Mt. Yale's south slopes; there was a fair amount of snow to cross (with Randy's shadow seen in the bottom center)

Randy continued on toward the Mascot Peak - Mt. Yale saddle while I headed back to the Mt. Yale trail.

There were a few snow-filled gullies which were safer to cross by losing 100' - 200' of elevation in order to contour below the snow

Looking up at one of the snowfields Randy avoided

Looking back (west) at where Randy crossed over some snow

Mascot Peak from the Mascot Peak- Mt. Yale saddle

Mt. Yale from the saddle

The north ridge of Mascot Peak with Mt. Yale in the background

Mt. Yale from the summit of Mascot Peak

Randy started up the ridge from the saddle but crossed over to the ridge seen on the left side of the previous photo to ascend more directly to the summit of Mt.
Yale and avoid the snow on the summit ridge.

Making progress up Mt. Yale involved rocks of all sizes and shapes

Looking down Mt. Yale's south ridge toward Mascot Peak (as seen from the summit of Mt. Yale)

After Randy arrived on Mt. Yale's summit, we took a break for lunch before descending the Mt. Yale trail together.

The snowy summit ridge on Mt. Yale

After returning to the Denny Creek trailhead, we drove to the Frenchman Creek trailhead for our next objective, UN 13374. We got as far as a locked gate with a sign stating that the road was closed through June 30th.

Okay, time for Plan B: East Buffalo Peak and West Buffalo Peak via Salt Creek Road (Forest Road 435).

Another planning failure: the sign on the gate to Salt Creek Road says the road is closed through June 15th

We didn't have a Plan C, so we cut our trip short by one day and headed home. It was still a successful trip, despite multiple planning failures. Next time, we'll check the road status with the Forest Service before leaving home.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
As usual - very nice!
06/12/2021 11:55
I always enjoy your reports, Eddie. I'm particularly interested in PT13317. That one is going on my to-do list.

06/13/2021 13:48
Some good beta on some little climbed peaks.

06/17/2021 19:38
Thanks, Jay and Brian. I appreciate your comments.

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