Peak(s):  "Peak C"  -  13,220 feet
"Peak C Prime"  -  13,100 feet
"Peak D"  -  13,047 feet
"Peak E"  -  13,220 feet
"Peak F"  -  13,230 feet
"Peak G"  -  13,260 feet
Black Benchmark  -  13,129 feet
"Peak H"  -  13,100 feet
Date Posted:  09/28/2021
Modified:  08/30/2022
Date Climbed:   09/25/2021
Author:  JDroz
 Ripsaw Ridge + Black BM & H   

Ripsaw Ridge + Black BM & H

Partner: Dirty Pat

Start: 4:32 am
Finish: 3:50 pm (11 hr 18 min)

Mileage: 15.43
Vert: 7955' (Garmin eTrex 30), but probably closer to 7324' (caltopo)

The primary difficultly of this traverse is the route-finding. With that being said, I would equate the difficulties to those of La Plata via Ellingwood (think the middle section when you lose ridge proper). There are no mandatory moves above low-4th class; everything can be navigated around. If you have solid route-finding abilities, this traverse is a breeze (except for the fact that it's looong). The rock is generally solid and juggy; however, we found some of the slabby rock to lack the level of grip you would normally expect. Only do this with a fat weather window! The bail points are few and far between, and the ones that exist look quite terrible. Once on the ridge, you're pretty much committed to either reversing down CC Rider or continuing to the saddle between F and G.

Peak C:
Straight forward. Ascend into Tarn Basin on the climber's right side of the main tributary. On your way up CC Rider, keep an eye out for the rock wall (shown below), as the route over to C' is at the base. Very hard to miss. For the actual ascent up C, Pat and I each took our own variations on the chunky 3rd-4th ramp west of ridge proper.

Big ol' wall to mark the exit of CC Rider to C'
Chunky 3rd-4th rock up to C

Peak C':
Descend off C following whatever route totes your goat, just don't drop too low. Find the ledge, and follow it until an obvious gully. From here, there are some cairns that'll lead you up modest stuff on climber's left of the gully fall-line. Otherwise, do as Dirty Pat does and get filthy.

Following the ledge
Dirty Pat spewing filth all over the pristine Gores. I told him it wasn't very LNT, but he couldn't hear me over the volume of his girlfriend's pink Osprey.

Peak D:
Take the ridge from C' all the way to D's summit block (drop off the ridge where it makes sense). Ascend the west side of D's north summit ridge until you can't, wrap climber's right around the gendarme and connected rib on the west side of the summit. Any route around this will do, as long as you stay above the ski-jump-looking feature truncating the gendarme-rib complex. From here, wrap into the gut of the west-facing gully and ascend per best shop practice.

Mountain dog on the way to D

Peak E:
Past TRs say to take this ridge proper, but we decided to drop below -- no lower than 12790' -- and then regain onto the grassy saddle before E's sub-peak. Going around E's sub-peak looked like more work than it was worth, so we decided to summit it. The sub-peak to peak traverse is simple and not very far at all. Good scrambling on the western ridge/gullies of E. Be sure to check out the summit register from 1948!

GPX from D to E
Regaining the ridge to the D/E grassy saddle

Peak F:
Any technical obstacle on the ridge can be maneuvered around via ledges on the west side. We decided to skirt the first grouping of towers that are obvious LaGraves, but we took the second grouping on the ridge proper. Small, spicy down-climb off the last tower before F's summit ridge. Sticking to the ridge on the ascent up F is quite fun.

GPX of E to F
View of the E to F route from the Piney valley

Peak G:
Ridge proper. North facing gully of G has great scrambling, and a crazy granitic intrusion for you rock-lickers. Loose in the gut of the gully, but good 4th rock on climber's right.

Fun stuff on G

Black Benchmark and H:
It's all ridge, and if not ridge, maybe 15 feet below it. Really fun stuff all the way. Numerous catwalks with good exposure.

Descent off H:
We took the SW ridge off H, then dipped north into the chossy gully, hopped onto an intermittent rib, traversed over to the solid pile of big boulders, descended a steep grass gully into the woods, and rode deadfall until we inevitably crossed the trail. Don't do that. INSTEAD, follow the SW ridge and drop off to the south, towards the Spider, and hit the trail that way. The trail follows the east side of the Piney River valley, with the upper section in the trees, not down in the marshy meadows. If in doubt, start high and take a descending traverse to the valley floor. You're bound to find the trail if you stay east of the river.

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

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Comments or Questions
Nice work!
09/28/2021 05:02
I think I saw you guys in the parking lot after doing Powell and Eagles Nest. I did that in the other direction back in 2012 and thought it was pretty fun. Glad to see the old register is still surviving. Your direction seems better, since I missed Peak H because I couldn't identify it from below.

sold me
09/28/2021 07:19
This is probably on the top my list now, thanks to yours and the datum TR out there.

09/28/2021 08:22
Seano - I knew the man sleeping in his element (literally) was up to more than just leaf peepin'. Glad you also got to enjoy that beautiful day!

12ers - This one had only been on my radar since mid-season this year, but was too tempting to let sit in my imagination for any longer. Truly an amazing ridge line! I always love the opportunity to gain a new perspective in the Gores.

Beast mode
09/29/2021 10:45
Dang, that's a killer time for this route. Hats off.

I was there Sept 18 and clocked 20 miles / 7477' and that didn't include H or Black BM. ~17 hours for me including probably 2ish hours of breaks and an hour lost to route finding. Was using a Garmin Fenix 5x watch.

09/29/2021 14:21
We were also pretty surprised with our pace. I was totally expecting 16+ hours! Guess we just got lucky on our first route choices

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