Peak(s):  Unnamed 13062 B  -  13,062 feet
Unnamed 13039  -  13,039 feet
Sleeping Sexton  -  13,460 feet
Unnamed 13020 B  -  13,020 feet
Unnamed 13336  -  13,336 feet
Date Posted:  12/07/2021
Date Climbed:   09/22/2021
Author:  SnowAlien
 Fall Elk Hunting IV - Sleeping Sexton and Friends   

Dates: September 19-22, 2021

Trailhead: Snowmass Creek

Day 1 - approach to Snowmass lake, ~8 miles and 3k vertical

Having slogged Snowmass creek approach multiple times in winter, I've always wanted to hike it in the fall. Since I had orphaned UN13,062B several years ago, return visit was in the cards. With Maroon Bells reservations in place, it only made sense to add Sleeping Sexton and Willow lakes 13ers and make it a nice big loop. As I was driving towards the trailhead, I saw my first Colorado bear, sunning his butt on the warm pavement. I took it as a good sign.

Fall in the Elks is magical

I arrived at the lake by sunset, and found the place surprisingly busy. There were several big groups camping there, with a few people sleeping in hammocks. With strong winds picking up and overnight temps forecasted in the 30ties, I was glad to have my 4 season tent and winter sleeping bag with me, although it meant carrying extra weight.

Day 2 - UN13,062B and backpack over Buckskin pass

Next morning, after a good night of rest despite the wind, I leisurely rolled out of camp just before 8 am. Hiking above the Snowmass lake, I watched a cloud inversion. The storm a day prior dropped a dusting of snow on the highest peaks.

Snowmass lake
Aiming for the saddle

After a fair amount of talus hopping, I crested the saddle, and here it was - UN 13,062B and Sleeping Sexton. Weather was still unsettled, and the clouds were obstructing some of the views. However, weather improved as the day went on.

UN13,062B on the right
Getting closer
Typical Elk rock
View towards Buckskin benchmark

Summit was cold and windy, and clouds were still lingering.

Heading back down the rock glacier
Snowmass lake is stunning in all seasons

Got back to camp around noon, and it was time for the 2nd leg of the day - backpack up and over the Buckskin pass. This was my 2nd time doing it and it was just as pretty as I remembered.

Winter camping spot
Looking back at Snowmass
UN13,039 ahead

After cresting the top of the Buckskin pass, all I had to do was to descend a few hundred feet to the Buckskin/Willow pass junction and find a suitable campsite near a creek.

Camp @11,800 ft

Day 3 - UN13,039, Sleeping Sexton and backpack over Willow pass

The night was cold. Water in camelback hose froze, tent frosted over and I was happy for my 0 degree bag and warmer winter tent, though I was cursing the extra weight on the backpack in. Morning views didn't disappoint though. Such a treat to start the day so close to the Bells.

Sleeping Sexton and North Maroon at sunrise. East ridge is my descent route

After packing up the tent and stashing the overnight backpack out of sight, I left camp before 7am. In 30 minutes I was back atop the Buckskin pass and excited to see UN 13,039 up close and personal. I ended up taking the direct route, as the rock there looked more solid.

Looking back at the pass

After a brief stay on the summit, I continued the traverse to Sleeping Sexton

Starting the traverse
Pyramid and Maroon creek
Bells and SS from false summit

I was a little worried about route finding on the back side of SS, but the route was extremely well cairned. Secret ledge looked improbable, but it indeed goes. I took the class 3 ledge up and Derek's class 4 chimney variation on the way back.

Backside ledges
Secret ledge
Secret ledge views
Best views in the Elks?
Heading back to the false summit

Both my phone and Delorme unexpectedly "died" on the false summit from the cold wind, but thankfully I was able to confirm I was on the East ridge before descending it back to my camp. The last order of business that day was to go up and over the Willow pass.

Willow pass
Heading over Willow pass
Willow lake 13ers for tomorrow
Tomorrow's objectives from a new campsite

Day 4 - UN 13,020B & UN 13,336 and backpack out

Next morning, I backpacked up to the saddle between UN 13,020B and UN 13,336 and stashed my overnight pack. I started with UN 13,020B, since it was already in the sun and the ridge up UN 13,336 was still in the shade.

Looking towards Buckskin BM and Snowmass from UN13,020B
Back at the saddle

Ridge to UN13,336 took quite a bit longer than expected, but maybe I was just getting a bit tired on Day 4 :)

UN 13,336
View back at UN13,020B, Buckskin BM and the Bells

After an hour of leaving the summit, I was back at the saddle for the 3rd time, relieved to be done with the uphill. However, over 4,000 ft of descent still awaited.

UN13,336 from the north

I decided to leave Willoughby for a different season and booked it back to the car on the long, easy trail, arriving by 4pm. Elks in the fall never disappoint!

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

Comments or Questions
Excellent report
12/07/2021 14:15
Excellent report with wonderful! Photographs.
It is interesting seeing snowmass sans snow.

12/07/2021 19:16
Photos! Can‘t wait to get back in there. Appreciate the beta.

Grizzly Adams
Looks like
12/07/2021 19:18
you had a successful hunt. A great report and pics but maybe take a partner next time?

12/08/2021 10:56
GA - that's funny! Last time I heard it had something to do with that thing called "work". It has a habit of getting in the way of multi-day backpacking trips...

Goat Hunt
12/12/2021 18:32
My 17 year old son did a mountain goat hunt in that same area, 7 days camped at above 12,000' and he finally got his goat.

Billy goats
12/12/2021 20:09
I ran into 3 goat hunters camping there! One of them only had a permit for a Billy. However, I haven't seen any goats.

12/18/2021 09:23
What pictures! You outdid yourself on this one, Natalia!

12/19/2021 18:18
Appreciate the comment Jay! Elks in the fall are gorgeous (and all other seasons also ).

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