Peak(s):  Santa Fe Peak  -  13,180 feet
Sullivan Mountain  -  13,134 feet
Geneva Peak  -  13,266 feet
Landslide Peak  -  13,238 feet
Date Posted:  09/06/2022
Date Climbed:   08/26/2022
Author:  lpeabbles
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 Adventure from Geneva Creek   

Route Start: Last numbered campsite on Geneva Creek Road

Considerable difference in tracking between Gaia and Strava, and don’t we all want to use the one that says it was more? However, my GPX file attached below is from Gaia (who clearly short-changed us on the vert!).

Gaia: 9.9 miles, 3461 ft of gain

Strava: 10.5 miles, 4518 ft of gain

*My guess is that the vert was somewhere in between these two numbers. Based on all my planning ahead of time, I estimated it would be about 4100-4200 feet of gain, which would put that right in between Gaia and Strava.


There is a unique kind of excitement in 2022 when doing something you can’t find mention of on the internet. Obviously there are plenty of reports about doing these 4 peaks, but I couldn’t find a reference from anyone who had done them from the Geneva Creek side instead of Montezuma. I spent a lot of time researching this route through Gaia and Google Earth, although we deviated from the plan once we got up there. Looking back, I don’t think there is a perfect way to have done this, but in the end we really enjoyed the route we took (despite the bushwhacking at the end and the semi-dangerous slope we took up!).

For those considering this route, I do have some suggestions as to how I would have done it differently in hindsight. The biggest being that I would have found a better way to get on to the ridge between Silver and Santa Fe, because cross-cutting that steep slope was probably more dangerous than we needed to make this route. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the way we did this, specifically coming down the gentle slope back to treeline, keeping you above treeline for about 6.5 of the 10ish miles of this hike. There was certainly no slog to the car, it was all excitement!

We had planned to start this hike from the Shelf Lake Trailhead, but found that the road wasn’t too bad so decided to cut out more distance and get further up the road. It was starting to get a little hairy for my Crosstrek, so we decided to park at one of the last numbered campsites. We might have been able to make it a little further, but we didn’t want to push it and we had given careful consideration as to where we were going to descend the ridge on the way back, and we didn’t want to do a lot of back-tracking once we were down off the ridge. We parked and started hiking up the road.

There was an intersection with the road that goes down to the Iron Fens, where we stayed high. That road was gated, so it was an easy landmark. Shortly after, we came to some more campsites, and up out of the trees right below Silver Mountain. This is where we started deviating from our plan, and where I would have done things differently in hindsight.

Our plan had been to go up the zig-zag old mining road to get to the saddle between Santa Fe and Sullivan, then backtrack to get Santa Fe before heading on our way to the other peaks. However, once we were looking at it, the slope above the mining road (which had no trail) looked really steep and loose. We looked to the north and saw the saddle between Silver Mountain and Santa Fe, and thought that looked like a much easier way to gain the ridge. I’m not really sure that we were right, because the angle of a slope looks vastly different depending on where you’re standing. It turned out that the slope we had to ascend to get on that saddle was VERY steep, and I’m not sure it was any better than if we had gone up our originally planned route on the mining road. We ended up angling towards that saddle, which meant cross-cutting some really steep and loose terrain, which wasn’t a very smart idea. If I did this again, I would have followed the mining road straight to the middle of the basin, then picked my way straight up to the saddle, rather than working my way across. However I don’t know there would have been a good route there, it just seems like it’s easier to go straight up something steep than cut across it.

21887_02
View of the mining road we had intended to go up. Notice there is no trail above it.
21887_01
Blue is our route, orange was our plan. We should have followed it until where the orange line cuts south, and gone straight to the saddle to the north.

Crossing the slope involved several loose gullies, and it was slow moving. We were very pleased to finally be on the saddle, and even considered going up to get Silver Mountain before continuing. However we still didn’t really know what was in store for our other four peaks and there were a lot of clouds, so we decided to get moving.

21887_04
Cross cutting the slope, almost to the saddle.
21887_05
Good view of what the terrain was like on the slope below Silver Mountain.
21887_06
Much steeper than it looked from a distance!

Hiking up that grassy slope was my least favorite part of the hike, not particularly hard but definitely a grind. It also had a great view of the whole ridge we were planning to hike, which was a little intimidating!

21887_07
We finally made it up to the saddle!
21887_08
Looking back at the basin and slope we came up to the left (much steeper from this angle!)

Once we got up high, it was easy to hop on the jeep road for a bit to get to the top of Santa Fe. Pretty easy walking between there and Sullivan. Once on the ridge, we were happy we didn’t come up the Santa Fe/Sullivan saddle, it was great to do this as a true loop!

21887_10
From the top of Santa Fe looking out towards Sullivan and Geneva.

Coming down Sullivan gives you a great (although intimidating) view of your route up Geneva. Even with all 4 peaks on our agenda, Geneva was the one we really wanted. It’s clearly the crown of this ridge, it’s much more rugged and impressive-looking than the others. There is a nice social trail, which was much welcomed by us after doing so much off-trail hiking so far. The trail was just enough to make the walking easier, if for no other reason than you didn’t have to think about where to put your feet with every step. It ended up not being nearly as difficult as it looked, and we followed a faint trail right to the summit. Geneva definitely had the nicest peak!

21887_11
Heading up the grassy slope to the summit of Sullivan.
21887_12
Geneva from the top of Sullivan.
21887_14
Part of the helpful trail up Geneva.
21887_16
View looking back from the top of Geneva (avoided that point by staying to the west).

The walk from Geneva to Landslide was uneventful, and mostly flat. The views were spectacular. As described by others, the top of Landslide is nothing special. But it still felt good to stand on the last of our 4 objectives for the day!

21887_18
Looking back at where we came from the top of Landslide.

This is where the hike got really unique. We decided we wanted to descend the long sloping ridge back to the car, which was really one of the highlights of the trip. We joked that it felt like hiking in the Scottish Highlands, it was such a unique geography. It also provided a really cool way to descend the vert, rather than picking down the face of something or slogging on the road back to the car. There was virtually no trail, and no indication that others had taken this route (seemed like most people backtrack or go down Webster Pass). I can’t recommend this ridge highly enough, it was spectacular. And provided great views of the peaks we had just climbed.

21887_19
One part of the long spine we took down to treeline.

Of all the parts of this hike, getting down through the trees was the most strategic. There weren’t a lot of good options, and we had very carefully planned our descent knowing it would be hard to tell where we were going once in the trees. The first important part was not to cut down too early, we kept going straight east for a long time until we came to a little bit of a bench that we could take north. This was all challenging to find through the trees, so I was very glad I had plotted this out on Gaia ahead of time. Our goal was to get to a gully that we could take straight down to the creek, but that proved a little harder to find than planned. We continued working north, and overall were able to stick pretty close to our planned route. This was tough in the pouring rain and in the steep trees, but it wasn’t as bad as we expected. We finally started hearing the creek so we knew we were close to the road. We never found a great place to cross once we got there, but we were so close to the car that we just walked right through it.

21887_20
In the bristlecones at treeline at the tip of the ridge.
21887_21
Part of the bushwhack back to the car.
21887_22
Gully we finally found to follow back to the creek.

I spent a lot of time thinking about why I hadn’t found any info about this route while I was planning. Was there a reason no one did it from Geneva Creek, and this whole thing would be a big mistake? My conclusion was that the deterrents must be getting on and off the ridge, which is understandable. Those were the most challenging and sketchy parts of the hike, and the bushwhacking in the trees on the way back to the car wasn’t exactly “fun”. However, I really enjoyed this hike and think it was a fantastic way to do these peaks. I was looking for adventure, and we definitely got it with this route!

Considerations:

  • This was a high-commitment route. Our weather was just ok, lots of clouds and we got poured on once we were below treeline. I’m glad we kept going, but there aren’t any bail-off points. Once you’re up there, you’re up there. In fact I think the only potential bail-off would have been that mining road between Santa Fe and Sullivan, so basically once you were past Sullivan there was no turning back.
  • DON’T REVERSE THIS. We had originally considered doing it in reverse, and we were so glad we didn’t. Bushwhacking up to that slope in the dark would have been a nightmare, and as fun as that ridge was to hike down, it would have been seriously demoralizing to go up (very long, slow progress).

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
mennoguy
User
Other route options from Geneva Creek
09/06/2022 12:10
I've done similar routes twice, once going from Shelf Lake around all the 12ers and down the north slopes of Landslide. It's steep grass most of the way down to treeline from Landslide and then old mining roads eventually take you back to the main road. The other time I did the route in reverse, starting up the South Park trail going up to the saddle at about 11100 ft then going up the long SE ridge of Landslide. I went down the route you showed in orange on your map. It goes fairly well, the mountain has reclaimed sections of he mining road. Thanks for writing a report from the Geneva Creek side, I think it's a better approach to climb these peaks than the west side. I'll have to check out your descent route sometime.


yaktoleft13
User
Nice!
09/06/2022 12:24
Glad to see someone post this route. I actually did something very close to it last year, but didn't post about it anywhere (hence your difficulty finding information on it). I drove just about to the junction at 11.6 (stopped a little below it, but could have made it). 4wd required that high up. my ascent route was straight up the NW bowl of Santa Fe from the mine area, and it was pretty good. Mostly grassy, a little scree-y. Ran the ridge to Landslide, then descended a steep, loose slope (can't remember if it was between Geneva/landslide or off the east ridge of landslide). It was a little nasty, but my dog managed fine and it was quick descent.

Hope more people go this way, as it's beautiful, quick, and a much easier access (minus the 4wd road) for those coming from the south


lpeabbles
User
Interesting
09/06/2022 13:50
So interesting you both chose to descend the face of Landslide, I hadn't even considered that. Looking at it now I can see that would be a reasonable choice, and a great option for a bail off point if needed. However I'm pretty sure our descent down the gentle ridge to the trees was probably more enjoyable! (Although maybe not the bushwhacking through the trees part...) :-)


dwoodward13
User
Descent
09/06/2022 15:03
I did this a few months ago, and posted a CR report for it under Geneva/Santa Fe (although not the most logical place to look). Similar to Yak, I headed toward the end of the road near the Silt Mine, and headed up mostly grassy slopes to the ridge. I too descended Landslide just to the E of the true summit on mostly grass (portions very steep) toward Lake Josephine. From the lake there are a series of 4x4 roads not on some maps (but visible on satellite views) that lead to near the S side of the Iron Fens. A tiny bit of bush whacking let to the main (closed) 4x4 road that leads to the Iron Fens and its an easy walk back to the Geneva Ck Rd.

Nice write up!


boudreaux
User
Lefthanded hiker
09/07/2022 03:52
I climbed Landslide 1st. The bushwhacking wasn't too bad as I recall. I drove up the basin to a gate and started from there. That was more than 20 years ago though, but still a great adventure on the Continental Divide. This is a better route than going from Montezuma I think. The drive up the Pass Rd is very beautiful from 285 and there are a lot of peaks along the divide that make more nice adventures if you decide to further explore this mined area on both sides of the divide. Did you happen to take any pictures of the Finns? I don't recall seeing any unusual rock formations below Geneva..



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