Cooper Creek Summits

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“Every Mountain” seen from the “Cooper Creek Peak” saddle, San Juan Mountains, Colorado.

Peaks Summited

“Cooper Creek Peak” (Ranked, 13,688′, #153)
“Every Mountain” (Ranked, 13,691′, #151)
“Gudy Peak” (Ranked, 13,566′, #211)
“C.T. Peak” (Ranked, 13,312′, #382)
Unnamed 13,540 A (Ranked, 13,540′, #225)
Unnamed 13,427 (Ranked, 13,427′, #303)

The Day’s Stats

14 miles
7,750′ gained
8.5 hours


After a fitting finale to the ski season with a motley crew on Torreys’ Tuning Fork, it was officially time to switch into summer mode. I generally always welcome the transition with open arms, and this season was no different. While skiing peaks is without a doubt my favorite thing to do in the mountains, there’s something freeing about exchanging the plastic boots and heavy pack for a pair of comfy trail shoes and a light rucksack, and heading out for a day of unimpeded peak bagging under sunny summer skies.

Occasionally the company I work for sends me down to our corporate office in Durango and when it does, I try to seize the opportunity to get outside in the San Juans, even if it’s for just a single day. After working for two days down there I motored on up to Lake City and camped at the Elkhorn Campground (formerly known as T Bears). This campground brings back memories for me as I stayed there in 2006 for my first attempt at the Lake City 14ers. On that trip I wound up getting rained out on Wetterhorn and managed to get my Honda Civic stuck in a mud bog a few miles up the Henson Creek Road the day I intended to try Uncompahgre. Coming back from the hills cold and defeated, I still remember the warm shower and cabin I stayed in at this campground and I’ve been back several times since then. As absurd as it may seem to pay $20 to throw a tent down on someone’s lawn, I was happy to do so yet again. Besides they have a pretty cool fire pit and it was fun to sit around and talk to a few people who were getting ready to run the San Juan Solstice race a few days later.

The next morning I drove over to the Silver Creek TH, geared up, and made my way up the familiar Silver Creek trail towards Redcloud Peak at 5:30am. On this day however my plan was far different from my past visits. Two of the most overlooked 13ers in the entire state sit a mile and a half to the north of Redcloud – “Cooper Creek Peak” (which Dillon and I thought we had summited last fall but later realized we hadn’t) and its immediate neighbor, “Every Mountain”. This duo seems to be accessed most often via the Cooper Creek drainage to the northwest of Silver Creek, but being uncertain about snow coverage and creek crossings in the area, I decided to head up Cooper Creek’s south slopes from the more heavily trafficked Silver Creek drainage (as I was able to find beta on it). My plan worked out perfectly and I was standing atop “Cooper Creek Peak” within 90 minutes of leaving the car.

Handies in the morning light from Silver Creek.

Redcloud from the summit of “Cooper Creek Peak”.

On the summit of “Cooper Creek” looking towards “Every”.

It was awesome to summit “Cooper Creek Peak”, but I had larger ambitions for the day so I didn’t linger for too long. From the summit I ran the easy terrain over to “Every Mountain”, which lent great views of Uncompahgre and the Cimarron groups to the north, and then continued west along the seemingly infinitely long ridge line. I figured if the weather held and I didn’t run into much snow or any unexpected scrambling, I’d try to extend the day all the way out to UN 13,427, just shy of Wood Mountain to the north of Cinnamon Pass.

On “Every” looking back at “Cooper Creek”. The terrain between them was some of the easiest of the entire loop.

The summit of “Every Mountain”, from which just about every mountain can be seen.

One of the sections I was unsure about was the stretch from “Every Mountain” to “Gudy Peak”. And sure enough, the direct ridge line between the two looked to hold intermittent snow and some exposed talus scrambling, so I made the quick decision to drop 1,200′ down to the base of Gudy’s east ridge and ascend the peak from there. Although it sucked to sentence myself to that much vertical drop and regain, it made the most sense and I was able to make quick work of it up to the summit of “Gudy Peak”.

“Gudy Peak” and my decision point to stick to the ridge or drop down. I wound up dropping down to the green field below and then up the obvious ridge line to the left of all the snow.

A thawing Cooper Lake seen from Gudy’s east ridge.

Looking back down Gudy’s east ridge at the terrain I’d traversed thus far. “Every Mountain” is the pointy one.

From “Gudy Peak” it didn’t take too long to run the ridge to the summit of “C.T. Peak”, which had one of the more interesting summit registers I’ve seen in a long time – no signatures since 2012 and only a dozen or so dating back to 2006, almost all familiar names. I love peaks like C.T. where it feels like only a very small community of Colorado hikers bother to pursue their summits (of course I know not everyone signs registers, but it’s still a cool feeling).

Next came the other question mark – the section from “C.T. Peak” to UN 13,540 A. Turns out this was the most tedious section of the day as I found myself postholing through a few snowfields, downclimbing a short section of loose class 4 terrain, and upclimbing a softening snow slope with a small cornice climb to obtain the peak’s true summit. I don’t have any great photos of this section but I feel like the traverse would be much easier later in the summer in 100% dry conditions.

UN 13,540’s final summit climb. The cornice was easily negotiated with the help of a mountaineering axe.

On the summit of 13,540 looking west towards the last peak of the loop and Wood Mountain behind it.

From 13,540 A, the final peak of the day looked close given the amount of terrain I had traversed to get to that point. I sucked down some fluids and pushed on to the summit of UN 13,427, topping out around 12:30pm.

UN 13,427 looking close.

Elated after peak #6 and with the weather still holding just fine, I descended down a series of steep grass steps into Cleveland Gulch and schwacked my way back to the Alpine Loop road. From there it was a couple mile stroll back down to the Silver Creek TH, where I arrived at 2pm and promptly cracked open a Modus.

Back on the Alpine Loop and immersed in the afternoon heat.

This picture pretty much sums up how I felt at this stage.

Back at the car it was time to head into town for a burger and a beer, then back to Denver, which was one of the most peaceful drives I had had in a long time (heading eastbound on a Friday night sure is nice). It’s officially summer, and I’m excited for what the rest of it has in store. Cheers!

Map Code

Map of the route. Click to enlarge.

12 thoughts on “Cooper Creek Summits

  1. Brian

    Looks like UN13,427 has a line on it…..
     
    That area of the San Juans always reminds me of the Sawatch range. At first glance, you think its just a bunch of boring walk ups. But there are definitely some interesting scrambles and wild topography abound.
     
    I’m surprised those 5.10 shoes are still alive!

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Ha, regarding skiing 13,427, don’t get any grandiose ideas there Brian!
       
      I agree re: Sawatch comparison. And that section of the Alpine Loop is basically the Road 390 of the San Juans.
       
      I think the 5.10s will solider on awhile longer somehow. That reminds me, I’ve got a pair of size 12 hiking shoes for you if you can remember to remind me again.

      Reply
  2. DKYarian (Zambo)

    “there’s something freeing about exchanging the plastic boots and heavy pack for a pair of comfy trail shoes and a light rucksack, and heading out for a day of unimpeded peak bagging under sunny summer skies.”
     
    Amen to that. Few better CO outings than this sort of summer day, complete with a series of obscure San Juan 13ers to boot! Glad you keep getting to head down South with work.

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      For sure Zambo! There are definitely worse places than Durango to travel to for work. Looking forward to getting out on something with ya buddy 🙂

      Reply
  3. thomas conners

    Wow – so 6 thirteeners in 7 or 8 hours, two of them unnamed – Did u have Jax with u – Faja

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Hey Dad! No Jax on this one, don’t think he would have fared very well in several spots. He would certainly have tried though!
       
      There are a surprising number of unnamed 13ers in Colorado, over 130 of them. Kind of interesting, you’d think they’d all have names by now.

      Reply
  4. Floyd

    Ben, that’s a big day out of the gates. But, I guess you skiers are on top of your game this time of year as you ditch all of that extra gear. I’m actually looking forward to my first trip without the snow gear next week. Those hikers, while appropriately abused, are a welcome sight!
     
    Looks like a productive loop and your work seems to allow more interesting excursions than mine since I have to interrupt wiffle ball games in Central Park to gain a single unranked high-point.
     
    As an aside, that is a great area for dogs and Floyd and I enjoyed a memorable trip for the Cents/14ers down there several years ago. I think he’s officially retired now, but the LaGuarita area is another of his favorites. The slogs are much more appealing with a K9 companion.

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Scot, I agree re: things being more interesting with a hound along. And the location of our headquarters is probably the best thing about my company, I just wish I got to head down there a little more often.
       
      Have a great time up in Aspen!

      Reply
  5. Brandon Chalk

    Ben, awesome stuff, bud. You da man. Gorgeous country and congrats on your 6 peak day! I’d love to do that exact loop someday. Looks wonderful. Cheers, dude.

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Brando. Yeah man, it’s such a pretty area this time of year, and a loop worth pursuing solely for the views of Uncompahgre and the Cimarron group if nothing else. I hope you’re doin well buddy.

      Reply
  6. Natalie Moran

    Very impressive stats. I botched the ascent of Cooper Creek pk (should have definitely chose the Redcloud TH, as the summit is much more obvious from there ), so we only managed CC and Every. Ben, you’re a machine!

    Reply
    1. Ben

      Thanks Natalie! Well, CC and Every is still a fine day out in and of itself 🙂 So you went up Cooper Creek I take it? I wasn’t sure which approach would be better and wound up just choosing SIlver Creek because I was solo and it was familiar.

      Reply

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