October in the Sawatch: Emma Burr Loop

      12 Comments on October in the Sawatch: Emma Burr Loop

Jones Mountain B summit on October 1st.

Peaks Summited

Gladstone Ridge (Ranked, 13,209′, #476)
Jones Mountain B (Ranked, 13,218′, #467)
“Chalk Rock Mountain” (Ranked, 13,055′, #605)
Mt. Kreutzer (Ranked, 13,095′, #572)
Emma Burr Mountain (Ranked, 13,538′, #229)

The Day’s Stats

15.8 miles
6,500′ gained
7.5 hours


I had another day of PTO to burn and figured I’d keep up the yearly tradition of heading to the Sawatch for a big slog to sort of say goodbye to summer. I didn’t really have anything specific in mind, just something reasonably accessible that would get me and the dog some exercise up on a long ridge line. After a few minutes of research I found something that fit the bill perfectly – a few TRs exist out there detailing what is loosely called the “Emma Burr Grand Slam”. This is the nickname for a nice loop that collects four ranked 13ers west of Mt. Princeton near Cottonwood Lake. After looking at the map, I figured neighboring molehill Gladstone Ridge could be reasonably tacked on, making it a Grand Slam +1. And I figured if I was lucky I might also get to see some changing Aspen trees.

After making the drive from Denver to Buena Vista and up the Cottonwood Lake Road, I parked the car at the 344/344A junction and walked east back down the road a ways to find the jeep trail that meanders up Grassy Gulch between Jones Mountain B and Gladstone Ridge (walking up 344A puts you between Jones B and Chalk Rock, which is where you want to be if you don’t plan on adding Gladstone Ridge). Once high enough up the road I broke off and headed straight for Gladstone Ridge’s east ridge. Little did I know at the time, there’s a good reason people don’t typically include this peak with the other four…

View over to Gladstone Ridge from where I gained the ridge line. Needless to say it looked damn far away.

I briefly questioned my decision, but gathered myself and decided to go for Gladstone Ridge anyway, reasoning I had a perfect weather day in front of me and I already went through the trouble of setting up my parking situation and approach route to include it.

An old friend seen from along the ridge line.

An old friend seen from along the ridge line.

After a long ridge walk in the opposite direction of the rest of my objectives for the day, I finally reached the summit of Gladstone Ridge, turned around after a short break, and was happy to be going in the correct direction again.

The long ridge over to Emma Burr (back left), the last peak on my itinerary.

Reversing back to the point where I gained the ridge initially, I continued on down to the saddle between Gladstone Ridge and Jones B. The Jeep road I walked in on meanders a pretty good ways up Jones B; there’s a lot of drive-neering potential in this part of the range that’s for sure.

Jones Mountain B looking closer.

Jax and I topped out on Jones B, took a decent break, then continued on towards “Chalk Rock Mountain” (coined that name by Gerry Roach). The section between these two peaks promised to be the most interesting part of the day, so I made sure to scope it out on my way towards the class 3 section.

“Calk Rock Mountain”, next up on the day’s agenda.

In an effort to make things as safe and simple on Jax as possible, I elected to skip Chalk Rock’s class 3 ridge, bypassing below it on the south side. This worked out really well and I’d wager to guess it might be easier and faster overall than trying to stay on the ridge proper (Steve might yell at me for saying that). After 45 minutes we topped out on Chalk Rock and admired the view to the north towards Huron and the Apostles.

Jax expressing his excitement on Chalk Rock’s summit, which is coincidentally covered in chalk-colored rocks.

The section from Chalk Rock to Kreutzer entailed another mile or so of straightforward tundra slogging along the Continental Divide (and also the Chaffee/Gunnison County dividing line). Nothing super interesting to note, although the views were nice and location in the Sawatch is certainly unique.

Red tundra.

Jax and I on top of Kreutzer. He has that, “I want to kill you and feast on your bones” look on his face for some reason.

Once past Kreutzer it was one more solid segment of ridge run to Emma Burr Mountain, the tallest peak of the day. Jax and I just put our heads down and stomped it out until we hit the top, like true gaper sloggers.

The remaining ridge line over to Emma Burr Mountain. A quick attempt at historical research yielded no information about who Emma Burr was. Apparently it’s one of Coloardo’s best kept secrets.

Almost there, just a few hundred more feet.

Emma Burr summit, peak number five on the day. Jax is happy to be on top of another mountain, I think.

At the risk of turning into a full on LOJer I strolled over and took a look down towards Tuncup Peak, but quickly dashed any thoughts of continuing on for more peaks. These mountains will always be around and the pull of beer and pizza at Eddyline was just too strong. Jax and I schlepped on down Emma Burr, hitting the Continental Divide Trail lower down in Mineral Basin.

Mineral Basin panorama. Click for a blown up version with peak labels.

One small point of confusion – I was under the impression the CD Trail would eventually take us back to the road, but as you may have guessed, it does not. When descending through Mineral Basin we should have just gone straight for the road instead of screwing around with the CD Trail, as it heads up and over the Jones/Chalk Rock saddle and never intersects either 344 or 344A. After realizing this it was easy to make the adjustment, bushwhacking through the woods to get onto 344A and eventually, the car.

Continental Divide Trail marker.

And there are the colors I was looking for.

Post-climb food and libations at Eddyline were marvelous (except for Jax, who had to stay outside as they no longer allow dogs), after which we enjoyed an uneventful drive back to Denver and tuned in for the second half of Thursday Night Football, which was actually decent. Jax cashed in on a massive bone too, which I could tell he was happy about. Dogs shouldn’t be denied their post-climb spoils any more than humans should be, right?

Map Code

Topo map of the loop.

Happy October sloggin’ everyone 🎃

12 thoughts on “October in the Sawatch: Emma Burr Loop

  1. Brandon Chalk

    Yeah, Jax!! Congrats guys! Nothing better than a man and his dog for miles and miles of ridge line. Looks like a spectacular day up high to enjoy the awesome fall weather, Ben. Well done, fellas.

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Dogs have a way of making a hike more fun, don’t they? Thanks Brandon, I hope you’ve been able to enjoy some fall colors up in your neck of the woods!

      Reply
  2. TJ

    Wow what a great day for you guys!!!! -I thought it quite evident that Jax was enjoying himself – the colors and your pics were amazing and all this accessible from BV – nice 8 hour day hike Ben.

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Faja, was definitely fun and nice to get away from the city. Looking forward to ski season here soon. Love you!

      Reply
  3. Floyd

    I’m already missing the days of having a pup young enough to tag along on days like this. 7.5 hours for a day like that?? I’m going to need to get my tail in gear if we do ever get out for a day. Also, I think I know why Jax wasn’t leashed and the pups also appreciate the $1 menus at the fast food drive thrus for post-climb feasts.

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Haha, that’s a great idea actually re: dollar menu dog post-climb treats. Good thinkin’ Scot. Have a good one this weekend. Sorry we’ll miss each other, again.
       
      P.s. Very astute re: the leash. I’ll come over to your house sometimes next week to grab it from you if that works. I’ll shoot ya a text…

      Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Ha! Yeah, you saw first hand how Jax does with exposure this past weekend. I think he could use a little more time before attempting any airy class 3.
       
      And yes, a very long ridge but a group of super easy peaks really. These are some of the ones that would fit right into our discussion about waiting to hit certain 13ers until we’re in our seventies. I guess I was a little early on these 🙂

      Reply
  4. Katie

    Hi Ben,

    I stumbled across your post and was wondering if you remember how the trail on Emma Burr was holding up. I helped build the section of the CDT around Emma Burr in 2006 and haven’t had a chance to make it back up there. Thanks for posting your adventure – it was a welcome thing to find before starting work this morning.

    Reply
    1. Ben

      Hi Katie, the trail was holding up just fine if I recall correctly. Thanks for the work you did back in there 🙂

      Reply

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