San Juan Summertime and the Livin’s Easy

      14 Comments on San Juan Summertime and the Livin’s Easy

Half Peak with its dramatic North Face standing guard over the Weminuche.

Ben and I have been on a bit of a tear this summer. Blitzkrieg is a word often used to describe a few of our trips and while they have been nothing but excellent, it makes you appreciate a trip in which you are afforded the ability to get to your destination early, snag 1st dibs on a campsite, and enjoy perfect weather all weekend. “Stress-free” was thrown around a lot this past weekend and we savored every minute of it.

Day 1:

Peaks: “Quarter Peak” (13,674′)Half Peak (13,841′)
Date:  August 9, 2014
Trailhead: Cataract Gulch
Route:  Cataract Gulch approach, “Quarter Peak” – North Ridge with a “traverse” to Half Peak, ascent of East Face, descent of South Ridge.
Distance: ~ 12 miles
Elevation Gain: ~ 5,000 ft.
Group: Anna-Lisa Conners, Ben Conners, Dillon Sarnelli

With a 4 AM start we had our first light just below treeline. The excitement of getting to camp early the night prior may have led to a few too many IPA’s before bed, which in turn resulted in some rough wee hours of the morning. This may also have led to a loose cap bladder malfunction in Al’s backpack. Needless to say the bright morning sun, a nap in a grassy knoll (for Anna-Lisa) and a pitstop in some trees did wonders for our morale.

“Quarter Peak” (right) under the morning alpenglow on the approach.

With Anna-Lisa resting in her grassy knoll, Ben and I hit “Quarter Peak”. This peak itself is more of a slog until you reach the last few hundred feet to the summit, at which time it turns into a loose pile of grundle, but the views from the summit over to Half are reason enough to make it happen.

Ben scrambling along on the traverse over to Quarter’s true summit.

Summit of “Quarter Peak” – August 9, 2014. Half Peak showing off it’s bold 800 foot high north face in the distance.

The summit register on “Quarter Peak”. Some familiar company in there!

After leaving the summit we picked up Anna-Lisa and began the “traverse” over to Half. This is really more of a contour at about 12,900 ft. over a mile or so to Half’s eastern slopes than a traverse.

Ben and Anna-Lisa are on cruise control now.

Ben beginning the ascent up Half’s east face.

Rather than traverse around to the bottom of the short Class 3 gully leading to the summit of Half, we opted for a shorter steeper climb (~ Class 4) which spit us out at the top of the standard cairned gully. From there it was a quick jaunt to the sprawling summit.

Anna-Lisa has a new hobby and she’s a natural!

Summit of Half Peak – August 9, 2014, looking west into the heart of the Weminuche Wilderness.

Wetterhorn, Matterhorn and Uncompahgre from the summit of Half.

Thinking it would be easier to descend Half’s south ridge than the east face and it’s gully, albeit longer, we began the long descent south to Cataract Lake. Roach calls ascending Half from the east and descending to the south, the “Tour de Half”.

A look back at Half as we descend the catwalk on it’s south ridge.

Another look over at Half and it’s south ridge on the descent.

Scree surfing Conners style.

Voted best waterfall in Colorado by 2 Conners, 1 Miller and 1 Sarnelli.

So good I included 2 shots and I don’t think either really do it justice.

Back at the ranch Conners is all business. Gordon’s wins the 2014 Imperial Red Taste Test Challenge with Colorojo taking the not so heated runner up trophy.

Day 2:

Peaks: UN 13,832, UN 13,811, Unranked 13,er a.k.a “Little Redcloud”
Date:  August 10, 2014
Trailhead: Silver Creek
Route:  Silver Creek approach, UN 13,832 – Northeast Ridge, out and back to UN 13,811 – Southwest Ridge from UN 13832, out and back to unranked 13er “Little Redcloud”.
Distance: ~ 14 miles
Elevation Gain: ~ 5,000 ft.
Group: Anna-Lisa Conners*, Ben Conners, Dillon Sarnelli (*Anna-Lisa summitted Redcloud and Sunshine solo while Ben and I took care of business on the UNers.)

Morning sun on Redcloud.

We parted ways with Anna-Lisa at the saddle and watched as she made quick work of Redcloud. Realizing that we would have our work cut out if we wanted to time everything perfectly, we began beasting our way over to UN 13,832. After reaching the summit, we could see Anna-Lisa on the summit of Redcloud. She had the summit all to herself and UN 13,832 was all ours. It was a special moment. I said to Ben something like “When will you ever again be sitting on the summit of a Centennial staring at your wife on the summit of a 14er?”

Summit of UN 13,832 – August 10, 2014. Also pictured: Anna-Lisa is on the summit of Redcloud behind us!

The approach to UN 13,811. You give Ben grass like this and it’s lights out. Seeya on the summit!

We summitted UN 13,811 at about 9 AM, took a few pics and then headed back the way we came.

UN 13,811 (L) and UN 13,832 (R) from the peak we are calling unranked 13er “Little Redcloud”.

Ben sitting on the throne that is the summit of our unranked 13er. Uncompahgre looming in the distance.

Descending back to the saddle with Redcloud. The colors variations in the rocks on these peaks were incredible.

We rendezvoused with Anna-Lisa back at the saddle. She successfully summitted both Redcloud and Sunshine for 14ers 10 and 11! After a quick breather we then headed back to camp for some R&R and a Double-Wide IPA birthday bomber!


Yoga does a body good. Little does she know that the bomber next to her also does a body good!

The Sarnelli 4 Pack brought to you by Ben Conners.

Benny, it’s been a pleasure running after you in these hills for the better part of a year now. With 3 Centennials left, the only thing I can say is be safe on Jagged, get ‘er done and we’re all pumped to do it again on Phoenix and Stewart in September with you. Thanks for being a great hiking/climbing partner, an even better friend, and getting me hooked on another peak project (yeah I said it :)). Cheers buddy!

And as always thanks for reading all!

14 thoughts on “San Juan Summertime and the Livin’s Easy

  1. Sarah B.

    Stress-free weekends ARE nice! I find myself seeking them out more and more these days. We did miss you guys on the Slate trip, but I understand how focused Ben must be right now getting so close to finishing the Cents. Looking forward to helping him celebrate that accomplishment very soon! I see he’s turning Anna-Lisa into an obsessive peak-bagger as well, nice work! : ) Great TR, Dillon…. see you in California in 10 (!!) days.

    1. Dillon

      Sarah! Thanks for the comment. Hope you have all recovered from the Gore! My frogtogs arrived today! This just got real, haha. Yep, it’s been great running around with Benny and Anna-Lisa this summer on these last 10 or so. One of the coolest summers I’ve had out here hands down and with great company. Pigeon and Turret or bust! Seeya next Friday.

  2. Brandon Chalk

    Wonderful report there, Sarnelli! Stress-free weekends sure are awesome sometimes. Well done to all three of you! Gosh, you guys had some beautiful weather – much better than we did in the Gores!

  3. Brian

    That last pic is quite the lineup. Lots of red beer to go along with lots of red rock. Fitting. That Cataract waterfall is top 5 in the state. Good to see another stress-free weekend in Colorado. Good to know they still exist.

    1. Dillon

      MILLER! I put your name in the report and you weren’t even there buddy. That’s special. 🙂 Conners went to town picking out that Sarnelli 4Pack and that bomber lived up to it’s name! Seeya next Friday B!

  4. Floyd

    You two are really plugging away at the list. Nice work. Half’s waterfall looks incredible. I was considering that for my daughter’s backpack trip this year. It looks like it needs to be on the docket in the not-to-distant future.

    1. Dillon

      Scot, it sure has been a busy awesome summer man. Thanks! That waterfall was worth the trip by itself. Let me know when the rematch with the Desolations is!

    1. Dillon

      Gendarme Steve!! Agreed for sure! It’s still a toss up between the waterfall and the peaks, but I’m still leaning heavily towards BA half peak. It doesn’t take much to enliven trips like these man.

  5. DKYarian

    Thrones, Blitzkreigs, exotic IPA’s, and Al soloing peaks……this sounds like a fantasy trip to me boys! Nice work getting after some obscure stuff out there. Looks like some mighty fine Colorado summer days. Only a very few high 100’s left until we get to hear Ben repeatedly and resolutely swear off ever driving down to the San Juans again!


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