Spending the Weekend Atop Tincup Pass

      14 Comments on Spending the Weekend Atop Tincup Pass

Peaks: “Tincup Peak”, 13,345’ (CO Rank 356) and Emma Burr Mountain, 13,538′ (CO Rank 229)
Crew: Me, Colin M.


It’s not the sexiest of locations, but I gained an appreciation of the southern Sawatch this weekend. I can’t imagine I’ll be spending too many dry months exploring the area, but where these mountains lack in individual aesthetics is made up for by the quantity of peaks in such a concentrated area. Add a blanket of snow on them and the area truly comes alive.

The high camp is another concept that Colin and I have kicked around for years. After looking at several ideas around the state, we were focused on a pack over along the divide. Unfortunately, our schedules failed to align during the very dry and warm January and February weekends. So, while record setting amounts of snow fell over the past few weeks we wondered if conditions would allow an aggressive itinerary. Once we saw the red “high risk” flashing across the state on the CAIC website about 72 hours before we left, we scaled back to not put ourselves at risk of pushing through unknown terrain required by the car-to-car idea. Instead, we focused on Tincup Pass and venturing south on Saturday after setting up camp and then walk the divide north on Sunday.

Colin and Craig met up for a ski of Homestake Peak on Friday and since I had figured on a car drop Friday night Colin and I made plans to meet in Buena Vista. We got a room at the Topaz Lodge which is a very convenient walking location to the Eddyline Brewpub. We drove to the Eddyline Restaurant on South Main for dinner and while our burgers were very average, the sausage sampler was the star. It contains cuts of pheasant and chicken, wild boar with apricot, smoked buffalo, elk and jalapeno & jackelope and habenero. The fresh horseradish really put it over the top for me. After dinner we drove back to the hotel and walked across the street to drink our weight in Crank Yanker IPA.

Once awake and mobile, we swung by the Roastery in town for coffee/tea and some breakfast burritos. If in BV for breakfast, I highly recommend this pit stop. We arrived at the St. Elmo townsite around 9:00 where I asked some snowmobilers about conditions around the pass. One guy was sincere in his response, but didn’t give me anything useful and I got a real snarky response from a commercial group. I would learn/see later, that there’s no point in asking sledders about conditions because, to put it bluntly, they just don’t give a damn. They’ll go on, above, below stuff you couldn’t pay me to walk on let alone put a ¼ ton machine on.

We were on the road around 9:30 for a pleasant 6-mile jaunt up to the pass. The hot sun bore down on us as we snowshoed up the road with our heavy packs. Treeline comes abruptly and we were greeted with views of the upper valley. The snowshoes really weren’t needed, but they definitely came in handy from treeline to the pass, where we arrived around 12:30.

Colin leaving treeline for the pass.

After setting up camp and grabbing lunch (Bagels with Jiff Whipped Peanut Butter/Chocolate) we figured we’d make a run at Fitzpatrick but a pesky 12er, 12,780, stood in our way. It looked like it may get interesting from below, but the small ridge just before the summit turned us back. We were atop a knife edge that was heavily corniced to the south of the divide and to the north was very loose (and exposed) talus. It may have gone, but it really wasn’t worth it. Plus, after seeing it from Tincup the next day, we had 2 or 3 more problem areas to get to Fitzpatrick. Oh well, north of the divide looked friendlier for Sunday’s plans.

Setting up at the pass.

Setting up at the pass.

Colin gaining the summit ridge on 12,780B. The corniced knife edge is just beyond the bump that's seen.

Colin gaining the summit ridge on 12,780B.

12,780 from Tincup on Sunday. The knife edge can be seen along the summit ridge. Note the red tent in the bottom left.

12,780 from Tincup on Sunday. The knife edge can be seen along the summit ridge. Note the red tent in the bottom left.

Once back at camp, we attacked the Mountain Houses we brought up and sipped on scotch and JD Honey Whiskey while melting snow and polishing off a bag of Snyder’s Hot Buffalo Wing Pretzel bites until the sun set. I was pretty fired up for sunset/sunrise pictures from our camp at 12,154 ft. Unfortunately, the pass is north-south so east-west was guarded by the surrounding peaks. The sun dropped behind 12,780 around 5:00 and the temps dropped extremely quickly. I tucked into the tent only to find that my sleeping pad’s valve was leaking badly and my patch attempts were futile. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t dreading the night ahead. Sunset came around 6:30 which took my mind off of things, but I still didn’t want to get out of the tent so my sunset pictures actually came from my sleeping bag.

Lazy sunset pic from the comfort of my sleeping bag. Not a bad a view for lying in a tent.

Lazy sunset pics from the comfort of my sleeping bag. Not a bad a view for lying in a tent.

P1000980

Luckily, the night was very mild and I actually slept quite well, especially given the circumstances. We lost an hour with daylight savings time, but we were off by 7:45 (new time). Tincup was an easy walk to the ridge and then, after about a half dozen false summits, we finally sat atop our first summit of the weekend. We were both expecting the peaks to be bumps along the divide, but Emma Burr offered an intimidating view and we weren’t certain how successful the day was going to end up for us.

Moon setting over 12,780B in morning alpenglow.

Moon setting over Fitzpatrick and 12,780B in morning alpenglow.

Colin making final adjustments before setting off for Tincup.

Colin making final adjustments before setting off for Tincup.

Pano looking south from Tincup Peak.

Pano looking south from Tincup Peak.

Emma Burr from Tincup Peak.

Emma Burr from Tincup Peak.

We figured we’d give it a go and see what happened but the walk over was uneventful for the most part. As long as there was real estate on the west side of the divide it was windblown enough to allow safe passage. Once atop Emma Burr, the hike beyond to Kruetzer looked like more of the same, but time consuming and more effort than if coming from the north. Going through timelines in our head, we decided to leave it for another day and enjoy the mild morning atop the peak.

Colin climbing to the summit ridge on Emma Burr

Colin climbing to the summit ridge on Emma Burr

Colin atop summit ridge

Colin atop summit ridge

Pano looking north from Emma Burr

Pano looking north from Emma Burr

On the way back to camp, a couple of C130s buzzed Cottonwood Pass just to the north, dropped down to about 12,000 feet over Taylor Reservoir and then banked east once over Gunnison and then headed for home over Monarch. We were actually above them for a lot of the time and it was an interesting experience to look down on planes of that size flying.

C130 buzzing the peaks

C130 buzzing the peaks

C130 heading home (seen in front of Uncompagre)

C130 heading home (seen in front of Uncompagre)

Snowmobilers... Crazy bastards. 35 degree slope? Check. Northern Aspect? Check. High Avy Danger? Check. Let's ride!

Snowmobilers… Crazy bastards. 35 degree slope? Check. Northern Aspect? Check. High Avy Danger? Check. Let’s ride!

The hike out was the hike out – just one foot in front of the other for a couple of hours until reaching the car. We were both in a hurry to get back to our respective families so we skipped the post-climb and I just drove through Wendy’s in Aspen Grove.

Looking back, the high camp idea was a huge success but I can’t imagine trying it without cherry picking a perfect forecast. Colin and I mapped out a couple more projects in the area and hopefully we can coordinate a few more adventures in the Southern Sawatch. I never thought I’d say that, but still, I don’t think you’ll catch me there in August.

14 thoughts on “Spending the Weekend Atop Tincup Pass

  1. Sarah B.

    Scot, I could’ve read this report without seeing your name attached to it and immediately guessed you wrote it…. I think at least 80% of the content is food-related. Ha ha.
     
    Seriously though, looks like a cool trip! When I heard about your plans to camp on Tincup Pass I have to admit it sounded kinda nuts. But looks like you had great weather and decent conditions. And good feasts. Pretty slick to do obscure peaks like Tincup and Emma Burr in winter. Well done you guys.
     
    Sarah

    1. Floyd Post author

      Sarah, I tested a new menu and found some winners so I felt compelled to share. To be honest, I thought the high camp idea was a little nuts too but I’ll try anything once. I’d recommend it though if you have the forecast. A lot of wind up there would have really sucked. Being able to just sit around on the pass definitely was a cool experience but if we were confined to the tent the whole time, Colin and I probably would have killed each other.

  2. Dillon

    Can’t say I agree with ya on the horseradish mr. Floyd, but this trip looks pretty sweet! Haha. Camping on a high pass in winter. Damn. Well done. I think I need to add that to the bucket list. Great report. I always thinks it’s pretty bad ass to feel like your hiking in airspace seeing low flying planes on these peaks. Cheers to spring! It’s coming

    1. Floyd Post author

      Just realized horseradish was a typo, it was kraut. You should absolutely add the high camp to the bucket list, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Happy days as they are getting longer!

  3. Rick

    Cool trip Scot, and great write up! But you know what would have made it even better?!?! Yeah…….skis!

    1. Floyd Post author

      My goal is to someday ski the approach/exits and having them on the 6 mile road would have definitely saved time. I just can’t bring myself to go to a resort to actually learn. I’m afraid my nerd rage would be at an embarrassing level if I ever actually spent a day in that circus.

  4. Brian

    While I have Kraut genes, I can’t stand the stuff. Horseradish on the other hand, is my go to for sinus congestion. Lather some extra hot, raw horseradish and your f**kin troubles are over. Nonetheless, this day and age when all these clowns ( mainly from Boulder) are spraying about going Vegan and feeling good about themselves cause they don’t eat cow – it’s refreshing to hear of your food choices in your TR’s Scot – keep fightin the good fight!
     
    This looks like a cool outing and I agree with you on the Southern Sawatch and its sea of peaks. I saw a few C130’s buzzing Boreas on sunday as well (damn close at that). I thought they were the Gapewaffe (spinoff of Luftwaffe) whose mission was to decrease the amount of Gapers along the 70 corridor.
     
    As for skiing – while Senor Ricardo has the right idea, its nearly impossible to pick up skiing in Colorado in 2015 and not experience nerd rage on a weekly basis. Its just too gaped out.

    1. Floyd Post author

      I don’t think you’ll see me falling in line with the Boulderite mentality any day soon Brian. As a matter of fact, my picture was used in presentations by my Sustainable Business classmates as an example of what not to do. Yes, I did say fact and unfortunately, I didn’t see the C130s drop any napalm or Special Ops on the Idaho Spings area…

  5. Ben

    Cool TR Scot! A unique idea with some solid pics and an entertaining culinary discourse. Thanks for sharing. And I agree re: slednecks not giving a damn. They kinda remind me of pickup truck drivers on I70.

    1. Floyd Post author

      Ben, Thanks for the complement. It had been a while since I was able to pull off something that I felt was out of the norm. Hopefully this will encourage others to try some of the food (and the camping spot.) Good times! It still boggles my mind that there aren’t more snowmobile accidents. I thought some of the YouTube videos were the exception rather than the rule.

  6. lostinmerica

    Nice. I come to your reports more to read about the food recommendations than anything else… and now I know what to order at Eddyline. The mountain pics are ok too I guess :). Did Colin bring another misshapen 300lb pack in training for the Himalayas?

    1. Floyd Post author

      Prakash, it wasn’t 300#s but was misshapen and we didn’t have any bushwacking on class 3 with it either. Your improvements in the culinary realm of mountaineering dwarf the change in climbing skills of those making the jump from CO 14ers to Everest. You’re learning well but, tomato jam? I may never forgive you. We need to get out again sometime. Last April was a lot of fun in a masochist kind of way.

Comments are closed.