Laboring in the Weminuche: Rock Lake 13ers

      12 Comments on Laboring in the Weminuche: Rock Lake 13ers

Camp at Rock Lake, our home for four nights, with Peters Peak in back, taken the evening of September 3rd. Click to enlarge.

Map Code

Route map (GPX) – Blue: Approach, Red: Oso, Irving, Weminuche, Yellow: Peters Group, Green: Soso Trio. Click to enlarge.

The Laborers*

Brian Miller
Steve Cummins
Kyle Knutson
Dillon Sarnelli
Ben Conners

*(la·bor·er, noun: a person doing unskilled manual work)

The Fruits of our Labor

Mt. Oso (Ranked, 13,684′, #157)
Irving Peak (Ranked, 13,218′, #468)
“Weminuche Peak” (Ranked, 13,220′, #461)
Peters Peak (Ranked, 13,122′, #550)
Unnamed 13,222 A (Ranked, 13,222′, #459)
“P 3” (Ranked, 13,300′, #397)
“P 2” (Ranked, 13,302′, #390)
“Mt. Soso” (Ranked, 13,417′, #308)
Unnamed 13,310 (Ranked, 13,310′, #386)
Unnamed 13,340 B (Ranked, 13,340′, #362)


45.7 miles
20,100 ft
September 1st – 5th

It seems like no matter how many times I get into the Weminuche, I’m always excited to go back. Excited not only at the prospect of knocking off more peaks, but also getting to visit new areas.

One such area that had long been on the radar was the Rock Creek drainage to the east of Vallecito Creek. Set apart from the bulk of the high peaks of the Weminuche to the west, this rugged area still holds plenty of good scrambling and great views, with arguably less people. A camp at Rock Lake itself makes for a perfect launching point to go after ten remote 13ers, namely bicentennial Mt. Oso and it’s neighbors.

On approach up Rock Creek just after a storm rolled through the area, September 1st.

Kyle, Steve, and I left Denver at 6am on September 1st and made the long drive to Beartown, where we met up with Brian, who would be packing out a day before us. After the now familiar schlep over Hunchback Pass and down Vallecito Creek, we came to the Rock Creek spur and headed east up the long valley towards Rock Lake. Though it seemed like a lot to bite off for one day, we successfully reached the lake, met up with Dillon (who had packed in from Ute Creek), and got camp set up just before dark. It’s amazing how with an early departure and a decent push, even the most faraway places in Colorado can be reached in a day from basically anywhere in the state.

And with that, we were ready to get down to business, starting with Mt. Oso early the following morning…

A Weminuche sunrise on the morning of September 2nd.

Thanks largely to Dillon’s influence, we elected to check out Oso’s northeast ridge route as opposed to the “standard” route from the Oso/”Soso” saddle. This brought an element of intrigue to the morning as none of us had done much research on what we were getting ourselves into.

Brian scrambling up some fun slabs along the northeast ridge. Click to enlarge.

Although it looked like we were heading upward into an impassible cliff, we just took things one step at a time and they continued to fall in place. The route ultimately wound up providing some of the best scrambling of the entire trip.

After gaining several hundred feet of elevation we worked our way up and across this exposed ledge system. Around the corner we met up with Oso’s south ridge route. Click to enlarge.

Once on the south ridge we cruised up a faint trail to the summit and enjoyed spectacular views in every direction. This peak provides a unique vantage point, with the bulk of the more familiar peaks far to the west, the Nebo and Peters groups to the north, and Rio Grande Pyramid’s silhouette visible on the northeast skyline. Such a sweet area this is.

Smooth sailing with Oso’s summit in sight.

After enjoying some summit grub, which included chips, hot sauce, and Fireball (nice work there Brian), we headed down Oso’s south face and over towards Irving Peak. Oso and Irving seem to often get combined, despite the fact that re-climbing not one, but two saddles is required to get from the base of Irving back to Rock Lake. Good stuff.

Irving Peak (left) and Irving Lake seen from the south slopes of Mt. Oso. From the grass it was a steep climb up to Irving’s north ridge, then an easy walk from there to the summit.

Kyle topping out on Irving Peak at 13,218 ft of elevation.

After working our way back towards camp, Steve, Kyle, and I made the decision to tack “Weminuche Peak” onto the tail end of the day while Brian and Dillon descended back to camp to enjoy a beer and flip flops. There’s not much to say about ‘Weminuche Peak” other than it offers a loose route to a uniquely positioned summit with amazing views in every direction.

Rock Lake seen from the summit of “Weminuche Peak”. That’s Mt. Oso in the distance and Irving Peak barely visible behind it. Click to enlarge.

Satisfied with the day’s effort, we pulled into camp literally ten minutes before the skies unleashed a torrential downpour on the area. We had just enough time to grab a beer out of the lake and filter some water before diving into the tents for the remainder of the evening. I guess that’s just how it goes in the Weminuche sometimes.

Rock Lake beer cooler. Some things never change.

The next morning another alpine start had us around the north side of Rock Lake and halfway up Peters Peak by sunrise. The objective for the day was to run the ridge northwest from Peters out to “P 2”, collecting a total of four 13er summits along the way. This was one of the more anticipated days of the trip, as we knew a few of the peaks harbored some exposed scrambling and routefinding challenges.

Mt. Oso seen from Peters Peak on September 3rd. The route we took up Oso follows the left ridge line from the low point up and around the corner to the left of the red rock face. Click to enlarge.

A chilly wind shooed us off the top of Peters Peak and on to UN 13,222, which is nothing more than a big bump along the ridge line. After a short stay we kept things rolling to the northwest, eventually arriving at the base of the summit block on “P 3”.

Dillon on his way up the initial portion of the narrow summit ridge on “P 3” with Oso and Irving in back.

The crux and summit behind it.

A short class 3 knife led to a notch, and then a semi-exposed twenty foot wall which we immediately identified as the crux after Steve shot up it and declared it to be a worthy adversary (there’s probably one move of class 4, which was trickier to nail on the way down than up). Past that, a short drop into a second notch and regain up the other side led to the summit of “P 3”. It was another cool one, with spectacular views all around. Seems to be a recurring theme in these parts.

Continuing on along the ridge with the last summit of the day, “P 2”, in our sights. Click to enlarge.

“P 2” was just as fun as “P 3” as it also harbored some fun scrambling in the form of a hundred foot long downward sloping class 3/4 knife edge. It’s entirely avoidable via a ledge system to the west, but I’d recommend checking it out.

Solid rock and good scrambling down the knife. The summit is above the low-point at the bottom of the slab.

A look back up at Steve and I on the knife from below.

We all agreed, the summit of “P 2” was probably our favorite of the trip. Being the furthest summit west it afforded the best views into Sunlight and Leviathan creeks, and the host of Weminuche summits both of those drainages serve.

After dropping north from the “P 2″/”P 3” saddle back down to the Rock Creek trail, it was smooth sailing back to the lake. The skies threatened to repeat their onslaught from the prior evening, but ultimately dissipated, allowing for some time outside the tents as well as a welcomed campfire.

Scouting out the following day’s peaks and route.

Evening festivities.

The fourth day of the trip saw Brian pack out as he had to be at a wedding in Houston, and the rest of us going for the final three peaks in the group – “Mt. Soso” (which lived up to its name) and it’s unnamed neighbors to the south. Though this trio of summits was the most underwhelming of the bunch, they were on par with the rest with regards to views, and our route back to camp led us straight past Moon Lake, which was nice to visit.

Sunrise on Peters Peak. Click to enlarge.

“Mt. Soso”. Our route went up the ridge line on the left.

From “Mt. Soso” we were looking forward to some straightforward terrain out to UN 13,310 and 13,340. The Weminuche would throw one last surprise at us however, as the traverse between Soso and 13,310 was more involved than any of us were expecting. It’s not really worth trying to describe it, but a sold ninety minutes of working across loose, exposed ledge systems was required to make the crossing between the two peaks. Eventually we prevailed though, then it was off to the last summit of the trip which thankfully entailed nothing more than an easy tundra walk.

Steve nearing the summit of UN 13,310 once past the major difficulties of the traverse from “Soso”. That’s Oso in the way back.

Off the summit of Un 13,310 and heading for the tenth and final summit of the trip, UN 13, 340. Click to enlarge.

“Weminuche Peak” and Rio Grande Pyramid seen from the summit of UN 13,340. Click to enlarge.

On the way back to camp we took a much needed dip in Moon Lake just before the afternoon clouds rolled in and cooled things off for the rest of the afternoon. That evening we finished off the beer in the cooler, enjoyed another awesome fire on the banks of Rock Lake, and traded in for the night in preparation for the pack out the next morning.

Vintage Weminuche.

Getting home wasn’t all gravy, as we managed to snap an axle on Kyle’s 4Runner on our way down Timber Hill. After limping into Creede, we were fortunate to find a mechanic to help with repairs. Burgers and pitchers at Kip’s made for a perfect post-climb meal, and to make a long story short, we eventually got back to Denver around midnight. A satisfying trip with a great crew…

Group shot on the summit of Irving Peak. R to L: Dillon, Kyle, Brian, Steve, and myself.

Until next time, Weminuche.

12 thoughts on “Laboring in the Weminuche: Rock Lake 13ers

  1. Vadim Beliaev

    Nicely done in such a remote area! I was there a few weeks before you guys, but I don’t take such quality pictures as you do, so really enjoying yours! Love your Rock lake cooler.

  2. Brian

    Grade A pics for a Grade A gaper slog. Those hurt. You forgot to mention everyone’s gastrointestinal issues except the guy who ate cheese tortolini. I thank Rubin’s XXX for that. I had a feeling the 4Runner’s axle was gonna fall victim on that drive out. The Outback reached its very limit on Stony Pass. Aside from some hot brakes, I’d say it did a fine job. Awesome area and fine recap!

    1. Ben Post author

      Grade A all around! I guess I figured most people know that Backpacker Pantry, Fireball, hot sauce and GI distress all go hand in hand, and didn’t feel the need to mention anything specific…

      Yeah Kyle’s axle snapping was untimely but I guess not unexpected. He needs to drive a little slower 🙂

  3. Presto

    Ben, excellent trip report. Way to check some peaks off the old list. Sounds like you had a great group.

    That is a beautiful area … The Man and I spent time in that area many, many years ago when we did a 96+ mile (one-way) section of the highest part of the Continental Divide Trail (from Silverton to Wolf Creek Pass).

    Time may pass, but I see you experienced typical weather for that area.

    Sorry to hear about the axle.

    Happy trails!

    1. Ben Post author

      Hey Presto, 96 miles eh? Wow that sounds like an adventure for sure! Such a beautiful area.

      I hope you and The Man are well. Always great to hear from you 🙂

  4. Floyd

    Very jealous, but that area will still be there when I finally get around to heading in. Incredible trip you guys and thanks for that new route on Oso. Also, sorry to hear about the axle but thanks for confirming Emerald is the way to go. Nice cap to the 2017 summer!

    1. Ben Post author

      Scot, thanks! Would be a sweet trip from Emerald with a camp at Moon Lake for sure. Didn’t seem like Ute Creek to Rock Lake was a bad option either. Similar mileage to coming in from Emerald I believe.

      That route up Oso was all Dillon. Made for a nice alternative to the talus slog from the south.

  5. Steve

    A fine report of one sweet few days! I only have one correction: I recall no such “smooth sailing” after P3. I mean, it was really quick and easy to get to the gorgeous unnamed lake in that small upper basin – but after that: misery! I felt like a whipped dog limping back up the Rock Creek trail that afternoon, after navigating the unending talus.


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