*(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)
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Until next time, Weminuche.