Little Cimarron and Baldy Cinco Loops

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Rock formations on the south ridge of Sheep Mountain in the Little Cimarron drainage, San Juans. Click to enlarge.

Sunday, October 15th – 22.6 miles, 7,240 ft

Unnamed 13,016 (Ranked, 13,016′, #629)
Unnamed 13,051 (Ranked, 13,051′, #608)
Silver Mountain A (Ranked, 13,714′, #139)
Unnamed 13,681 (Ranked, 13,681′, #159)
Unnamed 13,100 B (Ranked, 13,100′, #569)
Sheep Mountain C (Ranked, 13,168′, #507)

Monday, October 16th – 14.9 miles, 4,860 ft

“Baldy No Es Cinco” (Ranked, 13,313′, #379)
Baldy Cinco (Ranked, 13,383′, #329)
Unnamed 13,162 A (Ranked, 13,162′, #512)
Unnamed 13,510 A (Ranked, 13,510′, #248)


Colorado is in the transition phase to winter this month, with most of the northern mountains already fairly snowed in and colder temps and gusty winds settling into the high country to stay. But in an effort to extend our summer 13er-bagging tear just a bit longer, Steve and I were lured down south by a blip of stable weather and dry terrain.

Residing at the northern end of the San Juan range is the spectacular Cimarron group, which Steve and I had a great time exploring last year. Head just a few miles to the east of Middle Cimarron and you land in the rolling tundra of the Little Cimarron, where the gentle peaks are quite the contrast from their craggy western neighbors. The loop we had in mind is a long one, racking up six 13er summits over 23 miles between Little Cimarron and Fall Creek drainages. But we were confident travel would be relatively fast, and the weather, excellent.

Sunrise from the north slope of UN 13,016. It was nice to get back into the San Juans one more time before ski season.

After the long drive from Denver and a cold night at the Fall Creek TH, we set off at 4am under a starry October sky. The long trail led us south into the broad Fall Creek drainage, and by sunrise we were well on our way up the first peak of the day, UN 13,016.

Uncompahgre Peak seen from the summit of UN 13,016 with our next peak in the foreground. Click to enlarge.

With the sun finally warming things up it appeared a perfect day was in the works – mid-40’s with barely a breath of wind. From 016 we made our way down and around a small tarn, then up the broad northern slope of UN 13,051. This is some of the easiest off-trail travel we had experienced in the Colorado high country. Good stuff.

Closing in on the second peak of the day, UN 13,051, with the first peak in the rearview.

Up and over 051, our hike continued west towards bicentennial Silver Mountain’s east ridge. I was amazed to still see some spring cornices hanging over the east side of the peak’s north ridge. A testament to how much snow this area received over the winter.

Silver Mountain (13,714 ft). We traversed out across the slope in the shadow and then cut up and left to the ridge crest a few hundred feet below the summit, then scrambled up to the top from there. Click to enlarge.

Steve on the final section up Silver.

We were scooted off the summit of Silver Mountain by a brisk wind, but not before soaking in some scenery of the familiar peaks to the southwest. Uncompahgre’s north face sure is spectacular from this position and it’s easy to see why it’s remained unclimbed.

UN 13,681 was next in line and it was all smooth sailing to get over to it. We made the summit around 11:30am and took a longer rest, breaking out an armada of culinary options and feeling good with four peaks already down on the day.

Matterhorn, Wetterhorn, and Heisshorn from the summit of Silver Mountain. Click to enlarge.

Summit of UN 13,681 with the last two peaks of the loop in the distance.

The longest stretch between any two peaks in the loop is getting from UN 13,681 out to UN 13,100. Some minor choss travel up and over a sub-point of 13,681 and a short class 3 downclimb off its north side led us to more rolling tundra, at which point 13,100 was looking much closer. Lots of cool hoodoos and rock formations dot the landscape through this section of the loop, and the views into the middle Cimarron were just awesome. Eventually we came upon the fifth peak of the day, and then had Sheep Mountain in our sights less than a mile away.

Sheep Mountain, the last peak in the loop, draws near.

Map Code

Old friends, left to right – Matterhorn, Wetterhorn, Heisshorn, Coxcomb, Redcliffe, Fortress, and Precipice. Click to enlarge.

Sheep Mountain bears the distinction of being the northernmost 13er in the San Juans, and it also happened to be Steve’s 300th 13er summit. After a long stay we worked our way down an avalanche chute on Sheep’s east side to the Little Cimarron trail, where we then had an easy stroll out to the TH.

But the day wasn’t over as the car was still at the Fall Creek TH, 4 miles and 1,300 ft above us. Having brought along my running shoes, I got to do the honors. Just inside of an hour after setting out, I returned to the Little Cimarron TH with the car, much to Steve’s delight.

It’s 5 o’ clock and time to get our asses over to Lake City. But first, a beer…

An overview of the loop. Click to enlarge.

We drove around to Lake City and plopped down at the Elkhorn Campground, but not before heading to the Packer Grill for a burger and a few more brews. We made it there just in time to watch the Broncos get decimated by the undermanned New York Giants. Nice work there, Broncos.

The next morning we loaded up on coffee and muffins and headed south along 149 towards Spring Creek Pass. The goal was to check out the Baldy Cinco group on the pass’s east side, a cluster of four mellow 13ers in the western La Garitas.

Sunrise from Spring Creek Pass, October 16th.

Hiking east from Spring Creek Pass along the CDT, with a fall chill in the air.

After a few miles we broke out onto Snow Mesa, the massive alpine plateau that grants access to the Baldy Cinco peaks. From the trail it was an easy tundra stroll up to the first peak of the day, “Baldy No Es Cinco” at 13,313 ft.

The south slope of “Baldy No Es Cinco”. They should have named it “Mellow Yellow”.

“Baldy No Es Cinco” summit with Rio Grande Pyramid visible on the southeastern skyline.

With even better weather than the day prior and similar straightforward travel between peaks, we made our way east over Baldy Cinco and on to UN 13,162 in no time. From 162 we dropped east back down to the CDT and then contoured around the base of UN 13,510’s south ridge.

Baldy Cinco summit, which lies on the dividing line between Hinsdale and Mineral Counties.

UN 13,510 A seen from the CDT. Take this trail far enough east and eventually it passes just south of San Luis Peak and then onto the Stewart Creek TH.

We broke off the CDT and looped back around west to 13,510’s south ridge proper. From there it was an easy stroll to the summit of our tenth and final peak of the trip.

UN 13,510’s summit looking back towards Baldy Cinco (right) and UN 13,162.

San Luis Peak and other La Garita summits to the east. Click to enlarge.

After a short stay on the summit we reversed our route back down to the CDT, then followed it across the flat alpine expanse of Snow Mesa for 6.5 miles all the way back to Spring Creek Pass.

The long trek along the CDT back to the pass. The terrain looks like this for over 3 miles.

Skeletal remains seen along the trail. As some wildlife gears up for winter, other wildlife passes on from this world.

Route overview of the loop. Click to enlarge.

Dinner at Kip’s in Creede put the exclamation point on the trip, then it was back to Denver, with a satisfying two days of peakbagging under our belts. Steve, thanks for making this trip happen on such short notice.

Happy Halloween 🎃

6 thoughts on “Little Cimarron and Baldy Cinco Loops

  1. Steve

    This was so much fun- our anticipated mid-September slog delayed a month by Mother Nature. Silver- and the views of the Mid Cimarron peaks- were my highlight.

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Views were awesome for sure. Looking back on it now and already missing hiking season, but only a little 😉

      Reply
  2. Brian

    Rock formations around Sheep look pretty Phallic. Could be an opportunity for a Wyoming themed quote like “where the men are men and the sheep are nervous”.

    Sweet, gaper free area on a nice classic fall outing. That’s a Casa Bonita grande meal worth of gaper slogging.

    Reply
  3. Vadim Beliaev

    Nice job guys! That’s a big day in the Cimmarons with 6 peaks wow. I still need 2 out of that group. I was near Lake City that same week end and was pleasantly surprised how dry it was out there. I did consider stopping at the Packer bar that same night you guys were there, but decided to drive to Cooper creek TH instead. Nice write up Ben.
    Keep in touch!
    Vadim

    Reply

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