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The North Face of Coxcomb

The North Face of Coxcomb

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The North Face of Coxcomb

Page Type: Route

Location: Colorado, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 38.07999°N / 107.53339°W

Object Title: The North Face of Coxcomb

Route Type: Hiking, Mountaineering, Trad Climbing, Scrambling

Season: Summer, Fall

Time Required: Most of a day

Rock Difficulty: 5.5 (YDS)

Number of Pitches: 1

Grade: III

Route Quality: 
 - 1 Votes


Page By: Liba Kopeckova

Created/Edited: Aug 10, 2011 / Oct 4, 2016

Object ID: 736597

Hits: 3036 

Page Score: 90.13%  - 31 Votes 

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Coxcomb Peak 13,565 feet (=4162 meters) lies within the Cimarron River Group (San Juan Mountains). This group of mostly weirdly shaped peaks were first climbed on Colorado Mountain Club outings in the 1920s and 1930s; several have a pitch or two where rope is needed.
Coxcomb is at the head of the West Fork valley of the Cimarron river; a strangely imposing peak (a huge rectangle), well-fortified against walking routes. Most people climb it via Southwest Chimney (please see the summit log). We chose a different route, technically more difficult north wall. Coxcomb's North Wall is huge, with many potential routes up. Our route went up its east end. The rock was loose (comparable with the first pitch on Lizard Head).

Sunset over CimarronsCimarron Group of peaks at Ssunset as seen from US-550

The photo above portrays a lot of peaks known to SP:
Chimney Rock, Courthouse, Precipice Peak, and Redcliff. Unfortunately, Coxcomb is a little hidden on this photo, but it would lie to the right of Redcliff.

Getting There

Chimney Rock
Dirt road towards Owl Creek Pass

There are two main approaches:

From west: Leave US-550 12 miles south of Colona, or 2 miles north of Ridgeway on a well signed and well maintained dirt road towards Owl Creek Pass/Silver Jack Reservoir. You will be passing a lot of ranching land, and they keep the road open even during the winter for about 12 miles. You reach Owl Creek Pass at 16 miles, and about 1/2 mile later there is a signed turn off towards the West Fork. Initially the dirt road is nice, and towards the end it will get more rough (4 WD vehicle required). You will also have to past West Fork Creek of the Cimarron, the water is usually very low. Parking lot is at the end of the dirt road. The scenery along this drive is spectacular, and there are many aspen trees along the way, making this a very popular autumn destination (when aspens are changing gold).

From east:From US-50, turn south 18.5 miles west of Sapinero, 2.5 miles east of Cimarron on the road to Silver Jack Reservoir (Big Cimarron Road). The sign says 21 miles to the reservoir. Continue past the reservoir and 0.7 mile past the Jackson Ranger Station to a junction where the East Fork Road takess off on the left. Stay on the main road toward Owl Creek Pass. The road crosses the river on a single-lane bridge, and the Middle Fork Road turn immediately after the bridge. You can approach Coxcomb from the Middle Fork, especially if you want to climb via the Southwest Chimney, but for the North Face, it is better to continue to the West Fork. So, stay on the main road, and turn on the west fork dirt road about 1/2 mile before you reach the Owl Creek Pass.

There is a nice trail leading from the parking lot west. This trail goes over a pass (northwest of Coxcomb), and drops into Wetterhorn Basin. It is a popular backpacking destination. Follow this trail until you get a good view of Recliff/Coxcomb saddle. There is no official trail to get to this saddle, so just use your route finding skills. Do not get too close to Coxcomb, that approach is much rougher. Try to stay on grassy areas. I found the easiest way up to the saddle to skirt along a cliff below Redcliff. There was a small cairn and some signs of a trail in that area. I also attempted to reach the saddle close to the Coxcomb and ran into a very exposed terrain, with rocks falling off the Coxcomb's cliffs, and tons of snow in early August.

Essential Gear

2 60 meter ropes, slings/webbing for rappel replacement (was in a good shape as of August 2011), rock shoes or comfortable approach shoes (I changed into rock shoes but the footholds are quite big), harness, a few slings, carabiners, and a small rack of medium to large nuts.
Helmet - very loose rock!

Route Description

"Another route that has gained a lot of popularity in the last few years, because of its short approach and generally interesting mixed climbing, is on the north face". Guide to the Colorado Mountains

We headed up there without any detailed information, but it was not difficult to choose a spot and start climbing. And we ended up right at the anchors.

Route locationCoxcomb's North Face, and our climb location
Our North Face RouteDetail of the route

Length: 54 meters
Type: trad, poor protection (we placed two nuts, and both came out)
Rock: awful, very loose, tripple check every hold
Climb: first few mid 5th class moves, I thought that about 15 meters up was a 5.6/5.7 move, but my partner did not think so. The climb got much easier about 20 meters up, and ended up with class 4 scramble at the belay anchors.
Summit: there is a short and exposed scramble to the summit, no rope necessary for that section. It is definitively worth to take a short stroll on Coxcomb's summit ridge. Amazing views of Wetterhorn, Uncompaghre and the whole San Juan range.
Descent: 1 long rappel from the same anchors (you need two 60 meter ropes for the descent). Please pay attention when going down, you will create some rock fall.

Summit views

Summit strollSummit stroll
Summit RidgeCoxcomb's summit ridge
Yes, this is the summitFinally on the summit
Summit strolland another view of the summit ridge
Wetterhorn basinWetterhorn, Matterhorn, and Uncompaghre
Chimney Rock and CourthouseChimney Rock and Courthouse