Stats For the Day
Peaks (in order of summit):
Atlantic Peak - 13,841' (Cent-R:#87), Pacific Peak - 13,950' (Cent-R:#61), Crystal Peak - 13,852' (Cent-R:#82), Peak 10 - 13,633' (R:#178), Peak 9 - 13,195' (R:#492), Peak 8 - 12,987' (R:#645), Peak 7 - 12,665' (UnR), Peak 6 - 12,573' (UnR), Peak 5 - 12,855' (UnR), Peak 4 - 12,866' (R:#742), Peak 3 - 12,676' (UnR), Peak 2/Tenmile Peak - 12,933' (R:#690), Peak 1 - 12,805' (UnR), Mount Victoria - 11,785' (UnR), Mount Royal - 10,502' (UnR)
Elev Gain/Loss: 7500'/9000' (plus LOTS of small elev gain/loss on Peak 4 - 1 traverse)
Weather: Sunny w/ highs around 40F but with a VERY annoying, CONSTANT 25-35mph West crosswind that would occasionally gust to 40-45mph.
Time: 16:30 (4:45am - 9:15pm), First Summit, Atlantic Peak - 7:15AM; Peak 9 - 12PM; Peak 4 - 4PM; Peak 1 - 7PM.
Technical Difficulty: Mayflower Gulch - Peak 4: Class 2; Peak 4 - Peak 1: Class 3 and 4 w/ significant exposure.
Technical Gear: Ice Axe (only used to cross one small snowfield below Peak 4), Microspikes (only used on Mayflower Gulch Rd), Snowshoes, Trekking Poles
Travelers: Myself SOLO CLIMB!
Wildlife (other than the climber ): Fox, on descent of Mount Royal!
Special Thanks for beta/pics: CharlesD's Tenmile Traverse Page here on SP, Prakash (maverick/SP), Ben (benners/14ers.com), Elliot (14ers.com), Brandon (jbchalk/14ers.com)
PrologueThese peaks first really caught my eye and the seed was planted that developed into this amazing trip about a month ago when my brother and I were skiing at Copper Mountain. We spent most of the day skiing off the SuperBee lift and every time we rode the lift we would gaze and gawk at the Tenmile Range’s amazing ridgeline starting from Drift Peak and going to Peak 9. Seeing these peaks over and over during the day repeatedly whetted my appetite to go climb them! The very next day I mapped a route starting from the Mayflower Gulch TH and going all the way to Frisco and the stats on it seemed doable in a day. A week after this ski trip I saw a TR here on SP by SP member maverick where he climbed Atlantic Peak via the West Ridge. The awesome pictures he posted gave me an idea of the conditions in the Tenmile Range. They looked dry and would only get drier as the intervening two weeks of warm weather would work on the snow.
Fortuitously, 3 days prior to my planned trip date, Ben posted a TR on 14ers.com for a backcountry ski trip to Crystal Peak he did with Bill and Brian. Their pictures confirmed the very dry conditions along the Tenmile Ridge south of Crystal Peak. From my research (mostly here on SP) regarding the Tenmile Traverse, I knew the crux of the route would be the traverse from Peak 4 to Peak 1. All of the obstacles along this portion fortunately can be bypassed on the West side and if there was still a lot of snow there, it wouldn’t be safe to try for the Peak 4-1 traverse and I would need to bail down Peak 4’s west ridge to the Copper Mtn. base.
Then “lightning struck twice” and two days before my trip Elliot posted a TR on 14ers.com where they skied the SW gully on Peak 4. He posted some tantalizingly small (~500pixels) pictures of the ridge between Peak 4 and Peak 2. I immediately PM’d him for a larger pic, but he had problems uploading them so I could only go on the small pic of his that I had studied at a “blown up” 400%.
I posted on a couple Colorado climbing/hiking forums but got no takers (not surprising, primarily since it was on a Friday and also it was a very ambitious trip) so I decided to “solo” the traverse. This was kind of liberating and very different from the last two climbs I’ve done where there were 12-18 people on the mountain with me at the time. This time all I had to concentrate on was myself and getting me to the end safely and in good time.
I woke up at 2AM and left my house by 2:45AM. I arrived at the Mayflower TH around 4:15AM and packed everything up. As I went to put my Microspikes on I noticed that one of the chains on the heel portion had broken! I tried for 10min to fix it, even using the wing on my 4y.o. son’s metal toy airplane to try to pry the link open more so I could put it back on to no avail.
I put them on anyways and started out on the well packed Mayflower Gulch Trail/Road. Brandon had told me that they had broke a trench a week earlier across Mayflower Gulch to the base of Atlantic’s West Ridge, but that I would still need my snowshoes. I had programmed a waypoint for where their trail split off so I wouldn’t pass it in the dark and end up too far up the valley and have to backtrack. I made quick work up the road in the dark and sure enough, right where there was a break in the trees to my left a snowshoe/ski track headed down to the meadow. I checked my IPhone GPS and this was the right place. I tested the track to see if I really needed my snowshoes. On steps 3 and 4 down the slope I sunk to my waist in the sugary snow. It was a mighty fun struggle to just get back up the 5ft to the road so I could put my snowshoes on!
With snowshoes on I made quick work across the meadow and followed the main track as it went right on the other side. I was confused at first, because I thought the track should continue straight North up Pacific Creek. So I wandered around for 15min until I found that about 100yds to the East of where I was it split left again and headed up to Atlantic Peak’s west ridge. Once I got to the ridge proper I took my snowshoes off and talus-hopped my way up the ridge in the dark. My first goal was to be at Atlantic’s summit by sunrise (7:15AM) and in the pre-dawn light I made quick work of Atlantic’s delightful ridge and summited about 5 minutes after sunrise. The pink/orange/yellow hues that graced the surrounding peaks were incredible. I quickly snapped as many pics as I could to catch the great sunrise before the light changed. The views of Quandary and Holy Cross were especially cool. The wind had been from the South when I started but by the summit of Atlantic the forecasted 25-35mph West winds had started and would torment and continuously annoy me the rest of the day. The left side of my head would get really cold while the rest of me would be really warm. So I alternated having my hood up to protect my head and putting it down so I could cool down. I did this about 5 Billion times during the day!
Shortly after sunrise the sun went behind a cloud on the horizon (see sunrise pic at top of TR) all of the ranges around me went dark, EXCEPT for the Elk Range. It was still bathed in a beautiful orange glow. All 14ers in the range were visible, Castle Pk – Captiol Pk.
After taking in the views and snacking/drinking for the first time since starting the climb I quickly glissaded down to the Atlantic/Pacific Saddle in about 5mins, and began my second Centennial Peak of the day. Pacific Peak.
This was a nice ridge that didn’t have any false summits and I cruised over the low sub-summit and up the ridge to Pacific’s airy summit; where I got a great view back to peaks that bookend the Tenmile Range on the South and the peaks that bookend the Mosquito Range on the North.
Still had a long way to go! Each peak I summited gave me a great view of my progress and what I still had left all through the day.
I stayed on the summit for a few minutes to take pictures and take in the views. I easily crossed the Class 3 “notch” on Pacific Peak and started down the North Ridge. The rocks on this ridge were fairly loose and I had to watch my step or else I would take a big fall. I did fall once but my snowshoes, that were strapped to the bottom of my pack, took the brunt of the impact and prevented me from taking a hard fall on my tailbone. I kept turning around to gaze at the very snowy, mighty North Face of Pacific Peak. That Notch Couloir would be something else to climb. Apparently it gets up to 60deg in some sections! I believe it!
Crystal, like Pacific Peak has a small knob/sub-summit to get over before ascending the final ridge to the summit. The ridge to Father Dyer was looking fun too.
After I got over the small knob, the lower part of Crystal’s north ridge was tundra. As I cruised along, a really cool sight stopped me in my tracks. There was this little “disk” of ice/snow that was about 4in across and was sitting like the brim of a hat on the top of a small rock, and wasn’t touching the ground at all! The orange colors of the plants surrounding it added a nice contrast to the white snow/ice. It reminded me of a sonic boom “shockwave” cloud I’ve seen in pictures before.
It was around 10AM when I reached Crystal’s summit, my third Centennial of the day, about 1:20 from Pacific’s summit. The traverse from Pacific had taken a bit longer than the Atlantic-Pacific traverse (~40min). Here I stopped for 20min or so to snack and rehydrate. Thus began my ritual/strategy for the day in that I would take longer breaks on “every-other” peak and just short photo & “catch my breath” breaks on the intervening peaks. I still had quite a way to go and I had set the goal to reach Peak 9 by Noon.
The descent down Crystal went quickly but the ascent of Peak 10’s south ridge was slightly annoying. There were 2 false summits before I finally could see the true summit 100ft away from me.
I only spent 10min on the summit and began picking my way down the extremely loose talus on Peak 10’s North face. The rocks moved/slid with about every step I took. I was hoping there was going to be a snowfield I could glissade down but no dice on that one. These loose rocks kind of reminded me of my climb of Mt Mellenthin in the La Sals. Don’t even get me started on THAT horrid mountain!
I arrived at Peak 9's summit with about 5min to spare of my Noon goal. This was a “Snack Break” peak so I sat down and rested in the best wind break I could find. As I refueled a skier came hiking up the snowy east ridge of Peak 9 from the Peak 9 chair. We chatted for a second and I said “My name’s Jed” he replied “My name’s Bill”. In the back of my mind I was thinking “Bill Middlebrook?” but I wasn’t going to ask. He then said “Bill Middlebrook” (He's the proprietor of the website 14ers.com ). Cool. We talked for awhile about what my plans were for my climb and about our families, and about how I thought I had seen their tracks on Crystal Peak. He was gracious enough to take my only “action” pic of the day as I “rested” in front of Peak 10 and Crystal Peak. I said farewell and traversed/climbed the narrow section of ridge on the north ridge of Peak 9.
Once I got down from that narrow section the tundra trekking portion of the day began. For the next 5.33 miles to the summit of Peak 4 it’s all grassy tundra that was easy to cruise along on. As I hiked up to Peak 8 I could see a constant stream of people who were hiking the 50ft from the top of the Imperial Express chair lift at Breckenridge and were skiing off the top. I made it there at about 1:20pm and chatted with some nice folks who were preparing for their ski down. The basins and slopes up there were sadly dry but I guess they were somehow able to link together snow patches to make it down the mountain!
I sped along over the barely noticeable Peak 7 and up to the diminutive Peak 6 by 2:30PM. Here I took my last real snack/hydration break. I tried to hide as much as possible from the relentless West wind behind the 3ft tall summit cairn on top of Peak 6. Amazingly, I was still feeling pretty good and had good energy left in my legs. So I had some GU, another Orange Juice, a Snickers, the last of my Oreos, and took some more Sport Legs. I couldn’t rest too long, as my personal “cutoff” time for making it to Peak 4 and attempting the traverse to Peak 2/Tenmile Peak was 4pm!
After finishing my snack I headed towards Peak 5, which was about a 500ft climb from the saddle with Peak 6, and you can’t see the true summit until you’re about 100yrds away from it.
I made it to the Peak 5 summit by about 3:35PM and I didn’t even stop by the summit cairn as I had to make it to Peak 4 by 4PM and I only had 25mins left! I kept wondering what I would do if I was only 5min late. Would I still go for the traverse to Peak 2? Or would I obey my own personal cutoff time………hmmmmmm……
Now the Fun Really Begins
Fortunately, I didn’t have to make that decision as I made it to Peak 4 at 3:55pm! 5 min to spare and relax! Here I got my first view of the ridge to Peak 2. Wow that looks pretty gnarly. But one thing I was glad to see were some boot tracks heading down Peak 4’s north ridge towards Peak 2. I felt if someone else has done it, then so can I! The thought that maybe they tried and turned back kept nagging at me but I kept pushing it back as I could see that their tracks were only ever going forward towards Peak 2. So they didn’t turn around. I called my wife and left her a message that I was going to try for Peak 2 and that I would call again when I got there or if I turned around.
So I headed down the ridge sticking to the narrow “catwalk” ridge until it turned into a very steep knife edge that I didn’t feel like down-climbing. I saw some steep slabs/ledges on my left that I could put together to get down below this cliffy, knife edge.
Once below this section it was an easy Class 3 scramble up to Peak 3. Here I got the view of the toughest part of the traverse. I could even see the “dragon” waiting to battle with me! I tried to stick to the crest of the ridge as much as possible as it almost always was good, solid, fun, airy class 3 scrambling. Sometimes, I would have to down climb to the left to get past a notch on the ridge. All along here I still had the 25-30mph crosswind from the West to deal with. So that amped up the excitement/challenge level here too. Especially while I was on portions of the ridge that ranged from true "knife edge" to only a couple of feet wide!
The gully to bypass the dragon was easy to spot and there were even a couple of cairns showing where the bypass began. The gully was fun, kind of reminded me of Mt. Lindsey’s NW gully route, except not quite as loose.
I chilled for a second by the “dragon” and drank some more OJ. What I didn’t know was that some of the most challenging scrambling of the whole traverse was ahead of me. This was the scrambling necessary to get over and around the several towers that make up what some people call Peak 2.5. At one point, during a bypass section, I was getting worried I would have to climb back up to the top of the tower and try to get over it that way. I didn’t know if there was a “catwalk” ledge that would get me to another gully that would lead me to the top of the last tower. So I ventured towards the gully with a prayer in my heart, turned a corner, and sure enough, there was a ledge about a foot wide that would take me across to the gully! Phew! That was close, as that tower actually had about a 30ft, nearly vertical downclimb I would have had to do if I hadn't found that catwalk!
I climbed up to the top of the last tower and had to down climb one last notch and then HALLELEUJAH! Home Free to the summit of Peak 2/Tenmile Peak! To say the least, I was really relieved to see this final easy slope to the summit and the end of the major cruxes of the Peak 4 - Peak 2 Traverse.
I called my wife and let her know that I had made it safely across. The view back across what I had just done was breathtaking. I thought I was home free from the looks of the ridge to Peak 1, but it definitely held it’s share of notches, snow traverses, and down climbs. All easier than what I had just done, but it wasn’t a walk in the park that’s for sure!
My notional goal to reach Peak 1 was 7PM, and again I made it there with about 5 minutes to spare!! Woo Hoo! The sun had finally come down to a gap in the clouds near the horizon and cast an INCREDIBLE golden glow over everything. One thing I also noticed that brought joy to my heart were a PLETHORA of tracks on the summit of Peak 1. This boded very well for my hike down in the dark and in the trees. A good trench/boot pack should be easy to find and easy to follow. Thank goodness.
I saw that the north ridge of Peak 1 still held some fun scrambling for me, and I definitely did NOT want to be doing that scrambling by headlamp in the dark, so I hurried down as fast as possible to make it to tree line/tundra before it got too dark.
I made it over Mount Victoria and down to tree line just as it was getting really dark. I found some snowshoe tracks in the drifts between the trees and I knew I was home free. So I put my snowshoes on in the fading twilight and turned my headlamp on. As I followed the tracks through the forest and down Peak 1’s ridge my mind keep taunting/teasing me with the thought of what would I do if my headlamp died right then? I have no idea what I would’ve done, since there was no moonlight at all so I would be in complete darkenss in the forest. I would’ve been stuck for the night. I did have some spare batteries for my headlamp fortunately, so I never worried too much. But...what if?
I made it down to Mount Royal in no time at all and then headed down the very packed snow trail down to the Mount Royal TH in Frisco. I had to hurry because I needed to catch the Summit Stage back to Copper Mtn so I could hitch a ride back to my car. The Summit Stage only comes by every hour. So if I missed the 9:37pm bus I would have to sit and wait there in the cold and dark for an hour for the 10:37pm bus! That would really suck after such a long and tiring day. Fortunately though, I could tell I was making such good time that I didn’t have to worry too much; and in the end I made it to the Bus Stop at 9:15pm with ~20min to spare. After getting dropped off at Copper Mtn’s entrance, I shivered there at the stoplight as it took about 20min or so to successfully hitch a ride back to my waiting car at the Mayflower Gulch TH. Phew! What a day!
I stopped at the Ruby Tuesday in Dillon for dinner but I was still quite cold and shivering from the long and tiring day. I ended up only taking a couple of bites of my hamburger before I felt sick to my stomach. I should’ve gotten pizza. I headed home and worked on my 1/2 gallon of chocolate milk and did just about everything I could think of to do to not fall asleep while driving...
I finally made it home at 1:15AM. 22.5hrs after I left home. By the time my head hit the pillow I was asleep.........
Epilogue/Parting ThougtsAs I researched this route to do it in “Calendar Winter” I could find only ONE other record of an attempt by SP member thatnissanguy on the climber's log of Tenmile Peak here on SP, and he turned back on his way to Peak 2 from Peak 1 due to sketchy snow conditions. I can believe it. This traverse would be an extremely dangerous endeavour if that West side of the ridge from Peak 1 to Peak 4 has snow on it, as all cruxes are bypassed on the West side. That would not be fun at all to try.
I’m sure others have completed it, but maybe they only did Peak 1-10 and not all the way to Atlantic? And maybe not “solo” either. It’s kind of fun to at least think that I have the “first” recorded on the “internets” successful solo traverse of the Tenmile Range from Atlantic – Mt Royal. It felt great to really come up with a unique idea, push myself to accomplish it, push my scrambling and route finding limits, and try something that maybe no one else has done before. If someone has, I would love to talk with them to compare notes and shake hands.
There’s no way I would do it N-S in Winter at least. That steep climb up from Frisco would burn you out when you’ve just started. S-N saves you 2000’ of elevation gain due to the higher TH and you get to climb 3 Centennials to boot!
Thanks for reading!
Here is a link to a picture gallery that has more pictures that I haven’t shown here.
More Pics from Trip