A Hard Won Summit: Homestake Peak

A Hard Won Summit: Homestake Peak

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Apr 7, 2012
Activities Activities: Mountaineering


Kessler (my nine year old son) and I decided to make an attempt of Homestake Peak, a 13,209 feet (4025 meters) peak in the Northern Sawatch Range. It was going to be a practice trip for the Himalayas later this year, but due to poor snow conditions, the trip turned out to be more challenging than expected.

Slide Lake and Homestake PeakSlide Lake and Homestake Peak (left) on April 7 2012. Homestake Peak was a hard won summit!

April 6 2012

Since there were a few spaces left, we made a last minute reservation for the 10th Mountain Division Hut near Slide Lake and drove to the Tennessee Pass, starting up the trail at 2:30 PM. Due to the extreme drought conditions, snow conditions were terrible with much bare ground, mud, ice and crusty snow along with some weak sugar snow in some places (especially around the willows).

We had to take off and put back on our snowshoes on many occasions, which was a hindrance and the going was very slow where I would punch through the weak layer sugar snow and the ice was a struggle with snowshoes as well. It was very windy, but much of the route was protected by trees. We struggled for four hard hours to cover the 5.7 miles (9.2 kms) to the hut and were very glad when we first got sight of the hut.

The hut was supposed to be nearly full tonight (14 people), but it appeared that everyone else whom attempted to reach the hut had given up. We ended up having the hut all to ourselves. We cooked a dinner of salmon pasta and headed off to bed shortly after.

ApproachKessler on the approach to the 10th Mountain Hut. Snow conditions were OK where the photo was taken, but dismal in other places.

April 7 2012

After a mostly windy night, we awoke to calmer conditions and a rather cool 0F (-18C). The cold front must have just gone through. The cold morning was actually a real blessing and the snow conditions were much better with the frozen snow. We could walk on top of it without snowshoes so there was no constantly switching between snowshoes and no snowshoes.

We set off to explore the Slide Lake Basin before climbing the peak. Slide Lake was a neat area and was interesting when frozen over. We found it easier to walk around the lake on the ice rather than in the willows with the sugar snow.

ExploringExploring around Slide Lake.

After exploring the Slide Lake Basin (wandering around checking out various places), we headed to the Southeast Ridge of Homestake Peak for our attempt. We decided to make a steep and direct climb up to the ridge for some checking out of the snow conditions. I also wanted Kessler to practice some rope work on steep snow.

Above Slide LakeKessler above Slide Lake.

ApproachingApproaching the base of the steep climb up to the Southeast Ridge.

We found a steep and direct route and climbed up it to the ridgetop. The steepest section was 40 degrees, but I had to cut steps in places due to the hard snow. In other places the snow was perfect for climbing and kick stepping and we were glad to find out that it would have been fine for glissading as well.

Nearing the Ridge CrestKessler nearing the Southeast Ridge crest.

ViewView south from high on the Southeast Ridge of Homestake Peak. Mt Elbert, Colorado's highest peak is in the center background.

Once we were on the ridge, it was more or less a straight shot to the summit. We put on our snowshoes, but Kessler’s snowshoes don’t have very good crampons on them, so it was harder for him than it was for me. We could stay on the snow most of the time, but had to cross rocks in a few places. It was breezy in places, but calm in others.

Gentle SectionKessler on a gentle section of the Southeast Ridge of Homestake Peak.

Approaching the SummitThe summit of Homestake Peak lies straight ahead.

Nazca Lines?This is a zoom shot of some of the lines in South Park as seen from high on Homestake Peak. They bear striking similarity to the Nazca Lines in Peru.

SummitThe summit of Homestake Peak is right ahead!

After three hours of non-stop (other than to get a few quick snacks and much water) climbing, we found ourselves on the summit of Homestake Peak! It was a lot of work with the more challenging than normal snow conditions, but the views were worth it.

Approaching the summitKessler approaching the summit of Homestake Peak and a hard earned summit it was!

Final sectionKessler is approaching the summit of Homestake Peak, which I am standing on.

Summit!Kessler on the summit of Homestake Peak on April 7 2012. Due to conditions, it sure was a challenging climb!

After 20 minutes on top (where we had lunch), it was time to head down the mountain. I roped Kessler to me so we could do some belay work on the steep northeast face of the mountain which we would use for our descent. We descended the ridge a short distance and then descended onto the steep northeast face of the mountain. Conditions we worse than expected and the snow was pretty icy in places. We cautiously descended the very steep face to a bare rock and scree slope which we would descend until we could find better snow. We were able to do some glissading on the crust, and we attempted to find better snow. We finally did find some reasonable snow on the lower half of the face and had a fast ride down the rest of the face to the valley above Slide Lake.

Looking north Looking north from very near the summit of Homestake Peak. We will descend a route to the right.

Once we were at the lake, we descended down to the hut, but overshot it and had to backtrack, losing 30 minutes in the process. After reaching the hut we ate a second lunch, packed up and headed back down the mountain by 3 pm. Again the hut was supposed to be full with 16 people and again no one else had shown up.

This time we decided to try the “summer route” because we were hoping to find better snow conditions. This turned out to be a good move and we only had to remove our snowshoes once at which point we could walk on the frozen crust and bare ground back to Tennessee Pass. It was a tiring day since we had covered a very hard 10 miles (16 kms) and took only a few short rests. We could see where another group had presumably turned back and gave up reaching the hut. We finally reached the pass at 6:15 PM and were very glad to see the vehicle.

Homestake Peak was a hard won summit due to the snow conditions, but it was a memorable trip as well and it provided some good practice for our trip to the Himalayas later this year. I was very sore on the drive home, but Kessler fared better.

Our RouteOur route up and down Homestake Peak. Click for higher resolution.


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Viewing: 1-6 of 6
Matt Lemke

Matt Lemke - Apr 9, 2012 9:17 pm - Voted 10/10


So what are you planning to do in the Himalayas this year?
I would have joined you guys but I just don't have the money right now. Simply just going to work on my peak-bagging in the western US states this summer and fall. I will make it there very soon though.


Scott - Apr 9, 2012 10:45 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Himalayas...

So what are you planning to do in the Himalayas this year?

Since my son will only be 10, we'll probably be doing Chhukhung Peak and Kala Pattar, which will still be a respectable trip. He really wants to do Imja Tse/Island Peak, but I don't know if I would let him.


theREALCarpeDM - Apr 9, 2012 10:34 pm - Hasn't voted

Congrats on the summit!

I don't remember ever hearing about the lines in South Park. That's cool!


Scott - Apr 9, 2012 10:40 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Congrats on the summit!

I don't remember ever hearing about the lines in South Park.

Me neither. I think they are just frozen streams, but they look just like the Nazca Lines!


chicagotransplant - Apr 10, 2012 11:52 am - Voted 10/10

Nazca Lines

Scott- I think the lines in your photo are actually just compacted snow that hasn't melted out yet. I have driven by the ranch on US 24 a couple of times this winter and there were groomed tracks that I think were a nordic skiing track or maybe for dogsledding or something that they do on the ranch? I do remember then having a very ribbon like pattern from what I could see from the road. Its cool seeing them from the "air" like that, they look really cool!


Hawkwind - Apr 18, 2012 10:12 am - Hasn't voted


What a grand way to spend a day! Great report and heres to many more!

Viewing: 1-6 of 6



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