Introduction/StatsTeakettle Mtn (13819')- CO Rank 98
Potosi Peak (13786')- CO Rank 113
6.7 miles RT, 4600' gain
Via Southeast ridge from Yankee Boy Basin
Participants: Andrew Bracy, Layne Bracy, and Kevin Baker
Ever since I first visited Yankee Boy Basin to climb Sneffels with my wife in 6/05, I have been entranced by impressive Teakettle Mountain. I look at it each day at work as it is my desktop background.
Teakettle from Lavender Col on Sneffels during an early June '05 climb.
The tiny summit of Teakettle is considered to be one of the most spectacular in Colorado. The enchanting place is surrounded on all sides by cliffs and loose, unstable rock. From below it appears to be a scary climb, but as long as you stay on route the climb to the summit block can be kept at a steep class 3. When Layne Bracy invited me to climb this with him and his experienced brother, I couldn't wait! Layne's brother Andrew is not a peak bagger, but agreed to lead us up the short 5.3 summit block. He didn't know what he signed up for!
Andrew, Layne, and I met at Trout Creek Pass Friday and carpooled from there to Ouray. Layne did a nice job driving up the spectacular and exposed shelf road to the 2WD trailhead at 10700'. We arrived at around 11pm and quickly setup our tents for the short night. As usual, I didn't get much sleep but it didn't matter because I was so pumped! The alarm came soon enough and after breaking camp and getting our gear sorted out, we were off at 5:19am. We were all worried about our odds on Teakettle as the forecast was calling for a 50% chance of tstorms.
We followed the standard Sneffels route up the basin to a flat area just beyond a creek crossing at 11300' at around the 1 mile mark. From here, the warmup is over! Initially we followed a dry creek bed up steepening slopes to the base of the first cliff band at around 11800'. From here, we climbed grassy slopes to the n.w. to the base of the s.w. ridge of Coffeepot. Roach says to stay right of this ridge all the way up to the base of Coffeepot, but we decided to stay on the ridge proper when feasible as the rock was much more stable there. The shortcut that avoids the downclimb from the shoulder below Coffeepot is not worth the effort as it looks to be a loose, horrible mess of unstable talus.
We made good time up the semi-stable ridge which deposited us on the s.w. side of Coffeepot at a nice bench at 13400'. We took a break here and admired Teakettle from this vantage point, examining the route.
The incredible view of Teakettle from a bench below Coffeepot.
We spotted the Black Gully, which is the key to the route. There is a cairn on this bench which marks the beginning of the loose downclimb of 200' or so to a nice climbers trail. This trail traverses n.w. to the Black Gully.
The Black Gully is the key to avoiding cliffs guarding Teakettle's summit.
We went down the descent from the bench one at a time as there were big rocks poised to plummet upon disturbance. The climb of the Black Gully was much easier and quicker than anticipated as the rock was not as loose as it looked from a distance. Maybe some of the loose rock was cleared out by avalanches in the spring. We took the left branch at the top of the gully which had some harder class 3 moves.
The climbers trail then traverses above endless cliffs and we weaved our way up through broad ledges to the spectacular summit block! There was only one snowfield in this area which we were easily able to avoid. We arrived at the base of the summit at 8:30am and the weather was going to hold for the technical part of the climb.
The impressive summit block of Teakettle.
We all took the obligatory pics of each of us in the handle. The handle must be one of the highest natural arches in the U.S. It's a spectacular perch!
Myself in the handle of Teakettle. Taken by Layne Bracy.
Now it was time for the exhilirating part! We scramled up a short gully to a notch on the n.e. corner of the summit block. From here, we roped up and Andrew led the way, placing a few cams for protection. He topped out and setup an anchor for belaying Layne.
Layne Bracy climbing the summit block on Teakettle.
Layne made it up in no time with his long legs and now it was my turn! The short climb is basically pulling yourself over a couple flakes, then traversing left into an alcove with a big crack in the middle. From here, you can either go left or right to the top as there are plenty of holds. I chose right and it felt a little harder than 5.3, but I am not a good judge. I topped out at around 9:30. The tiny 3' x 5' summit was just enough for all three of us to fit, one on one block and two on the other. I think the left block was higher by 6" or so. We all took turns standing on the true summit and prepared for the short rappel down. Good practice for Sunlight!
Andrew backed up the slings that were already in place as there were also 2 biners there. We all rapped down with no problems and regrouped. It looked like if we moved quick that we could add nearby top 200 peak Potosi, which is another challenge. Being from NY, Andrew felt like he should call it a day but he did real well at altitude. We left the summit ridge at 10:30 as clouds were quickly building to the west. Layne and I took the other branch of the Black Gully on the way down, which seemed easier than the other side although it was a muddy, steep class 3, not a fun option to climb. The climb back up to the Coffeepot bench was miserable. The trail continued and stayed on or close to the crest of the ridge and dropped us down to the 12980' saddle.
Potosi Climb and Descent
Layne and I drank a bunch of water here, dropped our packs, and dashed for Potosi. Andrew waited for us at the saddle. This peak is notorious for some of the loosest rock in the San Juans and that is no joke. The trail mitigated some of the looseness, but it was worse than the rock on Teakettle. The reasonable way to climb Potosi is from the slightly gentler east side.
Top 200 Potosi Peak from Teakettle. The route traverses the right side and wraps around the back side.
The towers and cliffs that surround the summit mesa are impressive. We did an ascending traverse along the trail as it deposited us on a bench at 13200'. From here, we wrapped around to the s.e. side, which was a loose mess. At one point I got lured into climbing too high and lost some time getting back on route. The route is hard to describe as there are so many choices, but you generally find the path of least resistance up sandy gullies and ledges to the soccer field summit. Layne had been waiting a few minutes as I topped out at 12:08.
We signed the register, dumped the rocks out of our shoes, and began the race against the weather. The register had only a few entries for the year. We left at 12:15 and I was worried the heavens would open up before we got back to our packs. I was wearing a short sleeve shirt, so a hailstorm would be cold. Layne had come up a slightly different way than me and he did a good job keeping us on route during the descent. Right on cue, the skies opened up and we were soon getting batterred with hail. Fortunantly, it wasn't too intense and I was able to keep warm by moving fast. At one point, I was running when the terrain allowed and took a hard fall on some slick talus right before I got back to the saddle. The pain quickly left and we were back at the saddle to our packs where Andrew was patiently waiting.
The storm never got real severe, so we were fortunant to get off the ridge without lightning. From the saddle, the painful descent began. We found some awesome, soft scree that we surfed down for quite a ways. This really helped the knees. We then did some painful sidehilling to the s.w in hopes of hooking up with our ascent route before coming to the lower cliffs. We cliffed out at around 11800' and had to reclimb about 200' to get around some steep gullies. At this point I was huffing and puffing! We finally met up with our ascent route and reached the comforts of the road.
There were quite a few tourists visiting the scenic basin on the 4th. It probably looked like we had just come out of a war zone with the mud caked on our clothes. We arrived back at the trailhead at around 2:53, happy to enjoy Independence Day on one of Colorado's most spectacular summits!