My long trip to Montana had just finished and Stephan and I finished our trip with a climb of the Grand Teton before he headed home for a while. I saw a post by Kevin asking for partners for jagged Mountain in the Weminuche Wilderness. I had hoped to do this peak in 2012 so I jumped on the chance and quickly responded. Since I was still in Wyoming I mentioned I would just meet them in Durango. Coincidentally, I had friends who were in Vernal and since I was passing through I decided to meet with them and we did a long day climb in the Uintas covering six 13ers including Kings Peak. But that's another story.
As I went on my way south to Durango, I made another stop in Grand Junction so I could reserve tickets for the Silverton-Durango Narrow Gauge train. Since Kevin and Keegan wanted to take the train I agreed to do the same. I finally met them in Durango where we found a free place to park and boarded the train. Just before we started we had someone get a ridiculous group shot of us...I'm sure we looked like the perfect group of people a well groomed family wants to sit next to on the train!
So while on the train I spoke with a bunch of nice people. Some people really liked hearing my stories of the places I recently have traveled to. Not before long though we arrived at Needleton where we were dropped off and started off on the nice trail....not!
The first thing we did was leave the trail and parallel the Animas River for over a mile through bushes, trees and cliffs. We were trying to get to Noname Creek and ascend that valley. Once we crossed Ruby Creek we figured we were close but we still had 0.6 mile to go! Once we finally got to Noname Creek (after getting lost a few times in the swamps!) we took a nice break and prepared for the climb. I was carrying too much gear....once again but i didn't know it at the time. I thought for sure we needed two 30 meter ropes and a half rack of cams with draws.
So up we went...luckily we were able to quickly locate the trail heading up the climbers left side of the creek. We knew we couldn't get suckered into the creek itself. It was a long slog with all my gear but to my surprise the trail was actually in great shape. After a couple hours slogging up the trail under the hot sun with no wind to cool us off I saw Knife Point for the first time and the valley opened up into a large meadow and we arrived at the Jagged Cabin. We still had an hour or so of daylight so we pitched the tents and made a nice dinner to prepare to climb Jagged Mountain the next morning. Views that evening of Jagged Mountain, Animas Mountain and Knife Point were all incredible!
The next morning we woke up about 4am and was quickly off. It was really warm which got me a little worried about storms later that day. We continued up the boot path up Noname creek and managed to get to the base of Jagged Pass without too much issue. The sun rose just as we passed the small tarn at the base of the final ascent to the pass. The sunrise on Animas Mountain was spectacular. The final talus slope to the pass was very loose but we stayed right to try and find better footing, to some avail. Once we arrived at Jagged Pass I was in awe at the surrounding beauty. The early morning sun lit of the north face of Jagged Mountain very nicely. and the lakes below us to the other side were perfect. We noticed another group of people with about 4 tents camping there and just getting ready to start. We ditched some gear and started traversing to Jagged Mountain.
We quickly got to the first crux which is an option between a 4th class ledge which is exposed and often wet or a 5.3 chimney which is steeper but usually dry with better footing. We took this option since the 4th class ledge was indeed wet and dripping with ball bearing scree. We simply free climbed it without the rope and continued on our way weaving up from one grassy ledge to the next. We passed next to the deep couloir but never really entered it. Following Kevin who had perfect route notes (which I wasn't much a fan of) we easily got to the second crux which was a 4th class chimney which had a weird finish as I had to grab a patch of grass for a handhold. Just beyond this chimney we reached the small saddle where we crossed over to the other side of the mountain and traversed right across a very exposed but wide ledge to the base of the final class 3 chimney right to the summit. We all made it up safely and easily and I was very excited to have made it! What a beautiful view we had as well. We saw every big peak in the Weminuche including Arrow, Vestal, Sunlight and the rest of the Chicago Basin Peaks.
Shortly after we summitted and while we were eating breakfast, a solo hiker just arrived. I was very shocked to see him because we never saw him on the route up and he wasn't with the big group below us who was slowly making their way up (that was a guided group). He said he passed them and was probably off route the whole time. To my surprise this was SP member Blueshade! He was in the middle of a 2 week Weminuche trek similar to the one I had planned out but never did yet. I talked with him for quite awhile since he had done Rainier with my friend Josh Lewis a while back and knew a lot about me through SummitPost. We all descended Jagged Mountain together. The vertical photo above shows everyone crossing the exposed ledge just below the summit. Kevin and I wanted to rappel the crux right below the notch but right as we got back to that point the large guided group was making their way to the notch so we waited for them to pass before we rapped. We continued down the same way we came up and got back to Jagged Pass around noon. From here Kevin, Keegan and I went to climb Leviathan Peak. The traverse was nothing more than very easy class 3 and we were on the summit with a perfect view of Jagged Mountain in no time. I decided to relax here but Kevin wanted to continue to Vallecito Mountain which I had no interest for. "Blueshade" went off to climb Peak 6 as he already did Leviathan and Vallecito the previous day.
I returned by myself to Jagged Pass where I started back down. It wasn't long before I saw his pack since he left it to run up Peak 6. I waited for him to get back and we hiked back down to Noname Creek where he decided to set up camp just below Knife Point. I relaxed there with him and waited for Kevin and Keegan to return and we hiked back down the rest of the way to the Jagged cabin where we had a great dinner and went straight to sleep.
The next morning we got up early once again and here is where I would depart for Chicago basin myself. Kevin and Keegan wanted to climb other nearby 13ers while i wanted to bag the four centennials so we went our separate ways. I headed up the valley towards Twin Thumbs Pass while Kevin went up the valley towards Knife Point. For me, the initial bushwhacking through the willows was horrible and it took lots of energy especially carrying a heavy pack. Eventually though I got above the bushes and slowly slogged up to a beautiful tarn below Twin Thumbs and Glacier Point. I was finally able to locate Twin Thumbs Pass and began climbing straight up towards it. I was getting very tired with the pack and at times the talus was very loose. The final 500 feet though I got into it and before I knew it I was 40 feet away. This final 40 feet however was very loose ball bearing scree so I had to carefully ascend on a narrow ledge. Once I topped out I was greeted with panoramic views of Twin Lakes below, Sunlight Peak and Windom Peak. I dropped off the other side towards Twin Lakes about 100 feet and ditched my pack and began traversing towards Mount Eolus. I had to really study the may since this area was confusing but after a bit of traversing I met with the deep gulch draining a small tarn. I ascended this class 3 gully just on its left edge and abruptly arrived at a beautiful tarn over 12,500 feet in elevation. From here it was easy flat walking for awhile which was very nice. I easily made the saddle between Eolus and North Eolus way before any of the day hikers made it from Twin Lakes. This was funny since I have come from the Jagged Cabin that morning.
The final traverse over the "catwalk" to the summit of Eolus was well marked and simple class 2+ if you stay on route. I was the first to summit on this day but many would follow me soon after. Just as i returned back to the saddle, 5 people met me here asking me how the final ridge was. After exchanging some stories I quickly went up North Eolus and was able to run all the way back down to my pack. After a quick drink I finished the descent to Twin Lakes where the ranger there greeted me with a big "How did you get here?" I laughed and told him where I came from and he must of thought I was crazy. Since storms were brewing and many people were on their way back down Sunlight and Windom, I waited at Twin Lakes for a few hours while the storms passed then at about 3:30pm I covered my extra gear and started up the trail towards Sunlight. I was the only one up here by this point as everyone else headed down. I had to wait out another brief cell in the high valley between Sunlight and Windom. Once the rain stopped again I made my way to the saddle between Sunlight Peak and Sunlight Spire and onward towards the summit of Sunlight Peak but just before I reached the crux I had to wait under a large rock for another cell to pass. Luckily this one just grazed me but I saw it really dumping on Chicago Basin getting all the campers wet! It was a good thing it mostly missed me though since I was near the crux at 14,000 feet...talk about playing with the weather!
After that last storm cell passed the sun actually came out briefly and I had some beautiful afternoon lighting on the surrounding mountains. I finished the climb up Sunlight Peak through the pinhole and to the final summit blocks. Since they were wet I took my shoes off and just bare-footed it up the final 10 feet. This was far less exposed than I thought it would be it wasn't even a concern. I quickly descended and went back down to the high valley where I waited out the other storm. It was 6pm at this point and I still had to ascend Windom so I started up the talus as fast as i could. I reached the standard west ridge in good time but heading up the long ridge took longer than I thought it would. It was only class 2 but kind of tedious especially since I was so tired. At 6:45pm I made the summit, snapped a few photos and started down. I was very satisfied with the days effort. Starting in Noname creek, over Twin Thumbs Pass and up Eolus and North Eolus then up Sunlight Peak and Windom while juggling storms. I basically ran down the trail back to Twin Lakes and packed up my stashed gear, threw my pack on and ran down into Chicago Basin where the camping is allowed. Right as I found a nice place to camp that wasn't taken it got completely dark and I went right to sleep.
The next morning I slept in just a little bit and didn't get started up Jupiter Peak until about 8am. I was headed for the standard route which starts by heading up the Columbine Pass trail. Right as I passed by an old mining shed, I saw one of the same people I spoke with on Eolus the previous day. He had just got of Jupiter and pointed me up the correct slope to gain treeline efficiently. His beta really helped me get up Jupiter quickly. I was also feeling great this day and made it up the southwest slopes in very good time and was on the summit in just over an hour from leaving the trail. The traverse to Windom Peak looked awesome and scary at the same time. Maybe someday I may do this. I had great views of Eolus and Windom from the summit.
Once I got back to the tent I packed up and started the six mile hike out the Needle Creek Trail to Needleton. The train is scheduled to arrive around 4pm but I made it back to Needleton by 2pm to see a lot of people waitng. We killed the time by telling one another stories about the climbs we have done and where we have been to. Lots of nice people here. When the train did finally come (30 minutes late!) the ride out was very relaxing. The last bit of walking I had to do was from the train depot to my parked car in Durango, a distance of 6 blocks. I didn't like that at all lol!
This was my final climbs in Colorado before I headed back to Washington in the end of August. I had already made plans with Josh for some trips in the North Cascades and I honestly was very excited to climb there. After I ate a big meal in Durango that evening I drove straight back to Washington through the night to see all of Idaho, Oregon and my home state literally burning down in some of the worst forest fires ever. It wasn't until I crested Snoqualmie Pass the smoke cleared and it was so bad in Boise and the Tri-Cities I could barely see the cars in front of me! Also see Kevin's Trip Report Here on 14ers.com to see how the second half of his trip went!
Stats for this trip are as follows:
6 peaks, 4 days, 30 miles, and lots of fun!