I have wanted to hike Precipice Peak. The photos of the area by Aaron Johnson had sparked my interest. I found a partner for the climb (Laura) on the SP message boards. We met in Ridgway at 5:00 AM at the Conoco and drove to the trailhead near the Wetterhorn basin trailhead a couple miles from Owl Creek pass. We were at the trailhead at about 6:00 AM. Precipice is very deceiving from this point of view. It does not look anything like it does from the Ridgway or Cimarron area. Unfortunately neither of us brought detailed directions. I had directions but inadvertently left them in my glove compartment. I had a book on climbing the San Juan’s that gave some general directions but they were not very specific. We finally decided to go towards what we thought was Precipice and get a better view.
We started hiking around 6:00 AM. We started off by following a creek bed toward some grassy slopes and a ridgeline near what we suspected was Precipice. We went about 1/4 mile through the creek bed and then decided to climb out of the bed and into the forest to the left of the creek bed (when facing the ridge). This was most likely north or northwest but I cannot be sure since I did not check my compass at that time. That appears to be the general position from the TOPO map. From here we hike through the steep forest sort of finding our way to timberline. Once at timberline there appeared to be two ways to go. One way was to go right while facing the ridgeline (south east?) around a large group of rock formations while the other way was to go left (north). The route to the left looked more direct and from the distance the rock didn't look to be to bad. We decided to go left. The larger rocks turned into scree, which then became somewhat unplanned rock climbing on bad rock. Almost everything that looked solid was not. At one point I pulled out a large slab of rock while testing it. This rock was practically large enough to be part of my flagstone patio.
I wouldn't recommend this route. Once we were done with the rock climbing we were met with grassy slopes and a small decent through rocky area before getting to the ridgeline. From a distance we didn't know what the small decent looked like (it appeared as though it may be substantial) and we hoped (or at least I hoped) we were not stuck descending this large pile of crap rock the way we came up. Once on the ridge line the route was obvious and it was a lot of fun. There is some minor exposure but not too much. At the false summit, which is not very far from the real summit I measured 1.5 miles with my GPS and about a 2300 ft elevation gain.
Descending the route was pretty obvious and we found a few cairn. For easy general directions I would recommend
1. Hike in or along the creek bed that runs headed toward the grassy slope and ridgeline between Precipice and 13241. Remember Precipice looks very deceiving from the basin. Refer to my picture from the basin or follow your TOPO instinct. It does not show it's large steep face from this view.
2. Head toward the grassy slopes / grassy ridgeline
3. Below the ridgeline pass through a hole / notch. The route should be obvious from here.
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