The Williams Traverse: A Sawatch Delight

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Trip Report
Colorado, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Sep 19, 2011
Hiking, Scrambling
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86.37% Score
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The Williams Traverse: A Sawatch Delight
Created On: Sep 21, 2011
Last Edited On: Sep 21, 2011


Unnamed 13033
William BM (13312')
Unnamed 13203
Williams Mtn (13382')

13 miles RT, 5200' gain
(skipped UN 13108)
From Lost Man TH
Sept 19, 2011

Participants: Kim Luba & Kevin Baker


The Williams Traverse has been on my to do list of summer ridge runs for a long time. I was hoping to squeeze it in this month before the snow piled up, but last weekend's storms discouraged me. A look at the forecast though revealed a return to more summer like weather, but I didn't want to try this solo. A few invites yielded a taker in Kim. I've hiked with Kim a couple times, and she's game for last minute adventures. I concocted this trip at the last minute, so we decided to just meet in Twin Lakes with a less than early start.

Endless Ridge Run

We didn't set off from the Lost Man trailhead west of Indy Pass until 8am, but the forecast had no precip in it. I was worried that we could pull this off and get back to the trail before dark, and it came back to bite us. Depending on your speed, I would allow at least 13 hours for this day. We took the Midway Pass trail up to about 12K', and we quickly cleared the trees. Early season snow always make the views rewarding.

We left the trail and headed up the easy talus and grass slopes of UN 13033. This first summit went quick, but the difficulties of the day would mount as we did the long ridge run. I was relieved to see that the part of the traverse I could see didn't hold much snow, but some of the north slopes would prove to be tedious. The ridge run to William Benchmark is mostly class 2 with some steep sections on the north side of Point 13025.

Descent off north side of Pt 13025:

William BM (left) and ridge run to 13203:

Kim is more of a true "route bagger" than me, so she stuck to the ridge proper until later on in the day when it proved to be impossible without a rope! I stick to the ridge when it's fun and doesn't require a lot of unnecessary ups and downs.

The ridge continues to increase in difficulty as you head farther north. The traverse to UN 13203 has a short knife edge section that was nice and solid. This traverse kind of reminded me of a tamed down version of the Partner Traverse in the Gores.

A section of the short knife edge section:

We were forced to drop off the ridge on slabs on the south side I think near the saddle, but otherwise we were on or very near the crest in this section. A couple of steep bumps are climbed on the way to 13203, and there's a lot of scrambling to be had. 13203's south ridge is an enjoyable scramble, but the many ups and downs start to add up.

Now onto the crux of the day, the traverse from 13203 to the highpoint of the ridge, Williams Mtn. Only 1/2 mile seperates these two summits, but there is a lot of complicated terrain! Lots of time consuming route finding on ledges, and eventually it was apparent that things were going to get way to spicy for my taste to stay on the ridge. I told Kim I was bailing down a gully on the east side and would meet up with her back on the ridge. I bailed about 100 feet below the saddle and contoured below cliffs to a reasonable gully back to the ridge. There was still plenty of 5th class climbing above the top of this gully on the ridge, so I bailed again down the west side.

Gully climb back to ridge:

I drew an arrow in the snow pointing down in case Kim was still trying to run the ridge. I knew she was behind me. I had to drop down to about 12600' on the west side before reclimbing annoyingly loose scree and talus back to the ridge.

Snowy towers that I avoided:

I decided to press on to the summit of Williams, but it looked like there were a few false summits to climb. I decided to wait until I spotted Kim. I yelled a few times and there was no response. I was beginning to worry that she fell, so I dropped about 200 feet and continued giving out my summit yell until I could hear her and confirm she was OK. She told me that she got into some mid-5th class downclimbs on exposed, snowy ledges since this was a north facing ridge. She ended up bailing on the east side as well. I don't think I told her to expect such scary terrain, but it all worked out in the end. The climb to the summit of Williams is enjoyable but tedious. The final climb along the ridgecrest stiffens to 4th class with lots of air in spots, but the snow was easier to avoid.

The exciting south ridge finish to Williams:

I waited for Kim to arrive and it was apparent that getting over to 13108 was doubtful. It would likely mean finding the trail in the dark, which wasn't worth it. The descent of Williams was the trickiest part of the day for me as it held the most snow. Lots of slabs and ledges to scoot down on while trying to avoid stepping in the snow a lot, but sometimes it was unavoidable.

Tricky north ridge descent from Williams:

We were able to bail from the ridge at 12700' and descended east into the drainage n.e. of Williams. Now there was a ridge in the way back to the trail, so we contoured across tedious boulders then grass to a 500' grass and scree climb to a saddle just west of Point 12683. This saved a lot of distance.

Sunset theatrics:

We dropped down an easy gully, then it was smooth sailing down to the trail, weaving through sporadic willows. We hit the trail just before dark and Kim discovered that her headlamp was on all day in her pack and was dead! She ended up walking in front of me so she could have some light, so the slog down the trail was very slow with only one light. We made it back to the truck at 9pm. Heck of a ridge run!


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Viewing: 1-5 of 5

jaxcharlie - Sep 22, 2011 10:09 am - Voted 10/10

Nice report

And very nice photo's!

Pete Castricone

Pete Castricone - Sep 22, 2011 4:27 pm - Voted 10/10

Only 13 miles? Lame!

(sense my sarcasm)...Knowing Kim, what you call "scary" was really just lots of fun, and she never seems to have a working headlamp. I've never heard of this traverse, looks like it could be cool, although I'm pretty sure that a ridge traverse means traversing the actual ridge...but to each his own. I certainly can't free climb at Kim's level either so I feel your angst. I've used the term peak bagging quite often in jest, but "route bagging" is a new one!! Thanks for posting.


EastKing - Sep 24, 2011 3:59 am - Voted 10/10

Excellent TR

Starting to notice fall coming into the area. Great trip report and awesome photos!!


JoelSkok - Oct 1, 2011 7:23 pm - Voted 10/10

Love the photography

Have you considered the positive impact your images have on those that through you accompany you to the heights? What a ridge line, what a gallant trek across limitless beauty, what preponderous skill and nerve to negotiate that perilous knife edge.. Not a soul would disagree. Just fabulous, thanks for sharing freely.


shknbke - Oct 1, 2011 9:29 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Love the photography

Thanks for the kind words, Joel! It was indeed an enjoyable traverse.

Viewing: 1-5 of 5

The Williams Traverse: A Sawatch Delight

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