Peak(s):  "East Thorn"  -  13,333 feet
"Mt. Silverthorne"  -  13,357 feet
"Rain Peak"  -  13,130 feet
Date Posted:  08/06/2012
Date Climbed:   08/05/2012
Author:  lordhelmut
Additional Members:   Monster5, tommyboy360
 Salmon Lake Cirque Traverse   

Salmon Lake Group :

East Thorne (13,333 ft)
Silverthorne (aka Willow Benchmark) (13,357 ft)
"Rain" (13,110 ft)

Sunday 7/29/2012

Tommy's folks have shared a house in the Eagle's Nest neighborhood North of Silverthorne for nearly 20 years now. He has stared at that pointy peak in his backyard for as long as he remembers, but thanks to the boa constrictor of all lists, the 14ers, he hasn't ventured too far in to the Gores. Now that he's finally done, and finally able to enjoy himself, he threw out the idea of climbing that "thorny" peak in his backyard and I agreed it was probably a good idea.

The neighboring Willowbrook area has a convenient parking lot at the head of its development, which apparently happens to be a popular day hiking destination. Unfortunately, that's all it is, since local vacation home owners have made sure that overnight parking be forbidden. It's a shame, cause 1 - not that many people venture in to the Gores and 2 - the next closest approach is Mesa Cortina, which adds 6.4 miles to the outing. Anyways, that's off topic, those people can sit on their thumb and rotate, but laws are laws, and I don't care to have my car towed, specially after a weekend in the Gores. (To reiterate, this area is heavily patrolled by the Silverthorne Police. Your car WILL get towed if you try to park at Willowbrook. Just a friendly warning).

Anyways, Tom and I set off from his folks house at the ripe hour of 3:30am, in hopes of a successful circumnavigation of the Salmon Lakes Trio. What we got as a result was, what I'd like to coin as the "Go F**k Yourself Traverse". It wasn't as much of a traverse as it was a loop that put us a solid 6 to 8 miles from our objective. To make a long story short, the trail from get go at the Willow Brook TH is not entirely straightforward and trying to read trail signs at 4:30am can be hazardous to your health. We definitely realized the abundance of user errors as we backtracked after realizing we were lost, but I still am holding on to the fact that Dave Cooper is an EXTREMELY vague guidebook author, Tommy and I aren't perfect, trail signs are tough to read in the dark and to reiterate, Summit County vacation home owners can sit on their thumb and rotate. Above all else, I blame them.

It's a pretty demoralizing feeling when you are staring at a ridgeline and looking down valley, thinking you are looking at East Thorne and the Salmon Lakes drainage, only to find out you are looking at the Silver Couloir of Buffalo Mountain and that valley you are looking down is the Red/Buffalo Pass. Had we continued on, we probably would've ended up in East Vail, no joke. We sheepishly backtracked to our correct route, hoofed it all the way in to Salmon Lakes, turned our day in to a recon mission and threw on Willow Lakes as an added bonus.

I said to Tommy towards the end of the day "Man, I might as well throw up a 1 shot Bierstadt report, cause that's about how I feel right now". Tommy suggested we shake it off and reconvene the very next weekend.

Some shots of our mission :

Red Peak's diverse North Face. Lots of opportunities in this shot

New Zealand? Just a Gore close up....

Zodiac Traverse

Sunday 8/5/2012

Looking to redeem ourselves as quick as humanly possible, we went looking for partners first thing Monday morning. Ryan (Monster5) joined on without much hesitation and the group was set. Not much planning went in to this climb, mainly due to the lack of solid beta online, or in any guidebooks. Kramarsic did a short write up on the East Ridge Direct of East Thorne and we figured once we gained the ridge proper, we'd be golden. Best part about undocumented routes is the unknown, so we all agreed to just get up there and figure it out as we went.

Luckily, we were able to secure a parking permit on the street outside Tommy's folks place, which meant we could still start at Willow Brook. It was no more than 1.5 miles away, so we had Ryan watch the packs at the trailhead while Tommy and I parked the car and rode bikes back up to the parking lot. We began the hike in around 12:45pm and arrived at the lake at exactly 2 hours later. The approach goes as follows (for anyone unfamiliar with this trail). At the trailhead, hike 15-20 yards down trail and come to your first junction. Go right (straight). DO NOT GO LEFT. If you are bordering some homes, you are in the right place. If a Bernese Mountain dog starts barking at you, don't be alarmed, he is just the keeper of the Southeastern Gores. Just tell him you hate Quandary Peak, show him your marked up Trails Illustrated Vail/Dillon/Frisco map and give him a couple Salt N'Vinegar Pringles and he will let you pass.

You hike up a hill over a neighborhood, enter the woods, cross a bridge, hike about 0.5 miles, cross another stream crossing on a log bridge, then veer left at a T-junction. You hike up a steep incline, pass a couple beetle kill tree graveyards and then enter the Eagle's Nest Wilderness. Once you reach the Gore Range Trail/Willow Creek junction, you've gone roughly 1.5 miles. You have another 1.5 miles to the Gore Range/Willow/Salmon Lakes junction. After that, you have 1.6 miles to the Willow/Salmon Lakes junction, then finally another 0.25 miles to Salmon Lake. Salmon Lake is 75% surrounded by boulder fields, and camping around the lake is kind of limited. There was one spot Tommy and I scouted out the week prior, so we knew exactly where to go.

Salmon Lake

We got it, set up camp quickly, enjoyed the views of the lake, scouted out our best bet on East Thorne for the morning and scarfed down some Jimmy Johns before hitting the sack.

East Thorne at sunset

A new 10 Essential

We set alarms for 4:30am and were on the trail by 5:30am, with some nice alpenglow to start the day....

climbing towards the East Ridge

Let the scrambling begin

Tommy, Salmon Lake and alpenglow

Ryan admiring where he is

From the basin, we made a beeline for a grassy spot along the Northern slopes, in hopes to find a weakness in the East Ridge. The class 3 to 4 scrambling started immediately, but navigating was more straightforward than we originally expected.

I'm going to try not to give too much away, but this ridge was fun, complex, exposed and the views were typical of the Gores (they were good). After hiking Buffalo and Red, I kind of wrote off the Southern Gores as kind of pedestrian with regards to views, scrambles and aesthetic basins. Lets just say I was off by a tad when talking about the Salmon Lakes region. I can safely say Salmon/Willow Lakes is Slate Creek's overlooked cousin, dare I say long lost twin brother.

Some shots of the ridge....

Typical terrain on Thorne's East Ridge

Dagobah System

playing with knives

major exposure

a fine venue

approaching Thorne's summit

The ridge seemed to go on forever, and to be honest, the exact route has already faded from clear memory, so I guess you'll just have to figure it out for yourself. We lounged on the summit for a solid 20 to 30 minutes with blue skies in all directions, which was a much welcomed relief from several previous weekends. The summit of East Thorne was perfect for lounging (Summit Lounger would quickly grow fond of this one)......

Thorne's summit block

looking over at Silverthorne

The down climb to Silverthorne was steep and complex. We found ourselves in a situation where we could do a descending traverse and lose 150-200 feet or utilize the rope we hauled all the way back there. We chose the latter and enjoyed a quick and easy 50 foot rap.

Ryan setting up the rappel

Rapping down

We used no more than 4 to 5 feet of webbing, slung over a rock horn, Ryan's 30m/9.2mm rope and a Home Depot quicklink. Tommy and I have been getting out a bunch together on some sport climbs around the foothills, so the rap was no big deal to him, as he had cleaned his very first outdoor sport route not 3 weeks prior (which happened to be his first outdoor sport climb).

Once down, it was literally a class 1 hill climb to the summit of Silverthorne, which, while maybe not the most interesting climbing of the day, held the nicest views and a welcomed reprieve from the exposure and tedious scrambling.

Willow BM's summit

Ridge to Rain

Now it was time to enter the unknown. We weren't able to read much about the traverse from Silverthorne to "Rain" and it looked like there were 5 unwelcoming towers, one of them just waiting to cliff us out in our tracks. With the day still young (10am) and a thirst for more exposure and ridge scrambles, we set off for the ridge, looming in the distance.

The exposure began almost immediately. I was bringing up the rear and lost sight of Tommy and Ryan for no more than 2 minutes before I started hearing "head right and then make a hard left and it'll go".

Each of the 5 towers along this traverse provided an interesting obstacle. The entire traverse was short (70 minutes) and sweet (low 5th class), but it was certainly a memorable ridge run, one of the finer in the Gores. This ridge is living proof unranked peaks should not be ignored!

Some highlights of the traverse :

getting cliffy

4th class terrain

This wasn't a knife edge, it was a meat cleaver edge.

hair raising exposure. It doesn't get much more exposed than this

admiring the scenery

looking back on the ridge

happy to be done

For reference, that was the most exposed knife edge and ledge system I've ever seen. They were not the "fun" type and required every ounce of your attention. With that being said, this was the most exhilarating ridge in the range, possibly the state. The Thorne Cirque lived up to its image! The best part is that this cirque has a plethora of ski lines (North Couloir on Thorne, East Face on Silverthorne and Grappel Gull y on Rain), so its most definitely worth a return trip in the not so distant future.

We descended the Eastern slopes off Rain, packed up camp and hoofed it back to the car, Chipotle was the main motivator for the quick descent.

going to fetch the car

After a burrito and a bunch of root beer, we decided to take an alternate route home via Boreas Pass, which worked out quite well till we reached Kenosha Pass. Traffic is getting pretty old this summer, I never thought I'd live to see the day of 285 traffic. The most frustrating part about it all is venting doesn't do any good, cause its nearly impossible to hone in on the creators of Colorado traffic. Its like fighting an unknown force.

I hate to leave this TR on a sour note, so I'll end there. It was a great traverse with great company on a bluebird weekend in the middle of monsoon season. Can't ask for much else. Anyone in search of a wild climb and ridge run, be sure to check this Gore classic out soon.

Thanks for reading.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Comments or Questions
Chipotle always gets you back to the car sooner
08/07/2012 06:29
solid weather, great spot, amazing pictures and traverse, and good company > CO traffic. hell you even got a meat clever edge in there. nice report guys! enjoyed it.

Heckuva piece of redemption
08/07/2012 12:32
Dave Cooper's directions be damned, you all rocked this one!
As always, a great writeup with solid photos by all of you, especially #s 4, 13, and 26.
Only mighty Jacque Peak stands the way of your being ”Mr. Gore 13er.”

Brian C
08/07/2012 15:02
I need to get to the Gores. I'd like to visit some of the routes in the guidebook that he simply rates ”class 5”. Haha. Nice report as always!

PS - Photo 11 is super cool.

Just couldn't wait until Spring, huh?
08/07/2012 15:03
One more and you'll have to slum around on those Gore 12ers with Mike and me. Congrats on a great climb. Man that looks like one heck of a run!

East Thorn Recon
08/07/2012 16:03
Cheeseburglar and I did the exact same thing in 2010 when we tried to climb East Thorn‘s north couloir as outlined in Cooper‘s book. We ended up hiking up Buffalo and thought we were retarded...2 drainages from our intended route. Anyways good to see we‘re not the only ones.

I hiked Silverthorne from Vail on Friday, and agree that the views were surprisingly good from up there. Your route looks way more intense than mine though. Congrats on a solid traverse in the Gore with very little information to aid your ascent.

08/07/2012 16:11
Dillon - Chipotle is mental, emotional and physical fuel. If only that company knew how many times I've been there, they'd probably stop overlooking my resume everytime i apply for a job.

Matt - Those shots you liked were all Ryan's and they are PS'd (your nemesis).

Anna - Glad these TR's could be of service. Calling yourself lazy is comical

Brian C - Go checkout ”Gore Thumb”, the NW face of C and the Zodiac Ridge and report back.

Floyd - You obviously didn't read the report in its entirety if you think I won't be going back in the Spring. Just need to stump the parking situation again....

Colin - Thats hilarious. The trail does in fact naturally veer you in the direction of Buffalo. Cooper just says from Willow Brook, go to Salmon and hike up North Couloir. From a Willow Brook virgin, its NOT that simple. Did you check out ”Zodiac View”? I was trying to figure out which one it was some Silverthorne and Ryan was trying to figure out which one was ”Ikey” down in Rock Creek. Lots of questions that need solid answers.....

Great report
08/07/2012 16:47
Wow - that looks awesome. This report makes me want to get back to the Gores (well, the easier ones)! Awesome photos - some of those are the kind that you don't show mom and dad...

Rich H
Gratz Brian
08/07/2012 16:53
I can remember as a kid riding back and forth on 285 in the 70s and 80s. The traffic would be bad and my dad getting all riled up when we would go to the family cabin down by Gunnison - You could count on stop and go from Kenosha on in. It seems like they have been expanding 285 since I was in highschool in the 80s... Anyway I do believe it is better now than it was back then. Or maybe it is that cars are faster. You are becoming Mr. Gore.

Nice write-up, Brian
08/07/2012 16:54
And thanks for setting it all up.

I don't own PS - the free Picasa program works well for upping the contrast/shadows to reduce wash out (takes a few seconds). Color boost is done automatically in-camera. The weird blue murkiness is an unfortunate by-product of buying refurbished.

My entire camera/editing/posting setup costs a grand total of $120 bucks

Chicago Transplant
Great peak
08/07/2012 17:02
I've done this peak twice, but only from Vail, looks like I need to check out the Salmon Lake side sometime and hit those unranked summits. Looks fun, definitely interested in that north couloir on East Thorne.

Amazing Lake Photo
08/07/2012 17:15
Wow. Thanks for expanding the Gore knowledge! Though, those exposure shots kinda make me cringe (since I know Darrin would actually enjoy doing that - and I bet he regrets even more missing the climb)

My group made that wrong turn too this past spring, in ski boots. Added quite a bit of extra dirt walking into what turned into a cluster of a day.

08/07/2012 17:24
I stared over at those peaks all day Saturday wishing my Sunday schedule had been clear.

Great writeup, I'll certainly be using it later.

Another ”ok” report Helmut....
08/07/2012 19:17
Sounds like one hell of a ridge!! Did you guys bust the rope out any other time besides that 1 rap??

And since when did you become a Bronco fan??

Gorevacious ...
08/07/2012 22:29
What a great traverse! I've been staring at Thorne for years as we come down out of the tunnel ... promising myself to get up there sometime and camp at Salmon Lake. This wonderful trip report just feeds my desire even more. 8) Thanks for all the do's and don'ts ... they will be duly followed and observed. Happy trails!

I'll jump on this pile of atta-boys!
08/08/2012 00:38
Great report - love the humor, there are some comments in here that could become classics! Superb pics - #4 and 11 are awesome. Agree, unranked peaks definitely have merit.
Way to persist and find a way to make this climb work.
Strong work by all of you - congrats on a fun day out!

One TR Correction...
08/08/2012 20:01
C'mon Helmut, it's the dark chocolate covered blueberries that gets you by the Bernese mountain guard dog. Pringles only work in the northern Gore region.

Having brovilles screw up my cheese quesadilla order at chipotle parlayed into a nice victory cup of free guacamole to share with the table. A nice topper on a successful trip, which started with our own screw up on the prior weekend.

Going to get lost...
08/10/2012 04:43
Great photos. Heading to the Gores this weekend with Astrobassman... bound to get lost at least twice.
I might even bring the GPS just in case we get really lost.

Thanks again (from a NON-HIPSTER)
08/10/2012 15:16
Bob - Soon enough, you'll want to get back in to the Gores and appreciate them for what they are.

Rich - good and bad to know traffic is ”better” than the old days. You look pretty young to have been in high school in the 80's. Thanks for the comments.

Ryan/Monster5 - Thanks for joinin', good to know re: photo enhancements.

Mike/CT - This place is definitely worth a look, typical of the Eastern Gores. Looking foward to your TR soon.

Darrin/Otina - Thanks for the comments and goodluck on your future Gore endeavors. Damn hipsters.....

Reinhold - Yeah, some of the exposure gave a few of us mild pause. Unnerving, but more fun than anything else. Nothing too insanely dangerous.

Richard - Apparently, Patagonia has come out with a new Bronco line. And yeah, we only pulled out the rope for that single rap. We all figured, its either now or never.

Presto - Thats what we thought, we've been staring at Thorne for eons, might as well climb the damn thing. Salmon and even more so, Willow Lakes, are worth a visit, peaks or no peaks.

Sunny1 - Most of the better pics are Ryan's. Thanks for the comments. Unranked peaks are some of the best. You've gotta really resist your hipster urges to climb them.

Tommy - If we gave Cujo dark chocolate blueberries, he would've sh*t all over his owner's deck and hot tub. How could I forget about the free guac?

Craig - Getting lose in the Gores is half the fun, makes the end result that much sweeter.

Great job
01/29/2013 02:46
That's some wicked exposure in pic #26! No thanks, not for me

I was admiring Silverthorne in the distance from the Grand Traverse on Sunday. Lots of folks in the Gores that day. Another party followed my wife and I on the traverse, and jkirk & triplem were on the Corners + Eagles Nest.

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