Peak(s):  "Mt. Silverthorne"  -  13,357 feet
Red Peak B  -  13,189 feet
Date Posted:  10/13/2015
Date Climbed:   10/03/2015
Author:  Monster5
 The Zodiac Traverse   

Ad astra per alpine, I believe the saying goes.

The Zodiac Traverse

Red Peak, Cancer, Capricorn, Gemini Twins, Taurus, Scorpio, Libra, Sagittarius, Aries, Mount Silverthorne, and Zodiac View
Start TH: Buffalo Mtn
End TH: Gore Creek
Stats: 16.5 mi/6K ft/15 hrs/5.6 (YDS)
Gear: Single rack/70 m twin, webbing/quick links. Specifically, C4s 0.2-1 used for both backing up raps and Scorpio. Less weight would have been fantastic.
Rappels: 5-8 to 90 ft.
Partner: Boggyb

There isn't much I can contribute as far as new beta goes, but a route of this quality deserves a little action once in awhile. It is quite possibly one of the top three alpine traverses at the grade in Colorado. Of the other two, one is located in RMNP and the other I'm probably confusing with California or Wyoming.

The Zodiac Traverse includes the nine named towers from Cancer to Aries (let's assume Listsofjohn is wrong on the order). Since a precedent was set, however, we had to start with a peak and end with a peak, thus Red to Silverthorne though it adds significantly more talus hopping and throws a wrench in the day trip logistics. We're okay with that. Since Silverthorne was added, Zodiac View seemed a logical end.

The Zodiac Spires and Zodiac View:

Priority numero uno was hit Red as early as possible and figure out the descent later. This is best done via the Buffalo Mountain trailhead. In retrospect, the easiest descent and shuttle would have been to Willowbrook Road (no overnight parking), skipping out on Zodiac View. But the Gore Creek trail has a couple graves along it and Boggy and I are trying to be festive, given Halloween so near.

"Do not molest the graves"

The moon is near full and I drive up late; dodge a few Bambis and skid on in to the Deluge parking lot. I suspect a Subaru might be occupied, so I park as close as possible and give my doors a few slams to piss him off. It's only proper. I need not have bothered with my neighborly duties as a hefty rain and snow shower rolls through later on. As it tends, morning comes and we shuttle on over the pass and up to Buffalo Mountain Trailhead.

Take the junction to the Gore Range Trail/S Willow Creek, losing a couple hundred feet of hard driven gain along the way. Five or so miles of dark, slightly faint trail seems to take awhile but we pass the time discussing the plight of Fireonthemountain's love life. I'm waiting for the day when he displays a true sign of love - skip an afterwork Flatiron scramble in favor of a candlelit dinner and calf massage. Such a romantic.

Grass and talus from Red Buffalo Pass up the south flank to Red.

The snow makes for some annoying hoppage, but soon enough our objective comes in to view.

Slight problem though: it has been awhile since either of us has done these peaks. We thought the entire ridge was gendarme filled and fun! But here we see half the traverse from this starting position is a talus slog. Such is life. On we go. Cue music.

The ridge goes by and a brief scramble up Cancer for the moment of truth. Is the juice worth the squeeze?

Oh yes. Yes, indeed.

Do you see what I see? (Song added for Fireonthemountain).

Scramble on down the ridge and let the fun begin. Pardon the Cancerous flare.

Weakness on right/W, enjoy the exposure. Class 3 and brief 4. Not a bad wakeup call, given some slick spots.

Eventually, reach a spot where downclimbing seems unlikely. Luckily, The Good Buddy Chalk left us some webbing, only a few years old to boot!

A good 60 ft to the east takes one to a handy ledge. Reversing this part of the ridge looks quite fun.

Back to the ridge and scramble up and over the mini gendarmes. Hit the Capricorn headwall at class 3/4.

It's easy to move fast when you're hoping for a bit of sun

The morning's catching up to us.

And an oompa loompa trying to climb Capricorn. Shorties go around right, average height freaks go proper.

From Capricorn, hike on down at class 2-3 until progress gets scary. Below is a rather large drop broken by an small ledge 30 ft down. Sling a horn to rap the 30 ft or downclimb at highly exposed class 4 to the anchor station. The webbing here was a bit shoddy but not quite ugly so we added another loop and a quicklink. 90 ft off the east side and swing gently as it goes free hanging and deposits you back on the ridge. It ain't often you get a 90 ft free hanging rap in CO alpine.

I wasn't able to adjust focus in this position. My apologies.

The dual summits of Gemini Twin South are up next. Scramble on up both. It's a race and Boggy beat me to it. Luckily, I carry the "disadvantageous height" excuse card at the top of my excuse bag.

It's a bit steep off South, so either rap the 50ish ft or dust off the canyoneering skills by dropping between the dual summits. Back to feet, hand down packs. Not too bad. Probably about the same time to just rap.

Three of nine down, snails are envious. For Gemini North, scramble along and through the gully separating the twin summits. Turn left and up the 5.0 dihedral on the north side. Fear not, dihedrals are easier to downclimb than climb. Or so the theory goes.

Next up is Taurus. The face is intimidating at first but as is usual, it relents upon closer inspection to 4th class. Unfortunately, it looks like a big hunk of pale brown in the pics.

So back to the hero shots. The ridge ain't bad for those.

Looking back towards the Geminis and Capricorn from Taurus

The N side of Taurus might be downclimbable. For the most part. Otherwise, it's a somewhat junky 80 ft rap, so mind the pull. I'm not sure what the existing sling (okay condition) was originally around, but it was just laying on the ground lazily like a deadbeat sling without any bodies to support. We rectified the situation with an artificial chock, allowing us to extend the runner to a clean pull and carefully rappelled.

And with that, unfortunately, the big rappels are over but the technical S>N crux comes next. Scramble on up easy terrain and around the right side of the diminutive Scorpio to access the NNW face.

Boggy's preference is leading scary ice pitches under Peruvian cornices, but somehow, he has yet to lead an alpine rock pitch. Weird. Now sounds like a good time and he doesn't hesitate. A few loose features on the left wall allow him to grab a horn and swing left up the slabbier terrain to Scorpio's summit. I think we tackled the crux differently (center of body a foot left) than J and Chalk and found it a bit easier at 5.5 while they encountered 5.7, though more solid, right. So split the difference and call it 5.6. Maybe 30 ft to an anchor and another 10 ft of easier to the top.

We burn some webbing and leave a chockstone anchor, rapping 30 ft back to our packs.

The 5.6 crux move is in the bottom of the photo. After gaining it, climb the face right of Boggy at Flatiron style 5.0, slightly run out.

Looking back at 6 of 9 towers down. I see progress.

Libra is up next - class 3, I think though I don't remember too much of the up.

But I do remember the down. An angled knife edge provides good fun, though henceforth my idea of a proper knife edge will forever be tainted by Matthes Crest.

Having not really studied the beta, I begin to climb "Libra Prime" at the end of the knife thinking it is a named tower. Boggy knows better, but if one goes up, it just wouldn't be proper for the other to standby, so he comes up too. Oddly enough, the blocks on this optional 4th class side affair are among the sketchiest to scramble up and down all day.

A discrete tower affair over, pay off the media, and back to the main event - class 2 slog up Sagittarius. Looking back:

The west summit of Sagittarius is the higher one and apparently there are a couple pitons below the summit. We never saw them and didn't study well enough to look. However, Chalk's sling was there in a shredded state of repair. Rats. I hate rats. We burn some webbing through a natural chock and rap the 40 ft between the twin summits. A final easy-but-icy down scramble takes us to the Aries saddle.

Looking back, mostly downclimbable except for one bulge.

Milk the class 3 up and over Aries because the scrambling's just about done. Tag the cairn else it doesn't count. Step right on over to Zodiac View to claim your prize. A successful completion of the Zodiac Traverse, tagging the spires en route.

Or slog it out! Yeah! Class 2 up to a class 3 gully bisecting Silverthorne's summit plateau. The route-finding is simple. Or simpleish. Simple enough. Whatever. If you die here, I have no pity and I claim inheritance.


Well, for the same reason we climb every peak, Boggy. To try and take over the world.

I could show you the final grass/talus slog up Silverthorne, but I refuse. Boggy had a better one of Rain anyways (another good meat cleaver traverse).

Class 2 talus down Silverthorne's SW gully and beeline over to Zodiac View. An inconvenient cloud might mess with the evening lighting, but grab a few pictures and appreciate the route all the same.

All worth it in the end.

We drop the thankfully grassy SW-trending small drainage W of Zodiac and intersect the Gore Lake Trail at around 10,800 ft amidst a slight snow flurry. A steep trail down to Gore Creek and then the long and rocky hike out.

Just follow the light.


Boggy's topos:

Comments or Questions
10/13/2015 05:50
Great report and photos!

Crazy fun!
10/13/2015 06:01
Glad I can enjoy it through you! I love the blocky Aries the best, but then that’s my sign.

taking over the world, one peak at a time
10/13/2015 07:46
Monster day, monster! Excellent use of your Capitalization. These pics do this route justice. Brando is probably conspiring a way to bring little Sawyer along on a repeat after reading this. Well done to both of you! I hate rats too.

Brian Thomas
Very enjoyable read
10/13/2015 10:09
Thanks for posting this, your TRs are consistently high quality.

10/13/2015 11:00
Thanks for this fantastic TR. Another traverse for my bucket list!

One of my favs...
10/13/2015 13:48
...that is ridges and TRs. So great to get the skinny on you and General Boggs’ big day in the Zodiac, Ryan. Well done, buddy. Congrats to you both on a high quality alpine traverse. Glad my beta could be of some help and that some of my webbing was still there. I don’t know what the heck my webbing was doing just sprawled out on top of Taurus. I swear it was attached to something when we rapped off. The light dusting of snow makes it seem even more alpine and just plain awesome. Glad most of it had melted off by the time you guys were crushing through the towers. I do remember the Libra Prime – we scrambled up that guys as well. Nice little top out no doubt! Maybe the pitons and my webbing on the south side of the notch of Sagittarius just met its maker and fell off.

Sarnelli, may be while before I bring little Sawyer on this ridge. Come to think of it, J and my daughters will likely be taking us old man fats to school on this guy and putting up 5.12 FAs on the north/south sides of Capricorn and Cancer. At least I hope so

Such a high quality ridge for a high quality duo. Congrats, fellas!

10/13/2015 15:03
Your routes and writing are always some of the best on this site. Awesome day Ryan.

I was waiting
10/13/2015 17:10
for this one......and you didn’t disappoint dude! Well done, and well written TR as usual. Looked like another stellar day in the gore!

I wish I knew how to read
10/13/2015 19:20
But thankfully your pictures were good enough...quality stuff MonstAr.

Don’t dance on their graves!
10/14/2015 01:36
Now that’s what I call an adventure! I was in the Williams Fork Mtns and had a very nice view of the Zodiac Ridge and thought of that last adventure posted a while back! The Gores looked bare of snow as of Monday, 10/12/15.

gore galore
A Monster One For Sure
10/14/2015 01:43
BITD I was satisfied doing a few of these each on different trips like the first guys did in 1956. Then Stan Wagon did them spire to spire in both directions in 1998. Then jbchalk came along and did them from peak to spires to peak in 2013. And now they are done from TH to peak to spires to peak to view to TH. The next guys will have to add the Recen Pinnacle on the way out! Nice shot of rappeling Hatchet Face on Capricorn. I remember seeing a sling, maybe the one in question when I climbed Taurus last summer.

Good Stuff
10/14/2015 09:40
Nice work guys! Great beta and awesome "IMAX Experience" shots of the snow dusted Red/Silverthorne Massifs too. Fall Gore ridge runs are tough to beat aren’t they?

damn it!
10/14/2015 09:43
i thought i was about to get through a TR without the word "canyoneering" come up but so much for that. this is rad, thanks for the list addition. no checks for the boggster though.

MonstAr, i like that Darin.

10/14/2015 10:56
Gore galore – Your guide mentioned the Addison party likely set those pitons shown in Chalk’s report in the ’50s. I wish I had looked for the others. I’m curious about Stan Wagon’s N>S traverse: did he climb the Hatchet Face? Looked pretty hard, but bypasses are available. With the exception of that, it appears there might be more fun moderate climbing going that direction. The details of Buffalo Pinnacle on Mountainproject are also interesting.

Mtnhub: I lamented the lack of a Pisces. People don’t respect us.

Dillon – I already have plans for Furthermore’s, Crim’s, and Chalk’s kids to be my future rope guns. I should still be able to move by then.

Jb – thanks for the beta! Your slings went to good use. I have suspicions that a few loose shattered blocks in particular were former piton or sling locations.

boudreaux – I’d kind of like to know your thoughts on the southern gumbo spot in north downtown Frisco. Seems like you’d have an opinion.

Benners – Oh the fall runs certainly are nice. There’s some unfinished work on Spider and the Fly to attend to come Dec. We wound up having to rappel the class 3 ridge last Dec.

Abe – we should go canyoneering on the way to Zion. Canyoneering.

Thanks for the comments!

Boggy B
10/14/2015 13:11
Definitely stretched my comfort level with rappel anchors. Thanks for the pointers and a great outing.

Gumbo? Who said Gumbo!
10/14/2015 13:35
I’ve never been to the one in Frisco, actually didn’t know there was one there. But if you want some good gumbo, try Mama Pearl’s in Co Springs off of Vindicator/Rockrimmon area, very good! I generally think most Cajun restaurants tone down the spice, but Mama Pearl’s does a goood job with that. The proprietor is a Katrina escapee from New Orleans, but I don’t hold that against him being from Lafayaette. But I recommend the crawfish etouffe’, good red beans and rice too! Alligator bites are good also! When I did Blodgett Peak in May, it was red beans and rice afterwards, hit the spot, big plate too! Climbing a peak beforehand builds the appetite! Big LSU and SAINTS fan, but not so much the RAGIN CAJUNS! They didn’t have my favorite dish though, Catfish Sauce Piquant!!, ,but nobody is perfect!

10/15/2015 06:42
Yet another quality report on an intense route, well done. Thanks for sharing.

Long run!
10/16/2015 18:12
Nice work, Ryan! I think you’ll have to do more trail running with FireOnTheMountain, though, so that next time you will be able to motor through faster, in order to allow you to take the time to downclimb all of those spires, instead of taking the easy way out and rapping. In all seriousness, though, another monstrous day and some sweet shots.

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