Peak(s):  PT 13,153 - 13,153 feet
Peak 12,737 (12,740)
Date Posted:  01/05/2020
Date Climbed:   06/24/2019
Author:  gore galore
 Climbing Guide Books and The Matter of An Unclimbed and A Consolation Peak, Sangre de Cristo Range   


Peak 12,737 (12,740)

Peak 13,153

by gore galore

I have an affinity for climbing guide books such that every so often something out of the ordinary leaps off the pages of one of these guides that captures and holds my attention until I can no longer ignore it for fear that it will be left unsettled in my mind forever.

The fear that I possessed in this instance led me to a trail in the Sangre de Cristo Range hiking towards a peak that I came across from a picture caption of “unclimbed” in a 2011 edition of a guide book to the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness of the Crestone, Colorado area.

I am not sure if I will be able to climb this peak but the picture of this “unclimbed” peak in this guide was so enticing that it led me to an adventure I had to pursue to whatever its outcome would be. But first some words about Colorado climbing guide books.


The first climbing guide book that I became familiar with upon moving to Colorado in 1970 was the venerable “Guide to the Colorado Mountains” by Robert M. Ormes. It was first published in 1952. There are ten editions of this guide with the latest in 2000. I have all of the editions and various printings of this guide which for nearly fifty years was the main source for the mountains of Colorado before the internet.

The Ormes Guide as it was called in those days was not the first guide to Colorado's mountains as it was preceded by several others most notably “The San Juan Mountaineers' Climber's Guide to Southwestern Colorado,” 1933 by Lavender, Long and Griffiths in manuscript form. It was reprinted as a hard cover edition in 2008 by the Colorado Mountain Club Press.

But the first recognized guide to Colorado's mountains was Frederick H. Chapin's “Mountaineering in Colorado, The Peaks About Estes Park” published by the Appalachian Mountain Club in three editions in 1889, 1890 and 1893. There was also a British edition printed in 1890. I have managed to find all these editions plus some later reprints.

Elinor Eppich Kingery's “A Climber's Guide to the High Colorado Peaks” in John L. Jerome Hart's “Fourteen Thousand Feet,” Second Edition, 1931 was the first published guide to the 14,000 foot peaks of Colorado. It was 21 pages in length as part of Hart's booklet and consisted mostly of brief directions to and on the mountains.

From these incipient guides there is now a whole world of climbing guide books for Colorado. There are so many Colorado climbing guide books that I doubt if anybody really knows how many there are.

In 1986 as part of a series in “Climbing” magazine of a preliminary listing of every guide printed to climbing areas in the U.S., Randy Vogel listed 57 guide books to Colorado. He wrote that “Colorado ranks only behind California in the prodigious production of guidebooks.”

Vogel missed a few in his Colorado listing which is insignificant now because I estimate there are probably almost ten times as many Colorado climbing guides in various editions and printings.

To get an idea of this estimate Tim Toula in his book “Rock 'N Road, Rock Climbing Areas of North America,” 1995 lists 232 climbing areas with 92 guide books for Colorado. But like Vogel's count Toula missed a certain number in his list.

I have no doubt that there are more than 300 climbing areas now most with a guide book of sorts and many areas with multiples of guide books. Vogel wrote in his 1986 series that “the rocks surrounding Boulder lay claim to the largest number of guidebooks of any area in the United States.” That claim probably holds true today.

Dating from that first guide to Colorado's mountains by Frederick Chapin in 1889, I have bought every conceivable Colorado climbing guide that I could find. These come in all sizes, shapes and forms of printed matter including a boxed puzzle of Diamond routes on Longs Peak.

There are climbing guide books for every imaginable geologic formation in Colorado. As Tim Toula writes in his book, “The only thing missing is sea cliffs.” One of my odd climbing guides is titled as a mountaineering guide to a rock climb.

I don't have every climbing guide book for Colorado because some are exceedingly rare. There are also a couple of climbing guide books that I wonder if anybody has ever seen. Sometimes I lack some of the newer climbing guide books because they are publishing them faster than I can get a paycheck.

I have no idea how many Colorado climbing guide books there are nor will I ever know because I don't intend to take the time to count the ones I have. They fill up three shelves and spill onto the floor of my home living space. The closest I can come to a number is approximately eighteen lineal feet of Colorado climbing guide books as measured by a tape measure.

In order to get an idea of eighteen feet one must make some comparisons. A standard two lane highway in the United Sates is twelve feet in each direction. If you lay these guide books in horizontal fashion they would cover an entire lane and a half.

If a standard room ceiling is considered eight feet high and these climbing guide books are stacked vertically I am finishing stacking the last two feet in the third floor room. And if you ever thought about jumping over eighteen feet of Colorado climbing guide books as in pole vaulting you most certainly would take home a medal in almost every event of this track and field competition.

I approach guide book reading probably in a different manner than most. I read the acknowledgments to get an idea of the climbers important to the area, the history section if there is one for the time line of the climbing area, side bars for climber reminiscences and thoughts, picture captions which sometimes have good information, ads for services in the area and then browse the myriad route descriptions which sometimes can be overwhelming or disregarded because of interest or not.


So this short detour gets me back to the unclimbed peak noted from the above mentioned guide book. In this instance I came across a picture caption of the peak in question with the notation “The jagged ridge at center separates South Crestone from North Crestone Creek, culminating in the unclimbed pinnacle Pt. 12,737.” This was an interesting statement from a guide book published in the second decade of the 21st century. It was something I couldn't ignore or leave unsettled in my mind.

Now I am not one so naive or vain to rush out into the wilderness with flag and for glory to claim something as being first. I do some background checking to see what kind of climbing adventure lays before me.

I check the peak lists on Lists of John but I do not find any listing for 12,737. I am kind of perplexed now because this site lists basically every conceivable living peak in its realm.

My next stop is which also doesn't have any reference to 12,737. I am now thinking whether 12,737 really exists except in a picture caption? But has a number of ways of finding information.

I decide to look for a trip report on nearby peaks hoping there is a matching picture for 12,737 somewhere in a report. And I find there is in the trip report “13,153 Only” by member jdorje from 9/6/2012. The several pictures in his report of 12,737 match exactly with the 12,737 in the guide book with one notable exception. I find that for some reason 12,737 is called 12,740.

I return to the peak lists on LOJ and find the missing information. The “true highpoint is missing a contour on the map (point east of 12,737 spot is highest)” which explains the listing for 12,740. I find that 19 LOJ members have reported ascents of this peak. There is 1 trip report mentioned but since I am not a member of LOJ, I do not have access to it.

Although jdorje does not climb 12,740 he has some tempting words for it. “I want to take a moment to put in a good word for Point 12,740. From certain angles it was really, really impressive.”

Member Tom Pierce posts a reply of attempting 12,740. “We succeeded on the map's highpoint of 12,737 but were thwarted getting to 12,740 from the north. We return this weekend to go after it via the more popular east ridge.”

I am thinking from this there is something of a trade route on the east ridge of this “really, really impressive” peak. I now have enough information to fill in some of the blanks for a climbing adventure to this “unclimbed” peak.


For the second consecutive year after an absence of twenty nine years I drive the 145 miles from Dillon to Crestone arriving in the afternoon. There is a certain bustle around town such that I think there is a farmers market going on or perhaps a town wide rummage sale.

I turn off the main road onto a gravel road that leaves the bustle behind and leads me to the town visitor center and museum. I am hoping to find something about Albert Ellingwood climbing the area 14,000 foot peaks in 1916. But there is only some climbing gear from the 1970's and a copy of Hart's book “Fourteen Thousand Feet,” 1972 reprint.

I strike up a conversation about mountain climbing with the museum volunteer. After some words about Ellingwood and the 14,000 foot peaks I ask him if he knows who the author of the Crestone area guide book is. He answers matter of fact, “I am.”

This unexpected answer opens the door for me to ask him about the picture caption of the unclimbed Pt. 12,737 in his book. He says that it is unclimbed with such sincerity that I don't have the mind to tell him the information I found on LOJ. I only tell him that I am here to climb the peak but I get the feeling that he really doesn't think I will be able to.

I leave the visitor center and spend the night at the South Crestone trail head. It was the June weekend that a cold front moved into Colorado and dropped several inches of snow in the mountains.

I could sense the snow falling on my car during the night and the snow covered trail in the morning confirmed my suspicions. The trail parallels the base of 12,737 in the South Crestone Creek bottoms and it was tempting to leave the trail and find a route somewhere on the south flanks of the peak. But I decide to camp at South Crestone Lake and wait for the morning for things to dry out.

My camping spot at the west end of the lake gave me a good view of the east ridge and knowing from the pictures of its six teeth implanted on the ridge. A left angling route on grass and rock slopes and crossing an upper gully under Point 12,640 got me onto the east ridge.

I followed the east ridge and climbed the first tooth rather easily but a deep notch below it prevented any down climbing thoughts and detouring around this tooth to the notch and the daunting prospect of the next five teeth to the jaws of the main peak would seem too time consuming for what I was prepared for.

The “more popular” east ridge looked more like the jawbone of a slobbering saber toothed tiger that would swallow me up to who knows what end. I don't like to give up too easily but in this case I threw in the towel signifying defeat on 12,737 for this day.


I had thought about this possible turn of events before I made my trip such that from the map I could see that I could follow the ridge line to Peak 13,153 as a consolation. Standing before me was the short west ridge to Point 12,640 which had a cairn on its summit that seemed to make this point of some importance.

Then it was an easy hike across the continuing ridge to Peak 13,153 with its CMC register. The summit gave me a good view of the snow covered Mount Adams and Peak 13,546 which I wrote about in a previous trip report of “An Investigative Trip To Climb Albert Ellingwood's 'Two Symmetrical Sentinels'” in 2018.


Upon returning to the trail head I drove the road slowly back into town thinking about Peak 12,737 as I pulled into the museum parking lot. I told the volunteer that I wasn't able to climb this “unclimbed” peak in his book. He didn't seem to be too surprised because he was under the impression that nobody climbed these unnamed peaks. And I left it at that.

As I drove out of town I got to thinking that it might be OK to think that there is an unclimbed peak or two somewhere in the Colorado Rockies because of the climbing adventures that might be had. I know that “unclimbed” Pt. 12,737 led me to a climbing adventure of my own that I would never have considered if I hadn't seen a picture caption in a climbing guide book.

And as for the future I will certainly be looking for more climbing adventures in the pages of that eighteen lineal feet of Colorado climbing guide books that spill off of my shelves and into my home living space.

Comments or Questions
As always
01/05/2020 12:08
A well written and captivating report. Thank you.

01/05/2020 22:18
Hey Gore Galore,

I enjoyed your report! I was very surprised to see my name referenced with the "unclimbed" peak, 12,740. Just fyi, I did go back with a buddy and climbed that peak. It was sporty, a bit of loose rock, but nothing crazy. All in a really beautiful setting!


gore galore
01/06/2020 02:30
Tom, for your follow up reply on climbing 12,740. A sporting route on an impressive peak is a nice mountain climbing combination.
Jay, for your comments posted to my trip reports.

Love this
01/08/2020 18:41
You nicely captured the feel of discovery and exploration of the road less travelled here. Those obscure high points on the map have a stronger pull than checking the boxes that everyone else checks off, don't they?

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