Peak(s):  Teocalli Mountain  -  13,208 feet
Date Posted:  06/14/2021
Modified:  06/25/2021
Date Climbed:   06/14/2021
Author:  VeraUndertow
 Teocalli, wildflowers and a couple of Yamateurs   

Prelude: With the threats and restrictions of the pandemic waning, my family was finally able to visit me and explore Colorado for the first time since I moved here in December 2019. The plan was to head to Crested Butte since I have never been and have heard so many good things about it. The first day we hiked Snodgrass which at ~11,100 ft is pretty impressive for my New Englader family after only two days in this state. The next day we hung out at 10k all day at Dollar lake off Kebler pass, two absolutely perfect weather days and my family was feeling pretty well acclimated for the short period they had been there. We had talked about climbing the butte, but after my friend Ben had recently climbed this peak, I was itching to sneak in a more challenging and new for me Elk 13er, so I talked to my family about the Teocalli south ridge route. The good news was the weather was predicted to be beautiful all day with no electrical storms in the area so I knew we could take our time and make it in reasonable safety, as the trail was almost entirely dry and mostly class 1 if a steep class 1 then some decent class 2 scrambling for the final summit push above 12,600 ft. I saw that another friend was in the area and was planning on climbing Teo the same day. We made the plan to start the next day late by normal standards at around 9 AM, but I felt confident with the weather pattern we were in. I was stoked and knew that this would be special for me. My biggest concern was getting across the West Brush Creek drainage, as it flows down the road, and concerns about my mom and sister not enjoying 4x4 roads all that much.

The Approach: In the morning we got a move on decently early and were out the door of the air BnB around 8:30 AM. By 9 we were at the start of the slightly rougher FS 738.2A, I tried my best to go slowly over the bumps and rocks, but this road is pretty mild by Colorado standards, and my 4 cylinder 5 speed manual Tacoma doesn't love to cruise below 5-10 mph so I was already hearing some complaints from my passengers. By the time we reached the creek crossing my mom and sister were both done with 4x4 roads and wanted to get out and walk, so even tho my truck could navigate the stream crossing successfully, we parked at the campsite right on the creek and took our shoes off to wade up the frigid water. For me, this was a little frustrating as it added 2 miles each way and ~100 yards of very cold water to the start and end of the trip. The first crossing was calf deep, and definitely woke me right up, there is a smaller stream that runs down the bike trail on this little landmass that I was able to walk around before getting back into the water as we headed up the rocky creek covered road. My sister whizzed past me, apparently entirely unaffected by the cold and rocky steps, she claims this is due to ballet as a kid, where point shoes ruined her nerve endings, potentially a good reason to start ballet I guess. I was the last across, since I stopped on the shore several times to warm my feet up, since I guess I have temperature sensitive feet and they were killing me. Having made it to the other side, we all got our socks and shoes back on and headed up the road which is actually nicer after the creek than before, so if you make it to the creek and cross safely you can definitely make it to the trail head. The views in west Brush Creek, of the White Rock group, Teo and the wildflowers were absolutely gorgeous and once we started walking I was over my initial frustration of the creek crossing and was enjoying asking my sister the names of every flower, since she had been studying a wildflower guide and was using the Latin names, like a nerd. We made it to the trailhead at 10:30 after a pretty simple walk up the road, I guess it is only proper for my family to experience extra bonus road miles, since so many of my hikes and skis have extra road miles as well.

The deep part starts right away, a trekking pole helped as there was a decent current. I'm awake now!

West Brush Creek/ Road

Cow Parsley

Larkspur ( all plant ID's by my sister)

Beautiful views of White Rock and Teocalli from the road

Elk Weed


Yamateurs Dude...Yamateurs

Looking up at Teo

Trail as it cuts across the slope

The Hike: The trail is very obvious and at a great angle for a quick and moderate output climb up to the south slopes. I can see why the mountain bikers enjoy this loop as it seems like it would be a very doable climb in a low gear with some determination anyways. The trail also gives a beautiful view of the lush West Brush Creek drainage, as it climbs southeast from ~10k to ~11k in 1.6 miles. At around 10,800 ft the trail starts to pass through some very welcome pine growth, which gave us a welcome reprieve from the sun, which had been beaming extreme vitamin D at us for the entire trip and was a little much for my sister and mom the day before. I wear a sun hoodie now and I have never been happier, it makes a huge difference and covers me so much better than just a long sleeve shirt, so my sister got one in town and it did help tho she still got a burn on her face by the end of the day because she didn't reapply sunscreen. By 11:30 we had hit the end of Teocalli mountain trail and turned left at the trail junction with the ridge trail. Though it is not marked on the sign, the climbers trail heading north from the junction was quite obvious as we headed north and up, gently at first as the trail heads through the last bit of trees before opening up onto the broad and steep south face. As we headed north the trees gave way to open tundra and the slope angle increased gradually at first until 11,350 feet, before increasing to the high 20 degree range and the trail just keeps heading straight up with no switchbacks for almost 1,000 vertical feet, before it finally relents and heads to the east at a much lower grade, under the first little cliff band to work around it. My family definitely needed to take their time heading up this part and it was around noon when I saw my friend Whiley was out of the woods and catching up with us rapidly, she is training for an ultramarathon and always moves very quickly so I wasn't surprised when she caught up to us in about 3 minutes or less. We chatted for a minute before she started up the slope again, I took off hiking with her for a few more minutes, catching up with her, since I hadn't seen her since Thanksgiving, before letting her go. As we made our steady way up, my family was feeling the lack of oxygen and the steep slope was not making it easy on them, but eventually we hit the place where the trail turns right and let's off, stopping here to eat briefly and take in the already expansive views. From here we headed east till the trail hits the eastern edge, where there is a sharp drop off and the views of Castle from here are truly incredible, I was so excited for my family to see this very aesthetic angle of one of my favorite 14ers I have climbed yet, and Castle did not disappoint. After taking in the view for a minute, my family and I worked our way up the rest of the slope to just below the first large rock outcropping before stopping for another break. My sister was done at this point, not wanting to do the last scramble and also probably feeling the lack of oxygen as we had climbed to 12,500 feet, so I left her with snacks and a seltzer. She had made a joke about putting pureed yams in my camelback with seltzer for a trail snack a couple nights ago and so she had her seltzer with a yam chip (a new family tradition????), cause she is a little strange, but also in it for the lolz.

Up we go

Beautiful West Brush Creek drainage


Sweet Pea

Lewis Flax

Blue Bells

Whetstone from the Pine forest

Avalanche Lily

A beautiful trail taking us up, up

Teo's south slope as we left the forst north of the trail junction

Bye Whiley!

Sky Pilot

Trail cuts to the right just below the first visible rock band then climbs diagonally to the left and upwards across the grassy slope before the serious cliff band

Snack break, with Mount Crested Butte visible in the background

Heading up towards the scrambling above the lowest rock band

Castle is beautiful from 12,580"

Moss Campion

Steep grassy tundra, with star in the background off to the left

Slow and steady up here, feeling the elevation

1st ever??? Yam seltzer on Teocalli? is there a checkbox for that? my sisters personal summit

The Scramble: From here my mom, who I must say is a trooper and has climbed ~30 of the 4000 footers in the white mountains, and I continued upwards towards the fun part. As we reached the first true cliff band, Whiley appeared over the top and down climbed, telling me about summit conditions and I gave her my sister's phone since there is great service up here so she could have something to do while my mom and I summited, thanks again Whiley! We made a plan to get tacos after, before Whiley jetted off to climb another peak, and we started our ascent up the the talus, which is mostly stable until the final summit ridge and has a decently easy path to follow for most of it. The going was slow, as this was the highest elevation my mom had ever climbed too, and at one point she had a moment where she wasn't feeling good, but a quick drink, some cookies and a huff of canned oxygen I had brought seemed to help her. Once we got to around 13,100 ft the ridge narrows and there was some snowfields to the east and typical elk looser rock to the west. I asked my mom if she felt more comfortable on rock or snow and she asked what was safer, I told her snow, but she seemed hesitant so we traversed and ascended the loose rock, which she definitely didn't enjoy. At one point 20 vertical feet from the summit, she almost stopped and turned around, but I was already on the summit and told her how close she was, so she bravely and careful moved across the tippy and loose rock to the final summit push which was about 10 feet of perfect soft and stable snow before gaining the summit very carefully. Not being used to this type of exposure, and with the wind was blowing around 15-20 mph for the first time all day, right over the summit, she kept a crouched position 99% of the time she was on the summit except when I made her stand with me so I could get a good summit selfie. I was so stoked we had made it and my mom was able to see almost the entire elk range and so much more. It felt really special for me to share the high alpine, which has quickly become my favorite place since moving to Colorado and I could have savoured that moment for quite a bit longer, but Teocalli has a really tiny summit and nowhere my mom felt safe to relax, so we quickly departed to scramble back to my sister and more yam seltzers, probably…

easy class 2 through the 1st cliff band

Obvious path through the second cliffy area

Talus slope above 12,800 flat area

Summit ridge above 13K

The elks are incredible from here

Final summit push, we stayed on rocks here and they were decently stable till just above the small rock notch

"this is my favorite place on the mountain" -Mom, standing in the rock notch

Ski the Butte... maybe not now tho

Last 10 feet of snow to the summit, staying low

Whole lotta elks up here, including Snowmass, Capitol, Maroon Bells and Pyramid from L-R

Elkerrific summit selfie with mom, she is only a little afraid I think

The way off the summit, we took the snow, which was much quicker and felt way more secure even without traction. We followed the snow band, which Whiley had mentioned and I had noted, wasn't a cornice on the way up, went for about 75 yards and lost around 100 feet of vertical, got us back to where the ridge opened up a little and the rock was much more stable, not the normal elk chose, but a volcanic and rough textured blockier rock. From here the scramble down is a pretty straightforward class 2, I went a little off the path we had followed up and there may have been one or two harder class 2 sections, but nothing scary or exposed and eventually regained the more beaten path we had taken upwards before reaching the small flat spot above the first rock tower at 12,800 where my mom wanted to take another quick break now that we were on more secure ground, I think that scramble took her breath away for a few reasons, but she quickly got her heart rate back to a more reasonable level after a drink and a little more canned oxygen. I've never taken it, but my family said it helps a lot, I am sure it's probably cheating but it's nice to not kill my lowlander family and still be able to share the experience. We left the flatter spot and went to climbers right on the west side of the rock tower, following along the shelf to reach where we had originally started scrambling, through this large and obvious class 2 notch in the cliff band. From here it was just a short traverse across this steep grassy slope, to where my sister was hanging out. We made it back to her at around 1:30 and stopped for food and a yam seltz, of course. From here we just had to reverse our hike out to the road and cross the creek at the end before making it to my truck. This was the first peak I have climbed in a few months without skis, so it was interesting having to walk down the whole mountain again, my knees need to get back in shape for this! Maybe next time I climb Teo, I will ski that beautiful north couloir instead…

Back on the grassy slopes after the scramble down, we made it safely

Second ever??? Yam seltz on Teo... Probably

My sister calls this the rumplestitskin descent technique, shes a little weird, in the best of ways

what a beautiful and fun elk summit

made it out to the road

Bye West Bush Creek

"who needs nerve endings in your feet"-my sister...Probably

Anyways, the hike back to my truck was mostly uneventful despite running low on water, we were able to refill in one of the running streams right near the trailhead once we hit the road, before continuing down the hot and dusty road back to the creek. We made it back to the creek after seeing a couple mountain bikers and two ATVs on the road, and finally hitting the creek crossing around 4:30, the water was a little more tolerable at this point but I was still a baby about it, and my family was already back at my truck for a solid minute before I made it back. Overall around 10 miles round trip, with ~3.5k vertical gain in 7 hours round trip.

Epilogue: We saw Whiley on the way out after she had finished climbing her next peak, or hill I guess, and she met us for dinner afterwards, and suggested we bag a "quick 12er on our way over cottonwood pass" the next day, so we did. Super easy summit from 12,100 ft on cottonwood to the summit of UN12,560 just south of the pass, and only took us 45 minutes round trip and my sister got to experience what it feels like to stand on the summit of a peak surrounded by giants.

From the summit of our quick 12er UN 12,560 on the way over Cottonwood Pass

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