Peak(s):  PT 13,069  -  13,069 feet
Cuba BM  -  13,019 feet
PT 12990 (13003 per LiDAR)
PT 12654
Date Posted:  01/12/2022
Date Climbed:   09/06/2020
Author:  Chicago Transplant
 Minnie Gulch Peaks   

Minnie Gulch Peaks (Including a new LiDAR 13er)

Cuba BM: 13019

PT 12990: 13003 per LiDAR, a new ranked 13er

PT 13069

PT 12654

Jones/American Group from PT 12990

I hiked these peaks over Labor Day weekend 2020, however, the recent promotion of PT 12990 via LiDAR to an elevation of 13,003' makes it one of Colorado's newest 13ers and probably a peak not too many people have considered until now. Hopefully this information will be useful to people pursuing the 13ers list that now need to add this peak to their lists. It is a pleasant stroll, mostly on a good trail, through high rolling tundra with nice views of the surrounding area and distant views of the northern Weminuche Peaks such as Rio Grande Pyramid and Grenadiers. There are alternate routes such as combining with Half and 13164 from the east or the south from Pole Creek but this seems to be the shortest route if 12990 is your primary goal. All the trailheads to this peak involve rough roads, however, Minnie Gulch is probably the easiest of them and I had no problems in a 2012 Subaru Outback, any stock SUV should be good. There was one creek crossing that I got out to check out first, but it was easier than it looked. The trailhead parks about 3 or 4 cars, but shortly below it was a wide pullout in the talus that was flat, so I parked there and slept in the trunk. It was close enough that I just started my hike from the car in the morning.

Cuba BM from Ridge Crest

The trailhead is about 11,550' giving a nice high start considering the elevation of these peaks. 12990 was actually my primary objective this day as it is a Highest 700 peak and I had already been up 13069 from Maggie Gulch once before. As I followed the trail, it passed below Cuba Benchmark, an unranked 13er. The slopes leading to the saddle to its south looked reasonable and I left the trail early, but given the way the Colorado Trail/Continental Divide Trail runs through here, going all the way up Minnie Gulch to meet that trail would make more sense and avoid a short bit of loose rock I had to deal with. The trail split is about 1.6 miles from the trailhead at an elevation of about 12,700. The trail does an ascending traverse to the ridge crest south of Cuba BM around 12,900'. Easy rolling terrain leads the base of Cuba's rocky class 2 finish.

Cuba BM Summit Area

From here I returned to the base of the summit area and traversed generally southeast descending towards the CT/CDT which I soon picked up. The trail does not show up on the older maps, it stays north of the Continental Divide roughly paralleling it as it drops to about 12,500'.

Looking Back Towards Cuba from Joining CT/CDT

From this low point, it begins a climb through 12,700' saddle between 12990 and a large flat false summit to its southwest. Here I left the trail and went straight up the southwest ridge of 12990 for about 300' to its summit.

CT/CDT heading towards 12990 (directly below Half Summit from this view)

This ridge has a little bit of light gray talus right off the trail, then a gentle grassy finish. Great views all around, from the nearby Centennials like Half and Jones, to rolling high tundra of the Divide to distant views of Rio Grande Pyramid and the Grenadiers. It may not be tall or have a name, but it was a nice place to hang out and soak in the beautiful Labor Day weekend weather.

Grassy Ridge to Summit

That clear weather and it only being about 9am had me looking at my map for ways to extend my day. I backtracked my route, this time staying on the trail all the way to the intersection with the Minnie Gulch trail, passing a cool beehive cairn along the way.

Beehive Cairn

From this intersection, the CT/CDT continues on to the south, where it rises to cross the ridge separating Minnie and Maggie Gulches. From a high point near 13000', I left the trail and headed north-north west up rolling tundra towards PT 13069.

PT 13069 Ridge from Across the Valley

After a low point of about 12,900' the ridge narrows and rises a bit more sharply towards the small summit. Some steep cliffs below contrast with the gentle tundra that characterizes this area.

Ridge to PT 13069

I enjoyed a nice summit break, but still wasn't ready to head down yet and made a plan to head for a long out and back to PT 12654. This peak lies a solid 2 miles east-south east of where the Minnie Gulch Trail meets the CT/CDT, and is lower than that saddle. I retraced my route back to the trail junction and headed east over the saddle and down the Middle Pole Creek Trail. There is a cluster of 3 small tarns at 12150' on the map to the south of the trail, and I picked my way on game trails around the west of them. There were some willows around here, but the game trails made easy work of them. Beyond, the remaining route was mostly just gentle grass, the last 250 feet steepening slightly just to make it feel a summit.

Ascent of PT 12654

From the wide grassy summit 12990 looked far away, unfortunately so did the pass. The car was almost 4 miles away with a reclimb of nearly 600' so I started my return trek around 12.30pm.

Return Route to Minnie Gulch

Back down the tundra slopes, through the willows on game trails and back to the Middle Pole Creek Trail. Now on trail, the reclimb went quickly and I crossed through the saddle and the CT/CDT junction. There were a good number of people throughout the day on CT/CDT. Some bike packing, some backpacking, some just on a day hike.

Trail Junction

I saw a couple of people on the Minnie Gulch Trail on the way out, but generally it was a quiet day and I had all 4 summits to myself. It was a great place to spend a day up high on the Continental Divide on a beautiful Labor Day Weekend.

PT 13069 from Trail Out

After I headed to Molas Pass area to one of my favorite campsite to enjoy the view of the Grenadiers as I made dinner and read. The next day the smoke from Montana fires rolled in and the Grenadiers were gone from view. I was glad to have had such a clear day up high the day before, I never take those for granted.

Sunday Night at Camp

My stats: 14 miles and 4200' vertical

If you just wanted Cuba and 12990: 8-1/2 miles 2400' vertical

Map of my route:

Caption Here

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Very nice
01/12/2022 18:17
Looks like a lot of fun. I made it to 13069 summit this summer but turned around after that because of some really thick wildfire smoke. I‘ll have to come back and finish the job!

Nice report and photos
01/13/2022 11:24
Thanks for the trip report, Mike. I suspect 12,990 will be seeing more traffic now that it's been promoted.

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