Peak(s):  White Rock Mountain  -  13,540 feet
White Benchmark  -  13,401 feet
Date Posted:  02/27/2023
Date Climbed:   07/03/2021
Author:  supranihilest
Additional Members:   whileyh
 How to Climb White Rock   

This trip report is a tongue in cheek reference to jladderud's trip report, How not to climb White Rock. He describes just that - how not to climb White Rock Mountain. Other trip reports indicate that traversing between White Rock Mountain and White Benchmark just to the south to be folly, given the horrible, chalky rock quality, and that the eastern approach from West Brush Creek/Teocalli Trailhead is steep, loose, without a trail, with plenty of bushwhacking, and generally unpleasant. Whiley and I, striving for efficiency over almost everything else, sought a different way than all of the previous options. We were further spurred by a comment that Crested Butte local and user gb posted on someone else's White Benchmark trip report:

Excellent beta found in an obscure trip report. Thanks, gb!

Thus, armed with all this information, we started on the western side of the peaks at the Copper Creek trailhead with the goal of avoiding as much of the nasty bushwhacking and crappy rock as we could. Some of both would be required, of course - this is the Elk, after all.

The trail starts just outside of the former-townsite-turned-research-station Gothic, north of Crested Butte. Looming above town is massive twelver Gothic Mountain.

Gothic Mountain.

Starting out as a road, the trail passes Judd Falls before turning into a trail proper. It's very easy to follow as it parallels Copper Creek.

Judd Falls.
I wonder how may people died or were injured before this sign was posted.

We followed the trail for 3.66 mindless miles until we reached what we thought was the avalanche gully gb mentioned. It was really just the first obvious line towards the peaks (towards the east) that wasn't thickly forested. Note that this avalanche path is also blatantly obvious on satellite photos, which was another hint for us.

Grassy avalanche path up.

There was some minor bushwhacking at the bottom, and most of the path was full of tall grass, but overall it wasn't too bad. It does get steep, and there are some rocks in the trees, but overall this was far faster than a more direct but also more forested line and stayed at Class 2.

Steep terrain in the forest, and part of White Rock Mountain's north ridge. Photo: Whiley H.

Soon we found ourselves against the western edge of White Rock Mountain's west ridge, and getting into terrain that was too steep to hike. We turned south and headed through the trees towards Queen Basin, only a short distance away. The forest ends abruptly and the route to White Benchmark becomes clear.

White Benchmark on the left, with an obvious line up to the saddle.

We had to continue into the basin around White Rock's ridge to get a view of the route up it. We knew not to go up the majority of the ridge. We traveled below the ridge and a large rock glacier, staying underneath a number of towers. Eventually we found the large notch with a talus slope below, which was the easiest way to gain the upper slopes to the summit.

White Rock Mountain and all the towers we avoided.
Easy gully to the ridge.
Not as steep as it looks from below, but full of loose rock. Photo: Whiley H.
White Benchmark and upper Queen Basin. Photo: Whiley H.

Once at the top of the gully the remaining route is apparent - go up! The entire upper route is sustained Class 2+ on giant, surprisingly stable boulders, and was actually super fun (for the Elk).

Scrambling all the way to the summit!
Typical blocky scrambling up the slope.
Treasure and Treasury on the left, Snowmass and Capitol in center, and the Bells and Pyramid on the left. Photo: Whiley H.

It took us about 35-40 minutes to scramble up the peak, with the far upper reaches being a little easier. The route over to White Benchmark did indeed look pretty manky, with the worst looking part right off the summit.

I'll bet this stuff crumbles at the touch.
Full ridge to White Benchmark. The ridge up White Benchmark is steeper and looser than it appears from here.
Bells center, Capitol and Snowmass left, Pyramid(s) right.
Wait, I thought this was supposed to be serious. Photo: Whiley H.

We rested on the summit and discussed how bad the traverse looked. No thanks. We decided it'd be much safer to descend back to Queen Basin and climb White Benchmark from there, so down we went.

Whiley climbing down off the summit.

When we got back to the top of the gully we decided to contour around the extensive talus field below the peaks as best we could.

Energy-sucking talus that's best avoided.

The grass was certainly quicker, and a break in the trees helped get us across the basin efficiently.

Easy terrain that avoids most of the tedium.

After crossing the little rib that roughly cut the basin in half, we went up a grass and talus slope to gain White Benchmark's south ridge. A trail up through the rock helped.

Slope to White Benchmark's south ridge.
Trail that's not visible from below. Photo: Whiley H.
Slope back into Queen Basin. Loose but not that bad. Photo: Whiley H.

The ridge up White Benchmark appeared straightforward, mostly easy, but with at least some scrambling. Would it be good scrambling like on its White Rock neighbor? We were excited to find out!

The Elk are nothing if not colorful.
First bit of scrambling on the ridge. Photo: Whiley H.

The rock we encountered was simultaneously solid (for the Elk) and of dubious quality. It wasn't quite as good as the blocks on White Rock, but it was certainly better than what lay in between the two.

Some Class 2+ scrambling to gain the first bump on the ridge. Photo: Whiley H.
Top of the first bump.

Atop the initial scramble we had two options: a direct but extremely loose gully, or skirting the ridge to climber's left. We chose the latter.

Colorful lichen skirting the loosest of the rock. Photo: Whiley H.
Still pretty dang janky, honestly. Photo: Whiley H.

We eventually found a gully off the side of the ridge which took us back to the crest. Rock quality here took a dive, but the scrambling stayed at Class 2+, with most of the remaining ridge being a walk.

Gully to the ridge crest. Photo: Whiley H.
Nice color, not so nice to scramble on.

The crummy orange rock didn't last long and we were back on the semi-solid white stuff, which continued to the summit.

Ridge to White Rock Mountain. The drop off White Benchmark is much steeper and very loose.
Fourteener friends.

We weren't sure if it was going to rain, since clouds had been building all day, so we quickly skedaddled back down the ridge.

White Benchmark's south ridge.

The ridge was much faster going down, and Whiley and I had a good laugh about the utterly ridiculous amount of mountain goat poop on the lower stretches. With thousands of peaks of all elevations between us neither of us had ever seen that much poop before. They should rename this peak to Brown Benchmark, good lord!

This gully was so shitty.
Don't fall down! Photo: Whiley H.

We'd of course passed this smirk-worthy scene on the way up, and were glad when we passed it in the opposite direction. We descended from the saddle into the lush grass (obviously it was well fertilized) and made our way back towards the northern avalanche path.

No poop to be seen, unless you're talking about me, in which case that's not very nice! Photo: Whiley H.
Queen Basin, with our avalanche path beyond the ridge on the right.
From a distance it's obvious why we didn't take the full west ridge up White Rock. Photo: Whiley H.

En route to the avy slope we descended slightly too early, which meant steep sidehilling through the forest. We considered going straight down but decided to take the easiest way, and bushwhacked to our ascent path.

From the top of the avalanche path.
A bit bushwhacky but far less so than traipsing through the forest. Photo: Whiley H.
Nothin' to it. Photo: Whiley H.

The trail was most welcome and we made quick time back to Judd Falls, with Gothic Mountain watching from above.

Gothic Mountain. The peaks around Crested Butte are incredibly prominent and beautiful.

When we departed for these peaks we figured they'd be your typical Elk piles of garbage. Not so. The peaks we've done on the southern side of the range have been quite a bit of fun, these included. Our low expectations were greatly surpassed, especially with the fun scrambling on White Rock Mountain. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how you climb White Rock (and White Brown Benchmark, too).


Climbers: Ben Feinstein (myself), Whiley H.
Trailhead: Judd Falls/Copper Creek

Total distance: 14.51 miles
Total elevation gain: 5,829 feet
Total time: 8:09:37
Peaks: Two ranked thirteeners

  • White Rock Mountain, 13,540' (LiDAR 13,523')
  • White Benchmark, 13,401' (LiDAR 13,411')


Starting Location Ending Location Via Time (h:mm:ss) Cumulative Time (h:mm:ss) Rest Time (m:ss)
Judd Falls/Copper Creek Trailhead White Rock Mountain 3:14:41 3:14:41 9:23
White Rock Mountain White Benchmark 1:58:56 5:22:59 0:00
White Benchmark Judd Falls/Copper Creek Trailhead 2:46:38 8:08:37 Trip End

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
02/27/2023 16:15
Babe, wake up. Supranihilest posted a new TR!

02/27/2023 16:21
TR? What's that?

Nice one
02/27/2023 17:18
Beta on the seldom peaks is much appreciated

Seldom visited
02/27/2023 17:34
Thanks, Alec. There'll be more coming soon.

Dreamt of this one for some time
02/27/2023 18:06
Thanks for the beta Ben + Whiley.

Kick clouds, not rocks
02/27/2023 18:33
You're welcome, cloudkicker. Enjoy your climb, these make a fun duo!

Very nice
02/27/2023 19:54
Im glad you found a decent way up it. White Rock mountain is a memory seared into my brain forever. I will never forget fumbling around on the manky crumbly area near white rock summit, having a bird fly into my face, and having to loosely cling on to a combination of graham cracker soil & goat poop while I regained my eyesight. Every time I think of this peak I laugh so hard

Bird attack
02/27/2023 22:18
I think that'd be a pretty memorable experience too, having a bird attack my face on this kind of death choss. Not a good memory, certainly, but a memory nonetheless. Thanks for sharing your story, I laughed too.

Nice Report!
02/28/2023 10:40
Good to see one from you Ben! And that route looks pretty tolerable, and even dare I say, fun?

02/28/2023 10:51
Andrew, don't say that so loud! People will start thinking there's fun routes in the Elk and I, for one, will not tolerate such slander.

Judd Falls
03/01/2023 15:03
I need to see this.

Judd Falls
03/01/2023 15:19
Just don't fall to your death, apparently it's so dangerous that they need to warn people. When you're done gazing at your namesake falls you can go hike the Whites! They're grrrrrreeeeeeeat!

03/03/2023 08:18
I remember standing over on Triangle Peak looking at White Rock and thinking: how the heck does that work? Thanks for this!

How the heck
03/03/2023 10:59
Yeah, these two really aren't that bad. I thought the same thing as you when I viewed them from Teocalli Mountain. The eastern side is a lot more imposing, and undoubtedly far less enjoyable.

Short List
03/09/2023 12:19
These two (three w/ Redrock) are on the short list for this summer.
Trying to figure out if the Redrock ridge goes, maybe do a loop instead of an out and back.
Lots to figure out before the snow melts.

03/09/2023 12:42
I'm not familiar with Redrock, which one/where is that? I'm sure these two will compliment it nicely!

03/12/2023 12:04
It's a 12er, just south west of the Whites...
Driving in, it's the ”red” summit across the East River, just this side of the Whites.
You walked passed going up Copper Creek.
The southern saddle of Benchmark connects to the Redrock's east ridge.
You'll see the map, and Oh yeah there it is.

03/12/2023 12:25
Ah, makes sense, thanks Joel. Whiley sent me a pic of it, looks like it could be fun! Might have to check it out sometime...

03/19/2023 09:13
...Glad that old comment helped you find the easiest way into Queen basin.

I'm probably bending the rules a bit, but for what it's worth, that route is actually in my CO ski guidebook. That side of Whiterock is a fabulous spring ski, as is the nearby White Widow couloir.

03/20/2023 15:49
Thanks for the beta, Frank! If I ever get good enough skiing to take the training wheels off, so to speak, I'll check those lines out!

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