Peak(s):  "P 1"  -  13,250 feet
"P 2"  -  13,302 feet
"P 3"  -  13,300 feet
Peters Peak  -  13,122 feet
Unnamed 13222 A  -  13,222 feet
Buffalo Peak - 12740
Date Posted:  09/20/2022
Date Climbed:   09/11/2022
Author:  k_fergie
 Peters Traverse - An Excellent Outing   

After some waffling on what to do for our September hiking/climbing trip this year, my dad and I settled on an excursion out to the Weminuche, and more specifically to Rock Lake. The goal was to hike in 12 miles from Beartown, and over 5 days, get the grand slam on all of the 13ers in the area. This group consists of the Peters group, Weminuche and UR, Oso and UR, Soso, Irving and UR, UN13310, and UN13340B, at total of 10 ranked 13ers and 5 unranked 13ers if going for the mega grand slam. Given that the monsoon typically settles out by early September, and the fact that I was preoccupied for Labor day weekend, we decided to go in the following weekend. Unfortunately, the weather ended up being much better over Labor day weekend, and we had rain and/or thunderstorms every day we were there except one. A tropical storm impacting Baja pushed moisture into southern Colorado and spoiled my dreams of clear and storm free afternoons for long outings like the ones we had planned. In short, we didn't get the Rock Lake Grand Slam, but still had an excellent time, grabbed over half of the ranked 13ers, two ranked 12ers, and even added two bonus 13ers that we hadn't planned; an excellent outing.

For this TR, I am going to focus on the Peters Traverse, since that was my favorite day of the trip. It was what originally attracted me to the area, besides the fact that Oso is a bicentennial and receives attention because of its elevation. Supranihilest's report was an excellent inspiration and resource, along with the other TRs from benners, SnowAlien, and Furthermore (who coincidentally was in the area bagging new Lidar Peaks 8 and 10 the day prior and had signed into the Hunchback Pass TH log just above us!). I am in full agreement with Supra's takes on this traverse; it is excellent and arguably a classic, P1 should definitely be included even though its unranked, it would be technically easier (upclimbing vs downclimbing some crux slabs) in "reverse" going from P1--> Peters even though we didn't do it that way, and the length of the ridge and views into the heart of the Weminuche are an incredible cherry on top. I don't think I have much to add in terms of route beta, we found that the reports out there were plenty to get us moving through while still leaving some fun little surprises, so this TR is more of a narrative summary of our experience.

Bye bye car, see you in 6 days. Marmots stay away.
Big Boi bull moose near Flint Lakes viewed from Weminuche Peak summit through binoculars. Hunter in the area warned us that he was rather aggressive and has been living in the Rock Creek area for a number of years
RGP and The Window are always an excellent view from the peaks in this area.

We had originally planned to do the Peters traverse on Saturday 09/10, as the weather forecast that I had pulled 3 days prior before leaving home had indicated it may be our best weather day, an absolute requirement to send the whole ridge in one go. Dry rock would also be an absolute necessity given the nature of the slippery quartzite and large slabs we were going to have to scale. However, we woke up at 430am on Saturday to torrential rain on the tent, slept in till 7am when it finally stopped, and then cashed in our "weather" flex day to tag Weminuche peak and its unranked neighbor. There didn't end up being any thunder, but the fog and low hanging clouds were not inspiring for the traverse. The weather cleared a little in the afternoon and we took the opportunity to explore the optimal approach to Peter's north face from camp, hiked to the Peters-Buffalo saddle, and then tagged the new soft-ranked --> ranked Lidar 12er, Buffalo Peak. This ended up being a really fun 1.5-hour post-lunch outing from Rock Lake camp and offered an appetizer in some of the class 3/4 scrambling we would have the next day. The ridge to Buffalo from the saddle started as a walk-up and then transitioned into some mild class 3, finishing with a crux notch shortly before the summit that required a class 3/4 downclimb to get into the notch (which was also a sweet looking couloir to ski/climb for any insane person that wants to try to get there in spring). No summit register.

Leftover moisture from torrential overnight rain while hiking up towards Weminuche. Oso/Soso in background
Low hanging clouds wash over the Needles and Grenadiers the morning we were supposed to do the Peters Traverse
View from new 12er Buffalo Peak down Rock Creek. The Guardian is a stunning mountain, especially when viewed from the east.
Previewing the ascent up Peters' steep north face during a post-lunch outing on Buffalo peak. The route goes straight up to the flat portion of the ridge, left of center. Oso lurks in the background.

Sunday, 09/11/2022. Alarm at 4:45, out of camp at 5:45AM. We quickly re-climbed to the Peters-Buffalo saddle like the afternoon prior; creatively avoiding wet willow-bashing, then skirting the south side of the unnamed lake and up to the saddle. Side note; there was an awesome hunk of white quartz in one of the rock ribs beneath the saddle, as large as a sedan, it was easily visible form the summit and looked like a snowfield from above. The ascent up the north face of Peters is steep and a mixture of medium-loose talus and grassy tundra. Once reaching the ridge, hook a left and the grade eases to reach the summit. After a cool 1:10 from camp, we tagged the summit a few minutes after sunrise.

Sun creeping over the horizon as we approach the summit of Peters. And a blurry finger.

Next order of business: UN13222. Honestly, from the summit of Peters it looks real difficult and like there is no way to keep it class 3 to climb up the east face and onto the short summit ridge. However, as we approached, weaknesses began appearing in the sun-kissed face. The class 3 gully of lighter colored rock was the easiest route to the summit ridge, however we somehow missed the entrance by a little bit by trending too far climber's left (was still easy class 4 at hardest, on good rock). After a quick course correction, we entered the gully about halfway up the face and rocketed to the summit, about 30-40 minutes after leaving Peters. Two peaks in under two hours from camp, not bad. At this point, it would be a good idea to check weather and proceed accordingly. From here, there are no good bailout options until reaching the P3-P2 saddle about 1.5 miles of talus hopping away.

Sunrise on 13222. It doesn't look like it from here, but the lighter colored rock angling up and to the left is a pretty simple class 3 gully to reach the summit ridge. Some 14ers hanging out in the background. And another blurry finger. I never claimed to be a good photographer.

To get from 13222 to P3, a traversing talus hop is required, and after a terrible experience with loose gray quartzite talus on Oso two days prior, we were not looking forward to this section of the day. Side note here: either we took a bad route, or others have much more tolerance for shifty talus sidehilling than we do, because getting up to Oso's south face from the Oso/Soso saddle was awful/tediuous and we sent a couple of larger blocks and a handful of rocks downslope in the process. However, this talus hop from 13222 to P3 was actually rather pleasant, as Supranihilest noted, the red quartzite talus here was rather stable, and about 45 minutes later, we found ourselves approaching the north ridge out and back section to grab P3's true summit.

Oso basking in the morning light
The view of the crux climb out to P3 on its north ridge. The notch represents the hardest portion, although the whole thing is pretty consistent class 3 once you spur off the main traverse ridge.

The short scramble to P3's summit out and back from the main ridge was solid class 3 climbing with some decent exposure. The rock was of good quality; grippy and mostly devoid of loose boulders. Towards the true summit, when heading out, there is a short class 4 move, also on good rock, that was simple to ascend, but a little trickier on the descent. Having a spotter would be comforting for someone less accustomed to downclimbing. Here, I also did loosen a very solid looking hold from a crack while testing it. I proceeded to deposit it out of harms way. At this point in the day we were feeling excellent, so we finally stopped to rest for a little bit, sunscreen up, and snack since we had nearly reached the bail point and weather was holding out better than any of our three prior days at Rock Lake.

Taking some time to look back on the traverse while spurring out to P3. 13222 (looks tallest), Peters (looks short), and Weminuche (pointy, left of center) can be seen in the distance
The beginning of slab city. This was taken on the way from P3 to the P3-P2 saddle. P2 is in the center, although it looks shorter than its false summit from here. P1 is far right, lighter colored rock.

After a little break we continued down the class 2 talus ridge towards the saddle between P3 and P2. The talus here wasn't particularly unstable, but it wasn't my favorite either, a mixed bag. The ascent up to P2's false summit afforded some good class 2+/class 3 scrambling. From here, we got our eyes on the crux of the traverse, the slab. The beauty and size of this slab is not captured in my photos, you'll probably just have to go check it out yourself. Since we were traveling Peters-->P1, this crux would have to be tackled as a downclimb. Some deep breaths and a little strategizing later, we dropped down to the slab. One thing I'll note is that other TRs mentioned a bypass for this crux by dropping low on the south side. We were not able to locate anything obvious that looked better than just downclimbing the slab. Everything below, while not necessarily a cliff-out situation, looked like it got looser as you dropped, an you'd probably have to drop at least 100-200 feet. Our strategy was to stay on the spine itself, as the slab was bare of any positive holds that I felt could be used for downclimbing in trail shoes. Climbing up, I'm sure you could piece together some exhilarating slab climbing and smearing with good rubber, my hands sweating as I type this. This crux went at a class 4 grade, but was certainly spicy given the exposure. We made our way down carefully and methodically, and after some short time were at the bottom, ready to make a short class 3/4 climb around the south/west to P2's true summit. The slab would have been much more fun in reverse, climbing up rather than down. This is one reason why I would consider going P1--> Peters if I were to ever find myself out there again. Hold that thought, though, because there are a few reasons to start on Peters and end on P1.

Crux slab from top. Glorious.
Crux slab from bottom. The most difficult portion was downclimbing the fin that was slightly above the middle of the photo.

After summitting P2, we got right to work heading towards P1, as even though we had plenty of weather time still, my feet were starting to suffer from the 4th day in a row of climbing on sharp rock. Usually I'm a weekend warrior. I don't recall too many specifics from P2 to P1 other than that we had to drop a fair amount lower than at other points in the traverse. This was necessitated because we had to bypass a huge cliff that intersected the ridge. We downclimbed some slabs to the west of the ridge and preferred that to the looser gullies that one could opt for as well. The views to the west down the Vallecito drainage and across to the Needle mountains were spectacular as the ridge turned more towards the north/south orientation. The final push up to P1 was absolutely epic class 3 scrambling on fantastic red/white quartzite. I cruised up an exquisite crack/slab system to the summit, mostly class 3, maybe some class 4. P1's summit was much more airy than I was anticipating, with a very spiny ridge for a summit. I couldn't tell which one was the true unranked summit, so I tagged a few potential ones. Interestingly, we found a semi-sizable windbreak about 100 meters down the north ridge, definitely not on the summit. That was a major surprise given that only 10 people have publicly claimed summiting P1 on this site and 7 on LoJ. Side note: none of the summits had registers that I could find, save Peters, which was moderately wet and too full to sign in; I left it as it was as I didn't have any good paper or ziplocs to help it. The view back toward Peters was pretty awesome, as it was a long, zig-zagging ridge with some excellent scrambling and minimal unstable talus. Unfortunately, you couldn't view the whole thing from start to finish from P1, only from P2.

Mega views down Vallecito valley and up into the Needles basins. All sorts of Wemi-views were had once the ridge turned after passing P2
The P1 ridge offered continued excellent slab scrambling

Attempting to look back on the whole traverse. Couldn't capture all of the peaks, Peters is missing here. Oso looms in the background instead.

The descent down the north ridge of P1 was pretty cool, but it would have definitely been a very fun class 2/3 scramble in the other direction, another point for going P1-->Peters. Good rock hopping at a consistent grade, with some cool angled slabs mixed in.

View into the interior of the Grenadiers. We descended the saddle with the gray streak of rock. P0 is to the right. The saddle descent wasn't too bad, but was very steep.
Looking back at the slabs that make up P1 and P2 from down in the basin.

The next order of business was to get back down to the Rock Creek Trail via following the drainage to treeline and then bush whacking through the steep, cliffy forest to Rock Creek. We generally trended northeast down from the P1-P0 saddle, somewhat following the gpx tracks laid down by Supranihilest and crew. Once into to woods, we oriented with their route through the steep forest to avoid cliffs. The bush whack was pretty real; steep, steep descent through large deadfall and hip-high grass with some unsuspecting large cliff bands to complicate matters. Thankfully there were numerous game trails with lots of elk/moose tracks and a pretty significant amount of bear poop to guide us through. I suspect this is because the rest of the headwall into these upper basins are blocked with even larger cliffs, this more narrow accessway is the only way for animals to make their way up and down from the higher basins. We slowly made our way down to Rock Creek and then through the meadow and to the trail. My take is that this bush whack would be pretty terrible to do in the dark of the morning due to the unforgiving terrain and seemingly abundant presence of large game, really my only strike against doing the traverse P1-->Peters. Once at rock Creek we drank some much needed water because it was getting pretty hot at this point in the day, and then prepared for the 3 miles of good trail back up to camp. The hike back up to Rock Lake was not too bad, gaining only ~600-700 feet over the 3 miles, most of that in the final half mile. The Rock Creek drainage is very flat in the middle and affords a pleasant stroll in either direction.

The bushwhack descent requires navigating cliff bands in these trees. I think the line we took was basically right down the bottom-middle of this photo.

At about 2pm we reached camp near rock Lake for a total elapsed time of 7:57 for the camp-to-camp excursion. Strava recorded 8.4 miles and 5866ft of gain. Caltopo gave us 9.3 miles and 3725ft of gain for the same exported gpx data recorded through Strava. I suspect the "real" effort was somewhere between the two, because it certainly felt like more than 3.7k gained for the day, but also decidedly less than the nearly 6k, given that my slow ass did it in 8 hours with a solid 30+ minute break for snacks, phone charging, and sock changing after P1. This is one of the larger discrepancies I've had between Strava and Caltopo, even though it is well known that Strava is generous with vert.

For those keeping score, so far I have two concrete reasons to do the traverse P1 --> Peters and one concrete reason to do it Peters --> P1, based on my experience. When going from P1 --> Peters, you get to upclimb the crux, and can take full advantage of the awesome scrambling going up P1's north ridge. However, you do have to deal with a pretty tough bush whack early in the dark right out of camp. Maybe others would think it wasn't all that bad, but I really would not want to do that in the dark, the cliffs were convoluted and the deadfall made it worse. We had to do some backtracking and we had 3 gpx tracks that went through. Other factors could include where a camp move from Rock Lake down to the lower camp fits into your overall trip itinerary (assuming you are trying to grand slam the Rock Lake group), and how weather may affect your decisions given that the only real bailout opportunity short of completely retracing your steps is between P2 and P3. I am certain that anyone would enjoy it in either direction, what a climb.

All in all, the 5 nights in the Wemi was absolutely excellent even though we had some less than ideal weather and didn't get the whole grand slam at Rock Lake. Luckily enough we got to do this amazing traverse on the best weather day of the week. To cap it off, we did a completely unplanned climbed along all of UN12911's east ridge from middle Ute Pass next morning, which offered excellent views of the whole traverse in the morning light. Though, it was hard to capture the whole ridge in one photo; its long! From there we climbed the south slopes of UN13169 to sign into Mike Garratt's 1993 summit register contained in a glass Grey Poupon jar. I haven't seen any TRs on this particular day hike as a good one from Rock Lake camp so I figured I'd mention it because I think it made for an excellent "rest" day after the traverse due to its simple nature, phenomenal views of the Peters group you did the day prior, and continued excursion into super cool quartzite slabs. Strava recorded 9.5 miles and 2600 feet of gain for the side trip.

Complete Peters traverse in morning light up on middle Ute pass.
Slabby goodness of P3 through P1 from UN12911.
Wonky ribbed pattern on slabs of "Ute Ridge". Can a geologist tell me how these ripples got into this (I think, metamorphic) rock? They are more pronounced down in the redder portions, look like sandy beach waves. Could glaciation cause waviness like this? Could rippled structure in the original sedimentary sandstone be preserved during tectonic compression?
View of our run along the entirety of "Ute Ridge" for more slab viewing. Beginning of Peters traverse in background. Taken from near summit of 13169.

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

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 23 24 25 26

Comments or Questions
Peters traverse rawkz
09/20/2022 19:29
Nice report on an underappreciated classic. Glad my report was inspiration, I wish more people did this beauty! Having gone up the cliffs north of the Ps once and down it twice it wasn't that bad, though we didn't do it in the dark. It was wet and daylight the first time we went down it, dry and daylight the next day when we went up and down it from a low campsite at the bottom. Garrett led us through intuitively the first time, but it's definitely not an area to sleep through - the cliffs could be dangerous under the right conditions.

Exit or entrance
09/20/2022 20:37
Of course! Its worth the the trip down there, so hopefully more will come to enjoy.

Yeah I would probably fare marginally better the second time around, but agreed, definitely a place that you wouldn't want to be falling asleep at the wheel. We would be trodding along in power saving mode trying to follow your gpx tracks, stumbling through hidden sticks and hip-high grass, then all of a sudden. Boom. 10 foot cliff with a bunch of dead trees. Work around. Rinse. Repeat.

Did you guys come across the wind break constructed of rocks near the summit of P1, maybe 100 yards north of it? It wasn't huge, but comprised of at least 20-25 rocks. Took me by surprise because we noticed all of maybe 4 cairns the whole day

Wind break
09/21/2022 09:07
I don't remember any wind break, no. I'm not sure I saw any evidence of humans at all up high, not even cairns! A good number of those 13ers are among the least climbed on LoJ. Hopefully they start getting the traffic they deserve.

A fine harvest
09/22/2022 09:56
The drive into Beartown was obnoxious enough that I probably wouldn't do it again, but that area around the head of the Vallecito is a beautiful place to harvest 13ers. In 2020 I spent five days in there bagging peaks, including the Peters ridge and Buffalo. We were camped at the Rock Creek junction, so did the traverse west to east, which made sense because it's easier to spot a break in the cliff band going up rather than down, and to jog the trail going down rather than up. I'm not sure I'd call it a "classic," but the traverse had its moments, and was sure a whole lot better than the slippery talus of neighboring Oso. On another day, I also enjoyed the views from "Irving North" down to Lost and Hidden Lakes, two of the most inhospitable-looking bodies of water I've seen.

09/22/2022 11:54
seano, somehow I missed your Peters/Buffalo TR in my research phase, I suppose I lean too heavily on this site for TRs so my external search didn't retrieve it. In reading it, I see the reason for no/few cairns, you guys had cleaned up the route haha! I found it straightforward and in no need of cairning. And you guys found registers on most of the peaks, I must have bad eyes. Glad someone else shares the same feelings I have about that Oso talus. The quartzite is great rock when its solid, but it has very low rock-rock friction and is just completely unstable in talus form. I was sad to orphan Irving, so I didn't get to stare down into those unique lakes from there, just from Peters and Co.

supra, interesting, the mystery of the windbreak continues haha

09/22/2022 12:51
Haha! I forgot that we cleaned that up. Removing cairns and tat from the wilderness is a hobby of mine: with so much online beta and GPS phones these days, individuals can choose how much beta they want in the outdoors, versus how much they want to figure out for themselves.

I write a lot of TRs, but rarely put them here because there's already plenty written about most CO 14ers and 13ers, and I don't want to spam the place.

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