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Fun fact: the Uncompahgre Wilderness used to be called the Big Blue Wilderness.
Fun fact #2: Big Blue Creek is the creek that drains Uncompahgre Peak's sheer north face.
Fun fact #3: this is the final fun fact on this trip report.
I've long been intrigued by the thirteeners north of Uncompahgre Peak. Aside from two Bicentennials they're rather neglected, especially the two formerly soft-ranked thirteeners there, "Big Blue Peak" and Point 13,060 D. At the time I published this report they had a mere 13 and 10 ascents each, respectively, on 14ers.com, and a handful more on Lists of John. I do love me a mystery.
Additionally, the most efficient route for a high number of remote peaks was attractive to me. These peaks spanning three ridges and two drainages posed unique problems in what order to do things in for any potential loop aiming to collect them all in a single go. It made sense to me to do these from the Little Cimarron East trailhead to the north, instead of Nellie Creek (Uncompahgre Peak's standard trailhead) to the south due to the good trails from Little Cimarron. Efficiency was especially important for the trio of unnamed peaks in the far southeast corner of this group considering they were on two ridges and would require a significant drop and gain or a long, indirect contour to get all three, had two possible descent trails, had a common starting point ("Big Blue Peak" to the south), and were extremely remote, upping the consequences of orphaning any of them. I mapped out several different combos for those three peaks and found the most efficient order to do them is 13,051, 13,016, and 13,060 D, then descend the Little Cimarron trail.
It took me a year or two after I'd planned these peaks to actually get to them. That's life, sometimes. I took a Thursday off work when weather predictions were saying zero percent chance of rain, since I knew this would take me all day, and I drove to the trailhead from Ridgway, pitched a tent just off the parking area (which is only large enough for 2-3 vehicles), and went to sleep. My 4:15am alarm the next morning was brutal, of course, but I was on the trail two minutes after 5 and excited for this to finally happen. The Little Cimarron trail is a nice, solid trail. I had no trouble following it as it crossed the Little Cimarron Creek about 1.4 miles into the hike.
The trail miles went by quickly in the cool morning. I stayed on the trail another 3.2 miles (so approximately 4.6 total) before it began to ascend above the creek. To this point the entire northeast and east sides of Sheep Mountain C had been guarded by steep forests, rugged washouts, and sheer cliffs.
I had to hike until I was south of Sheep C before leaving the trail. When the trail started ascending I noted a small cliff here on the east side of the creek. I wasn't sure if this cliff would continue to grow and I'd be stuck on the east side of the creek, preventing me from eventually going west up to the ridge, so I left the trail right here, crossed the creek, and bushwhacked my way up the slopes. On GPS I was on track, being south of the peak, so I figured I was in the right spot.
Leaving the trail here proved to be the right spot. I was heading more or less due west now and after 500-600 vertical feet of easy bushwhacking I reached treeline. I was still south of Sheep C's summit but at this point the route was obvious: continue west, bypassing the final set of cliffs, then steer northwest to the summit.
Once out of the trees the views expanded, as expected, and the hiking simultaneously steepened but got easier owing to the grass. There was some rock strewn across the slope, mostly near the upper ridge, but overall Sheep C was very easy from here.
Given Sheep C's relatively low elevation I was surprised by how good the views are. I shouldn't have been, since the Cimarron is eye popping from and to everywhere, but man where Sheep C's views godly!
To this point it had taken me a whopping 3-plus hours. I've had roundtrip thirteener hikes that have taken less time than that. These were deep in the wilderness and it was going to be a long day - I still had seven more thirteeners to go. I headed south towards 13,100 B which was all easy, open grass.
Along the way I passed some of the Cimarron's usual insane and otherworldly rock formations. This place is a rock hound's dream.
The ascent up 13,100 B was long but gentle, welcoming me higher into the sky.
The summit ridge of 13,100 B was narrow and exposed to east and west, but not difficult in any way. It was different in every way, though, compared to the grass I'd just come up.
The finish on 13,100 B had a little bit of flair to it, which I liked. The unending views followed in typical fashion.
Descending off of 13,100 B was a bit steep and a bit junky, with some loose rock and open dirt, but it was still just Class 2. I took it carefully since footing was a little unsure, and it returned to easy grass in a few minutes.
The section of ridge between 13,100 B and 13,681 contained probably the coolest rock of the entire day. The volcanic goodies in this area were truly spectacular in their rugged layering of cobble.
Easy grass continued up 13,681, while its western side looked like it had been attacked with a nuclear weapon.
Atop the grass was a small, imposing looking block, but fortunately this wasn't the summit. It didn't look easy.
Unfortunately everything past this for a fair ways was pure garbage. I knew the route couldn't have stayed in La-La Land forever. Instead of scrambling up and over the ridge direct (which I guess goes at Class 3, and probably pretty craptastic) I just skirted the junk on more junk to climber's left. This junk was only Class 2+.
Skirting the ridge was irritating but not that hard, nor was it as loose as I was expecting. I won't say it was good, because it wasn't, but it wasn't as bad as it looks either. The end of the ridge was topped with another knob, beyond which was easier ground to the summit.
Having walked through the junkyard it was now time to make it worth it: go find Silver A. Unsurprisingly, from 13,681 to Silver A was another big drop and gain, all on grass or easy rock.
I met an older gentleman who was coming up 13,681 who said his goal for the day was to get the two Bicents here, 13,681 and Silver A. He'd come up Silver A's east ridge from Nellie Creek. Props for getting these peaks from down there, dude! Silver A wasn't even remotely difficult from here, obviously, and I enjoyed the nice walk replete with wildflowers.
Silver A was pretty boring but the next peak - "Big Blue Peak" - was the big blue reason I was really here. OK, it wasn't blue. It was green and red.
I descended grass towards the first mini-mesa on "Big Blue", then scrambled down a short little cliff at Class 2+ to reach a ledge that would take me to the next mini-mesa below "Big Blue"'s summit cliffs.
The summit cliffs were the most technically difficult part of the day, something like 10-20 feet of Class 3 on generally solid rock. I enjoyed this little scramble, as short as it was, and it popped me out right below the summit.
There was a short stretch of grass that led to the rocky summit, which itself came after one final easy notch. The summit pitch was steep and loose but no more difficult than Class 2+. For my money, I don't think any of the nearby peaks have views of Uncompahgre's north face as good as "Big Blue" does.
I got my fill of Uncompahgre's fierce north face, then retraced my route to just below the summit cliffs. There was some loose rock near the top of the cliff so I had to be careful there, but once below them it was a grass, dirt, and scree ski down into the drainage to the east.
I made my way towards the saddle with Silver A and 13,051, once again on easy grass. For almost the entire rest of the trip I'd be on grass or trail, which was nice considering how big this day was.
13,051 was yet another big grass lump that was altogether anti-exciting by itself but had good views of Uncompahgre and Silver A.
13,051 was probably the least interesting peak of the day, so I spent less than a minute on top. Two more far away peaks to go, plus a long deproach. Take a deep breath. More grass and some broken rock led me up 13,016. A nice little high alpine lake situated near the saddle put a smile on my face.
When I got to the summit of 13,016 I was surprised to see another point that looked to be the same elevation. I checked my map. A spot elevation 12,999 feet high. Dangit. It was close enough to 13,016 that I wandered over to it so that just in case it was actually higher, or the same elevation, I wouldn't have to come back for it. It only took 20 minutes round trip, so whatever.
That's seven peaks down, one to go. And the next one is a big drop and a big gain. I was tired but I'd already made it this far and there was no way I was going to leave the last one now! Instead of descending directly towards 13,060 D, which would have been down very steep, trashy rock, I went back towards 13,051 and down grass into the valley. I made sure to stay away from the sheep since I didn't want to get the attention of the sheepdogs.
Once in the valley I turned northwest and did my best to stick to grass, as there was a lot of random rock on the slopes. I ended up getting funneled into a side drainage that was steep but easier than it looked.
There was a trail on this slope that I'd seen from a distance but it was braided and not that useful. I followed for only a few tenths of a mile before it sailed past the summit, so I left it and went straight up to the summit ridge, then backtracked south a hair to get to the true summit.
By all indications there was a trail that followed the top of this ridge for a couple of miles, bypassing a mess of cliffs on the western flank, before dropping through the trees and back to the trail I'd come up in the morning. Easy enough. Sort of. The trail on top of the ridge was OK, but it didn't really matter if I followed it. I just had to go north to get where I was going. Around where the trail turned off to descend into the trees is where it of course totally disappeared. It was marked on maps, and I even found an ancient cabin atop the ridge, but the trail basically disappeared.
I found one segment in the upper trees, which switchbacked once before fading out again. I simply continued in the direction it pointed, linking up several more trail segments that took me down more switchbacks through the forest. As I got lower the trail improved and though it took me southwest instead of northwest, like I wanted, I wasn't about to go bushwhacking through here and try and find my own way. Who knew what kind of hidden Cimarron crazy there was in the forest here. Once I reached the creek I entered into a clearing and could see the Little Cimarron trail across the creek, which meant I was home free at this point! I crossed the creek and made good time down the now solid trail. It was about three quarters of a mile before I reached the spot where I turned off for Sheep C, which meant about 4.6 miles back to the trailhead. That meant SNACKS. Oooh yes, I was already stoked but now I was extra stoked. The only other thing to note on the hike out was that I ran into a trail split I hadn't seen in the morning.
I of course took the Little Cimarron East trail, and upon reaching the trailhead demolished a Bodyarmor drink and a bag of dark chocolate pretzels before driving home and demolishing every edible thing in my house, chips and salsa, pita chips and hummus, pasta, you name it, I ate it.
This loop had worked surprisingly well for getting all these peaks in one fell swoop, and is one I'd do again in a heartbeat. It contained some of the most amazing rock features I've ever seen and was beautiful every second of the hike. It was certainly a hell of a workout, but it was easily one of the most worthwhile hike's I'd done in my thirteener quest. While these peaks could be split into two halves, Sheep C through Silver A, and 13,016 and 13,051, that would actually be even more effort overall. While 13,060 D was pretty meh "Big Blue" stole the show, what with its jawdropping views of Uncompahgre's north face. It's too bad "Big Blue" is the most remote of all of them, and unranked, because it's a fun little peak that I think is worth the extra miniscule effort to tag. Maybe you too will try it and find that "Big Blue" (me away) lives up to its moniker.
Climbers: Ben Feinstein (myself) Trailhead: Little Cimarron East
Total distance: 27.45 miles Total elevation gain: 8,961 feet Total time: 14:00:02 Peaks: Six ranked thirteeners, two formerly soft-ranked thirteeners (unranked by LiDAR)
Sheep Mountain C, 13,168' (LiDAR 13,170')
Point 13,100 B (LiDAR 13,102')
Point 13,681 (LiDAR 13,684')
Silver Mountain A, 13,714' (LiDAR 13,713')
"Big Blue Peak", 13,467' (LiDAR 13,464')
Point 13,051 (LiDAR 13,048')
Point 13,016 (LiDAR 13,015')
Point 13,060 D (LiDAR 13,040')
Via Time (h:mm:ss)
Cumulative Time (h:mm:ss)
Rest Time (m:ss)
Little Cimarron East Trailhead
Sheep Mountain C
Sheep Mountain C
Point 13,100 B
Point 13,100 B
Silver Mountain A
Silver Mountain A
"Big Blue Peak"
"Big Blue Peak"
Point 13,060 D
Point 13,060 D
Little Cimarron East Trailhead
¹ Point 12,999 is a spot elevation northeast of Point 13,016. Visually it appeared to be the same elevation as the point marked 13,016 so I went out to it just in case.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Good stuff Ben, this brings back a lot of fond memories, I loved this group and although I skipped the unranked ones I wouldn't mind doing this again, overall a great route with killer views and top notch solitude. I did see some hunter's stash on top of Sheep Mtn though, that one seems to be popular amongst the hunters.
@Yusuf: This is a top contender for best trip I did in 2022, for the qualities you mentioned. I have a few friends who still need these and I hope to join each of them when they do. These would even make a great, mostly runnable loop which would shave hours off.
@Darin: I started with 112, Bill is probably glad I didn't ask him to bump the limit for me again. If I had to stick to the usual limit of 50 it would have been 50 pictures of weird rocks and zero of the route.
Really enjoyed the report! Seeing all that green this time of year gets me so excited to see something other then white. Looks like a perfect back country marathon and I'll definitely keep this report in mind for hopefully some day down the road.
Hell, if it takes you three days to get these done that's three days well spent in an absolutely incredible spot! If you had a nice weather window you could literally camp on the summits of some of these, which would be a wonderful experience.
This looks like a lot of fun, and a good warm up hike to prepare for the four pass loop.
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