San Juan Summertime and the Livin’s Easy

Half Peak with its dramatic North Face standing guard over the Weminuche.

Ben and I have been on a bit of a tear this summer. Blitzkrieg is a word often used to describe a few of our trips and while they have been nothing but excellent, it makes you appreciate a trip in which you are afforded the ability to get to your destination early, snag 1st dibs on a campsite, and enjoy perfect weather all weekend. “Stress-free” was thrown around a lot this past weekend and we savored every minute of it.

Day 1:

Peaks: “Quarter Peak” (13,674′), Half Peak (13,841′)
Date:  August 9, 2014
Trailhead: Cataract Gulch
Route:  Cataract Gulch approach, “Quarter Peak” – North Ridge with a “traverse” to Half Peak, ascent of East Face, descent of South Ridge.
Distance: ~ 12 miles
Elevation Gain: ~ 5,000 ft.
Group: Anna-Lisa Conners, Ben Conners, Dillon Sarnelli

With a 4 AM start we had our first light just below treeline. The excitement of getting to camp early the night prior may have led to a few too many IPA’s before bed, which in turn resulted in some rough wee hours of the morning. This may also have led to a loose cap bladder malfunction in Al’s backpack. Needless to say the bright morning sun, a nap in a grassy knoll (for Anna-Lisa) and a pitstop in some trees did wonders for our morale.

“Quarter Peak” (right) under the morning alpenglow on the approach.

With Anna-Lisa resting in her grassy knoll, Ben and I hit “Quarter Peak”. This peak itself is more of a slog until you reach the last few hundred feet to the summit, at which time it turns into a loose pile of grundle, but the views from the summit over to Half are reason enough to make it happen.

Ben scrambling along on the traverse over to Quarter’s true summit.
Summit of “Quarter Peak” – August 9, 2014. Half Peak showing off it’s bold 800 foot high north face in the distance.
The summit register on “Quarter Peak”. Some familiar company in there!

After leaving the summit we picked up Anna-Lisa and began the “traverse” over to Half. This is really more of a contour at about 12,900 ft. over a mile or so to Half’s eastern slopes than a traverse.

Ben and Anna-Lisa are on cruise control now.
Ben beginning the ascent up Half’s east face.

Rather than traverse around to the bottom of the short Class 3 gully leading to the summit of Half, we opted for a shorter steeper climb (~ Class 4) which spit us out at the top of the standard cairned gully. From there it was a quick jaunt to the sprawling summit.

Anna-Lisa has a new hobby and she’s a natural!
Summit of Half Peak – August 9, 2014, looking west into the heart of the Weminuche Wilderness.
Wetterhorn, Matterhorn and Uncompahgre from the summit of Half.

Thinking it would be easier to descend Half’s south ridge than the east face and it’s gully, albeit longer, we began the long descent south to Cataract Lake. Roach calls ascending Half from the east and descending to the south, the “Tour de Half”.

A look back at Half as we descend the catwalk on it’s south ridge.
Another look over at Half and it’s south ridge on the descent.
Scree surfing Conners style.
Voted best waterfall in Colorado by 2 Conners, 1 Miller and 1 Sarnelli.
So good I included 2 shots and I don’t think either really do it justice.
Back at the ranch Conners is all business. Gordon’s wins the 2014 Imperial Red Taste Test Challenge with Colorojo taking the not so heated runner up trophy.

Day 2:

Peaks: UN 13,832, UN 13,811, Unranked 13,er a.k.a “Little Redcloud”
Date:  August 10, 2014
Trailhead: Silver Creek
Route:  Silver Creek approach, UN 13,832 – Northeast Ridge, out and back to UN 13,811 – Southwest Ridge from UN 13832, out and back to unranked 13er “Little Redcloud”.
Distance: ~ 14 miles
Elevation Gain: ~ 5,000 ft.
Group: Anna-Lisa Conners*, Ben Conners, Dillon Sarnelli (*Anna-Lisa summitted Redcloud and Sunshine solo while Ben and I took care of business on the UNers.)

Morning sun on Redcloud.

We parted ways with Anna-Lisa at the saddle and watched as she made quick work of Redcloud. Realizing that we would have our work cut out if we wanted to time everything perfectly, we began beasting our way over to UN 13,832. After reaching the summit, we could see Anna-Lisa on the summit of Redcloud. She had the summit all to herself and UN 13,832 was all ours. It was a special moment. I said to Ben something like “When will you ever again be sitting on the summit of a Centennial staring at your wife on the summit of a 14er?”

Summit of UN 13,832 – August 10, 2014. Also pictured: Anna-Lisa is on the summit of Redcloud behind us!
The approach to UN 13,811. You give Ben grass like this and it’s lights out. Seeya on the summit!

We summitted UN 13,811 at about 9 AM, took a few pics and then headed back the way we came.

UN 13,811 (L) and UN 13,832 (R) from the peak we are calling unranked 13er “Little Redcloud”.
Ben sitting on the throne that is the summit of our unranked 13er. Uncompahgre looming in the distance.
Descending back to the saddle with Redcloud. The colors variations in the rocks on these peaks were incredible.

We rendezvoused with Anna-Lisa back at the saddle. She successfully summitted both Redcloud and Sunshine for 14ers 10 and 11! After a quick breather we then headed back to camp for some R&R and a Double-Wide IPA birthday bomber!

Yoga does a body good. Little does she know that the bomber next to her also does a body good!
The End.

And as always thanks for reading all!

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