| Keller playing hard to get
Keller Mountain (13,085)
Route : Southeast Face
Mileage : 10-11 miles
Vertical : 4500
Time : 9 hrs 45 min
Climbers : Darin (d_baker, spelled with 1 R), Greg (Summit Lounger, aptly named) and Marc (i.e. Carl’s neighbor, i.e. XC Snowboarder, i.e. A person with a conscience who used to climb cool stuff until some lawyer poisoned his mind and conned him into skiing all the 14ers, i.e. A person who didn’t initially set off to board all the 14ers, leaving shitty ones behind and having no partners to do them with now)
That’s about as artistic of a shot as you are going to see in this trip report. Truth of the matter is Keller Mountain wasn’t as euphoric of a climb as some in the past, but it was a classic in other ways. The Gores aren’t always friendly, they don’t always grant you easy passage. They can provide you with quite a bit of joy, but they can also teach you a lesson if need be. It’s the former of that statement that keeps you coming back for more. There is no real list to follow, other than the peaks and the basins themselves. Most times, when promoting this fine range, I can’t tell if I’m receiving raised eyebrows of intrigue or insanity. When chance comes for you to show off the mysterious, ominous and fascinating range, you strike and hope your virgin companions are ready to tackle an adventure. As Yvon Chouinard said “It’s not an adventure until something goes wrong”.
Darin sent out a group email before the long weekend, fishing for Gore bait. He got a few bites. Myself, Marc, Darin and Greg all met up at the Silverthorne Outlets parking lot at 5am and piled in to Marc’s Taco for the short ride up route 9 to the Rock Creek Trailhead at 9500 feet. Quick note on the road. Despite a few passenger vehicles making it to the trailhead parking lot, the once 2wd road in to Rock Creek has deteriorated a tad since 2010. Just a small observation.
We hit the trail around 6am and crossed the Gore Range Trail soon enough (it’s a few hundred yards from the parking lot). We were greeted with mildly aesthetic views not too long after :
Valhalla and Rock Creek Valley
The Boss Mine is the only remnants of commercial mining in the Gore Range. Unfortunately, we were 115 years late, or else we’d all be rollin’ in silver riches. All that remained was an ugly, scree filled hill that served as our cue to head left or right.
Once we hit the Boss Mine, our goal was to hit a snow line on the SE Face, so we dropped down and traversed left. In hindsight, dropping all the way down and hiking along the creek in the open woods would’ve been a lot nicer than trying to side hill and maintain unnecessary elevation. We hit too many bushwacking sections and boulder fields to make it worth our time.
The side of Grand Traverse you don't see too often
Greg was setting a grueling pace. Had this been “The Oregon Trail”, I’m pretty sure I would’ve fallen gravely ill with the measles, Darin would’ve missed all the bear and squirrel he shot at and Marc would’ve died from dysentery. I can see why his name is Summit LOUNGER, as he has a pension to float on ahead and “lounge” as his comrades catch up. Kind of like here….
The Summit Lounger
After more traversing than we bargained for, we reached the base of whatever snowclimb looked the most fun, and the most feasible, as there were a number of options. We’d end up choosing wisely. Starting up……
Beginning the chute
We faced off with some mellow mixed sections early on and throughout…..
About halfway up, the chutes forked. Greg, in lead, chose to head left. With a booter kindly provided by Mr. Stem Cell Cocktail, we chose to follow. The climb steepened as we climbed up and up, but this didn’t phase Mr. Stem Cell Cocktail, so he chose to find something more suited to his liking, in this case a rib with some decent exposure. Again, with the established booter, we graciously followed. Just as the couloir reached nipple tingling status, it ended. Oh well, great climb though.
wouldn't want to fall here
Now it was time to find the elusive Keller. Is this it over here Darin wonders?
Darin and Pt. 13,055
The map seems to think so, looking to the right is overrated anyway, let’s go check it out. ADD kicked in and we all simply admired the view of whatever point we were resting on. Greg asked to take a look at the map. After a good couple minutes, we decided we weren’t on Keller, but rather Unnamed 13,055, a mere point along the ridge between Keller and North Traverse Peak (in our defense, the Keller massif is kind of complicated, specially from below). All I could think about at that point in time was Furthermore’s combo of Keller to Snow Peak and how assannine it all seemed to me now.
Northwestern Gores - name all these peaks and Lord Gore will pick up your next post-climb tab
Peak L - aptly named
Valhalla - still skiable apparently
Anyways, Keller is over here (what a tease)….
Where we are supposed to be
A short jaunt later, we reached the summit and then prepared for a Tour de Keller down the East Ridge. Along the way we scouted some Gore Couloir Classics…
I’d tell you what these are, but then I’d have to kill ya.
The descent off the ridge proved easier than expected and we regained the Boss Mine trail before we knew it. We got to that section of the trail where we started seeing the type of people that give you signs that you are close to the car. A box of Dunkin Donuts awaited us. I went to college in New England and was so engulfed by this chain, I almost felt like Ted Kazinsk’ing them in to orbit. Now that I’m out here, I’ve gone to such lengths to make pilgrimages to the Springs to obtain a 12-pack of Boston Cremes. Funny how something as simple as a geographical location can completely change your perspective. With that being said, I don’t care where I live. Qdoba, Red Lobster and Applebee’s will always suck. Then again, I’m a firm believer that a reasonable man could live solely off Chipotle, Jimmy Johns, Peppermint Patties, Salt N’ Vinegar chips and Ginger Ale for the rest of his life without issue, so what do I know?
Marc and Greg parted ways back at the Outlets, but Darin and I had some unfinished business at Chimayo Mexican Grill in Dillon. The Brovilles at the counter seemed to be only half awake on this day, but the meals proved worthy enough for a mountain man’s appetite. I bidded Darin farewell and godspeed on his next assignment in Texas (poor guy) and headed on home with a storm lingering overhead.
Edit : Hate to end on a bad note, but it was confirmed recently that Jesse Peterson of Alma (a member of 14ers.com), drowned in Willow Lake in that canoe accident in the Sangres. Jesse was another Gore enthusiast and his daytrip account of the Boulder Lake trio a couple years was a fine example of his passion for the range and to showcase his very above average photography skills. RIP Jesse, sorry we were never able to get out.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):