| Mt Adams and The Ridge to Nowhere
With yet another clear mid-week forecast but stormy weekend outlook, I secured a Wednesday off to get in a quick day hike. This trip itinerary began as a grand plan I formulated last year, after seeing some forum post about a "Willow Lake traverse" - climbing Adams and then circling the whole basin on the ridge, nabbing Obstruction, Columbia, KC, Challenger and back down. I modified this trek by starting at the S Crestone Lake TH to begin with Pt 13,130 - the idea was to collect all the KC-Adams 13ers, but Pt 13,546 (west of Adams and just north of Willow Lake) represented a problem, as it disrupted the circular pattern. Such a trek was a much bigger bite than this marmot could chew and is more suited to the ultramarathoner than the weekend warrior.
I reached the Willow Lake/S Crestone Lake TH shortly after midnight, slept in the car, and got a 6:15 start Wed morning. The S Crestone lake trail is less traveled than Willow Lake but easy to follow. It passes through scenic meadows, a stand of tall trees all bearded in long trailing wisps of moss, then an area rife with various vibrant mushrooms (some bright red with yellow/white dots), before ushering you into the mountains proper, where jagged pinnacles tower above on all sides.
Here is a view of S Crestone lake. Adams is ahead at left, hidden by the shoulder of Pt 13,130, and Pt 13,546 is directly ahead, slightly to the right. It had taken me just over two hours to reach the lake. That felt slow to me, but I reminded myself that I had gained 2900 feet from the TH. I spent about ten minutes at the lake, enjoying the scenery and orienting myself on the topo.
I backtracked sixty feet or so from the lake, hiked over some large stones and then contoured easy grassy slopes to gain the ridge of 13,130.
Along the way, I kept glancing west at the parallel aesthetic ridge leading south to Pt 13,546.
My way ahead was at this point far less eye-catching - not a bad ridge, just less dramatic - as shown in the next two shots.
It was 9:40 am when I reached the summit of 13,130, so it had taken me 3 hours and 25 minutes. After moving over 13,130, here's what the route to Adams looked like:
The views of N Crestone Lake in the basin to the east were arresting - here's one several shots I took of the lake.
The short ridge connecting Pt 13.1 to Adams was a swift little jaunt. This shot shows the upper part of the approach. There is a wooden cross on the summit that is barely visible in the photo.
Atop the upper ridge and facing the summit pitch, I walked around to my left (east side of the summit block) and found this great looking climb. According to Roach, I could continue southeast to find class 2 passage, but I opted to climb up this crack. Where does class 4 meet class 5? I would rate this short pitch right at about that intersection.
I enjoyed Adams' summit - great views all around. This picture shows the view of the ridge south to Pt 13,580, then the rounded mass of Obstruction Peak in the background, and the Crestones beyond that:
It was 10:25, so I felt like I was making pretty decent time. Unfortunately, my indecision with the route returned. How to go? Pt 13,546 was such a detour from my desired route south, but I felt compelled to try. So I descended Adams' west ridge. Soon I found myself facing some serious pitches to climb down; pressed for time, I descended class 3 terrain to the north to walk down the more gentle but crappy talus of Adams' northwest slopes. This looked feasible at first, but the loose rock hindered progress and I found myself hugging the cliff on my left.
The ridge drops several hundred feet and the climb from the Adams-13.546 saddle up to 13.546 looked like it was going to eat up time. Since it was Adams' south ridge to Obstruction that really intrigued me, I bailed on 13.546 and simply aimed for the most expedient route back up to that ridge, which meant scrambling back up onto and over the west ridge proper, then climbing up some scree and loose gravelly dirt for a hundred feet or so, and finally making this fun scramble up solid, knobby rock and thin ledges:
I was on a nice solid ridge, and this is what my way forward looked like:
It took very little effort at all to reach Pt 13,580. For the quality of views based on the effort, it was an alpine bargain. You can see Willow Lake to the west, and another lake to the east.
It was after that spot that the ridge got really interesting. It was noonish, and I knew I would not be completing any epic tour of the cirque, but I at least wanted to traverse the entire ridge south to Obstruction Peak. Here's a look at the view ahead:
I started off and in little time, I found myself considering this downclimb. I remember the intimidating exposure; I honestly can't remember if I climbed down this but was then forced to descend off the ridge to the right, or if I backed off this section and went around. In any event, it was here or right after this spot that I did my first of two contours below the ridge.
Walking on a broadway beneath the ridge, I could see a much easier route ahead - taking me beneath all of the ragged rock of the ridge.
This route was not for me; I wanted to stay on the top of the ridge as much as possible, so I did an ascending traverse to get back up top.
Here is what it looked like to climb back to the ridge crest proper - some class 3 and 4 deliciousness.
As I neared the top, I found an artifact - a petrified playground ball - a relic from days when Utes lived here and evidence of their alpine four square games.
I cruised along the ridge, enjoying the expansive views to either side. Soon I was greeted with this wicked knife edge guarding a bulbous bastion on the ridge. I opted to pass right next to the knife edge on the right, because the knife itself looked too loose, and then I traversed right - my second and last significant deviation from the ridge crest - to avoid the climb directly up the tower.
Traversing underneath this bulkhead, I found this pretty grass-filled chute, with appealing blocks to climb to the right.
Back on the crest, I relished the on-top-of-the-world feeling, and moved fluidly atop the ridge, which was sometimes straight and narrow as a preacher's words, and other times bloated and twisted like a politician's motives.
At one point I found myself looking ahead to a high point, thinking I was perhaps nearing obscure point 13.3k, even though my topo showed that further up toward the top of the cirque. When I reached this point, I was surprised to find myself not on a sub-peak but on a fine thin ridge. I found a plastic peanut butter jar with a register begun in 2005 or 2007 with dozen names on it, marking this as some unranked point 13.5 something. Ahead, I could now clearly see the Point 13.3, which is a formidable folded fortress jutting from the east of the ridge.
Afternoon was moving on faster than I was. I knew I would have to soon undertake the descent to the basin, down past Willow lake and the car to get home for work tomorrow. But I would have time to climb this indistinguished but worthy mini-mountain. This next shot is as I near it and the next is the pitch up its west face.
About halfway up, I found this incredible flake (upper left of photo) that reminded me of the out-of-the-way crux on Lone Cone.
I savored the top for a few sweet minutes, then picked my way back down. I took this shot to see how close I had come to reaching Obstruction Peak.
The climb down into the basin was not hard; I just picked my way down gullies, ledges, and around outcrops. One cool gully passed beneath an overhanging buttress that provided a handhold above my head as I descended the loose terrain. No room for those pics, though; I'm only one away from the limit, so I'll close with this photo I took of Willow Lake on my way out.
This was a perfect day; time taken off during the middle of a mundane week to enjoy some of Nature's best on a beautiful sunny day. For me this day is a concrete reminder of the truism that life is about the journey and not the destination. I hope you enjoyed the report.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):