Peak(s):  Little Horn Pk  -  13,143 feet
Date Posted:  11/29/2011
Modified:  07/24/2018
Date Climbed:   11/27/2011
Author:  d_baker
 A Sunny Sunday Afternoon  

November 27, 2011

Climbers: Joe Carberry, Chris Duval, & Darin Baker

Little Horn Peak (13,143')
Sangre de Cristo Range

Little Horn Peak, as seen from Little Baldy Mountain in March 2011

Trailhead: Horn Creek
Route: E/NE ridge
Distance: ~7.5 RT (roundtrip)
Elevation Gain: ~4050'
Difficulty: bushwack with boot-to-knee deep snow to gain ridge, exposed class 3 rock scrambling on upper portion of ridge - some class 4 sections are available for play too

Gear: daypack w/Essentials, snowshoes, winter-ready attire (e.g., goggles, facemask, extra mittens, etc.), I brought an ice axe too - but it wasn't needed

Resources Used For Trip Planning: TOPO! mapping software, NOAA weather forecast, Colorado's Thirteeners guidebook by Roach & Roach (for directions to TH - which is used for their route description & approach to Mt Adams)


Thanksgiving has come and gone, so it's time to get out and burn some calories from the gluttony. But I don't really need that excuse to get to the mountains, nor should I blame Thanksgiving for my typical overindulgence with food.

It just so happens that Joe wants to get out to the mountains.

Chris has been granted permission to get out - after all - it's his birthday, he should be able to do what he wants! (Thank you Griselle for letting him out!)

And I always want to get out.

The Sangres are a good bet: weather forecast is good, the drive is rather short from the Springs, and it's not hard to find a quality peak in the range!

Quality Peaks & Then Some

The Approach

We started out from the Horn Creek TH (near the bathroom - which is locked up for the season - WTF?) and headed W to connect with the Rainbow trail, with the intentions of going N for a short distance before starting our bushwack towards the NE ridge of Little Horn.

There's snow from the get-go, but we decided to boot it for a while, as it wasn't that deep yet. The recent wind storm that hit the state was evident in the forest, with debris and the occasional tree down here and there, but it did not become an issue getting through the forest.

Starting our bushwack

Getting higher, snow is getting deeper, and still carrying snowshoes

The snow down low was about boot deep. The higher we got, the deeper it got. Weird how that works! Overall, the snow wasn't horrible to trudge through. On the southerly aspects, the snow is somewhat firm at times, but venture towards the northerly aspect and it does not support weight.

Eventually the snow was consistently mid-shin to knee deep. At what elevation did this occur you may ask. I have no idea would be my answer.

But what I can say is that for some reason, we never put our snowshoes on during our ascent. I dubbed our track the "SS Booter." (too Stupid & Stubborn to put snowshoes on)

SS Booter

Personally, I think it felt good to put in some extra effort to break trail and to get to the windswept ridge without the aid of snowshoes. We each took turns in front, and soon enough (or maybe not soon enough?) we were breaking out of the trees.

First look at Little Horn on the left, with Fluted to the right

Somewhere around ~11,400' we stashed our shoes and continued up the ridge.


The Climb

Windswept ridgeline awaits

Mr. Duval

And just when I thought we were about to top out, oh no, wait, there's more

This ridge reminds me of Dave Cooper's description for W Partner in his scrambles guidebook, where he states the ridge "becomes progressively more interesting as the summit is approached."

I'm not trying to suggest this ridge scramble compares to the scrambling on W Partner, but it does continue to become more interesting the further along you go, and it does have some decent yet moderate scrambling on it.

Chris downclimbing into a notch along the ridge

The above photo gives the appearance that the terrain in the background is steep and badass. The photo is deceptive. But it is fun!

Joe stayed on or at least close to the ridge proper to the summit; whereas Chris and I stayed on the N side and below the ridge to the summit. Either way goes, but if I were to do this route again I would stay on the ridge proper. I stayed fairly close to the ridge or on it for the descent, and it felt more exciting than the ledges on the N side that we encountered on the ascent.

The summit must be near, because there's the welcoming party

Summit Views

Crestone Needle and Crestone Peak (l. to r.)

Little Baldy, Colony Baldy, and Humboldt (front to back)

Joe with Mt Adams (13,931') as the backdrop

Fluted Peak (13,554')

Horn Peak (13,450')

After a short stay, we departed the summit and made our way back down the ridge.

Short 4th class corner

Back at our snowshoe stash, we did what most people would do. We put them on. (Chris, it's ok, you'll get over it. Bring your tele gear next time!)

Sun is getting lower

Going back down our SS Booter went smooth with the shoes on. A trench is in place for poaching. You're welcome!

Great day out gentleman, and I'll look forward to the next time!
And Happy Birthday once again Chris!

Thanks for reading,

 Comments or Questions

If you like false summits you will like this climb
11/30/2011 13:52
If you like false summits you will like this climb. If you love false summits you will really love this climb. (from a report I posted for Little Horn)

way to go Darin


11/30/2011 15:56
I don't understand the locking of the bathrooms and the gates in front of the campgrounds. Lost Man up by Indy Pass is one of the few that I've encountered that encourages off-season use (although it is gated).

Great shots of Adams and The Peak and The Needle. Man, if this storm wasn't coming in, I'd say your trench would be ripe for a poaching...


Snow on the way
11/30/2011 16:07
”Man, if this storm wasn't coming in, I'd say your trench would be ripe for a poaching...”
I was just thinking the same thing!


Cool view
11/30/2011 16:32
Like the shot with Adams. On my way up Adams few weeks ago, I was eyeing Fluted and Little Horn but would have been very long day. Glad to see theres some spice to be had on Little Horn!

By the way Darin, I love your reports man! I'm always looking for ”obscure 13ers” and I seem to always stumble upon one of your reports. Keep up the good work!


All Aboard the SS Booter!
11/30/2011 18:00
Great report, Darin.
Trench poachers, don't lose hope. I'll believe in a good snowstorm when I see it...


11/30/2011 19:06
I've already lost hope for boarding this weekend. Looks like a great route.

Nice report, Darin!


12/01/2011 02:47
Thanks for the report, Darin. We've had too few for the Sangres lately, and this helps a great deal with conditions there - which may be about to change as far as snow, but answers some questions about the downed timber due to the wind event earlier this month.

I enjoyed the photos; especially the one of the Crestones.


Sangres offer so much year-round...
12/01/2011 17:30
Nice outing Darin. Great report.


12/01/2011 20:12
Looks like a fine day out. I must say I'm jealous because I've been wanting to get back down to the Sangres for some time, especially after the gathering fizzled.

The trail breaking looks pretty brutal to me, but I'm glad to hear you ”enjoyed the extra effort.”

Great report as usual, Darin. Thanks for posting.


12/01/2011 22:26
Thanks for the comments everyone.

I should mention that on our descent, I lead us astray ever so slightly in the trees by going down the wrong sub-ridge, which took us slightly to the S. I realized my mistake partway down, and Joe confirmed the error by looking at his GPS track. We stayed the course though because I knew we would intersect with the Rainbow trail and from there we could go N back to the TH. Worked out fine.


The Sangres Special...
12/14/2011 15:51
Sweet, Darin. Looks like a fun scramble on decent rock. You don't suggest it matches W. Partner Peak but it sure looks every bit as exhilarating and beautiful. The Sangres remain a mostly unexplored range for me, fine reports like this really whet my appetite to get down there.

Great pics all around, but especially that first one. Always love the faraway and untouchable feeling that swirling clouds give to big mountains.

Dad Mike

Big Horn on Little Horn?
08/12/2014 23:13
I'm impressed that you didn't use that line. I saw those same two ”sheep” at the same place, on the same mountain, a couple weeks earlier. They must like the view of Fluted from the summit.

Nicely done boys.

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