Peak(s):  Champion, Mt  -  13,646 feet
PT 13,736  -  13,736 feet
Date Posted:  08/10/2014
Date Climbed:   08/08/2014
Author:  rajz06
 Champion's Loop  

Starting Point: CO-82 - 19 miles from US 24/CO-82 jn. (10,800')
Peaks Climbed in order of ascent: Mt. Champion (13,646'), Unnamed 13736
Route: Southwest slope ascent of Champion and west slope descent of Pt. 13736
RT Distance: 7.1 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: 3,360 feet
Group: Solo

It would be remiss of me if I didn't give credit to Middlebrook for the always excellent route descriptions, and Bergsteigen for the loop traverse of these two peaks. Even though I deviated from both route options to create my own loop, I'm always thankful for pathfinders.


The route requires abandoning the trail early, about 0.4 miles from the trailhead which I did.


The goal was to head east, descend to the creek and cross over to follow a faint climber's trail through the forest. Sounds easy enough, except crossing the creek proved to be a serious hurdle.

None shall pass!

I spent nearly thirty minutes going up and down the bank to find a suitable spot but there just wasn't one. The water was high enough that most of the rocks were submerged and their surface smooth and slippery that the only safe option seemed to be to wade across. Not wanting to get my feet wet, I eventually backtracked a bit and found a log that connected from a low point on my side to the higher bank on the other.

Walking the tightrope!

I made it across without further ado and proceeded to weave my way through the woods to find the climber's trail.

Into the woods we go...

The faint trail skirts along the steep lower southwest slopes of Mt. Champion and parallels Lackawanna Gulch before climbing northeast to eventually reach the lower south slopes of Mt. Champion.

Faint trail parallels the creek

Wherever the trail disappeared, I just stayed due east finding the best path through the woods.

Weaving through the trees

This worked well until I got to a clearing in the woods. I was now around 11,400' and still below treeline but I had a clear unobstructed view of the steep southwest slope rising to the left of my intended path and covered with tundra leading to a more rocky terrain farther up.

South slope looks inviting

Bill's route description clearly states to not climb this slope and pictures do not do justice to how steep it really is. For one thing, the ridge which is nearly 2,000 feet higher is not visible from the bottom. The slope is also deceptively gentle at the lower portion for, oh about 200 vertical feet or so. And then it gets serious. I stayed close to a gully that runs part of the way up but when the rocks got unstable I abandoned it for tundra firma.

Following the gully

As is evident from the elevation plot, over 1,900 vertical feet needs to be covered in a scant 0.85 miles on this southwest slope.

Elevation plot shows steepness of SW slope

This ranks as the steepest pitch of the season for me, edging out Lackwanna's south ridge although the latter has more sustained elevation gain for the entire route.

That's steep!

I knew some bushwhacking would be inevitable and I got my chance just below treeline.

Whack those bushes!

The view of Lackawanna Gulch from this vantage was definitely worth the burn in the calves.

Lackawanna gully

I aimed for the boulders which as far as I could tell seemed to be the highest point on the ridge.

Ascending the grassy slope

Steep though it was, the terrain on the southwest slope afforded good traction and any scree that was present could be completely avoided so I would highly recommend this route. Just make sure to bring fresh legs!

Aiming for boulders on the ridge

The slope lessens past 13,200' and an hour after starting up the slope of Champion's (pun intended) I found myself looking at a very gentle walk along a broad ridge to the summit.

Atop the broad ridge

I weaved my way through the massive boulder stacks that adorned this grassy ridge en route to the first summit of the day.

Interesting boulder stacks on Champion's Ridge

The wind had picked up a little and some clouds had formed overhead but I was going to get my views from the summit one way or another.

Massive spans the horizon

Elbert dominates the skyline

Gnarly G and G

The ridge to Unnamed 13736 looks rough but is easily navigable.

Ridge to 2nd peak of the day

I was only a few minutes into my descent to the saddle before I noticed the clouds hovering above Mt. Champion. I wasn't too concerned yet but I knew I wouldn't exactly be basking on the the second summit for long either.

Clouds hovering over Champion

Rocky towers on the ridge didn't pose any threat as the slabs were stable and could be directly climbed.

Rougest tower en route to 13736

Rocky outcroppings

The summit of Unnamed 13736, in contrast to Mt. Champion, is a narrow rocky point and I was glad I didn't have to share it with anyone else.

Summit of Pt. 13736

Two hours and fifteen minutes after I'd successfully forded the creek, I was enjoying my second summit of the day. Who says a peak has to have a name to be a special place!

More Sawatchers

Elk Range

I had already decided to make a more direct descent from this summit but I set out following the rocky northwest ridge.

Northwest ridge of Pt. 13736

Staying on the ridge

I briefly toyed with the idea of descending down a gully that seemed like a viable option but decided against it as I wasn't sure how stable the rocks were; so I opted for the grassy terrain instead.

Steep west slope and gully option

I then started veering off the ridge seeking a more direct descent toward North Fork lake creek some 2,000 feet below. If the west slope of Pt. 13736 is less steep than Mt. Champion's southwest slope it is certainly not by much!


Tundra soon transitioned into boulders and I needed to watch my step to avoid a slip. Needless to say, I wasn't exactly scampering down this slope!

Tundra gives way to boulders

And then came the inevitable bushwhacking exercise...

Back to the bushwhacking

With a bit of route finding, I was able to weave through the bushes and then the trees to make it to the wet, grassy basin. Finding a suitable spot to cross the creek was not an issue this time.

Hop, skip and a jump across!

The next shot looks back at the impressive west slope, showing my descent route and the more direct gully option.

Descent options of west slope

The mountains have a way of making everyone that ventures into their sanctuary feel like a champion. And, it was no different for me today!

Yours Truly

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36

 Comments or Questions

Enjoyed this TR
08/10/2014 16:01
Thanks for posting. Especially enjoyed the labels - putting these pics together with the topos gives one a good feel for what is possible out there.

For some reason, I especially liked pic 4, where you gave explicit routefinding instructions for crossing the log.

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