Peak(s):  Carbonate Mtn A  -  13,663 feet
Cyclone Mtn A  -  13,596 feet
"Lo Carb"  -  13,591 feet
Cronin Pk  -  13,870 feet
Date Posted:  09/12/2015
Date Climbed:   09/11/2015
Author:  rajz06
 One "Red Cent" via Two "Bi"s and A Diet  

Starting Point: Cyclone Creek TH on CR 240, Elevation: ~10,740'
Peaks Climbed in order of ascent: Carbonate Mtn. A (13,663'), Cyclone Mtn. A (13,596'), "Lo Carb" (13,591'), Cronin Peak (13,870')
Route: Carbonate southwest slope and ridge ascent, ridge route to other peaks and return via gully from Cyclone-Carbonate saddle
RT Distance: ~10.25 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: ~4,750 feet (per Google Maps)
Group: Solo

"Do not get caught in someone else's enthusiasm". Good words to live by, especially when it comes to climbing mountains. Along the same lines, I would add to watch for someone else's bias. In this trip, I relied on the guidance from the book of the legendary mountaineer and author, Gerry Roach, only to learn that lesson the hard way.

For starters, Roach states in his 13ers book that CR 240 is rough but passable for tough passenger cars. My trusted ride for many years until recently was what I'd call a "tough passenger car", and it wouldn't have made it much past the Angel of Shavano CG on this road. Yes, some passenger cars would probably do fine but be prepared...

Glad I wasn't in a "passenger car"

I started from a pull-out on the road just east of Cyclone Creek.

The trail started here for me

My goal was to follow the guidance from the book and hike along the creek to 12,200' and ascend the rock gully up to the saddle between Cyclone and Carbonate. I took the following picture from around 11,240' on my descent and I've marked this gully with reference to the ridge. I don't recommend taking this gully for either the ascent or the descent for reasons I will describe later.

Red arrows mark the gully I intended to take

There is a faint trail that stays east of the creek through the woods. I lost this trail in places resulting a bit of a bushwhack process, but managed to regain and stay on it for the most part.

Following the trail that came and went

Around 11,040', the trail reaches a clearing and the lower southwest slopes leading to the ridge to Carbonate Mtn. come into view.

SW slope (red), creek route (blue)

I briefly toyed with the idea of abandoning the "trail" and climbing this slope directly. Others, notably Bergsteigen, have taken this route and it makes for a solid, no-nonsense approach to gain the ridge that connects all the peaks on the agenda. I, however, was going to stay the course and climb the gully as documented in "The Book". Of course, the gully is another 1.3 miles along the creek and involved not one, but two creek crossings per the account in the book.

Staying the course...

I persevered for the next twenty odd minutes, the trail coming and going, me weaving in and out of the willows every time I lost it. The trail had by now climbed a bit up the hillside and I was well past the point where I needed to cross over to the west side of the creek. I hadn't gone very far, but without a creek crossing in sight I decided to abandon this approach. Precious time had been lost and to prevent further bleeding, I decided I would take the direct approach up the southwest slope and save that gully for my return and make a loop. Sort of...

Change of plans - let's get to that SW slope

I had to lose a bit of elevation to find a less dense spot to start up the slope.

Climbing the lower slope

As the trees started to thin out, the route became obvious. I couldn't help thinking, "this beats the heck out of the wild goose chase down by the creek". For once I was glad that I didn't doggedly stick to my plan.

Getting to treeline

The ridge route soon comes into view even though Carbonate Mtn. doesn't until much farther up on the ridge after a few bumps have been bypassed.

Ridge comes into view

The ridge route was very straightforward and I enjoyed the views afforded by the clear skies and crisp smoke-free alpine air.

Ridge to false summit

The view down the ridge behind me, framed by two shapely 12ers:

Shapely 12ers to the south

I had planned for a late start due to the excellent weather forecast (ah, the joys of hiking in September). Add to that the somewhat futile route finding exercise by the creek, and it was noon when I finally stood at the top of the first peak of the day. I will let the pictures documenting the views speak for themselves:

Taylor Mtn. and Mt. Aetna to the southwest:

Taylor and Aetna

Beautiful Sawatch

Chief Ouray towers in the distance

I seldom sign summit registers but, as I pried this one open, imagine my surprise when I fished out a card from some fellow by the name of Gerry Roach. This one I just had to sign.

Could it be?

The weather may have been perfect but I still had three more peaks on the agenda and a return that would require re-climbing two of those, so time was still of the essence.

Three more to go...

I skirted to the left of a small boulder field as I approached the saddle with Cyclone Peak at ~13,200'.

Route to Cyclone

I continued to stay just west (hiker's left) of the ridge crest and less than 30 minutes after leaving the first peak, I was atop Cyclone Mtn, soaking in more views.

The southernmost 14ers

Fall colors were beginning to abound; almost 2,500 feet below, fed by Browns Creek and nestled in the beautiful basin between Mt. White and Unnamed 13712, lies this unnamed lake. Beauty, thy name is nature!

Lovely tarn

Meanwhile, back on a lofty ridge, I had my sights on the next peak; Pt 13591 aka "Lo Carb" - no prizes for guessing how it got its name.

Up next

This was the only unranked summit on the cards for the day but the unranked ones still deserve our love, don't they?

Cyclone Mtn's north slope is quite steep but the rocks were stable and made for a quick descent.

Up next

A trail exists on Lo Carb's south ridge and stays just east of the ridge crest most of the way to the summit.

Route to "Lo Carb"

The dubious distinction of this high point (Pt. 13591) is that it is now named after a diet, "Lo Carb". Speaking of diets, I was famished by this time so I proceeded to fortify myself with a snack while enjoying the spectacular views. And in case you were wondering - no, it wasn't low carb!

Cyclone Creek basin

Ridge to Grizzly

The saddle to Cronin is the lowest one on this ridge; combine that with the highest peak on the ridge and you have a stiff ascent to the next peak.

Road to Cronin

Saddle to Cronin's peak requires a solid 700 feet of elevation gain and the most efficient route bypasses the two main humps on the southeast side to hiker's right.

The Big Kahuna

Skirting the boulder field

Then it is a just a straight shot up the ridge to the highest summit of the day.

The Red Centennial

The views, especially on such an incredible day, were well worth the effort.

Fall is 'round the corner!

Antero in the clouds

Baldwin Lake

Much as I would've loved to bask on Cronin's summit, it was past 2 p.m. and I had no trick speedy descent other than to re-ascend peaks three and two, making for a total count of six for the day. That would then put me at the saddle from where I could take the gully descent that I'd set aside earlier in the day.

Red arrow marks the start of the gully

I followed the same route on the return and found a way to avoid having to fully gain Cyclone Mtn's summit, by skirting the talus pile east of the ridge to hiker's left. It saved me a paltry 80 feet of elevation gain but every bit counts on a long day. It was 3:30 p.m. when I finally stood at the top of what should be called the "Roach gully".

The "Roach Gully"

About 1,400 vertical feet lay before me in a scant three-quarters of a mile. I'm no stranger to steep descents and shortly after I started I realized that the scree was ideal for skiing. I scree skied up to about 12,400', the terrain just perfect for this movement. However, the very momentum that can work in your favor going downhill on such terrain can be quite counterproductive on the ascent, so I think even this section of the gully would make for a rather inefficient climb.

The top half is skiable

The scree skiing fun, however, didn't last long; below 12,400' the rocks became much more varied in size and footing became unpredictable. It only took one fall before I had to tighten the leash on my descent pace.

Then the rocks get unpredictable...

not fun on the way down, wouldn't be fun on the way up...

The scree-fest continued below treeline till I hit a trail at 11,600'.

loose till the end

Reaching the trail at the bottom of the gully

I mentioned earlier that the description in the 13ers book requires two creek crossings on the route leading to the gully. The trail that I followed on my return, comes and goes, but stays east of the creek the entire time and avoids any crossings. Except for the one that I intentionally made, only to momentarily realize my folly and retrace my path.

Just to set the record straight, I must say that I have nothing but the greatest admiration for Roach; there is no questioning his abilities as a mountaineer or his yeomen contribution to the world of mountaineering. Just remember to take his words with a grain of salt. After all, everyone has their bias and is entitled to it.

All told, this was a memorable outing and, despite the setbacks, I had a blast and even accomplished what I set out to do. Well, more or less!

Elevation plot

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 37 38 39

 Comments or Questions

Nice job, Raj!
09/13/2015 08:05
You’ve really been knocking them off lately and having some wonderful fall weather. Some great shots. Thanks for sharing!


yeah man!
09/13/2015 08:32
thanks again for the info on Bard & Co., Raj. Jason is still out there lost somewhere, but other than that it was super helpful. I’ll def use this one too sometime! Good info! Hope the summer was awesome.


Yet ANOTHER nice one!
09/14/2015 10:22
Any thoughts about substituting Grizzly Mtn for Cronin? I read Otina’s TR on Grizz and she didn’t mention how the ridge south off Grizz looked...

Keep ’em coming, Raj! One of these days, I just know we’ll run into each other on a mountain – or more accurately, you’ll run BY me on the mountain.

Brian Thomas

09/14/2015 13:53
"framed by two shapely 12ers"

"but the unranked ones still deserve our love, don’t they?"

There needs to be more of this here, please keep writing these trip reports.


09/14/2015 21:59
Doug: I’ve enjoyed your adventures this season as well!
Dillon: You’re very welcome on the beta but how could you do that to Jason? And I’m hardly surprised you guys made gully no. 1 work.
Jay: The traverse to Grizzly from Lo Carb is the tough part. The south ridge is quite straightforward and you could descend via Calico Mtn. And it’ll be my pleasure when we do meet.
Brian: Thank you and I’ll do my best!


Great report
09/16/2015 22:00
Very well written trip report with great pictures..very helpful!!
Congrats on those peaks!!


09/17/2015 07:02
At what point would you suggest to leave the creek and to head over to carbonate to make it less scree and loose rocks ascend?!


09/17/2015 18:09
Vadim34: I would leave the creek trail less than half a mile from the TH to ascend Carbonate’s SW slope.


09/18/2015 07:15
We’ll do exactly that!! Really looking forward to this outing!!
Thank you.

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