Peak(s):  Horn Pk  -  13,450 feet
Fluted Pk  -  13,554 feet
Little Horn Pk  -  13,143 feet
Date Posted:  07/02/2016
Modified:  10/20/2018
Date Climbed:   06/30/2016
Author:  Mtnman200
 Horn Peak, Fluted Peak, & Little Horn Peak from Dry Lakes (False Advertising Alert)  

Wednesday, June 29
After climbing Broken Hand Peak and packing out from South Colony Lakes this morning, I drove to the Horn Creek Trailhead south of Westcliffe and set up camp. My goal for tomorrow was to ascend Horn Peak, Fluted Peak, and Little Horn Peak from Dry Lakes (Dry Creek Trail) and then return to the trailhead via Horn Creek Trail, as I enjoy doing loop routes rather than retracing my footsteps on the return. Tomorrow's forecast called for a 60% chance of afternoon rain, which was fine with me because it meant an early start should keep me ahead of the rain.

Thursday, June 30
The Dry Creek trail ends abruptly at 11,800' at the lowest of the four Dry Lakes. It doesn't look dry to me...

After breakfast, I headed about 0.3 mile southeast to a trail intersection and then headed north about 1/2 mile on the Rainbow Trail (Trail No. 1336) to another intersection. Here, I turned southeast on the Dry Creek Trail (Trail No. 1343). This trail paralleled Dry Creek as it climbed toward the lowest of the four Dry Lakes.

The names 'Dry Creek' and 'Dry Lakes' are false advertising because they're anything but dry. Speaking of false advertising, why isn't Horn Peak adjacent to Horn Creek? Instead, Horn Peak is flanked by Dry Creek and Cottonwood Creek.

Horn Peak from the lowest of the four Dry Lakes. My route went more or less straight toward the summit

Fluted Peak stands guard at the head of the Dry Lakes basin.

Little Horn Peak sits above the lower two Dry Lakes

The remaining climb up Horn Peak's south slope is a mix of grass and rock

A steady climb brought me to the summit of Horn Peak (13,450'). The weather was still decent, though I knew it likely wouldn't last.

The ridge from Horn Peak to Fluted Peak (just left of center)

Little Horn Peak from the summit of Horn Peak

The ridge from Horn Peak to Fluted Peak. Obstacles on the ridge can be bypassed on the left (south). It's getting cloudier...

Clouds were building, and thunder in the distance made me pause momentarily until I realized it was at least three miles away and moving away from Fluted Peak. Only harmless-looking clouds were moving my direction, so I continued toward Fluted Peak.

Fluted Peak from near where the Horn Peak - Fluted Peak ridge meets the Fluted Peak - Comanche Peak ridge

When I reached the three-ridge intersection about 1/2 mile north of Fluted Peak, it looked like an easy tundra stroll NNW to Comanche Peak (13,277') and Spring Mountain (13,244'). I didn't want to take unnecessary chances with the weather, however, plus the topo map showed a trail from Alvarado Campground to the pass between the two peaks. I set aside any greedy peak-bagging thoughts and headed toward Fluted Peak.

The ridge from Fluted Peak to Little Horn Peak. Obstacles on the ridge are easiest to bypass on the right (south)

I took a short break on the summit of Fluted Peak (13,554') to reassess the weather. The distant thunderstorm I'd heard earlier had long since moved away, so I continued on toward Little Horn Peak.

The final appraoch to Little Horn Peak (taken from below the ridge because I'm bypassing an obstacle)

The ridge was rougher than it appeared from a distance, and I repeatedly had to drop below the ridge to go around obstacles. Finally, I was past the final obstacle and scampered onto the summit of Little Horn Peak (13,143').

The CMC summit register on Little Horn Peak was soaking wet and coming apart. I didn't have time to try to dry it out

Of nine peaks I've ascended in June, Little Horn Peak was the first one to have a summit register, but it was soggy. I wish I'd brought a Republic of Texas Mountaineers register. Next time...

I descended a short distance to the first couloir east of Little Horn Peak's summit and then plunged southeast down the steep gully toward an open area near Horn Creek. This would not have been a good ascent route, but I just wanted to descend while the weather held.

After bushwhacking through downed timber, I crossed Horn Creek on a log and soon found the Horn Creek Trail. This trail was a bit muddier than the Dry Creek Trail but was still very pleasant, and my feet appreciated being on a trail again. Some light rain fell intermittently for the last 30 minutes to the trailhead, but I didn't mind, especially when hard rain waited until five minutes after I reached the trailhead. Nice timing for the end to a fun three-peak tour.

In summary, the Dry Lakes basin makes a nice approach to these peaks. The only improvement would be taking an easier route down from Little Horn Peak. I'll leave finding the better descent route to my fellow members.

Blue = ascent route from the Dry Creek Trail; red = descent route to the Horn Creek Trail

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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