Peak(s):  Cottonwood Pk A  -  13,588 feet
Eagle Pk A  -  13,205 feet
PT 13,490  -  13,490 feet
Lakes Pk  -  13,375 feet
Electric Pk A  -  13,598 feet
De Anza Pk A  -  13,362 feet
Gibbs Pk A  -  13,553 feet
Marcy, Mt  -  13,490 feet
"Silver Pk"  -  13,513 feet
Owen A, Mt  -  13,340 feet
Date Posted:  12/02/2017
Date Climbed:   11/25/2017
Author:  Santanoni
 Traverse from Cottonwood Pk to Mt Owen in the Sangres  

After having mostly done 14ers since coming to Colorado I thought it would be interesting to try a bunch of other peaks in combination, and with more of a go and see approach. I picked this area in the Sangre de Cristo because it looked possible to string a bunch of peaks together and make a fun challenge over the Thanksgiving weekend for a two nighter without much terrain appearing technical. I did this trip from mid afternoon on 11/24 to mid afternoon 11/26. I had gear for snow/ice in the car, but it looked like just about none when I arrived so I brought ax and spikes, and figured that was overkill.
I have a map and elevation profile as the last two images. Figured on using a good trip for my first report.

I dropped gear at the Garner Creek TH (Trail 753), then drove to the Cotton Gulch TH (Trail 749), left my car there, and did a bushwhack-jog back to Garner Creek so that the car would be waiting at the end of my trip. A 6 or so mile run was a good way to start things off a bit tired. A fall along my run resulted in about 100 cactus spines in my right hand and made me hope it wasn't going to be one of those trips.

I did not actually get going with my pack up the trail until sunset on Friday the 24th, but it was nice to have gotten the run-shuttle out of the way.
Beginning near dark at Garner Creek Hot Springs TH if my NatGeo map names are to be believed.

I hiked up the trail to the shoulder of Cottonwood peak stopping to do dinner at a stream. My bivy spot was at about 12200 and was not completely flat, but it was good enough. The trail had disappeared the night before at about 11200 and I saw no more sign of it in the morning.
Bivy sacking it, because it's light and I like to wake up to small icicles in my face.

Cottonwood peak was straightforward on the west ridge, just took a bit of time with the tumbled rock. I knew the trip I had roughly laid out was quite long but I could bail early if my progress was slow, as long as I made it far enough to drop down into the cotton creek drainage.
W Ridge below cottonwood summit

I moved on toward pt 13123B using the SE ridge off cottonwood; I did not realize it was a ranked 13er and was confused as to its identity briefly. It was a small lump on the map but was not insignificant. This peak helped give things a perspective given that its prominence (303) is as small as possible to be ranked, so it was a good benchmark for that.
Near the summit of 13123B looking back NW toward Cottonwood

I moved along to Thirsty peak next, following the same NW-SE ridge, getting there around 10am. I thought this one was ranked, but looks like perhaps not evaluating afterwards, maybe not enough drop over to Lakes Pk. My plan was to drop my pack below the summit and do an out and back to Eagle. I looked at that ridge and saw it might have some obstacles that could make it slow, but decided to do it anyway.
Looking back NW at 13123B and Cottonwood from Thirsty summit

Inspecting the SW ridge of Eagle pk for a jaunt over. Eagle is behind to the left, the closer bump defined the end of the craggier part.

There was some route finding required, but it was not extensive and I passed the obstacles quickly enough, mostly on the North side. The rest of the ridge on eagle (SW) is gentle, and the summit afforded a very nice view of the other three peaks done so far.
Thirsty, 13123B, Cottonwood from L to R from Eagle summit

I returned via roughly the same route.

I melted snow and did lunch in the col between Thirsty and Lakes peak. There was snow to melt up high in general, which was good because I was counting on that or else having to drop down to lakes which would have been quite a lot more work. Moving on to Lakes peak after that was another rocky ridge walk.
The main ridge remained mild, just more tumbled rock to Lakes Pk

The descent off Lakes Pk to the SE was steep, but for the most part the rocks held in place and it was not a loose scree slope.
Electric peak had a few rock bands, but looked like it would be not much of a problem either, and they were not, plenty of ways to pretty much just walk through them. I stayed well W of the ridge initially, though it was not necessary.
False NW summit of Electric, with the real one another 500 ft jump up from there

The col between Lakes Pk and Electric was the lowest point on the traverse thus far, so it was a decent effort to get over to Electric from Lakes. The continuous rock jumble surface was also taking a toll, and I had to keep breaks short and keep going pretty continuously being that I was trying to make the flatish looking summit area of Marcy for night 2 camp.

I needed to get over De Anza, tag Gibbs if I could, then head to Marcy. As usual I was biting off enough to make it more interesting. From this vantage point, the ridge also gained more twists and turns and it was harder to tell exactly how it gets over to Marcy, even though it was clear on the map.
From Electric Summit: Gibbs - Far left, De Anza - Shadowed pk in front of and right of gibbs, and Marcy - one with snow near center more distant

I realized I was probably looking at getting to Marcy after dark, so I kept my options open to looking for an earlier camp if one presented itself.

I skirted the unnamed peak SE of electric to save some energy despite its modest size. I briefly linked up with trail 856, but just for a tenth of a mile or so. That trail did lead down to the Cotton creek drainage however, so I had made it far enough to get back to the car with low effort if I should want to.
Skirting unnamed SE of Electric. De Anza looms to the left.

The ridge continued to be rocky but mild and I was using rest step to conserve energy while on the ascent sections. I rounded the shoulder of De Anza and could see its summit, along with gibbs. The shadows were growing, and I had spotted a couple little lumps on the ridge to Marcy that looked possibly sketchy if I got to them in the dark.
De Anza Summit from its sub-peak, Gibbs behind.

There I am. Marcy is to my right. From certain angles those ridge lumps looked a bit jagged.

I took a second to snap a shot of the mountain shadows as I moved toward the jump of point for Gibbs.
The mountains casting shadows, always like these views.

I then dropped pack in what I figured would be an obvious spot and took a headlamp as I went over to Gibbs. I was enjoying the glow, but knowing it would be dark soon. There were some flat enough spots to bivy, but the wind was as bad there as anywhere that day (estimate 25-30 with higher gusts), so I was planning to continue.
Alpenglow and my shadow near the summit of Gibson

I rejoined my pack without issue, but did consider that it might have been dumb to drop it for what was no more than a mile round trip. Did feel nice to have the weight off my legs and feet for that stint though.

Marcy appeared as generally flat and gentle as the map had indicated, so I felt a bivy site would present itself. I just wanted to knock out as much ridge as possible before it was totally dark.
It was a nice sunset so I admired it for a few minutes and got going.
Marcy at Sunset (far right). The closer small peak I skirted, the ridge bumps turned out to be mild.

I skirted the minor peak on the ridge, and then directly went over the lumps I saw earlier on to avoid traversing myself into trouble in the twilight. I went a little to the SE side of the second one because it got steep at top, but they had turned out pretty mild so pushing into the dark in this case had worked out.

There was more snow here. The ridge had finally curved from its SE path all day to SW, so I was on a NE slope that held some snow. It was soft and did not require spikes anyway.
I reached the Marcy summit in the dark and took a headlamp lit image of the little rock wall and canister.
Not much to look at by this point, just after 6pm. Been going since 7am or so.,

I considered dropping down to Cotton lake for the night and relaxing, maybe just hiking out the next day. I had planned to try and do a J hook over to Mt Owen though, so when I found the W ridge of Marcy to be not that windy, I dropped to a spot at about 12700 and set up my bivy. I melted more snow and ate/drank a bunch. The exertion of the day made it a challenge to refuel as much as I would have liked, I was too tired to be as hungry as I should at that point. Not having had a chance to dry my bivy setup that day I knew I might be in for a chilly night. Part of my down bag was compressed from the condensation of the previous night and created a cold area. I did fall asleep though, and kept pushing fluffy down into the cold area when I would wake up. Actually slept decently.

I got up and continued on toward Silver peak the next morning early. The sunrise was the best sunrise/set I had seen on this trip.

Silver (left) and Pt 13490 (right) at sunrise

same peaks as the glow changed a few minutes later.

The ridge between 13490 (left) and Mt Owen (far right) at sunrise.

The ridge to Silver was finally steeper. This had looked like where the peaks get a bit steeper from the maps.
Silver peak ridge and north facing couloir

I tested the snow with my ice ax; tough on top, very soft below, seemed kind of unstable.
And then I saw that an avalanche had occurred in the little couloir on the N face of Silver peak. Here's an image that pretty clearly shows the broken slab debris pile at the base. If you enlarge, you will notice the break line over 1/2 the way up the slope. Still a good amount vulnerable to another slide.
The avalanche in the north face couloir on Silver Pk.

Not what I was expecting to find, but I guess it's a reminder to always be watching out. It was really the first continuous (angled) snow field I came to, the only one one the trip just about, and it had avalanched.

I used the ridge to the E of the couloir and stayed on rock. Steep, but the rocks seemed frozen into place so not many of them were shifting.

After getting up to the summit of Silver, I had the idea to check and see if I could grab Peak of the Clouds as an out and back. I scouted it out, but the NW ridge is tough, at least to me. Very well defined rock layers as the image shows, but tilted steeply and sheared off on bedding planes. Made for a lot of steep slabs. I looked around for a little while, tried a few routes and decided it was a no go from this direction right now.
Peak of the clouds (right) was too hard from this approach, and I wanted to keep moving.

Turning to Pt 13490, it looked like that might present its own challenge, and it did sufficiently for me. The E ridge was decently steep with some protruding bands. I worked my way up through a couple. Right below the top were two well defined bands. I climbed up a little crack/gully in the first and then found myself faced with some climby routes to the summit.
Pt 13490, The unnamed one is also the trickiest, from this side anyway.

I skirted south, and got around the top band and then it was just a short jump up to the summit. It was class 3 through the section nearing the top with the route I took, and it certainly required attention. The rock in those bands was solid conglomerate though, so it was nice enough to work with.
The conglomerate was similar to over on the Crestones

With just one peak to go I figured it was nearly done. Not quite. The ridge to Mt Owen is long, and has its share of intersecting bands and jumbled rock. Not hard, but it took time.
The ridge to Mt Owen is long, and had enough obstacles to keep it interesting.

There was a trail from the col with the Pt 13490 ridge that looked good, but it dropped too low and then I had to climb up small, steep bands of rock because of 10-15 foot cliff bands perpendicular to the ridge. It was best to stay high on this ridge and just skirt the little peaks, of which there were about 4 on the ridge.
On the Mt Owen Ridge

I made Mt Owen Summit around 100, and I was happy to be there and to have no more peaks to do. Usually I don't feel that kind of anticipation for the end, but it was a challenging trip.
Made it to Mt Owen Summit, traversed 11? ranked 13ers to get here.

The views south with the snow highlighting some of the geologic features.
Views were great; hooking back I could see the rest of the traverse, but the view South with light snow also highlighted all the rock layers.

I descended this ridge off the north side of Mt Owen; it was steep in its own right, rock was pretty loose in the steep spots. It was the quickest looking route to get down to the trail. Upon hitting tree line there was about 6 inches on the Northern aspects which was great with a pair of microspikes to really drop elevation fast. It also was a break for my rock punished feet.
Steep little ridge down.

Snow is a really nice surface compared to the continual rock

The hike out was uneventful. My timing on the drive home was nice because I got to see the sunset from the valley.
Light fading on the mtns.

And then the sunset a few minutes later compelled another stop. Mt Ouray I think.

A trip summary profile. Total Distance was about 36 miles, elevation gain/loss about 14000.

And the mapped out route (no gps, just put it together in caltopo) with some markers to indicate progress/notable points along the route.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions

12/02/2017 18:19
That was a good one. I would have been impressed if you did that when it was warm out.
I was up there a few days ago, very little snow. Two thumbs up!
AndThanks for the trip report.


Rare finds
12/02/2017 18:23
Haven€„˘t read an entire TR on this site in a long time that piqued my interest as much. And I typically battle with what is the best Colorado mountain range? Depends on your abilities and interests. Looks like the Sangres highlight what you€„˘re good at. Grow a beard and you€„˘ll admire those morning icicles a little more.


12/05/2017 21:30
The Sangres are interesting... always cool to see the different ways people link up the peaks, and whether they approach from the east or west. Looks like you really made the most of your Thanksgiving! Excellent work and thanks for taking the time to post.

Fun time indeed
01/16/2018 23:11
Thanks for the comments. I treated it like it was warm given the general lack of snow, which probably made my trip plan a bit too bold, but it worked out well. Just the cold camping/snow melting and some ice evasion to remind me it was November.

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