Peak(s):  Hunter Pk  -  13,497 feet
PT 13,550  -  13,550 feet
Date Posted:  09/24/2018
Modified:  10/16/2018
Date Climbed:   09/22/2018
Author:  Mtnman200
 Every Month Should Be September   

Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. The forecast for the Conundrum Creek valley near Aspen called for warm, sunny days with zero chance of precipitation the next few days. The chance to grab a couple of tricentennial peaks (Hunter Peak and Unnamed 13,550') in beautiful September weather was too good to pass up, despite a prior commitment that would keep me busy until after 7 PM today. As soon as I got home, I jumped in my 4Runner and made the 3 1/2 hour drive to the Conundrum Creek Trailhead. It was 11 PM when I crawled into the back for a few hours of sleep, wishing I had a few more inches of legroom.

Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. I got up at 5 AM, ate a quick breakfast, and began backpacking up the Conundrum Creek Trail in the early morning darkness. The trail is a good one, and the miles went quickly. When I reached a creek crossing at 10,040' (about 1 mile north of Silver Dollar Pond), I stashed my backpack in the trees and began hiking west up the north side of the drainage.

The ascent involved some sidehilling and a lot of willows and young aspens, but a few elk trails helped me gain elevation. Eventually, I got above the trees and entered the large basin NE of Hunter Peak. From here, I aimed NW toward a saddle between Hunter Peak and a 12,839' ridge bump. The footing was better than expected.

Looking down the talus toward the Conundrum Creek Trail

Looking up the talus from the same location as the previous photo. I went up the talus just right of center

Almost to Hunter Peak's north ridge. This talus was infinitely more stable than what I found on V3 near Ophir earlier this month

Looking south toward Hunter Peak from where I reached its north ridge. That is Hunter's false summit, as I would learn a few photos from now

A closer look at Hunter Peak's mellow north ridge

Nearing what I thought was Hunter Peak's true summit...

...only to find it was a false summit. It was an easy ridge walk south to the true summit of Hunter Peak (13,497'). The ridge to Keefe Peak is visible to the right of the Hunter Peak's summit

I was definitely feeling the effects of fewer than five hours of sleep last night, so I spent close to an hour on the summit, enjoying energy bars and internet access. As promised by the National Weather Service, the weather would not be an issue today.

Rather than return the way I'd ascended, I headed south from Hunter's summit and then descended scree toward a drainage that reached Conundrum Creek about 1/2 mile north of Silver Dollar Pond. I'd hoped that I would have less bushwhacking through willows and young aspen than my ascent route, but that was not the case. Also, the footing was better on my ascent route.

Once back at the trail, I grabbed my backpack and headed north toward Silver Dollar Pond. As of 2018, a permit is required to camp between Silver Dollar Pond and Triangle Pass. I didn't have a permit, so I found a suitable campsite in the trees just NW of Silver Dollar Pond.

Blue = ascent route; red = descent route

Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. I headed south on the Conundrum Creek Trail to about 11,400', where I left the trail and headed east across the large basin west of today's goal, Unnamed 13,550'.

Unnamed 13,550' from the Conundrum Creek Trail above Conundrum Hot Springs. Plenty of willows to enjoy, but at least they were dry

Where the scree gully splits about halfway to the ridge, I went left up the lighter rock because it looked less steep but descended the right branch with the darker rock. Either way will get you to the ridge

Unnamed 13,550' and a closer look at the descent gully that begins at the low point on north ridge of Unnamed 13,550'

Once on the ridge, I had to bypass a few towers and notches, sometimes to the east and sometimes to the west. It's generally obvious which way is easier.

Looking south toward Unnamed 13,550', you can see a tower just left of center that I bypassed on the right (west)

I stayed on the ridge as much as possible, though it would also be possible to traverse east and climb ledges on the NE face. I found the scrambling to be fun, despite the loose/rotten nature of the rock.

Almost to the summit, which is just beyond the high point you see here

Looking north down the rugged ridge of Unnamed 13,550' from the same location as the previous photo

Upon reaching the summit, I was surprised to find a CMC summit register that had been placed in 2017 but not surprised to see that it didn't contain very many names over the past 13 months.

CMC summit register on Unnamed 13,550'

This apparently is not a very popular summit, and it is also no longer my highest unclimbed ranked Colorado summit

Looking NNE at "Castleabra" (13,803'), Conundrum Peak (14,022'), and Castle Peak (14,265') from the summit of Unnamed 13,550'

Looking west from the summit of Unnamed 13,550' toward Unnamed 13,631', "Lightning Pyramid" (13,722'), "Thunder Pyramid" (13,932), and Pyramid Peak (14,018')

After spending 45 minutes on the summit, I descended to the large basin west of Unnamed 13,550'. This time, I tried staying farther south in the basin in an ultimately futile attempt to minimize the willow bushwhacking. Eventually, it felt great to be on the Conundrum Creek Trail again, and I returned to my campsite and began backpacking to the trailhead.

My 1960 USGS topo map identifies this old building near Conundrum Hot Springs as "Conundrum Guard Station."

The photos from this trip don't include any clouds, which is why the trip report title is "Every Month Should Be September." That, plus I recall Amy (blazintoes) making that comment a couple of years ago.

Blue = ascent route; red = descent route

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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