Peak(s):  Jagged Mtn  -  13,824 feet
Date Posted:  12/11/2018
Modified:  01/21/2019
Date Climbed:   08/24/2018
Author:  JQDivide
Additional Members:   ScreeSurfer, bmcqueen, RyGuy, globreal, Steve Climber
 A Jagged Finish  

Jagged Mountain
Friday, August 24, 2018

The Group: Brad McQueen, Britt Jones, Joel Quevillon, John Balciar, Sam Sala, and Ryan Richardson

Jagged Mountain from Vallecito Creek

Though the words are mine, this is not completely my story. I was just lucky enough to be part of a great day in the mountains as two friends completed a long journey.


The first discussion of Jagged came in 2017 as Brad and Ryan contemplated completing the list of Centennials, the highest 100 peaks in Colorado. The list includes 53 ranked 14ers and 47 ranked 13ers. Ryan had a nice lead on the list over Brad, about 20. Brad pitched an idea, ‘if I can catch up, we can finish together on Jagged.’ Ryan agreed and adjusted his plans for his last Centennial. That was a pretty big ‘if.’ Brad had some miles and elevation to complete in the next year if this was going to work.

During a winter hike, they asked me if I had any interest in joining them on Jagged. Absolutely, I did. No definitive plans were set as they both had mountains to climb before they could narrow down a date. I had my own list (58) I was working on this year.

At the beginning of 2018, Ryan needed five Centennials. Brad needed 15. As winter quickly turned to spring due to the lack of snow, we all switched gears. I took a bit of break from higher peaks as I tried to rest my hip. Brad and Ryan worked on the 13ers (and Brad continued to check off his seasonal grid slots.)

Spring transitioned into summer and Brad was gaining on Ryan… the #ChasingRichardson Project was in full motion. The remaining 13ers on their lists were checked off. Brad was lucky and had good weather for most of his 13er run and hit No. 98. But a bridge closure stopped a trip to Rio Grande Pyramid in July for No. 99.

They selected a date for Jagged and invited a small group. Brad still had one more to get before the final.

Then the logistics started. The Durango-Silverton Train wasn’t running because of the fire and damage to the tracks. It would be a hike into the Sunlight Creek Basin. But, from which direction?

And the trip grew longer, as Brad decided to grab Rio Grande Pyramid on the way.

After days of discussion and logistical considerations the plan was set. The weekend of August 18-19, Brad, Ryan and John were going to drive south so Brad could tag RGP (and he and John could grab four other 13ers in that area.) Ryan would stay at camp. Twenty-seven hours and 27 miles later they were back and heading to Vallecito Reservoir.

I had to make a decision on what my plans were. I have a small tear in my right hip labrum. For the most part, I’m good to hike and climb. But heavy packs and long trails do cause some issues. Without the train and some other stuff going on, I considered not going. But how could I miss a trip like this?

I talked to Sam about his plans, and he was coming in from the north, Bear Town. But that would mean a hike up and out, instead of down and out on the return. I didn’t like that idea.

The trail along Vallecito Creek is fairly moderate. Going in later meant less weight to carry (food, etc.). So, I opted for a solo hike in, but two days behind the group. Then Britt contacted me about my plans. We ended up going in together. What Britt didn’t tell me, it was supposed to be a surprise. He had originally told them he couldn’t go because of work, but things changed. I spoiled the surprise, but hey, I didn’t know.

Brad, Ryan and John headed up Vallecito Creek on Monday, Aug. 20. The weather was looking bad. Rain. And more rain during the week. Summit day was questionable, but had the better forecast. In between rain showers they summitted several other 13ers. I think John’s total for the week was 12. He’s a machine.


On Wednesday, Aug. 22, Britt met me at my house and we drove the six hours to Vallecito Reservoir and trailhead. As we drove north out of Bayfield, we could see the dark storm clouds ahead. Knowing about the forecast I bought a new pack cover, which came in very handy. What I should have bought was a new rain coat. That afternoon, as we geared up at the TH and set out to hike, the rain began. Softly at first, then it came down. I was wet shortly after we had hiked out of the campground and onto the section of rocky switchbacks.

I was wet. I was pissed. I put my head down, grumbled a lot and picked up my pace. Britt was wearing a large poncho that covered his body and pack. He stayed dry, for the most part.

I was drenched by the time we were hiking along the creek after the switchbacks just north of the TH. My rain coat was worthless, absolutely worthless.

About two hours into the hike, the rain let up and even bits of sun appeared through the clouds. But it wasn’t enough to completely dry out. My concern was hypothermia. It looked like we’d make camp about sunset. I wanted to get there before that, to put on some dry clothes before the damp night chill kicked my ass.

Vallecito Creek with Irving Peak in the background as the clouds and rain moved out during our hike in.

The hike along the creek was beautiful. Though I was in a wet pissy mood, I still had a few moments of enjoyment to appreciate the scenery. Several bridges crossed the running water, shifting the trail from east to west of the current. There was one crossing without a bridge. I think an avalanche destroyed it. The area is obvious if you look for an avy scar. The crossing was shin deep without much current. We wet-waded across. On the way back, some of the guys hopped some rocks and got across dry as the creek was fairly low.

From the TH, it took Britt and I about six hours to reach the large dispersed camping area near Johnson Creek. There is a bridge that crosses over Vallecito Creek to a large flat area with plenty of camping spots with rock fire rings.

It wasn’t raining, but everything was wet. I dropped my pack and stripped out of my wet clothes. I ended up in a pair of baselayer leggings, a puffy coat and flipflops… a great look. But I was staying warm. We put up tents and started heating water. I strung up a clothes line, but it was so humid, it didn’t do much good. In the morning, the sun was out. I rearranged some of the clothes to get the direct sun and that helped a little, but we didn’t have time to wait for everything to dry. We left camp about 9:15 a.m. on Thursday.

I was in a much better disposition today. We only saw people on the trail near the trailhead and here at the camping area. The hike was easy to moderate, and beautiful. Britt and I continued to hike north in the sun. (Just as an FYI, there were only a few obvious spots between Johnson Creek and Sunlight Creek for tents.)

The bridge at the Johnson Creek dispersed camping area.

We arrived at a wide open grassy meadow a couple hundred yards or so below the Sunlight Creek junction shortly after 11 a.m. We got our first views of Jagged.

The trail crossed Vallecito Creek here. We put on our wet shoes, I had flipflops, and crossed the creek. We changed back to hiking shoes and walked up to Sunlight Creek. It was a smaller creek with plenty of rocks to step on to cross it. I slipped and dunked my feet. I wasn’t happy, but wasn’t as pissed as the day before. We stopped for a snack and to ring out my socks.

There is a trail up the Sunlight Creek Basin that begins on the north side of the creek. Even with the trail, the lower section is a thick bushwhack that could be hard to follow in the dark. At times it follows the creek, at other times it is above or far to one side. An avalanche had struck the area years ago, but enough people and animals have hiked the basin, the trail was remade.

The trail eventually drops hard left, just a short distance, to the creek and crosses to the south side. Britt said he fell in here one time. Shortly after this we stopped for a snack. Britt continued on as I took a longer break.

It didn’t really matter about my wet shoes, because it started to rain. Though it wasn’t a hard rain, everything was wet, again.

Near 11,000 feet, it’s time to be careful of the trail’s direction. Stay close to the creek here. A trail does move away from the creek to the left and goes up a small side gully or basin. This is not the way. You can go up and over, but it’s a waste of time and energy. Follow Sunlight Creek to another creek crossing that comes down from the south (left), near 11,100. This area was a mess, thick with vegetation and numerous game trails crossing over the two creeks and hiding the real trail. Just take your time to find it. (At different times, three of us got off trail in this area.)

The trail eventually crosses this southern side creek and begins to climb, switchbacking its way up the headwall of the basin, on the left side of Sunlight Creek. Once you’re back on the real trail, it’s easy to follow up the basin.

The rain let up as I worked my way up the basin. I knew they were camping near 11,500 ft., we had sent a few InReach messages back and forth. As I got closer, the rain started up again. When I got to camp, everyone was zipped up in their tents. I thought about hunkering down under a tree until the rain stopped, but didn’t know if that would be five minutes or five hours, so I put up my tent in the rain. I used my ground cloth as a cover and did a fairly good job of keeping the rain off my tent until I got the rainfly on. I was snug in my tent about the time the rain stopped. Everyone popped out of their tents like emerging flowers in one of those old Warner Bros. cartoons after the thunderstorm passes. There were greetings all around.

Two other guys entered the area, a climber and guide that were hitting Jagged also. Everyone spent time getting water for dinner and for the next day’s trip. We all hung out by the fire trying to dry out shoes and socks. At one point I was trying to stir the coals, but only managed to knock all the shoes/boots off the rock ring into the flames. No damage done.

Drying out. Photo: Brad
Drying out, again on Thursday. Photo: Ryan

One observation in the basin… there were eight guys and eight tents. No sharing.

Sam never showed up that night. We talked about possibilities, but knew he was experienced and decided to not get worried unless he didn’t show up the next day. He too got confused in the jumble of mixed trails near 11,100. It was dark and he decided to just set up camp. So in the morning, he followed the creek directly up the head wall for a bit of climbing.

Group selfie at the campfire on Thursday night. Photo: Ryan


On Friday, it was not an early start, the sun was rising before we were (except for Sam).

We had breakfast and loaded up. We followed the trail that lead higher up Sunlight Creek Basin toward Sunlight Lake, but we turned north before we could see the lake. We hiked toward the eastern shoulder of Jagged, taking a gully that led us into the small basin between Jagged and Leviathan Peak. From here, we got our first views of Jagged’s rugged northern side. For some reason we crossed the boulder field (east to west) near 12,800 instead of just dropping a bit lower to easily walk the tundra toward Jagged Pass. We made our way passed the ‘center’ of the mountain to the far right or west, kind of a switchback, but not really. We reached some grassy slopes and began going up and back toward the center. We hiked above some boilerplate rock formations and toward the prominent gully/couloir which is to the left/east of the summit. The route follows the right/west side of the gully before turning west.

The hike above camp, upper Sunlight Creek Basin
Hiking towards the gully on Jagged's eastern shoulder.
Jagged's northern side

From here we followed the route description in Roaches 13ers guide book. Britt had a photo copy of the route. There were also a few cairns to mark the way. Both Britt and John had climbed Jagged before. John did it solo without a rope.

Brad and Ryan talked to John and Sam and basically told them, they were leading, since they had more rope experience. And it didn’t take long for that to start.

We dropped our trekking poles and put on our helmets and harnesses. And within a few minutes we hit our first Class 4 move, I guess what some call the first crux. The rains left much of the dirt and soil wet and slick. Some of the group had trouble due to the wet soil and we pulled out the ropes. We were probably a bit quick to use ropes, but as we discussed, there is no point in having a safety device if you’re not going to use it. I read another trip report where they too brought out the rope at this spot due to the wetness of the rocks and soil.

Putting on helmets and harnesses before the climb of Jagged begins. Photo: John
Britt and Ryan waiting their turn. Photo: John

The climb up Jagged was a mix of easy grassy ramps and rocks with an occasional Class 3 move between the cruxes.

Sam and John climbed several spots without protection, but this was their skill level. Then Sam would belay the rest of us through the technical parts. To save time we doubled up on the ropes, with two guys. I felt great on the ropes. There is something about the fact you know you’re not going to fall (far) if you slip. I don’t recall anyone slipping or having any issues in the lower sections.

Grassy and rocky slopes between the cruxes. Photo: John
This might be the first 'crux'.... but can't remember Photo: Sam
Moving up the northern side near the coulior. Photo: John

The only issue we had with being doubled-up… During the ‘second crux’ Brad and I were roped together, he above me. There was an odd boulder to climb, then a turn left and up. Brad was at the turn. I was on the boulder.

Brad, putting pressure on the rope: “Can you move up?” (It was a friendly demand.)

Me: (Sheepishly) “No.” I was stuck, wedged between the boulder and the wall, with slick shoes trying to find a footing. It took a few moments and I was finally able to move up.

Taking in the views on a quick break. Photo: Sam
At the notch, about to switch sides. Photo: Sam
Checking out the views from the notch. Photo: Britt

There were very few photos taken during most of the climbing until we reached the notch. Phones and cameras are hard to get in and out of pockets with harnesses on. And think most everyone was really concentrating on the terrain.

Once we reached the notch and crossed over to Jagged’s south side, we found ourselves on the ledge and some amazing views toward Chicago Basin. This airy ledge section has a several hundred foot drop, but with only one very exposed move. There is a narrow chute with questionable traction that leads down to the very edge. From here, you step down on to a large rock that does move a bit. Then you must step up and around a boulder to your left. Brad and John went first with no trouble. I hesitated. I’m not a fan of exposure. John helped me round the boulder by short roping me. The others roped in after that. I believe somewhere along this ledge section is where Wyoming Bob fell to his death.

On the ledge of the southern side. Photo: Sam
Coming down the 'chute.' Notice the gray helmet above us. Photo: Brad
Looking back at the ledge. Photo: Ryan
The end of the ledge and the chimney. Photo: Ryan
Sam enjoying the ledge

At the end of the ledge, we found ourselves at the "new" crux. The chimney was once an easier climb, Class 3, but in the last year that changed, probably an easy Class 5. Two boulders fell and lodged themselves into the chimney. We spent some time in this area as Sam set up the ropes. I put on an extra layer as the shaded rock ledge was cool.

Sam climbed up and over the crux, then continued on to almost the summit before belaying the rest of us up to the top. I think we all tried to avoid touching the new boulders, but I think we all did in some form or fashion. They seemed snug, but you never know. Gerry Roach's second edition of "Colorado's Thirteeners" (2018) still has this chimney as C3, but I assume that is because of the timing of publication.

We all made it to the summit area, then let Brad and Ryan tag the top. Britt packed in the two finisher medallions we bought for them.

Checking out the chimney.

Sam working his way up the chimney.
Ryan climbing the chimney.
The last pitch.
Brad about to reach the top of the climb. Photo:John

It took us a few minutes shy of five hours to reach the summit from camp. We spent more than a half hour on the summit, maybe even an hour, enjoying the great weather and dramatic views. The San Juans are gorgeous. Photos just don’t capture the true grandeur of the mountains, but the images are great reminders.

Sam set up the rappel station with new webbing and threw over the ropes. We dropped from the summit and needed every meter of the doubled-up 60m ropes. A boulder helped us reach the bottom safely, as the rope didn’t quite make it to the ground. We rappelled twice more to reach the spot where we dropped our trekking poles.

Celebrating 100!
Living in the moment, enjoying the views.
It's nice at the top.
Britt enjoying the views. Photo: Ryan
John on the summit waiting to help with the ropes.
Ryan on the very top.
Waiting to rappel.
Ryan taking the step off the summit.
Brad coming down. Photo: John
That boulder added the extra few feet we needed to reach the bottom of the first rappel.
Brad on the second rappel. Photo: John
Britt on the third rappel. Photo: John
Ryan on the last rappel, almost down.
Brad is the last one down on the third rappel. Time to switch gears.

We hiked down the rocky slope until we reached the basin’s grassy bottom. We all took some time to relax, eat a snack, and regroup before heading back to camp. We just completed one of the hardest Centennials in the state. We had great weather. We had great company. We had celebrated Brad’s and Ryan’s finisher on the summit. It was an awesome experience to share that day with this group, especially Brad and Ryan who I have enjoyed numerous summits with over the last few years. What a great way to finish.

Taking a breather in the soft grass after the climb. Photo: John
Ryan heading back down to camp. Photo: Sam
Camp near 11,500 along the creek.
Looking down Sunlight Basin from the trail near the headwall

It took a total of nine and half hours from camp to summit to camp, including the time on the summit. We didn’t spend much time in camp as we grabbed some snacks and began to pack up. There was plenty of daylight left to hike down the Sunlight Creek Basin to Vallecito Creek. We had decided that it would be a much nicer hike out if we split it up into two days. Despite the nine hours on Jagged, the extra time hiking down was worth it.

We hit the flat grassy fields along Vallecito Creek before sunset. We spread out a bit and set up tents and started cooking dinner. We gathered together to eat and share a large beer Sam brought to celebrate. As much fun as it is to hike and climb together, sometimes hanging out at camp can bring great memories too.

We enjoyed a great view of Jagged catching the last of the day’s sun.

It didn’t take too long after sunset and we were all snug in our sleeping bags. We didn’t set any specific time to wake up. But we were all moving before too late in the morning. The hike out along the creek was smooth. It’s always interesting to begin seeing people the closer you get to a trailhead. Lots of day hikers were out on this sunny Saturday morning. I took a few minutes and jumped in the creek for a quick bath before getting to the TH.

We went to the Rusty Shovel bar for lunch: beer, burgers and fries. It was great, but just about any food is after backpacking. For dessert, we went across the street to the Vallecito Country Market for ice cream and pie. As we started walking back to the cars, it began to rain, again. Because of the rain, there were quick goodbyes as we got in vehicles and started the drive home.

(Someone got a speeding ticket on the way home. Wasn’t me.)

Camp at Vallecito Creek with Jagged in the far background.
Ryan measuring out beer to make sure everyone gets some. That was a nice treat, thanks to Sam. (I'm looking for ibuprophen.) Photo:John
Truly relaxing after the long week at camp near Vallecito Creek.

On the hike down Sunlight Creek I asked both Brad and Ryan, individually, what they thought about the day. I was surprised that they both answered almost the same. They didn’t focus on the ‘finish’ or the journey to 100. They both talked about ‘today:’ the fun of the climb, being with friends, and the enjoyment of a new peak. They both truly appreciated being in the moment. One of the reasons I like to hike with them.

John, Britt, Sam, Ryan, Brad and Joel on the summit. Photo: John

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 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50

 Comments or Questions
Steve Climber

Thanks for the TR!
12/11/2018 12:05
Such a fun day to re-live through this story.

#28 is one of my all-time favorite photos from any trip I've done.

#5, #34, and #48 make me smile big too. Always love to see great friends enjoying each other's company and doing awesome stuff in the hills.


Days like these...
12/11/2018 12:16
Are the days you remember for the rest of your life.

It was a heck of an adventure with plenty to look back and smile about. The company was amazing. The mountain was everything I expected it to be and then some. The weather on summit day blew away all the rain and gloom we dealt with in previous days.

Thank you Joel for being there. It's been an honor to share so many summits with you over the years and I look forward to joining you when you finish the Centennials!



Great Report!
12/11/2018 12:17
High-five and congratulations to all on a job well done! What wonderful memories you all made together. Thank you for posting this.


Nice trip report
12/11/2018 12:40
Thanks for the recount of a great adventure, and congrats again to Brad and Ryan for finishing the Centennials!


Seems like so long ago...
12/11/2018 17:02
Thanks for writing up the TR Joel! Such an adventure getting into the Centennials and #ChasingRichardson for the last year to try to catch up in time. We had an amazing crew that day - I couldn't have asked for a better team than we had for our joint finisher. Thanks all of you guys for taking time out of your busy schedules to join us for the finale, and to John and Sam for the expert rope work. Ryan and I could have muddled through it like we did on Dallas & Teakettle, but it was reassuring to know that you guys just had it dialed. Agree with Ryan Joel - looking forward to being there with you someday on your Cent finisher. - Brad


As usual
12/12/2018 08:39
your reports are enthralling so, again, thanks for posting Joel. Congratulations on a great accomplishment Brad and Ryan!


I love this report.
12/19/2018 17:30
Read it a couple times and can only imagine just how much fun - and how fulfilling - it must have been, I enjoy all your reports but this one is extra special. I doubt I will ever be capable of doing Jagged but your report makes me feel like I was there. Thanks...

Way to Go!
07/09/2019 12:11
Nice work, looks like a fun trip! I'd like to one day be a centennial finisher, I'm curious where you got those nifty medals to commemorate your achievement?

07/10/2019 10:34

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