Peak(s):  Winfield Pk  -  13,077 feet
Virginia Pk  -  13,088 feet
"West Virginia"  -  13,140 feet
"Sheep Rock Mtn"  -  13,255 feet
PT 13,235  -  13,235 feet
PT 13,253  -  13,253 feet
PT 13,253 South  -  13,253 feet
Date Posted:  08/01/2019
Modified:  08/02/2019
Date Climbed:   07/28/2019
Author:  supranihilest
 Winfield West 13ers Loop  

The 13ers that make up the western wall of the Clear Creek drainage (and indeed part of the western wall of the Sawatch itself) make up a logical ridge run. Presumably it could be done either north to south or south to north, though I did it starting in the north. I'll discuss the pros and cons at the bottom, but first, the climb itself.

Predictions were only for 10% chance of storms after 2pm but I wasn't sure when I'd be done with the ridge. I hoped earlier in the day but after reading the only two other trip reports for this ridge by Furthermore (who did not do Winfield Peak, just the other six 13ers) and bergsteigen I gave myself a more realistic time of "this is going to take a while" which meant a 4am wake up time.

After getting moving I wandered around on the east side of Clear Creek trying to find a way across. I hadn't thought about the creek crossing whatsoever in my planning and I also missed the part in bergsteigen's report where she said there's a Forest Service plank crossing over the creek. Oops. Strike one. After hemming and hawing for a bit about how bad I did or did not want these peaks I took off my shoes and socks, hiked up my pants, and forded the creek. At 5am in complete darkness it was freezing cold and just over knee deep. On the other side I dried my feet off with my gloves and continued on into the willows - strike two.

Willow bashing for a while I eventually met the east slopes of the ridge and began to gain elevation, hitting the forest. I discovered quite a good trail in the forest, where I proceeded to take the one glorious step on trail I'd get in the next six hours before continuing uphill.

19588_01
This trail ran perpendicular to where I was going, so I didn't get to use it at all except for one step.

Strike three for this route? Talus below treeline. Everyone's favorite! Gonna have to have more than three strikes for me to quit.

19588_02
Blurry talus below treeline is still talus below treeline.
19588_03
Yay.

The talus continued basically all the way to treeline. Then it stopped. Go figure. I did discover the source of some of the talus; numerous cliffs hidden in the trees, which I weaved in and out of.

19588_04

Despite the annoyances of the route I was able to enjoy the sunrise down valley.

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The scenery as I approached and reached the upper basin below Winfield Peak was wonderful. Lush greenery surrounded me, and I crossed a few easy, burbling brooks as they rushed downhill.

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Make a running leap or tiptoe carefully across, your choice.
19588_08
Panorama of the upper basin. Winfield Peak is that undefined, rounded hump right of center. Virginia Peak is hidden on the other side of the next basin over, behind the ridge that makes up the left skyline.

I started huffing up the slope to the east ridge, towards the saddle on the right side of the panorama. These slopes were steep and got steeper the higher I went, and were covered in loose dirt patches and scree. It turns out there's actually a road that goes up to the saddle but it wasn't clear that's what it was and so I didn't take advantage of it. With that said, it would probably make for a nice escape to Winfield (the town, not the peak) if necessary.

19588_09
Ramparts on the south side of the basin.
19588_10
The slopes leading up to the east ridge's crest. Its steeper and looser than it looks.
19588_11
The road that crosses Winfield's east ridge. It stops right at the flats in the basin I climbed through but it looks like it might go down all the way to Winfield.

The rest of the ridge to Winfield Peak was easy, though the rock on the ridge was pure crumbly trash. It went at Class 2, maybe Class 2+ on a bad day and was then followed by a Class 2 talus hop on granite. The granite talus was to become a near permanent fixture on the rest of the route.

19588_12
You could make this harder if you wanted but there seemed to be little point. The
rock quality was awful.

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19588_14
From this point on almost all of the route contained this kind of mixed grass/granite talus terrain. The rock itself was mostly solid but each individual block liked to shift around.
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Virginia Peak is visible behind the foreground saddle on the left. The bump on the lefthand ridge isn't anything. "Sheep Rock Mountain" is visible left of the central bump, with "West Virginia" connecting via the ridge.

Virginia Peak was more of the same - Class 2 talus and grass.

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Interesting red rock streak at the Winfield-Virginia saddle. There was one more prior to Virginia.
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Summit block of Virginia. The difficulty can be increased if desired but otherwise this is Class 2.
19588_18
Looking back to Winfield. La Plata is the big peak hidden in the clouds.

From Virginia to "West Virginia" the terrain was - take a guess - grassy Class 2! There's an awful lot of that on this route.

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"Sheep Rock Mountain" on the left, "West Virginia" on the right.
19588_20
Approaching the summit of "West Virginia".
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Closer shot of some of the northern terrain on "West Virginia".
19588_22
The closer stacked blocks are almost exactly the same elevation as the farther ones in center. The catwalk between the two is loose and airy.

Up until this point I had been scoping escape options in case weather came in. Clouds had been building and dissipating repeatedly and I didn't want to get stuck on a very long ridge in rain, let alone lightning. Once on "West Virginia" the views of the remaining route were obscured by "Sheep Rock Mountain", and the terrain looked a bit more technical.

19588_23
"Sheep Rock Mountain" and the nasty looking ridge I'd have to continue on to out of sight peaks.
19588_24
Some of the bumps and blocks en route to "Sheep Rock Mountain". It's all still Class 2 or Class 2+ and can be climbed direct or skirted on the west side.

The southern side of "Sheep Rock Mountain"'s west ridge was a lot more benign than it looked from the north; no scrambling necessary.

19588_25
The long stretch of grass up to the first ridge bump (left of Grizzly Peak E, in center) was oh so nice after so much broken rock.
Panorama from just off "Sheep Rock Mountain"'s summit.

It's a long way from "Sheep Rock Mountain" to Point 13,235, by far the longest stretch in between summits. While all of it was easy, either Class 1 or Class 2, it required going over two unnamed bumps in the ridge and took nearly twice as long - about an hour and 15 minutes - as most of the other peak-to-peak stretches, most of which took about 40 minutes. My speed was higher due to greater ratio of grass to rock as compared to the rest of the ridge, it was just so far!

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About five minutes from the first unnamed bump.
19588_28
Point 13,235 in the background, still what feels like miles away.

The terrain up the second unnamed bump and over to Point 13,235 returned to the broken, blocky granite that infested the rest of the route. Well, the grass was nice while it lasted.

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Nearing the summit of the second unnamed bump.
19588_30
Point 13,235.

While the hike to Point 13,235 was easy, the ever-present, loose, uneven talus was getting tedious. With only two minor summits remaining, followed by a long ridge walk to what I hoped would be a good trail, and good weather, I didn't feel like I had to rush. I'd been in contact with my friend Clay for the past few hours using a pair of radios and his group was hanging out down at camp. Little did either of us know it would still take another three and a half hours or so to collect the last couple of peaks and get down.

Point 13,253 and its southern neighbor, Point 13,253 South, are where things really got interesting and a good chunk of scrambling finally appeared. Prior to this anything that could be considered Class 3 was maybe a move or two in random spots. There was still a good chunk of "the usual" but these two pictures show some of the contrasting terrain on the ridge to 13,253.

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Want to guess where Point 13,253 is? It's not the peak in the center. The Three Apostles kept me company for this stretch.
19588_32
Fun down climb into a notch on the ridge to Point 13,253.

13,253 came and went quickly and then 13,253 South reared up, grassy to the summit and steep rock to the south. I couldn't see any of the immediate route off the summit, just the lower angle areas a good ways down the ridge - scrambling ahoy!

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Point 13,253 South. Once on top things got serious.

Obviously the drop off to the left/east was a no-go area solo. The west wasn't any better, it was all very steep, talus infested grass for hundreds or more feet. Not looking good. First I scrambled down some slabs to an extreme, sheer dropoff.

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Looking back up to 13,253 South's summit from the descent, the first taste of the next chunk of ridge.

From here I had to make a choice. The saddle was closeby, but ahead of me down the scramble. I could have bailed down into Silver Basin, having tagged all the peaks on the ridge, but that just seemed lame with the end in sight, plus it looked like an ugly bushwhack. I radioed down to Clay that I'd hit unexpected technical terrain and that this section might take a little longer than expected. 10-4, over and out, down I went.

19588_35
This doesn't look so bad but it's incredibly exposed to the left, like probably 600-800 feet of empty air to the basin. The rock wasn't as loose as it looks but I still tested every hold.

A couple of airy Class 4 moves took me to Class 3 terrain - ledges breaking up the nearly knife edge ridge, with slabs here and there. All in all pretty spicy, what with high consequences and exposure, but not extremely long.

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13,253 South in shadow. All told a couple hundred feet of mostly Class 3 ledges and slabs. Taken from where the scrambling ended and the ridge walking resumed.

There was one more peak on the ridge that looked like a 13er but was in fact a 12er, though I couldn't tell in the moment and went over the top anyway. It's right there, why not? It was more of the same, steep Class 2+, and then it was really over. The saddle lay directly ahead.

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A bit of snow to cross and then switchbacks down to Lake Ann.
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Lake Ann with Huron Peak standing watch.
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The Three Apostles from above the lake.

The rest of the day was a hike and a run. I'd lost radio contact with Clay and I'm sure he was worried and wondering where I was. I quickly took the switchbacks down to just above the lake, where treeline began and the terrain flattened out. I started running from there and ran the several miles back to the car, which was super fun and sped things up significantly. A long but satisfying day of scrambling and peakbagging in the Sawatch!


Pros of starting in the north:

  • Get the untrailed ascent done when you're still fresh; ascend the talus and cliffs below treeline instead of descending that mess
  • Much shorter distance to the first peak than taking the Lake Ann Trail
  • Lots of bail spots early in the day, including a road off Winfield Peak
  • Excellent trail at the end of the day (though it is rather long)
  • Skip the crowds of people on the trail early on

Cons of starting in the north:

  • Early morning creek crossing if you can't/don't find the bridge
  • Puts all of the scrambling at the end of the ridge, all of which is down climbing, which could coincide with mid-day weather and/or fatigue
  • Bail spots start running out as you progress along the ridge, which could coincide with mid-day weather
  • Tons of people on the trail later

Statistics

Climbers: Ben Feinstein (myself)
Total distance: 15.03 miles
Total elevation gain: 5,222 feet
Total time: 9:09:00
Peaks: Seven 13ers (5 ranked, 2 unranked)

  • Winfield Peak, 13,077' (unranked)
  • Virginia Peak, 13,088'
  • "West Virginia", 13,140'
  • "Sheep Rock Mountain", 13,255'
  • Point 13,235, 13,235'
  • Point 13,253, 13,253'
  • Point 13,253 South, 13,253' (unranked)

Splits:

Starting LocationEnding LocationVia Time (h:mm:ss)Cumulative Time (h:mm:ss)Rest Time (m:ss)
Huron Peak Trailhead (4WD)Winfield Peak2:19:372:19:370:00
Winfield PeakVirginia Peak0:40:002:59:370:00
Virginia Peak"West Virginia"0:41:093:40:450:00
"West Virginia""Sheep Rock Mountain"0:41:104:21:550:00
"Sheep Rock Mountain"Point 13,2351:15:355:37:300:00
Point 13,235Point 13,2530:44:436:22:120:00
Point 13,253Point 13,253 South0:15:466:37:590:00
Point 13,253 SouthHuron Peak Trailhead (4WD)2:31:029:09:00Trip End

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 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40


 Comments or Questions
HikerGuy
Thank you
08/01/2019 15:34
This is on my summer traverses list, thanks for the info. Cheers! Troy


supranihilest

Cheers back at ya
08/01/2019 16:18
@Troy: you're welcome, definitely a good one to do. Good luck!


Presto

Ditto on the Thank You!
08/01/2019 16:21
I've been looking at this, for the Man and I, for a couple of years now ... great information and photos. Happy Trails!


supranihilest

Double ditto
08/01/2019 16:38
@Presto: you're welcome, have fun on it!


SnowAlien

There's an old mining road
08/01/2019 20:00
that takes you up Winfield (from Winfield), no frosty creek crossing required. Endless ridge!


supranihilest

Character building
08/02/2019 13:23
@Natalie: yeah, but that's no fun. Bitter cold pitch black barefoot creek crossings stir the soul! Suffering is love, suffering is life!


Posthole Pete


Better than Coffee
10/08/2020 14:35
creek crossings in the dark are better than coffee!



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