Peak(s):  Potosi Pk  -  13,786 feet
Teakettle Mtn  -  13,819 feet
Cirque Mtn  -  13,686 feet
Mt. Sneffels  -  14,150 feet
Kismet (13694)
Date Posted:  09/18/2019
Date Climbed:   09/14/2019
Author:  thatOneMonoskier
 Cirque around Cirque  

I found myself on top of Teakettle wondering if I could, in fact, stay on the ridge all the way to Sneffles and what that would entail. After a quick internet search with no results, I decided to see if it is possible. So....

This trip report is for the few of you who would like to know if it is possible to go from Sneffles to Teakettle+, or the reverse. Although I did not try very hard to find information on this traverse, a couple google searches did not yield much information about the two cruxes, namely navigating across Kismet (there is a report on this here) and connecting the gnarly ridge between Teakettle and Cirque (on which I could find no reports). In answer to the question you are asking: while it is possible to do all of these mountains in a day, staying on the ridge proper will require extensive exposed class 5 navigating on San Juan choss. I don't doubt that it is possible, but to connect Teakettle and Cirque definitely requires a couple of rappels and traversing Kismet on the ridge proper is just really not worth it. With that being said, this is how I had a splendid outing in the area.

Starting from my car camp just before the 4WD sign, the first peak of the day was Potosi. I did this by climbing the South slopes - simply pristine grass, then relatively solid rock brings you to the standard trail around 13200. At the time, I didn't realize that I was, in fact, on the standard route - Roach's book says there is a class 2+ way to get to the top of this thing and, although there were was the occasional cairn, this class 2+ path is not obvious, so I ended up just doing a class 4/5 scramble to the summit. From the top, I was able to see the rest of my day.

19848_01Right to left: Teakettle, Cirque, Kismet (Hidden), Sneffles.

Since I didn't realize I had come up the standard route, I looked around for a more mellow way down. I ended up descending the Southwest couloir which is the most obvious, least steep line off of the top. Very quickly I found myself scurrying down with dinner plate sized slabs of rock sending it down the couloir around me - as I thought this was the standard route, I just kept going and eventually found myself cliffed out. Luckily, the trail was roughly 400' below this cliff and seeing this made me feel better about the 10' 5.easy downclimb I was facing. Note 1: Don't descend the southwest couloir on Potosi (unless you like choss).

After gaining the trail, I made my way over to Teakettle via its standard route. Since this is well documented, I will say nothing more on the matter and will simply produce this picture of the two hardest Centennials in one frame.

19848_02Teakettle in the foreground, Dallas in the background.

Once on Teakettle, I looked to see if there was a way to stay relatively on the ridge all the way over to Cirque. Perhaps on the north side? No, that's really damn steep. Can I just climb over the peak and down the other side? Maybe, if I didn't have much will to live. What if I go through the arch and traverse the south side? The most likely option, but it's still very steep, quite exposed, and looks like it cliffs about 500 yards past the summit proper. So, Note 2, if you want to try this traverse proper, I recommend you go through the arch and traverse until you hit the cliffs. From there, best of luck.

Even though I couldn't stay on the ridge, I still wanted to hit every mountain. I backtracked to what Roach calls the "black gulley," descended it, then basically just kept going down until I hit the bottom of the basin. Going down this basin was some of the best 'screeing' I've ever done and I would recommend it to any scree fanatics (you goons). From this basin, you can either continue all the way down to the road or find a game trail heading parallel to the road, about 600' up. I was lucky enough to see the herd of elk that made this game trail and so finding it wasn't a problem - if you aren't as lucky, there's a gpx file attached to this report. I also took this opportunity to camel up and refill water.

Eventually I found myself in another basin between Cirque and Kismet. I gained the saddle, climbed Cirque (very straightforward and a really beautiful peak - route here) and made my way back to the saddle. Now only one peak lie between me and my final objective of Sneffles. Given that the day was going well so far, I wasn't too worried about what was to come... oh how I was wrong!

*I feel that I would be doing a disservice to you and the rest of the community if I do not emphasize how much Kismet really is just a giant pile of choss in the sky. Of all of the routes I've done in the state of Colorado, Kismet ranks up there with the most time consuming for 2 main reasons. First, the rock quality is absolute garbage - this mountain is composed of crumbling towers that are rarely travelled, meaning nearly every block, rock, or other hard thing up there is ready to submit a little more to gravity at a moments notice. I pride myself on being able to climb without sending blocks down below me but even I couldn't climb this choss-pile without sending a block loose every 30 feet or so. The second reason is that you are required to climb down and up a number of (loose) gulleys to get where you're going - You will need to climb down a gulley to get off the ridge, traverse, climb up a gulley to get to the summit, go down that same gulley (or a different one from the summit), traverse, then climb another gulley to get back onto the ridge. For that reason Note 3: I do not recommend you climb Kismet to start with. Seriously, it's totally not worth it. If you're going to go for it, I recommend doing it solo, on a day that you have no weather, and while you're fresh (physically and emotionally). Seriously consider what you're doing with your life before you go for this guy. And if you're going to do it, please refer to the TR I linked above as it has pictures that will save you much time and much sadness.*

From the saddle, I climbed to Kismet's easternmost tower (class 4, okay rock where it matters). I realized here that the highest point is the next tower over which is separated by a 100' chasm - commence everything I warned you about above! I downclimbed a gulley on the south side, climbed up an obvious gulley going to the high point and summited this choss-boss. From here, I could see the saddle that Sneffles' standard route gains and I could see people climbing the entire route above it. However, even though it's only maybe 0.5 miles, I wouldn't reach that saddle for another hour after about 1500 feet of climbing. From the summit, the best option is to downclimb the same gulley you climbed up - I did not do this. Instead, I downclimbed a gulley on the west side of the summit which was equally as loose but ended up cliffing out, though not so bad that I couldn't figure it out. I traversed a little and figured I was far enough over to be past the difficulties of the upper ridge, so I climbed up another gulley. Turns out I wasn't at the end and I just summited another spire! Oh well, I'll just climb down this gulley on the west side and see what happens - cliff. Shux! Turn around and try another gulley - cliff. SHUUUUX! Let's try another - cliff... but this one doesn't look as bad as the others. Let it be known to all except my mother and my lover, I downclimbed a 30' class 5.5 section of choss on this mountain, only pulling three blocks off and crying once. At this point, I was at around 13,300 and decided to skirt under any gulleys until I was absolutely certain I had made my way over far enough to be good. I didn't have to go far and ended in a relatively massive gulley with a cairn at the top (I've never been so glad to see a cairn). After climbing this gulley, I was finally past all the towers and able to keep it class 2+ to the top of Sneffles.

19848_03Right to left: Kismet, Cirque, Teakettle, Potosi.

All in all, besides Kismet, I had a really wonderful time doing this group. I am curious if anyone had ever stayed on the ridge proper between Teakettle and Cirque and what it would be like to do that gnarly looking section. Maybe someday I'll find out (though now I know not to do Kismet).

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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