Peak(s):  Sheep Mtn A  -  13,292 feet
Greenhalgh Mtn  -  13,220 feet
Canby Mtn  -  13,478 feet
Date Posted:  11/30/2019
Modified:  01/08/2021
Date Climbed:   09/04/2019
Author:  Marmot72
 Stony Pass Loop; Legend of Greenhalgh and Canby  


The Stony Pass area is gorgeous and I pondered how to spend a final and solitary day in this scenic area, after a "polar express" (hike of Pole and North Pole) with Benners and Lordhelmut the prior day. Canby, Sheep A, and Greenhalgh all are very accessible from the road, but combining them does not make a straightforward loop. (For those seeking expediency, it seems like a fairly easy day to combine "Stony Pass Peak"/UN 165 and Canby as one pair, and Sheep A and Greenhalgh as another pair, likely by parking as I describe below and descending the road for the latter two before walking back up the road for the former two. That method would be the most sensible. I just struggle to take the sensible route in the mountains on my own...)

I could find no area to pull off in the few miles east of the pass; the one likely spot was right by the entrance to the valley between Canby and Sheep, but had some sort of inflatable hut and I did not want to intrude. So I opted to park at Stony Pass, in a wide parking area just on the east side and immediately beneath Canby's south face.

I began by walking down the road from the pass and then took the Colorado Trail, which parallels the road for the short distance before entering the valley. I followed the trail up into the valley about a quarter mile before veering east to descend to the creek. The creek is negligible, but the area all around is boggy, and I reflected that it would have been easier to keep to the road (no traffic before dawn) and then walk into the valley on the creek's east side, under the slopes of Sheep's west face.

But my detour was not for naught: I found a marker of this land's legendary owner, Hugh Greenhalgh. Hugh had moved to Colorado as a young man after the Civil War, and found himself on a journey to Silverton in 1874, employed as a guard and scout for the younger son of a wealthy industrialist back east who'd been bitten by the adventure bug. Hugh loved the scenery and decided to stay. Preferring the sky and profiles of the mountains to the tunnels beneath them, he eschewed the temptation of striking it rich with the Gold Rush. Instead he made a healthy living by transporting goods over Stony Pass in either direction for those stricken by the Yellow Fever.

Hugh didn't drink, which must have been uncommon for a single male inhabitant of Silverton in the day. He said he was mad enough already, without drinking. But he distilled whiskey, selling it to one of the town's saloons and also from his small booths on either side of Stony Pass, to provide adequate discouragement to those who might otherwise manage the pass on their own merits. In 1881, Hugh bought a parcel of land spanning from east of Stony Pass, and he began raising sheep. In all these endeavors, he had the help of Jimmy the Ute (who was actually Navajo). In his first year of living at Silverton, Hugh had ventured to the southwest and found Jimmy ailing from a knife wound after a fight with Utes. The two quickly became blood brothers. The Indian's name was Yas, but Hugh asked him his name and it sounded like "yes," so Hugh just called him Jim, and after his arrival in Silverton, Yas quickly became called Jimmy the Ute. Yas knew it was better to accept the nickname with grace than to quibble about tribal distinctions.


Above, the brand of bellicose Scotsman Hugh Greenhalgh, and a glimpse of the majesty of Vestal and Arrow to the south. From the north, the constant bleating of the sheep filled my ears, and I wondered if any in that herd were descendants of the fleecy beasts that Greenhalgh doted upon.

To move away from the animals and back to the mountain, Sheep A begins as a benign grassy slope, which transitions to a broad flat expanse before the summit push, where the ridge narrows and the terrain abruptly becomes craggy. It was a mild tranquil morning, and I admired the views of the Grenadiers to the southwest and the sunhit on Canby to the immediate west.



Then I found myself at the top of Sheep, confronted by its horns, which were rugged but not difficult.


Having spent more time on the flat below the summit, I pretty much kept on walking over the summit, and descended a loose scree and talus slope to get down to the easy ground leading to Greenhalgh. The scree was not too unpleasant, but I guess it was rough enough to prompt me to consider a different option on my return back over the summit. The distance from Sheep A to Greenhalgh is only 4/5 of a mile and it goes very fast.

From Hugh's namesake summit, I looked intently to the north and west, looking for the most logical option to connect over to Canby (perhaps preceded by an out and back to Unnamed 069). I deliberated a bit, weighing the extra gain and then loss with the return over Sheep against the steep drop and then what would likely be a painstaking traverse to go beneath Sheep to the north. Because I needed to get back to Denver that evening and to work the next morning, I decided that 069 was not in the cards.


The reference to cards got me to thinking of Hugh Greenhalgh's fateful, final card game in nearby Howardsville, in the year 1890. The game was played with the youthful, effete Lord Canby, a slight man of scarce twenty years whose premature balding gave him the semblance of an infant. Hugh took home the winnings. But Charles Edward Canby the V, eldest son of the aging Lord Canby of Devonshire, went moony talking about Elvira Ganza, the madame of the whorehouse in Silverton. Hugh let out a long guffaw, fixed the young man in the unnerving gaze of his one green eye and one gray eye, and said, "Lord Dandy, you'd fall in -- pizzle, shoulders and all!" Canby flushed to match the colors on Vermillion Peak, and exclaimed he'd kill Hugh if he didn't apologize. "Why, you'll have to kill all the men in Silverton, if you insist on defending the honor of the town's queen of whores!" More words were exchanged, and the upshot was that Hugh went back up the road with his winnings and with a date to meet Canby in two days at the top of Stony Pass, for a duel.

Shifting my thoughts back to the present, I reversed my steps to return to Sheep Mountain. As I neared it, I considered that blundering back up the slope nearer to the cliffy north face did not seem enticing, and I veered left, to hit the more solid spine of a southern ridge. This route did provide some more delightful terrain and even a 3 minus move, but I don't know that it saved any time.


Back on the summit of Sheep, I kept close to the northern edge and, after the broad flat section, descended the slopes to the north to engage the long stretch of tundra leading northeast to intersect Canby's east ridge.

Canby, the stupid boy. Besides this peak that bears his name, "Baldy Cinco" is a reference to him as well, made in spiteful jest by the same Elvira to whom he foolishly pledged his life.

Speaking of Elvira , as you'll learn later in this story, she sought in vain for the riches rumored to have been hoarded by Greenhalgh, and this cairn could hide hidden treasure.


Or is it this one?


The way north from Sheep Mountain A presented easy, rolling tundra that was further aided by deer/elk trails and, eventually, a shepherd's trail. I gained this trail a bit later than I otherwise would have, as I moved a bit to the left (west) out of courtesy to the shepherd and sheep dog tending the flock on the eastern slopes of the mellow, rounded ridge separating the Canby-Sheep basin from the basin lying north of Sheep and Greenhalgh. I don't know where I lost time, but the descent off Sheep and walk across this easy ground took me about an hour and 35 minutes before I found myself looking westward to the Colorado Trail and beyond to Canby.


Descending quickly to the pass, I pondered my ascent of Canby as the trail climbed. The eastern buttress and short, sharply dropping ridge seemed likely to harbor more of the "San Juans' Best" as far as crappy rock is concerned. Traversing to the peak's north ridge would assuredly offer better terrain, but the walk to get there - even by linking grassy fields -- seemed longer than I wished to travel.

I opted for the shorter route, and almost met my end, on the other side of the mountain from where Hugh and Canby both breathed their last. As agreed, they met at Stony Pass, beneath the western slopes of Canby (it was known as Stony Peak then, and unofficially named Stony Pass Peak was called the Buzzard's Beak). Hugh had the short walk from his house in the valley, and the unfit Canby appeared fatigued from his ride up to the pass on a mule. With Canby rode Elvira. The men paced off and fired. Hugh's shot went wide, but Canby's caught the Greenhalgh in the chest and he fell to the ground, dead upon impact.

"How?" both Canby and Elvira asked in unison. Canby had known of Hugh's service in the Union army and thus expected to die, but his fool's honor would not let him rescind the challenge he'd made. Similarly, Elvira had assumed her doting British boy-beau would fall to the grumbling Scotsman. Neither realized Hugh had never shot a pistol before. He'd used a rifle in the army, and truth be told, he'd proven more adept at the bayonet work.

"How indeed," Elvira echoed. Then she pulled a tiny revolver from underneath her petticoat and shot poor Canby dead. She rode to Greenhalgh's cabin and scoured the place, looking for the treasure men whispered he'd amassed over the years. Jimmy the Ute had taken the sheep further north and was not present, or she'd likely have shot him. Elvira found no treasure, and in her frustration, she burnt the place to the ground. Returning to Silverton, she likewise ransacked the room that Canby had been renting and found only a few small bills. On the way out, the landlord asked if she'd seen him; he mentioned that the young nobleman owed a substantial amount of unpaid rent. Elvira fled Silverton, which had been her plan, but she did it without the wealth she'd anticipated. Still, she fared well. Ending up in Creede, she sang at the opera and enjoyed a small fame and fortune, as she had a beautiful singing voice and music, truth be told, had ever been her only love.

I thought not at all of this old tale as I managed my way up to Canby's summit. It had begun fine and most of it was not horrid, but I found myself on stretches of hardpan covered in kitty litter with large rocks to grab onto that proved unstable. It was some of most dangerous class 2-easy 3 terrain I'd found myself on, causing me to recall the east face of V10, the northern slopes of Redcliff, and the eastern slope of UN 13020B in the Elks. I cursed this inane mix of tedium and danger. And then, I was up, atop Canby. As I began the first peak gazing south to the Arrow and Vestal, I finished on this peak the same way.


To descend Canby, I ventured east from the summit and found benign, if somewhat tedious, talus slopes before getting down to grass at the base of the mountain and walking southward to the pass and my car tucked around the corner.

After Elvira burned down Hugh's place, Jimmy the Ute quickly disappeared. Hugh had hidden his riches under a cairn on what was then his mountain, Sheep Mountain. (With the naming of Canby Mountain, Greenhalgh's name was removed from Sheep Mountain to the then unnamed peak immediately east, and "Sheep" was given to the former Greenhalgh, in a nod to that constantly bleating herd and to provide space between the deceased combatants.) The question remains, though, did Jimmy know where his friend had hidden his wealth and take it with him, or does Hugh's treasure still lie beneath one of those large cairns still standing today?

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

Yay Steve
11/30/2019 11:11
You know what's up. Nice to see such a delightful report on a gray snowy day. Stony pass access for me is definitely a crux.

great story
11/30/2019 11:48
if you don't mind my asking, how did you come to know about this fascinating story? Would love to read the book(s) that it came from... thanks!


11/30/2019 12:33
The story is all out of my head, as I wondered what the heck kind of name "Greenhalgh" is.

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