Peak(s):  Little Horn Pk  -  13,143 feet
Fluted Pk  -  13,554 feet
Horn Pk  -  13,450 feet
Round Mountain, 8,709'
Date Posted:  05/18/2020
Date Climbed:   05/02/2020
Author:  supranihilest
Additional Members:   whileyh
 A Rock Hard, Horny Threesome  

**WARNING** This report contains lots of hot, graphic, rock on rock porn. Side effects of reading this report may include increased salivation and drooling; flushed skin; rapid heartbeat; heavy breathing; and a nearly uncontrollable desire to climb mountains. Reading this report twice is highly recommended. **WARNING**

With Considerable (3/5) avalanche danger and a Special Advisory warning about high probability wet avalanches this weekend, I had to forgo any plans to climb snow. I really wanted to but knew it would be a terrible idea, even if I got started very early and even if there was a freeze the night before, which would be unlikely anyway. I thus turned my attention to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Westcliffe, as numerous webcams in the area showed how dry the peaks in the area were. If I couldn't get the snow I wanted I'd do my best to avoid any snow at all, and the Sangre were it!

I met my friend Whiley at the Horn Creek Trailhead about fifteen minutes from Westcliffe. We'd settled on a loop netting Little Horn Peak, Fluted Peak, and Horn Peak, since they also contained juicy scrambles which we were craving after the relative lack of scrambles in the winter. We got a start around 7am. Temperatures at the trailhead were already in the 40s, further underscoring the risk of wet slides, and we were climbing eastern aspects that would get hit right away, so we had to choose a route that would stay off snow. We just hoped our loop would be dry enough. From a distance the peaks looked like they'd be perfect.

Mount Adams, Little Horn Peak (it looks rounded but it has quite a sharp summit ridge), Fluted Peak, Horn Peak from CR-130.

The hike starts on a great connector trail to the Rainbow Trail, which runs parallel to the Sangre's eastern side, then to the Horn Creek Trail. We made quick progress and eventually just decided to leave the trail at a random location for Little Horn's northeast ridge. The ridge down low is moderate enough to be gained from just about anywhere; only farther along does it get steep enough to be problematic. Once off the Horn Creek Trail there is no trail and our route finding skills came into play. The plants here weren't as nasty as some areas of the Sangre, but the foliage was dense. There was no snow this low.

Thick stand of aspen.
Lots of ground plants and branches to grab us.

As we ascended the ridge in a northwest direction to the crest things got steeper, and then snow began to appear. Patchy at first, we were able to dodge the soggy, dirty drifts until they coalesced into a knee deep pile of mushy slop that we had to power through. Sometimes it had a thin, icy crust on top that would support us just long enough on each tentative step to get us hopeful, then collapse to the ground and slam our shins into the ice. Lovely stuff, really.

Good thing we were wearing trail runners. Who needs mountain boots? Psh.

The snow went on for far too long (when does it not?) but at least a couple of rocky outcroppings on the ridge provided brief, open glimpses of the peaks on our route.

Oh, baby!

The ridge continued to rise and we continued to wander in sine wave trying to find dry ground here or there. Mostly that was futile, and our feet were quite wet and cold by this point but we knew we were getting close to treeline. There still wasn't anything interesting on the ridge, and we knew all the goods would be close to the summit. We got a final look to treeline from a small, sunny bump and knew we were almost out of the woods, literally and figuratively. Only one more section of snow remained.

So close to the end of the snow. Photo: Whiley H.
This was loads of fun. Not. Photo: Whiley H.

We hit treeline and there was one bump left before things got considerably rockier.

To the false summit!

When we crested the false summit we saw what was finally ahead on the ridge. It didn't look like much, but it was deceptive.

The summit isn't quite visible yet, but we're almost there.

With the ridge finally getting interesting we grew smiles. Those smiles got wider and wider as we did some minor Class 2+ scrambling over a bunch of rocky bumps and ran smack into a pile of tilted fins. We had arrived.

Getting scrambly.
Where the tundra finally turned into pure rock.
Oh hell yeah, gimme dat.
Looking down the ridge and into the Wet Valley. Gives a real sense of size of these badboy Sangre peaks. Photo: Whiley H.

From this point onward to the summit of Little Horn was all solid Class 3 scrambling on great rock. We stayed as close to the ridge crest as we could for those sweet, sweet scrambles, navigating a number of notches down and up, inching ever closer to the summit.

Sweeping. Photo: Whiley H.
Me scrambling down into the first notch. Photo: Whiley H.
MORE. Photo: Whiley H.

By now neither of us could shut up about how amazing this route was. Super fun scrambling, great rock, exposure, mindblowing position in a jawdropping mountain range, good company, gorgeous weather, what more could we ask for? I'm pretty sure we both said "this is fucking amazing" a hundred times each, and we meant it every time, because it was true every time. We approached the final and largest scramble, a steep slab with such an array of holds it was almost difficult to know just which one to grab.

Whiley at the bottom of the slab. We went up and right a little bit first to avoid the overhang.
Class 2+ gully to the base of the slab.
Scrambling up the gully. Photo: Whiley H.
Whiley pulling the moves.
This should never end. Photo: Whiley H.

A handful of additional fins remained at Easy Class 3 but the summit was close, and in just a few minutes it was ours. The views of the Crestones from the top lent further credence to the absolute joy of this route.

Final scrambles on Little Horn, plenty more to go on this loop.
Humboldt Peak, Crestone Needle and Crestone Peak, Columbia Point, Kit Carson Mountain, and Challenger Point.
Same peaks as above with the addition of Colony Baldy on the left and Mount Adams and Fluted Peak on the right foreground.

With a few peaks remaining and many miles between them we only took pictures before flitting off to Fluted. Some more scrambling took us down the backside of Little Horn into a long Class 2 tundra section, then into some undulating, rocky bumps that could either be scrambled directly at Class 3 or skirted at Class 2. You know which route we took of course - the scrambles!

Fluted from just off the summit of Little Horn.
Rocks and me, me and rocks. Photo: Whiley H.
The descent off Little Horn. Photo: Whiley H.
Nothing too hard, but definitely fun. Photo: Whiley H.
More scrambles for Whiley.

The rock along this section of ridge was bomber Crestone conglomerate that was just as much fun to look at as it was to scramble on.

Funky stuff. Photo: Whiley H.
Magical rock.

All the way across the ridge Horn Peak waited patiently for us.

We'll get to you soon, thanks for waiting. Photo: Whiley H.

Only the last tower was bypassed as the split in its face, the only part that didn't look to be of excessive difficulty, was choked with snow or otherwise dripping wet. We went around it on steep Class 2 terrain, all of which was dry.

Last block on the ridge. We went around it on the left.
Nearing the final summit ridge. There's little to no scrambling left en route to Fluted from this point. Photo: Whiley H.
Final bumps on Fluted, which is the farthest right, snowcapped dark rock. Photo: Whiley H.
Connecting ridge to Mount Adams, the high, rugged peak on the right. Humboldt, the Crestones, and Kit Carson Mountain (the name of the massif itself) are visible.

There was a little bit more Class 2+ scrambling across the summit ridge, and then we were at our midpoint, at the far end of the cirque: Fluted Peak.

So many layers of rock! Photo: Whiley H.
Even the tiny summit bump is huge! Photo: Whiley H.

From Fluted we could see what lay behind, and what lay ahead.

The ridge back to Little Horn doesn't really look rugged at all.
Likewise, Horn looks like a walkup but it's not.
Both peaks and Dry Lakes together. (Horn Lakes are actually south of Little Horn.)

An additional peak showed itself from Fluted's summit, a small, far away bump across an open expanse of tundra.

What is this? Point 13,419 is unranked, unnamed, but marked on maps. Let's climb it!
Humpdy Bumpty sat on a great Horn.

Point 13,419 was an easy stroll to its rock strewn summit, and while it wasn't entirely worth it for its own sake, the unique views of Horn and peaks to the north were worth it.

Horn's northeast face.
All three peaks for the day. Little Horn does indeed look little from here!
Looking north to a Sea of Sangre. Photo: Whiley H.

We didn't stay long since it was about 12:30pm and Horn was looking big from our vantage. It didn't look difficult but we couldn't see all the scrambling required until we got closer.

Ridge to Horn Peak. Photo: Whiley H
Fluted Peak's northeast face. Photo: Whiley H.
A big, isolated slab in the middle of the ridge. What did we do?
We scrambled it, of course. Photo: Whiley H.

Most of the middle part of the ridge was grassy or with undulating, rocky bits which we scrambled over. Most or all of it could probably be avoided if necessary.

Getting to the goods. Photo: Whiley H.

The more progress we made along the ridge the rockier and steeper things got. We were both surprised; from afar the ridge didn't look anything like a scramble, but it just kept giving!

Far more serious looking than expected. Photo: Whiley H.
Beautiful and solid rock abound on the ridge. Photo: Whiley H.
Getting to the steepest part of the ridge, that smooth streak below the top. Photo: Whiley H.
Whiley just prior to traversing right and up broken Class 3 rock.

Overall the scrambling here wasn't too exposed like it had been on Little Horn but it was so much fun. This part of Horn is a hidden gem, one that hikers who just do Horn's standard route are sorely missing out on.

A bit more hands-on scrambling prior to the summit. Photo: Whiley H.
Even after the difficulties relented the ridge was still wonderful. Photo: Whiley H.

And with that, we topped out on Horn.

Revel in the glory. Photo: Whiley H.

The remaining distance was all (or we hoped) downhill, and we had seen a couple of people on the summit. They left just before we arrived, and after a quick snack break we began to run down the northeast ridge. When we passed the other hikers, a group of seven, we asked about snow conditions. They'd encountered about the same but their large group had left us with a better trench.

Looking down Horn's northeast ridge from the summit. You can see five other hikers along the ridge.
Photo: Whiley H.

It wasn't long before we hit treeline and snow.

Photo: Whiley H.

We continued running as best we could through the wet, slippery stuff that lingered near treeline, and eventually onto dry ground. The trail was good and easy to follow, for the most part. It dropped rapidly at first, then took us on many switchbacks as it sank into Hennequin Creek drainage and up the other side to the Rainbow Trail, where things flattened out again. We arrived back at the trailhead absolutely electric. The route was so good and we were hankering for more, but knew it was too late in the day for another 13er. Whiley suggested we drive to Westcliffe and climb Round Mountain, a prominent lump outside of town that kept true to its namesake.

Yup. It's round. It's a mountain. It's a Round Mountain.

There were a couple of fences we had to cross, but nobody seemed to care. We still aren't sure whether the peak is on private land or not.

Hardest peak of the day. Photo: Whiley H.

The top of the mountain is a bunch of dinner plated rock which was somewhat loose but not awful. Mostly the desert plants and cacti were troublesome, since they were everywhere and the cacti blended in with the dried grass.

Janky, crunchy rock. Photo: Whiley H.

We sat on the summit for a while and watched as the sun went down, enjoying the great day we'd had.

Panorama of the northern part of the Sangre de Cristo, with Silver Cliff and Westcliffe in center.

We marched down at about dark and went back to the Horn Creek Trailhead for a second (and unfortunately, unsuccessful) day in the area. This Horn loop was an incredible amount of fun on solid and beautiful rock, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to have a big day full of delightful scrambles. It's a big day but it's at the top of memorable climbs for me. Round Mountain, though easy, is fun as well, and I also recommend it for the views of the Sangre. Gotta love those Sangre!


Climbers (all peaks): Ben Feinstein (myself), Whiley H.

Rock Hard, Horny Threesome:
Trailhead: Horn Creek
Total distance: 13.34 miles
Total elevation gain: 6,671
Total time: 8:26:54
Peaks: Three ranked thirteeners and one unranked blob

  • Little Horn Peak, 13,143'
  • Fluted Peak, 13,554'
  • Horn Peak, 13,450'
  • Point 13,419 (not a thing, but it's marked on maps and has ~200+ feet of prominence)


Starting Location Ending Location Via Time (h:mm:ss) Cumulative Time (h:mm:ss) Rest Time (m:ss)
Horn Creek Trailhead Little Horn Peak 3:40:55 3:40:55 0:00
Little Horn Peak Fluted Peak 1:08:43 4:49:37 0:00
Fluted Peak Point 13,419 0:32:29 5:22:06 0:00
Point 13,419 Horn Peak 1:13:51 6:45:29 9:32
Horn Peak Horn Creek Trailhead 1:41:25 8:26:54 Trip End

Round Mountain:
Trailhead: Custer County Road 255 (no official trailhead)
Total distance: 1.16 miles
Total elevation gain: 579 feet (impressive, I know)
Total time: 39:35
Peaks: One ranked eighter

  • Round Mountain, 8,709'


Starting Location Ending Location Via Time (h:mm:ss) Cumulative Time (h:mm:ss) Rest Time (m:ss)
CR-255 Round Mountain 19:00 19:00 A while
Round Mountain CR-255 20:34 39:35 Trip End

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions
05/19/2020 09:40
Solid report, thanks for sharing! Do you just use the highway cams to check peak conditions? That is a really good idea!

Whiley starting before 8am, say it ain't so! Lol.


Threesome in the snow
05/19/2020 13:17
Rahul: early starts, carrying heavy shit, and snow... I hate them all yet somehow Ben keeps getting me on board for those thing... it€„¢s his intimidating death stare.
Also we should all do some snow climbs (omg who am I!?)


Today is Tuesday
05/19/2020 13:57
@Rahul: I know, right? I've gotten her up a couple of times at like 4am to climb snow, even if she hates it. Apparently it's my intimidating death stare that does the trick, not the promise of awesome climbs. Yeah, I pretty much just use highway cams. They're especially useful in the Sangre, and almost useless in the San Juan, but you can get a sense of how things are pretty much anywhere by looking at nearby cams.

@Whiley: You know you like all of that suffering.


Solid report...
05/19/2020 15:47
1. Those are great peaks- with awesome views. Everywhere I read indicated that Fluted to Horn was class 2- and I figured trivial as it was downplayed as super easy. We were ridge proper except bypassing one section (stupid as it was sucky loose), and I dunno where the C2 line is from that side, but whatever.

2. The panorama from 8719 is freaking sick. Frame that and hang it on your wall.


Fluted -> Horn C3 fo sho
05/19/2020 15:54
@Andrew: I don't know either, and I imagine Whiley would agree. There was a ton of Class 2+ and some Class 3 on the ridge from Fluted to Horn. We deliberately took harder lines for the fun of it but I also don't think it would be possible to go hands-off for the entire length of the ridge. With careful route finding perhaps the Class 3 could have been avoided but overall that ridge is Class 2+ at a bare minimum, no doubt about that.


Suffering is optional
05/19/2020 18:06
Hey now suffering is your thing. I don€„¢t do it for that, hence why I hate snow/cold. I just like pushing my limits ... plus I go straight to being high on life and skip all that suffering stuff ;)

Snow.. No
05/19/2020 20:19
@Whiley: Haha! Snow climb... hmmmmmm... for the first time EVER, I got a snowshoe buried 4 feet post holing off Uncompaghre last Saturday and literally spent about 5 minutes digging my foot out. At that moment, I realized... I think I want it to be summer already!

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