Peak(s):  Turner Pk  -  13,233 feet
Date Posted:  06/25/2020
Date Climbed:   06/06/2020
Author:  supranihilest
Additional Members:   whileyh, MWatson, Garrett
 Twice Turned Tail Tackling Turner; The Third Time's The Trick Though!  


Turner Peak is one of the easier thirteeners I've done. Or, well, it should have been, considering a start at 12,000 feet on Cottonwood Pass, basically no route finding whatsoever, and no technical ground at all. Being me, it took me three tries to climb this easy peak. In the same day. Yes, you read that right. Three tries in one day.

The first I started at 5:30am or so trying to beat a major storm system that was scheduled to hit around 9am (hence why I picked an easy peak, stupid weather still showed up early) and got turned into a popsicle by freezing rain. I went back to my car and slept for a few hours, getting a second try at about 11am during a lull in the storm. About 20 minutes in (wearing two jackets, ice climbing gloves, goggles, and full hardshells... in June) it began blasting sideways hail on me that was so dense I couldn't see more than 50 feet ahead of me, so I bailed again and, fed up, went into Buena Vista and got beer with Whiley, Marisa, and Garrett. Beer helped, as did the BBQed half chicken I ate. Thanks for your noble sacrifice.

Early part of the trail from Cottonwood Pass.
Turner looking way scarier than it should.

We had a few hours left in the evening and didn't know what to do with it. I jokingly suggested that we climb Turner, and to my surprise everyone was stoked on the idea. What better thing to do than start climbing a thirteener at 7pm? Not much, I'll tell you what! Garrett had already done Turner and had a super secret route (OK, not really that secret) that would be quick and easy with what little daylight we had left. We drove most of the way to Cottonwood Pass (via Chaffee County Road 306) and parked at a large, paved pullout on the southern side of the road at 38.81445, 106.39680. From the parking area we crossed the road and entered the forest, going directly northeast.

Marisa, Whiley, and Garrett, three of the Four Amigos.

The terrain naturally continued to funnel us northeast. The forest was in pretty good shape, and while steep it went by quickly and we soon found ourselves in an open area below Point 12,581, a twelver west of Turner. We could see Turner being lit up in gold by the setting sun. We'd have to move quickly to get our sunset summit.

Looking up Point 12,581's southeast slopes.
Turner on the right, bathed in golden sunlight.
There's probably going to be plenty of shots of these guys.

We continued up a mix of speckled granite boulders and grass and over a small stream and some wet, marshy ground. There were some minor ups and downs in between us and treeline, which also came close to the bottom of Turner's west slopes.

So much gold!
Looking across the valley at Jones Mountain North. Photo: Whiley H.

The ascent up Turner from here consisted of three parts: first, a very steep and somewhat loose ascent through some small cliffs (completely non-technical, just steep); broad, open slopes which traverse to the summit block; and a Class 2 talus and boulder hop to the summit bump.

Marisa pumping us up.

The first section was short but a fall would probably be difficult to control, so we were light on our feet. A couple hundred feet later we were on the open traverse, which, besides the hike from the road, was the longest part of the day.

Inviting, easy slopes.
West towards the Turner/12,581 saddle. This is the way I would have come down and subsequently had to reascend if I had been successful from Cottonwood Pass. Photo: Whiley H.
Higher hiking, higher views. Photo: Whiley H.

This was also the easiest part of the day, being grassy and overall moderate in angle. The sun was beginning to hit the horizon as we climbed, and the maelstrom of the morning was merely an afterthought in the calming evening light.

Approaching the summit pitch.
Starting up the rocks.

The summit block was an easy jaunt; one could probably find some very minor scrambling if desired, but it's just a talus hop if the easiest line is taken.

Elk Mountains against the horizon, with the slope we came up in full.

The sun had set by the time we all reached the summit. Light exploded out of the western horizon and faded into soft hues in the east. The storm of the morning, which had risen black and fallen with a violent electrical fury, was put to bed by some of the prettiest skies I had ever seen. Turner, as fast and easy as it is, had given all it had. Views here on this unassuming thirteener hunched on the shoulder of the Continental Divide were simply beyond words.

The Three Apostles with Huron Peak on the right and Grizzly Peak A on the left.
Closeup of the Apostles and Huron. From left to right the Apostles are West Apostle, Ice Mountain, and North Apostle.
Cotton candy skies over Mount Princeton and Mount Antero.
Mount Yale.
Mount Harvard, Mount Columbia, and Horn Fork Basin. The day after Turner we climbed Point 13,374 (the tiny bump behind the Harvard/Columbia saddle), Harvard, and 13,580 C, and this was our preview.
South to a complete sea of peaks.
West to the Divide, Cottonwood Pass, Taylor Park, and the Elk.

We drank in the scenery, trying to leave at the last possible moment so we didn't miss the glory. But all good things must come to an end; first our journey, and soon this reliving of the journey. As the last oranges and yellows turned to purple and blue we scampered down the rocks on the summit. Headlamps went on heads; power went on headlamps. We carefully picked our way down the steep section as the last light faded, then entered the dark forest. Bobbing orbs of light suspended a few feet off the ground illuminated the forest floor ahead of us as we walked in silence back to our cars. Whiley and I drove over to North Cottonwood Creek Trailhead and dropped my car there, then met Marisa and Garrett at Frenchman Creek Trailhead just off US 24. We anticipated (and ultimately were successful) climbing Point 13,374, Mount Harvard, and Point 13,580 C the next day as a one way trip, so we'd need the shuttle left at North Cottonwood. We then turned in for the night.

Turner had been short but it had graced us with an incredible sunset. I felt great that the persistence had paid off, and better that I'd been able to do it with a great crew of great friends. Thanks for reading.


Climbers: Ben Feinstein (myself), Whiley H., Marisa W., Garrett M.
Trailhead: Chaffee County Road 306 (parking at 38.81445, 106.39680)
Total distance: 3.16 miles
Total elevation gain: 1,772 feet
Total time: 1:55:01
Peaks: One ranked thirteener

  • Turner Peak, 13,233'


Starting Location Ending Location Via Time (h:mm:ss) Cumulative Time (h:mm:ss) Rest Time (m:ss)
Chaffee County Road 306 Turner Peak 1:00:28 1:00:28 7:16
Turner Peak Chaffee County Road 306 0:47:17 1:55:01 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

06/26/2020 17:05
I don't this one will make it. That's a great sunset view of The Apostles! I did this one from Yale's th via Hartenstein Lake. A bit longer but also a fun day.


06/26/2020 18:06
That all depends. I think that one was a record, and I have my #1 Fan to thank for that! My #1 Fan reads all of my reports, which I can't appreciate enough. I'd also like to thank my parents and the academy for all of the support. Thank you, thank you!

Sometimes the easy ones are the best ones, and Turner's no exception. I couldn't believe the sunset myself. I'm glad I could share it too!

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