Peak(s):  Carbonate Mtn A  -  13,663 feet
Cyclone Mtn A  -  13,596 feet
"Lo Carb"  -  13,591 feet
Date Posted:  07/14/2020
Date Climbed:   07/12/2020
Author:  JQDivide
Additional Members:   FoodieHiker, AnastasiaC
 Big Plans Turned by a Dirty Bitch  

Carbonate from the Tab west ridge from earlier this summer.

We had big plans, six 13ers on a ridge run: Carbonate. Cyclone. Lo Carb. Cronin. Grizzly. Pomeroy.

Well, that plan was changed on the first peak.

Stats: 8.16 miles, 7 hours- 44 minutes, 3,800 of gain

Carbonate from the basin

From the notch in the saddle, we went down a bit before going up the ridge to Carbonate

Looking in the Brown's Creek Basin at Antero, White and Tab

Loose ridge

On the ridge. Tab in the background

Sky Pilots

Staci and I wanted to hike Carbonate the first time we saw it while on the Jennings Creek route to Tab several years ago. While contemplating peaks to put on the list for this summer, we were happy to finally get Carb on the short list.

We invited Anastasia and Ezra to join us and started talking about possibilities for a ridge run and what to include. We settled for a big tentative plan and knew weather was going to play a part on the choices we made that morning.

The first choice was to go up Jennings Creek instead of the southern ridge that most trip reports shows as the route. Why? Jennings Creek is beautiful valley (not a canyon) with cool trees.

We camped along the road fairly close to the trailhead. With the weather forecast, storms as early as 11 a.m., we got a fairly early start of just after 4 a.m. I haven’t had too many predawn starts this summer. I should have double checked my headlamp, as my batteries were very low. Light was so dim, I’m not sure why I even kept it on.

It wasn’t too long into the hike that Staci knew this wasn’t her day. She struggled a bit going up and was slower than the rest of us. We discussed options. Last week I had the same feelings, struggled to get up Wetterhorn, but got a second wind late in the hike. I convinced her not to make a change of plans just yet. Wait until the summit. She’s a tough hiker and has weathered much worse on some peaks.

Halfway in the basin, we snuck up on a herd of about nine mountain goats, including three babies. They ran by pretty close to Anastasia and Ezra, who were ahead of us. Amazing how fast these creatures can climb up the side of mountain.

The actual summit is to the west of the ridge

Anastasia and Ezra on the summit. Just a short stroll away

Smokey in the valleys

Staci nearing the summit ridge

Cyclone was just a 30 minute walk away

Looking back at Carbonate

Cyc-Carb saddle

Lo Carb from Cyclone

Going down Cyclone

The summit of Lo Carb is large and kind of flat

By the time we reached the Carb-Tab saddle, Staci knew she only had one peak in her legs today. Anastasia and Ezra didn’t seem too disappointed and were fine with changing plans. I still had hope Staci would get a second wind at the summit.

The morning had cloud cover and kept the sun off of us and temps cooler. It was supposed to be another hot day in Colorado, but so far it was surprisingly pleasant.

From the 12,600-foot saddle to the summit, Carbonate’s ridge is a loose Class 2, 2+ hike of 1,000 feet. Up we went maneuvering through the best options on the steep mixed terrain. Some parts were looser than others. It wasn’t what any of us expected. (It's a 13er, I guess anything and everything should be expected.)

Near the top, we noticed the summit was farther to the west than the top of the ridge. We found a pretty good goat trail that wasn’t as steep and headed that way. Staci and I hit the summit ridge shortly after Anastasia and Ezra hit the summit. We strolled over and joined them. The term ‘dirty bitch’ in reference to the mountain and her ugly ridge was tossed around. (If you want to hear the story of the 'dirty bitch' reference to a particular person, you'll have to join us at a campfire sometime. It's a much better story with a "Florida woman" reference.)

And that was it for Staci. Some days you just don’t have it in you. She was done for the day. I always hate splitting up on hikes, especially with her. All the ‘what-ifs’ go through my head.

She told us to go on and she’d meet us at the car. I didn’t like that idea. Anastasia and Ezra were OK with calling it a day. I suggested the three of us run over and grab Cyclone, just to get one more and not leave an orphan peak in the middle of a ridge.

Lo Carb could be easily added to other route on another day. They agreed. Staci said she was going to hang out for a few minutes then head back down to the Carb-Tab saddle notch. I gave her a kiss and we both told each other to be careful.

Looking back at the ridge from Lo Carb

Our path back to the Tab-Carb saddle. We aimed for that small patch of snow below the saddle.

Brown's Creek Basin

Heading down into the basin was an easy slope

Grassy tundra is your friend. (loose rocks are not)

The basin

Down and up to Cyclone was less than 30 minutes. Fairly easy ridge run. Anastasia asked about another option than going back up and down Carbonate’s crappy ‘dirty bitch’ ridge. She suggested side-hilling around it.

Nope. That option looked worse than the ridge.

But that suggestion got me to wondering about the Carb-Cyclone saddle, could we drop into the basin and go under it and back to the Carb-Tab saddle? Ezra thought that idea might work. Then I wondered what did the Cyclone-Lo Carb saddle offer us. And if that saddle was better, might as well grab Lo Carb.

From the top of Cyclone, we could see the Cyclone-Lo Carb saddle and it was a nice grassy slope into the Brown’s Creek Basin. That would be the best option back, and might even be less elevation gain than going back over the summits.

Another 30 minutes and we were on Lo Carb, which is a deceiving peak with a bump or two you can mistake for a false summit. And the actually summit is still a farther walk on the summit ridge.

We took some photos and looked at the other peaks we had originally planned to do. The ridge to Grizzly looked interesting. The ridge to Cronin looked inviting. But we couldn’t go over there. Or could we? If that snow field was a bit longer, it might have made for a nice glissade and easy way down if we went over.

Standing on a small plateau at 12,600 looking across at the notch on the saddle that is also near 12,600... mistakes were made here. Just go down.

Hoping not to lose elevation, side-hilling was a potential option (not really)

Cabin remains near 12,700

Not too loose yet

We aimed for that rocky outcropping. Getting loose.


Looking back at the rock outcropping and Anastasia and Ezra making their way down to the grass

This is when I really started thinking about how we split up. Staci was going down Carbonate’s ‘dirty bitch’ ridge. The three of us decided on a third peak, Lo Carb. We didn’t mention this as an option to Staci. If something went wrong with us, what happens? Or if something happened to Staci on that loose mess, we were not going back the way we said we would and would not see her in trouble. What if she wasn’t waiting at the saddle? Like us, what if she decided to do something different and go down into Jennings Creek. What would we do when we returned? Go back up Carbonate or down to Jennings Creek to look for her? Split the group up again?

I say all this to remind, myself, and others to rethink your plans and communicate with your partners if you decide to split up. Talk about the what-ifs. Talk about definite locations to meet. Or second options if weather turns bad. Don’t go for that second or third peak if that wasn’t discussed as an option. Don’t settle on a simple, we’ll meet you back at the saddle or the car. Have that full discussion on expectations, possible alterations, and timing.

So many SAR calls happen after a hiking group splits up. Don’t be that call.

Back on Lo Carb:

We headed back to the Cyclone-Lo Carb saddle, but actually didn’t go all the way. We started down into the upper Brown’s Creek Basin a bit earlier than that. We had a direct line of sight to across the way to the notch in the Carb-Tab saddle. According to GAIA it was about 1.2 miles away, with some elevation loss and gain. We decide on a direct route to a small snowfield below that notch. We figured once we got that close, we’d be able to decided how to finish up.

As far as slopes and side-hilling, the decent off the ridge wasn’t bad at all. I’ve been on much worse. It was mostly grass and gentle slope. We talked about how easy this was and right call to skip the return ridge run. Always great to know you made a good decision on a hike.

We bypassed a couple steeper sections and made our way to small plateau in the basin near 12,600. Looking across we still had a couple hundred feet to drop. Looking to our right, the idea of side-hilling looked inviting.

Didn’t we decide not to do this earlier?

Well, up to the right we went. We passed the ruins of a mining cabin and stepped onto steep loose rocks. What a wonderful idea.

Two hundred yards of this and we asked ourselves, ‘what the hell are we doing?’ This was worse than the ‘dirty bitch’ ridge.

This was a waste of time and very frustrating. We decided to just go down. But instead of a gentle grassy slope, we were on loose talus and scree. Ezra “ran” down the slope. Scree, the area the size of a SUP, was sliding down the slope with me. Anastasia was battling her own loose slope.

I made my way down to meet up with Ezra. He said he learned a valuable lesson. The decent and gain on easy tundra will always be a better option than side-hilling loose rocks in order save elevation.


Below the saddle looking up at Staci waiting on us.

Below the saddle, looking back at the route we should have taken directly to here. The plateau line is visible, shouldn't have changed directions

Anastasia and Ezra coming up to the saddle

About this time, I could see someone watching us from the notch in the saddle. I assumed it was Staci and waved. And the sun made its way out of the clouds to increase the day’s temperature.

I kept moving down toward some grassy areas. Ezra waited for Anastasia. She stopped to get the rocks out of her shoes.

We probably would have already been up to the saddle by now if we had stayed on the tundra. I made my way down and toward the area below the notch. I knew there was part of trail over there as this is part of the Nolan’s route.

I found the trail, which wasn't great, a little loose, and worked my way up to the saddle. I explained what we did. Staci just shook her head at me and basically said we were idiots for trying to side-hill that area. She was watching and saw the whole mess.

Anastasia and Erza were up to the saddle soon enough. We grabbed snacks. Watch the goat herd that had returned to the basin floor. As we started down the loose slope from the saddle, rock fall came from above to our right off of Carbonate. We were in no danger. That sound is always so cool. (Unless you’re in the way.) A goat was moving around up there kicking rocks. Well, aren’t you a ‘dirty bitch.”

That dirty bitch ridge

Photo from 2016: Our route from Lo Carb to the Tab-Carb saddle... green = good, red = suck

We hiked out and watched the sky. Interesting cloud formations kept moving about, but nothing grew into storm clouds. The decent into the basin and down to the trailhead was uneventful. I stopped to take photographs of the trees, like I always do. I’m going to have to come back and just spend an entire day in here.

We got back the TH and drove down the road to our camping spot. Set up a make-shift canopy and rested. We ate snacks and drank cold water. Talk of Mexican food finally got us interested in heading home.

It was a good day out, despite the major change in plans.

For those of you that are interested in a fairly easy ridge run, this can be done. You can grab these three peaks without having to do the Class 3 ridge to Grizzly or you could even go grab Cronin. Just don’t do what we did. Stay on the tundra, makes for an easier return. I'm guessing if you actually went all the way down in the basin on this route, total gain would be closer to 4,000 feet. But it's mostly a gentle climb.

Did I mention I LOVE the trees in this valley. The lines and contrasts are amazing to me.






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

She did us dirty!
07/14/2020 11:13
Pictures make it look so much better than it was in real life. Also, thank you for pointing out yet again that valley is not a canyon ðŸ Next time someone mentions Dirty Bitch story, weâll have to clarify which DB they are talking about.


"how y'all go?"
07/14/2020 11:27
Anastasia, But we know who the real dirty bitch is.... "how y'all go?"


Carb and Cyclone
07/16/2020 15:17
I need those and some of the lower 13ers in that area. Give me a shout if you want to spend another day up there.


^ What he said.
07/16/2020 23:20
Would totally be interested...

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