Peak(s):  Potosi Pk  -  13,786 feet
Emma, Mt  -  13,581 feet
Gilpin Pk  -  13,694 feet
Cirque Mtn  -  13,686 feet
"T 5"  -  13,436 feet
Date Posted:  09/02/2020
Date Climbed:   08/17/2020
Author:  Mtnman200
Additional Members:   RandyMack
 Onward Through The Fog   

Over the previous 10 days, we'd climbed every peak on our agenda plus a couple of unplanned bonus peaks. We still needed to climb Potosi Peak (13,786'), Gilpin Peak (13,694'), Mt. Emma (13,581'), Cirque Mountain (13,686'), and T5 (13,436'). Complicating matters was the heavy smoke from the Pine Gulch Fire north of Grand Junction. This fire was started by lightning on July 31, 2020 and within a month became the largest wildfire in Colorado history.

Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. We drove up the Yankee Boy Basin road to about 11,400' and then started hiking NE toward the Coffeepot. The scree seemed never-ending, and our comments will not be repeated here.

We found no shortage of loose rocks on the way to the Potosi - Coffeepot ridge

Once on the ridge, it's an easy walk toward Potosi Peak.

Potosi Peak from its NW ridge

It definitely helps to have a trail across the loose rock

The rock quality on Potosi Peak leaves something to be desired

We reached a well-cairned couloir that clearly has had a lot of traffic, so we headed up

Looking up the couloir that allows access to Potosi Peak's summit

The route is well-cairned

Looking down our ascent route from not too far below the summit

We scrambled onto the surprising large and flat summit area, relieved that we don't have to ascend the scree to the Coffeepot again.

View from the summit of Potosi Peak

Mt. Sneffels, Cirque Mountain, and Teakettle Mountain from the summit of Potosi Peak

Another view from the summit of Potosi Peak

Heading back toward the Coffeepot

More poor quality rock on Potosi Peak; Randy described Potosi as a "fixer-upper of a mountain," which I agree is an accurate description

Interesting rock formation on Potosi Peak

May I give you a hand?

We returned to our campsite pleased with today's climb but at the same time a bit relieved to be done with Potosi Peak.

Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. We drove to about 11,480' near Sneffels Creek at the end of a side road heading SW from the Yankee Boy Basin road. After hiking SW to about 12,200', we headed west toward Gilpin Peak but could not see a reasonable way up. Not wanting to waste too much time, we contoured toward a 13,027' ridge point and then climbed west to Mt. Emma's north ridge.

The east side of Gilpin Peak is well-armed with cliffs

I climbed Gilpin Peak via this route in 1989 but today simply couldn't see a reasonable route to the ridge

Heading west toward Mt. Emma's north ridge; Mt. Emma is left of center

The Gilpin - Emma ridge

Once we reached Mt. Emma's summit block, there were several couloirs to choose from. Unfortunately, most were filled with snow, so we ascended the first couloir we reached because it allowed us to avoid the snow. This couloir worked well, although then we had to negotiate several gaps in the ridge to reach the true summit.

Climbing a steep couloir on Mt. Emma's summit block

The summit of Mt. Emma, with a lot of smoke in the background

Looking back at Mt. Emma's summit block

After returning to our car, we ate lunch and then drove to the Mt. Sneffels 4WD trailhead, determined to try a different approach on Gilpin Peak. The road has definitely deteriorated since we were last here in 2011. We followed the trail west for about 1/4 mile before leaving it and heading across the basin toward the Gilpin Peak - Mt. Sneffels saddle.

Gilpin Peak from the basin between it and Mt. Sneffels; we headed to the saddle to the right (north) of Gilpin Peak

The north ridge of Gilpin Peak

We followed an informal trail up the steep scree to this saddle

From the top of the couloir in the previous photo, it was an easy stroll to the summit of Gilpin Peak

The view of Mt. Sneffels from Gilpin Peak's summit

We returned via our ascent route and were able to descend the scree much faster than we had ascended it.

Heading across the basin between Gilpin Peak and Mt. Sneffels toward the trailhead

Once back at the trailhead, a slow drive down the jeep road brought us back to our campsite at Thistledown Campground. We hadn't planned to make two separate climbs today, but everything worked out well.

Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. Today our goal was the easiest thirteener in Yankee Boy Basin: Cirque Mountain. We broke camp and drove to about 13,600' on the Yankee Boy Basin road. We hiked north and northwest to a 13,060' saddle between Cirque Mountain and Kismet. Once at the saddle, we followed the obvious trail northeast around a 13,500' ridge point to Cirque's summit block. The scrambling was easy but fun, and soon we were on the summit.

The 13,060' saddle between Kismet and Cirque Mountain (right)

Cirque Mountain (left) and the 13,500' ridge point (right) that the trail bypasses on its north side

Looking down at our ascent route from the Kismet - Cirque saddle

Looking west from the Kismet - Cirque saddle

Climbing the last bit of ridge to the summit of Cirque Mountain

Randy stands triumphantly on the smoky summit of Cirque Mountain

After returning to our car, we drove about one mile down the road before turning onto the side road to Governor Basin. We found a good campsite at about 11,800' and spent the afternoon relaxing.

Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. Today's goal: T5 (13,436'), a tricentennial peak. We drove to about 12,040', where the road was closed to vehicular traffic.

The cable attached to this crooked post marked the end of the road for vehicles

We continued up the road to a gully that allows access to an upper basin west of T5.

The gully we ascended to the upper basin

Somebody had a bad day

In the upper basin, the obvious low point (center) is the T5 - Mendota Peak saddle. An informal trail leads up the steep scree to the saddle

This was near the T5 - Mendota saddle, but we have no idea what it means

Once at the T5 - Mendota saddle, we bypassed the gendarmes on the ridge via obvious paths on the south side of the ridge. We hiked over a 13,337' ridge point and on toward the true summit.

Almost to the summit of T5

View from the summit of T5

After spending a few minutes on T5's summit, we headed back to our car. Along the way, we stopped to look at a mine entrance that's full of snow.

This may be snow from 2019

It felt good to have had 100% success on the bicentennials so far, but Randy still has a few left to complete. Stay tuned...

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

Almost there!
09/03/2020 06:39
congrats on a great run


09/03/2020 09:45
Kroger's Canteen is an aid station for the Hardrock 100 race. Cancelled this year.

09/18/2020 08:59
Great write up and pictures. I've been wanting to tackle these 13ers around YBB after I summited Sneffels. Still relatively new to CO climbing, what are the "bicentennials"?

Thanks for sharing!


09/18/2020 11:17
Dave: Thanks for the encouragement.
MJSherman: I appreciate the info. So is 42:13:12 a time?
Sailgreatlakes: The bicentennials are the 200 highest ranked Colorado Summits.

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