Peak(s):  White Dome  -  13,627 feet
One, Pk  -  13,589 feet
Date Posted:  09/03/2007
Date Climbed:   09/03/2007
Author:  scotthsu
 White Dome and Peak One from Kite Lake  

Who: Scott (scotthsu) and PJ (saddlebagger)
Itinerary: shack at Kite Lake (~12140') to White Dome (13627') to Peak One (13589') back to Kite Lake
Total vertical hiked/climbed: ~2800'
RT mileage: ~6 miles (rough estimate)
Car-to-car time: 5 hrs 30 min (incl/1 hr total on summits)

Being Labor Day weekend, my primary requirement was to climb some high peaks that wouldn't be mobbed with people. I also wanted a car-to-car itinerary to keep things simple and to go somewhere I hadn't gone before. Also, since PJ had just spent a week at sea level, he felt that he wasn't ready "to go huge." So, I chose a day hike/climb to White Dome and Peak One, two bicentennial 13ers in the San Juans. I had always wanted to drive the Stony Pass Rd, and it usually doesn't take much to get me to go to the San Juans.

On Sunday 9/2, we had an early dinner in Creede and then set off to tackle the road (FS 520) toward Stony Pass from the east. My primary reference for the road/4WD approach was "4WD Trails Southwest Colorado" by Massey and Wilson. In it, I had read about deep mud and stream crossings. Luckily, both were quite manageable. The creeks were all very low this late in the season. There were some steep rocky sections, both on FS 520 (Timber Hill) and in the last mile or so on FS 506 before Kite Lake, that require a capable high clearance 4WD vehicle. We reached the shack at Kite Lake (about 2 miles past Beartown) around 8:40pm, taking a little under 3 hours from Creede, which included about 20 miles of CO149 highway and just under 32 miles of dirt/4WD road. There were many car campers along the dirt/4WD roads, but only 2 other cars at Kite Lake. We parked near the shack at Kite Lake. PJ pitched a tent on some grass, and I set up the back of my car for sleeping. We were lights out around 10pm.

It rained overnight, but we woke up to clear skies. We were hiking with headlamps by 6am. Here is a topo showing our approximate ascent route in yellow; where our descent differed is shown in blue. (The bottom blue segment is a good trail that we didn't bother to find in the dark.)

At the NW corner of Kite Lake, we headed up a mostly dry, rocky creek bed (class 2) until we intersected a good trail around 12560'. From there we followed the trail to the continental divide around 12820' and then turned south on another good trail. PJ hiking toward White Dome (w/sub-peak PT 13378' on the right):

The trail disappeared at a saddle near PT 12848, so we just continued on grass toward beautiful looking rock slabs below and to the NE of PT 13378'. We climbed these solid class 3 slabs, interspersed with nice grassy ramps, to a wide talus field to the E of PT 13378'. Here is a picture of the talus field with our approximate route (class 2/3) to a false summit (near White Dome's true summit):

Here is a picture of PJ climbing fun solid class 3 rock after crossing the talus field:

We reached the summit of White Dome around 7:50am:

You know it's going to be a good day if you have some Cognac before 8am! After a 20 minute snack break, we started down the SW ridge toward the saddle between White Dome and Peak One. This was a very nice exposed class 3 ridge with solid rock. We had fun staying always within an arm's length of the ridge proper. Scott descending the SW ridge of White Dome:

A look back at the SW ridge of White Dome from the saddle:

Shortly beyond the saddle, we went up and over PT 13401 and continued along the ridge to Peak One. This was all pretty pleasant class 2 with a few avoidable class 3 scrambles (which I usually seek out). Here is a picture of PJ nearing the summit of Peak One, with the traverse from White Dome visible behind him:

We reached the summit of Peak One around 9:10am. Here is PJ on the summit of Peak One, with Trinity (13805'), W. Trinity (13765'), Vestal (13864'), and Arrow (13803') looming behind:

The close-up view of the Grenadier Range was spectacular! There were familiar names on the summit register (our date should read 9/3/07; I forgot to check my watch for the correct date!).

After seeing SarahT on there, I was surprised not to find a TR for these peaks on!

After a luxurious 40 minutes snacking and enjoying views on the summit, we headed back to the White Dome saddle and descended a talus filled gully. (Make sure you head down the gully that takes you to Eldorado Lake and not the drainage below Peaks Two and Three!) We had fun getting some "turns" in on two small snowfields (ski season only 2 months away!):

A look back up at the gully with the two miniscule snowfields (where's Waldo?):

At the bottom of the gully, we contoured NE and then E above Eldorado Lake, never dropping below 12600'. Beautiful Eldorado Lake:

Kite Lake from the trail above (shack and my yellow car are barely visible if you look hard enough):

We reached the car at 11:35am. It was starting to cloud up, but we still had time to enjoy a beer! It started raining just as we got in the car to drive away. We drove back to FS 520 and headed W over Stony Pass, and then drove back to Los Alamos via Durango/Pagosa Springs.

Endnotes: This climb/hike gave us everything we had hoped for: solitude, fun hiking/scrambling, stunning views of the Grenadiers, and an exciting 4WD approach. I'd highly recommend it.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

 Comments or Questions

Nice report!
08/28/2008 00:37
Good job on two great peaks! That area is so pristine and beautiful!


Great photos!
11/30/2010 17:28
We kept our eyes out for you this weekend but didn't see you. It looks like you guys had some great scenery to enjoy. Sarah and I returned to the Elks this weekend and managed to reach the summit of Snowmass Mountain. Man, what a long approach that is! We'll have to get together for a climb some time.


11/30/2010 17:28
For some reason, I saw Kite Lake on the TR page for this and thought that it was in the Collegiates. So I deceided to have a closer look and, my surprise! It's in the San Juans! The area looks remote and still pristine. I'm gonna have to get down there and have a look myself. The pictures are wonderful, Scott.
I definately hear you about avoiding the people over Labor Day Weekend. Apparently, a very good choice!


11/30/2010 17:28
everyone for your comments.

Sarah, on the way back from Peak One, we skirted PT 13401 to the SE and there was indeed some loose rubble on the traverse. Maybe the Roaches hit that on the way to Peak One, who knows? I definitely hear you about keeping some secrets 8) We thought about Hunchback on the way back, but beer and staying dry obviously won out I'll have to look into Ute Ridge, thanks for the tip!

Cincy Andy, congrats on Snowmass! We definitely should get together soon for a beer and climb.

Mark, yup that area was everything we hoped for. I'd love to get back there again and finish off the Grenadiers. Next time, I might approach from Silverton to drastically reduce the 4WD approach time to Kite Lake.

Kiefer, yup the solitude was quite welcome. We saw just a handful of people on the entire hike, and most of them were a ways off. I hope you get a chance to check it out soon.



Nice TR
02/05/2011 00:22
I really liked this area too. It sure takes a long time to get back there though. Cool too see your picture of the register. I remember seeing the ”rubble trouble traverse” thing written by the Roaches, but I didn't quite get it. I wonder why they called it that?

I just don't have time to write TRs for all the hikes I do. And I like to keep some secrets too 8) . I more or less followed your ascent route and then contoured around White Dome's south slopes (by Vallecito Lake) and climbed Hunchback Mountain on the way back to Kite Lake. After the hike we were trying to hang out, have a few beers and relax but we were soon joined by about 20 ATVers!

Another good hike in the area that I never wrote a TR for is Ute Ridge (3 ranked summits). There isn't much scrambling to be done, but the scenery is AWESOME!

Thanks for the TR.


That's a mob!
08/15/2013 18:02
> my primary requirement was to climb some high
> peaks that wouldn't be mobbed with people...
> ...but only 2 other cars at Kite Lake.

White Dome is the only peak I've climbed twice, first in 1978 and then again four years later when I was back in the area. There never used to be anyone around Beartown or Kite Lake. (sigh)

The road up Timber Hill and to the turnoff at Pole Creek where you cross the Rio Grande (again) was much worse, but they fixed a couple of the really bad spots to make it more tourist friendly. Rumor used to have it someone sunk a Suburban up to the roof in a bog where there's now a section of built road around said blog (right after you turn off the Stony Pass road). And, back in the day, Hywy 149 out of Creede was only paved for the first half dozen miles or so (to the bridge across the Rio Grande where there's a campground), so it was a two hour drive just up to the Rio Grande Reservoir.

But I digress... One thing about this route which helps to know: after the trail S along the Divide (this is new, too) peters out, there's a tilted boulder field coming off the E side of the mountain between you and the nice-fun-easy Third Class slabs. If you try and cross this boulder field closer to the peak (i.e., to the right or W) the boulders are bigger and the going is slower. 'Tis better to cross farther down on smaller rocks. This also gives a little more vertical climbing footage on the slabs and ramps.

On my second climb of White Dome I saw a fairly fresh footstep in a small patch of snow somewhere down near the Divide, and got to the summit to discover someone had just placed a register up there earlier that same day. Wonder if it's that's the same one...

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