Peak(s):  Rio Grande Pyramid  -  13,821 feet
Date Posted:  07/12/2009
Date Climbed:   07/11/2009
Author:  Jon Frohlich
 Rio Grande Pyramid and the Window  

Rio Grande Pyramid (13,821)
From Rio Grande Reservoir via Weminuche Pass and the Skyline Trail
RT: 19.2 miles and 4,481 feet (not counting the Window)
Partners: Susan and Dave

Dave contacted me a few weeks back about making an attempt at RGP. I've seen Rio Grande Pyramid from many vantage points in the San Juans and always marveled at how isolated and remote it looked. I'd been wanting to climb it for years and our schedules worked out to make an attempt this weekend. I contacted some friends to see if they were interested in going along for the adventure and my friend Susan decided to join us.

Susan and I drove down Friday morning and met Dave at the Rio Grande Reservoir trailhead around 1:30pm. We were a bit late because in Monte Vista we happened across a restaurant running a special for 2 burgers, 2 fries, and 2 drinks for $6.99. Cheapest lunch ever! After getting our gear together we all headed off about 2pm. The backpack in was not too bad and after about 2 hours we found a great campsite on Weminuche Pass. The start of the Skyline Trail that we needed to use for the next morning was right across from our camp.

We all went to sleep early and my alarm went off at 4am. It was a bit of a cold morning but we got going about 5am and headed off up the trail. The trail was mostly easy to follow until we reached a section with deadfall that we had to negotiate around. After a bit of up and down to get around the worst of the fallen trees we got to open trail again. From here we got our first view of RGP and the Window ahead. We then had to contend with a section of willows that were wet from some rain the previous day and we all got soaked (me especially since I was in front).

Down into Rincon La Vaca

RGP and the Window

We found a decent trail heading up to the saddle between RGP and Point 13,278. From here we headed up left of Point 13,185 on the slopes of RGP. Susan and Dave elected a route up a climbers trail while I headed up on the slightly more stable talus. Both routes worked out fine and we found ourselves looking up at the last 800 feet to the summit. Susan and Dave headed up ahead and I followed along behind. Route finding was relatively easy and it was just a matter of picking a good and solid looking line. I caught up to Dave and Susan just off the summit. They had to decided to wait for me so we could all summit together.

We reached the summit at 8:40am. The climb up took about 3.5 hours from camp. We soaked in the views and I kept snapping photos. The view is one of the best I've ever seen. The wilderness just surrounds you in every direction. You can see the Chicago Basin group, Wetterhorn and Uncompaghre, the Grenadiers, and a sea of other peaks. It was an immensely rewarding summit to stand upon and is every bit as amazing as I expected.

Looking towards the Window

Windom, Sunlight, Eolus (L to R)

Wetterhorn and Uncompaghre

Rincon La Vaca

The Grenadiers

Pano from the summit

We all wanted to head towards the Window as well since the weather was good. I knew there was a gully down the North Face so we headed that direction. A few hundred feet down we got seperated as I went down into the gully. Dave and Susan headed more climber's left of me thinking there was a better way. I eventually got down the heinous gully and looked back to find them. It turned out that the route they choose cliffed out and had no way over to the gully I descended. Eventually some yelling back and forth we decided that they would climb back up and descend the route we came up while I would head to the Window.

On the way down the North face

Towards the Window

Looking back at RGP, cliffs on the right where my friends got turned back

Now alone I decided to make a quick trip of it and got to the Window in a little over 30 minutes. The Window was amazing and it was very cool to stand in this very odd formation. I've never seen anything like it in Colorado and it felt like a very special place. It was also amazing to have it all to myself.

The Window

Through the Window

Looking at one of the sides

Down the valley

More of Chicago Basin from the Window

Another through the Window

RGP from near the Window

Up to the Window from the Rincon La Vaca trail

I could see the weather might soon be a problem so I headed back down and looked for the Rincon La Vaca trail intending to take that back to camp. I followed a strong trail into the valley and came upon a sign for the Continental Divide Trail. Not sure if I was on the right trail and realizing that my GPS thought the trail was off to my right I decided to follow it anyway. The topo for this trail appears to be wrong and show it much farther from RGP than reality. Eventually I saw another sign indicating I was on the right route.

The trail was good until I was almost in the valley where I lost it in more deadfall. After some bushwhacking which scraped up my legs I found the trail again and talked to some people camped down in Rincon La Vaca. It started to rain as I was talking to them and I headed off to get back to camp before I got soaked. As I hiked through the open valley thunder kept booming behind me and I resolved to move as fast I could back to camp. I reached camp around 12:45pm and saw Susan and Dave coming down the Skyline Trail at the same time. Amazing timing! I was very happy to see them after not knowing if they had found a safe route back up and out.

We took a rest during a hailstorm and then the weather cleared about 2pm. We decided to pack up and head out instead of spending a 2nd night. My legs were wiped but we made it back to the cars just after 4:30pm for a roughly 16 mile day. I was beat and we headed into Creede for dinner at the Cascada restaurant. It must be new as I don't remember it. The food was fairly decent but after the hike I think anything would have tasted good. I finally got home just after midnight and collapsed into bed.

It was a fantastic hike with great company and amazing scenery. Certainly will be one of the highlights of my summer!

 Comments or Questions
dave alex
nice report
07/12/2009 22:14
Thanks for the great write up Jon and the wonderful pictures. Have fun during the rest of July.


07/13/2009 04:08
I look forward to this hike - love the views of the Grenadiers from there.

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