Our proposed route for UN13,403 begins from the suggested campsite location at 11,060 ft. along Sand Creek. As mentioned before, there are some good campsite locations here. You can reduce your overall mileage for this day by backpacking on up to Lower Sand Creek Lake where there are several good campsites on the eastern shore of the lake and just north of the stream that drains the lake. Our basic ascent route took us up the north flank of the unranked 13,369 peak south of the lake. On our return back to camp the same day, we found a better route back down. So this account will summarize both possibilities.
From the Sand Creek campsite at 11,060 feet, locate the trail to Lower Sand Lake and gain the one mile and nearly 500 feet in elevation to the lake. We began our peak-bagging hike in earnest by striking out across the lake outlet and moving into the forest on the other (south) side of the outlet. We then contoured toward a small lake/pond on the map that’s really part of a swampy area, at the north foot of the unranked 13,369 summit southeast of Tijeras. Once to this small lake, (11,340 ft.) we began hiking up, encountering some difficult, rock ledges that required some route finding and scrambling in some very steep sections. Once above these obstacles, we had to fight our way through many willows and relentless mosquitoes and bugs. About half way up, the willows began to thin out, as did the bugs. This part of the hike was an unending, uphill slug on mostly grass until we were about 400 feet below the summit. Then we contoured west, avoiding the summit and struggled across rocky slopes and shallow couloirs. Finally, we came to the saddle west of the unranked 13,369 summit. A man we had talked to the evening before had told us about a hidden ramp that led up to this saddle from the rock-filled bowl southeast of the Tijeras summit. From Lower Sand Creek Lake, this looked like an improbable route and the man said his memory was a little fuzzy since it was several years ago he had hiked that route, so we ignored his advice and went the way described above. We should have listened to him. We could have gained this saddle much more easily. That route is as follows:
From the same campsite, walk south and follow along the east shore of the lake in the trees using trails. Continue past the south end of the lake and begin ascending SW through thinning forest into the large basin under the SE face of Tijeras Peak. There will be a minor drainage to follow and eventually cross that empties into the lake. It comes in from the south. As you head SW and west into this basin, there will be some steep sections to work through. The trees also extend higher in elevation than what the USGS map indicates, but eventually you'll make your way out of the trees and into the rubble-filled basin. Proceed west past the base of a rock buttress that extends down from Pt. 13,495, and as this basin begins to turn south, work over close to that buttress. There is (was) a trail that we found that led through the rubble to the upper part of this wide ramp. The last few hundred feet of gain will change from rocky rubble to more tundra and easier hiking. The ramp then brings you out near the saddle between Pt. 13,495 and unranked 13,369. See our Google Earth image for this route. It's indicated by a blue line.
Continuing from the saddle mentioned above, you can avoid the unranked summit of 13,495 by hiking up a little and then contouring along the eastern flank of the summit over to another saddle south of it. (Just to mention - on Google Earth this unranked summit falls about 70 feet short of the USGS map measurement.) The contour is relatively easy, on some loose rock, but mostly secure. It didn’t take long to reach that next saddle. From the saddle, begin your climb to the summit of 13,403. This was a rocky summit and the north ridge section was a mixture of large blocks of rock, tundra benches and a lot of slow, navigating. With patience, you'll eventually gain the summit of UN13,403. From there, the summit of Cleveland Peak is just a short distance away. Study your route south, but if the weather is questionable, the continued ridge hike south will be very open to the weather and the climbers most feared nemesis - lightning. Gary Neben reports soloing this same four-summit combo in 8.5 hours. For us, this was a 10 hour day and we scarcely paused for any breaks.