(G & M: #556)
Fitzpatrick Peak is an easy Class 2 walk-up summit located a little east of Cumberland Pass. The summit of the pass serves as the trailhead and is accessible to passenger vehicles. To reach this summit, the most direct route will take hikers over a ranked 12er called "Napoleon Peak." Best feature of this summit are the wildflowers.
Fitzpatrick Peak west flank Route
Short Day // A Wee Little Climb
RT From Cumberland Pass:
4.8 mi /
From Gunnison: Drive north from the center of town on CO135 for 17.4 miles to Almont. Turn right (east) onto CR742 and follow to Taylor Park Reservoir. At the reservoir, head east, then south on FT765 to Tincup on graded gravel road. From Almont to Tincup, it's 24.0 miles. From Tincup, continue south another 5.4 miles on FR765 gaining elevation out of the valley on several switchbacks to reach the summit of Cumberland Pass at just over 12,000 ft. If in a passenger vehicle, park in the vicinity of the main road.
If coming from the east and not wanting to go all the way into Gunnison, here's another route: From Poncha Springs, drive west on US50 for 48.5 miles over Monarch Pass to Parlin where you will turn right (north) onto CR76. Parlin is just an intersection with a few buildings and is located 11.7 miles east of Gunnison on US50. Drive NE for 8.7 miles on paved road to Ohio City. Continue another 6.9 miles to Pitkin on the same road (CR76) that becomes FR765. On the north side of town, the road changes from paved to graded gravel. From Pitkin, continue driving NE, then north, passing the Quartz Creek CG and climbing to Cumberland Pass on a long switchback. From Pitkin to the pass, it's another 10.9 miles. If in passenger vehicle, park just off the main road. Higher clearance vehicles and 4WD's may drive NE for some distance on one of several ATV tracks. Park where you like and are out of the way, but try to minimize any further damage to the high tundra.
The closest National Forest campground is the Quartz Creek CG, about 4 miles north out of Pitkin on FR765. This is a nice little campground that we have found to have open spots even on weekends. There are 10 sites with a vault toilet and water available. As usual, there is a fee of $10 and it's a first-come, first-served campground. As of this writing, the Gunnison National Forest website was indicating water is not available, but there is a creek nearby. The campsites are accessible to passenger vehicles.
The closest other campground will be the Mirror Lake CG located 3.5 miles SE of Tincup. See the "Garden Basin TH" for more information. It's also possible to car-camp at the pass, but expect breezy conditions since it's above timberline.
Quartz Creek ›
N 38° 38' 19.32", W 106° 28' 09.10"
Elevation 9,875 ft.
Click thumbnail to view full-size photo + caption
Year Climbed: 2011
Since we had 4WD pickup when we hiked this summit, we had driven east from the summit of the pass a quarter mile or so and then parked along a major ATV track. From there, we began our easy hike over the summit of Napoleon Mountain to the east, passing numerous Old-Man-On-the-Mountain as we strolled through easy tundra with mixed rock.
At the top of Napoleon, (a ranked 12er) drop east for about 550 feet in elevation down some difficult and loose scree and boulder talus. Bleh! There is not any other decent alternative without going far out of the way, so commit to the descent and drop down to the pass between Fitzpatrick and Napoleon. We had searched a road that contoured around the north side of Napoleon, but it would have taken us far away from our destination. As we made our initial drop, we spotted a small group of elk feeding in the early morning hours and also one Ptarmigan with some of its winter white still on.
Once down Napoleon, continue straight up the west slope of Fitzpatrick on an ATV track that goes about 1/3 of the way up the grassy slope, that is covered with emerging summer wildflowers. From Napoleon Pass, it is just under an 1,100 foot gain to reach the summit of Fitzpatrick. Almost all of the ascent is on tundra and grass, except for the final summit ridge, which becomes broken, rocky rubble. It took us 50 minutes to gain that elevation. Arriving at the summit, we found a metal plaque with an inscription dedicated to Erin Gale Allen (Golden Eagle); “Environmentalist, Attorney and Activist.” The plaque indicated that her ashes had been brought here and scattered from this mountain location. She had lived from 1951 – 1992, a much too short life span. Her friends obviously loved her.
From this summit post, you can view a large swath of the southern Sawatch and gaze upon some of the other peaks to the north. When we hiked this summit over July 4 weekend, 2011, there was still plenty of winter snow hanging on the peaks. After a break to take in the view and a few photographs, depart and return by the ascent route back to your waiting vehicle. Other than the scramble back up the 550 feet of rubble on the east slope of Napoleon, the hike back is easy. We spotted yet another Ptarmigan and chased it around trying to get a good photograph. Then we also stopped several times to takes shots of the abundant “Old-Man-on-the-Mountain.” These flowers favor the earlier part of the summer and are abundant in this location.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
Mountain Handbook ›
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