LoJ: #327 (G & M: #326) / 13,384' Prize Benchmark

Range › Sawatch Range
Quadrangle › Pieplant
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 38° 59' 43.65", W 106° 36' 39.96" (Not Field Checked)

Peak Summary

UN13,384, aka: Prize Benchmark, is by its east ridge connection from unranked 13,090, a mostly Class2+ traverse with some brief Class 3 scrambling. Its most notable feature is the unique perspective it offers from its summit, especially of Taylor Park. The rocky summit can be best accessed with good clearance 4WD up the South Fork of Lake Creek. We sequence this peak with Booby Prize and Middle Mountain. UN13,460 (West) could also be included for a four-summit day.

Prize BM East Ridge Route

Class 3
Peak Icon Peak Icon Peak Icon
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
Climbed with "Middle Mountain A" + "Booby Prize/UN 13312 C"
RT From South Fork Lake Creek TH #2: 9.85 mi / 3,850'
From "Booby Prize/UN 13312 C": 1.25 mi / 900' (One-Way)
  • Trailhead
    • South Fork Lake Creek TH #2

      Two possible access routes but both involve Highway 82:

      From US HWY 24 between Leadville and Buena Vista, take the State HWY 82 west, around Twin Lakes for 14.5 miles for the turnoff left (south) onto the South Fork Lake Creek road. (FR391)

      From Glenwood Springs/Aspen, drive on State HWY 82 through Aspen and continue driving one of Colorado's most thrilling passes to the summit of Independence Pass. Continue over the pass, down the east side and from the final switchback that drops you down to valley level, it's about 4.5 miles to the turnoff for the South Fork Lake Creek road (FR391).

      Once you turn onto FR391, drive over the new bridge (placed summer of 2014) that crosses the Lake Fork and perhaps stop to admire the narrow gorge the bridge is built over. Continue driving through private property initially for another 2.7 miles or slightly further to where the road forks left for Sayres Gulch (FR 382). Stay on FR391. The 4WD road up McNasser Gulch will turn off to the right in about an additional .6 mile. Stay on FR391. In another 1.3 mile, you'll come to the turnoff on the right for Peekaboo Gulch. There's a cabin in this vicinity and private property belonging to old mining claims. Do not attempt to camp in this vicinity. In a short distance, you will cross Peekaboo Creek. Just past the creek crossing is another private cabin. Do not attempt to camp anywhere near this location. Our son and a friend were trying to find a camp spot in the dark near the creek several years ago and the owner of the cabin fired warning shots at them.

      From where the road turns off for Peekaboo Gulch, it's another 1.2 miles to the trailhead and wilderness boundary. The last several hundred yards may become more difficult and this is where the additional ground clearance will be helpful. Our last drive up this road was 2003. Conditions may have changed and we would not be surprised to find the Forest Service has pushed the road closure spot back further down the drainage.


      Camping

      On the east side of Independence Pass, designated Forest Service campgrounds include Parry Peak and Twin Peaks. There are also numerous primitive sites all along Lake Creek, just off the highway. One of the best is here: N 39° 04' 54.99" W 106° 32' 21.86". This is where a diversion tunnel empties out into the Lake Fork and is just under 2 miles west of the turnoff for the South Fork of Lake Creek.

      On the west side of Independence Pass, there are designated Forest Service campgrounds at Difficult Creek, Weller, Lincoln Gulch and Lost Man. There are no good primitive sites, but you may be able to use the trailhead parking area across from the Lost Man CG.

      As you drive in on FR391, there are primitive sites you can choose from once you're past the initial area of private property, though in the past, we've observed some efforts by the Forest Service to close some of those primitive spots. It's possible to camp at the trailhead where there are scattered willows and a few other spots before the TH.

    Approach Map Photos
    • From UN 13312

      From the trailhead, follow the old roadbed/trail into the upper basin. The road starts out close to the creek but gradually gains elevation well above it as you walk up valley. It passes through numerous willows, then some conifers as you get higher. Near 12,200 feet, the road takes a sharp turn to the left and then right again. At this right turn, leave the road and walked across the tundra, crossing the creek, to a small tarn at the foot of a rock glacier coming off UN13,312.  A trail leads south up and over a low ridge and then contours SW across the slopes of UN13,312 to a saddle SE of the summit. As it crosses the low ridge, you'll see another unnamed pond about 200 feet below. The same trail intersects the ridge at the saddle at about 12,560 ft. It appears to be a well used game/elk trail. Before this ridge, you could turn up a steep couloir that would shortcut some of the ridge. We emerged on the southeast ridge at about 12,700 ft. Wherever you hit the SE ridge, continue hiking over increasing rocks for the final 600 feet to the summit, encountering no real difficulties anywhere along the route. It took us no more than 3 hours from the trailhead.

      From the summit, enjoy an outstanding view into Taylor Park. From here, either return as you came or head on NNW to UN13,090 (unranked) and from there over to Prize BM. More ambitious peakbaggers may want to consider adding UN12,862 (ranked 746) along the ridge to the SSE. It goes at Class 2 with alternating areas of tundra, then embedded rock and sometimes gravel,to the summit.

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    Route Info Prize BM East Ridge

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 2003

    UN13,384 (Prize Benchmark) is sequenced with UN13,312 (Booby Prize) and Middle Mountain. One-way mileage and elevation gain are measured from the summit of UN13,312. Round-trip mileage and elevation gain assumes completion of the sequence.

     From the summit of UN13,312, hike down the rocky north ridge toward 13,090. We passed three rocky obstacles on the left each time and when we came to the 4th, we dropped down some and contoured to the saddle. Most of this section is on rock and tundra mix and some may consider brief sections to be Class 3. From the saddle, to save some effort you can contour across the southwest face of 13,090 toward the saddle between it and Prize BM at about the 12,800 - 12,900 foot level. There is some larger rock to negotiate as you near the saddle. After that, it is a moderately rocky scramble of more than 600 feet to the summit, with brief Class 3 scrambles at times. It struck us when we arrived on this particular summit, that this location is a rather pivotal one. This summit is accessible from three very divergent areas that require long drives from very different directions. It's interesting to study the view in all directions.  For another useful description, follow the link below to a report by "Furthermore" on LoJ.

    From this summit, our sequence takes you over to Middle Mountain, however, some may want to include UN13,460 before going on to Middle. The report in the LoJ link offers some detail regarding that traverse. We did not include UN13,460 because we had already climbed it from Lincoln Gulch on the west side of that peak.


    Additional BETA

    Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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