(G & M: #617)
UN 13,034 is another easy-to-reach summit located NW of Creede and accessed by the West Willow Creek trailhead (our route) or a 4WD track up Rat Creek. The summit is a Class 2 climb. 4WD or higher clearance vehicle is recommended to reach the trailhead, however, passenger vehicles may be driven as far as the Equity Mine and parked there. This would add about another 3 miles round-trip to the hike. This is mostly a tundra hike with some Class 2 rocky scrambling around the summit block.
UN 13,034 NE Ridge Route
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
RT From West Willow CK - San Luis Pass - Creede:
From the town of Creede and CO149, where the highway crosses the main stream in town, (Willow Creek) turn north and follow the Main St. north through the heart of town. Locate the Rio Grande Field Service Office on the right hand side of the street and measure from there. Continue north through town and begin the steep climb up the narrow canyon on a graded, gravel road. Beyond the town, this road becomes CR503. From the end of the pavement, we measured 6.7 miles to the Equity Mine, which is where the 2WD road terminates, or 7.2 from the Rio Grande Field Office. When the road forks at 1.2 miles, stay left to continue on CR503. At 5.0 miles, CR504 turns off to the left. Remain on CR503 to reach the parking area just outside the Equity Mine.
For those with 4WD and good clearance, FR503 continues north, veering off the County Road just shortly before the Equity Mine parking. The road climbs rather steeply at first, then progresses up valley and then drops back down some to cross West Willow Creek to the east side in about .6 mile from the turnoff just before the Equity Mine. The road continues north through open terrain and at 1.25 mile from the Equity Mine turnoff, it drops to the creek and crosses back over to the west bank. In 2019, we found the road blocked by the Forest Service at this crossing because of some serious road degradation further up and so we had to start walking from here, however, the local district office indicated this closure was expected to be temporary. If the road is open, drive another .6 mile to a place where the road turns sharply uphill. There is some limited parking here for just a few vehicles. Most stock SUV's should be able to drive to this point. The trail for San Luis Pass and the trail that splits off for San Luis Peak, over six miles away, heads north from this point. This makes a good location to begin hikes for the various 13ers located around this drainage, on either side. There is not any good camping at this site though. If your vehicle can make it, continue on up the short stretch of steep gain on the road and there is a large, flatter, open area where it's possible to camp, but no trees close by. Overall, the road to the trailhead and coordinates provided was not all that bad in 2019.
There are very limited, good camping opportunities along the West Willow Creek Road. A section of the road passes through privately owned land prior to reaching the Equity Mine. This property is fenced. Where FR504 turns off, there may be some camping possibility there, but you're right on the private property boundary from what we could tell. The best campsite we saw was 6.2 miles from the Field Office, or about one mile before reaching the Equity Mine. On the 4WD section of road, there were no primitive sites and only a couple spots that were level enough to provide a reasonable "car-camp" for the night. One was just after the first creek crossing, the other is just before the second creek crossing.
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Year Climbed: 2010
UN 13,034 could also be sequenced with UN 13,111, UN 13,020 and Baldy Lejos for a longer day and the overall mileage could be reduced as a result, however, we have chosen to present this summit as a separate climb, because some parties may prefer to not attempt to include all four summits in a single day.
To obtain this summit, all you need to do is take a long, two mile stroll along another gentle, tundra ridge before engaging the final, rocky summit section, which only requires a hundred feet or so of working your way through some minor cliffs and rock formations. From the West Willow Creek trailhead, walk up the 4WD track as described for UN 13,111 and reach the pass south of that summit at 12,500 ft. From here, you'll be looking down into the Rat Creek drainage. The stroll around the head of this valley is impressive. You will be gazing down the vast drainage of Rat Creek (nice, attractive name – would certainly stimulate you to visit) and the upper end is a huge basin of tundra and low willows. The same jeep road followed from West Willow Creek TH circles back and heads down Rat Creek. There will usually be ATV traffic on this road. Contour your way west around the head of the basin, losing perhaps 100 - 200 feet in elevation depending on your route, round your way below a prominent ridge and walk over to a saddle almost north of UN 13,034. There are remnants of an old road/trail here. That fairly noticeable trail heads up from an open gravel area near the saddle and leads across to the north ridge of the peak before playing out in the tundra. Follow the broad tundra ridge south and as you approach the rocky summit area, work to the south side of the ridge and find a route through the broken rock and rubble to the summit ridge. Once you reach that summit ridge, the summit cairn will be a little farther to the west. Finish on tundra embedded rock. Return to the trailhead by the same route. We have thrown in an additional 200 feet of estimated elevation gain for the return trip.
Bonus Points: For those who plan ahead and think they may want to climb at least some of the high 12ers, you can continue west following the ridge line all the way over to UN 12,952 on almost all tundra terrain, an additional 1.5 mile one way.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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