UN 13085 B
Peak X is an easier Gore Range summit to climb rating a Class 2+. The Pitkin Lake Trailhead is accessible by any passenger vehicle. Though this summit could be climbed in a day from the trailhead, we suggest a backpack trip up Pitkin Creek as far as Pitkin Lake that will enable peakbaggers to reach six 13er summits.
Peak X SSW Ridge Route
Backpack + Medium Day
Pitkin Creek Lower Campsite
5.2 mi / 2,625'
Whether coming from the west or east on I-70, take Exit #180 off of I-70, about 4 miles east of the main Vail town exit. Proceed to the north side of the interstate and turn east (right) onto Fall Line Drive. Drive just a short distance past some condo units on your left, cross Pitkin Creek and find a very small trailhead parking area immediately after crossing the creek. Just a few yards further is a cul-de-sac and another condo unit. Do not park there. The trailhead parking offers a total of 10 slots. Obviously, these will fill on weekends. If you can't find a parking spot, try going back to the Exit 180 interchange and drive south on Big Horn Road then SE and there's a parking lot just past the interchange you may be able to use. From there, you'll have to walk back to the trailhead.
The nearest campground is the Gore Creek Campground, a National Forest Service fee area with vault toilets and water. To get there from the Exit #180, you'll need to drive SE on Big Horn Road past the trailhead parking for the Deluge Lake and Gore Creek TH. Reservations may be made for campsites at reserveamerica.com. Other than that, there is virtually no other place close by with at-large/primitive camping. Your best bet may be to go up to the summit of Vail Pass and drive down the Black Lakes Road where there is a pullout parking area right where the road is barred from vehicular traffic and becomes the Vail Pass bike trail, east end. This is not a primitive camp location but you may be able to sleep in your vehicle.
Gore Creek Campground ›
N 39° 37' 37.14", W 106° 16' 26.33"
Fee required. 8750 elevation.
Lots of interstate traffic noise.
The small parking area for the Pitkin Lake Trail has a sign warning about a 2-day parking limit. If planning on being there longer, call the Vail Police Department - Enforcement Division and ask for permission to park there longer. Be prepared to provide license plate and vehicle description.
The trail begins by ascending gently along the east side of the stream, then crossing on a sturdy bridge. A short distance farther on, it abruptly begins an incredibly steep ascent with well-positioned logs to reduce runoff and provide steps for the arduous climb with full packs. For the next half mile, you might as well be climbing a mountain, but after that, the trail begins to level off, still maintaining some distance from and above the creek. Overall, this trail is in fairly good condition and after the initial section was not too arduous.
After about two miles up the trail comes right beside the creek. After the section near the creek, the trail remains very moderate until it crosses an open meadow and then begins climbing up to another bench level. At about 3.25 miles in the trail crosses the west fork of Pitkin Creek and there is a large campsite past that crossing. In 2010, the campsite was not well-used. It's a short distance before the trail makes a left turn to begin a steep ascent out of the valley to Pitkin Lake. We are calling this the "lower campsite." It can be used as a base camp for Mt. Solitude, Peaks X and Z. The waterfall shown on the map is somewhat obscured from here.
Pitkin Creek Lower Campsite
N 39° 40' 48.95", W 106° 16' 38.73"
Elevation 10.460 ft.
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Route Info Peak X SSW Ridge
Click thumbnail to view full-size photo + caption
Year Climbed: 2010
Our route for Peak X begins from the "lower campsite" along Pitkin Creek that's 3.75 miles upstream from the trailhead. If starting from Pitkin Lake, adjust accordingly. We have sequenced Peak X with Peak Z for a fairly full day of hiking. Mt. Solitude could also be added in to the sequence but we decided to keep it separate because we completed that summit on a separate day. If pressed for time (such as a regular weekend), you could pack in Saturday and climb Solitude after establishing a camp, then climb Peaks X & Z Sunday and pack back out.
From the lower campsite head back up the main/east fork of Pitkin Creek, utilizing the faint trail that follows on the east side of the creek. (You will need to cross the creek at the easiest place you can find near the campsite.) One section of the trail will take you up on a flat shelf where there's a little flat area with nice grass, trees and surrounding protection from some rock outcrops. This could also serve as a nice campsite. After here, the trail works down to the creek again where you will pass some small ponds and will wade through lush flowers and grass that can be damp from previous days rain.
In about an hour you can make it up to the head of the valley where you will need to start climbing up to “Useable Pass.” See our map for the location of this pass. It may require another 45 minutes to hike up to the pass. The hike up to the pass is fairly easy over mostly tundra and smaller broken rock & rubble. Useable Pass is just a means of crossing the ridge south of Pt.12,710 and accessing the slopes of Peak X or dropping into the headwaters of the north fork of Boulder Creek. The east side of this pass is extremely steep for the first 100 feet down or so. Carefully work your way down, descending on mostly unstable gravel and dirt. Lower down, you will see an opportunity to head over to the base of a cliff wall to the left. At the base of the wall, there is just enough flat space to walk along on more stable ground. In fact, there appeared to be a faint trail here. Lose perhaps another 100 feet in elevation before deciding to contour over toward the saddle between Peak X and 12,710. Hike on mostly rubble, small boulders and small shelves of tundra. In short order, gain the SSW ridge of Peak X. From here on, it is just another ridge hike. Most of it is class 2 or 2+ with a few scrambles around boulders, small cliffs or other obstacles, but in all, you should be able to follow the ridgeline. We found the ridge to be stable, a welcome relief from previous days on the Partners and Peak Q.
Time from the lower campsite to the summit is under three hours. We felt some relief that this peak was a little easier than anticipated. The descent from Useable Pass was probably the most difficult part. Either return as you came or continue on to Peak Z.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
Mountain Handbook ›
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