UN 13,091 is one of several easy, Class 2, 13er summits located at the headwaters of Nellie Creek and in the shadow of the dominating 14er, Uncompahgre Peak. The vast majority of people who come to hike and climb here will focus all their attention on the 14er and ignore the opportunities on the surrounding 13ers. UN 13,091 is sequenced together with UN 13,106 for an easy day hike in the high, vast, tundra plateau area east of Uncompahgre Peak. If time and weather allows, try to include a trip across the valley and pick up UN 13,158 as well. Vehicle access requires at least a stock 4WD with good clearance.
UN 13,091 West Ridge Route
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
Directions begin from Lake City. From Gunnison, go west on SH50 to the intersection near the beginning of Blue Mesa Reservoir with SH149 and turn south. From Montrose, drive east on SH50 to the east end of Blue Mesa Reservoir for the same turnoff on SH149. Drive west and south on 149 to Lake City, just over 45 miles from the previous intersection. Once in Lake City, watch for either 3rd or 2nd street. Turning west on either will take you to Bluff St. in two blocks and a left turn (south). 2nd St. is considered the "official" access to CR20 which heads west following Henson Creek, but if you take 3rd St., it passes by a nice city park with restroom and picnic tables for those who need a break before proceeding further.
Once on CR20 (on the Gunnison National Forest map this is labelled as BLM3303), drive 5.2 miles to the turnoff for Nellie Creek which is signed and turns off to the north (FR877). Coordinates are: N 38° 01' 13.88" W 107° 24' 02.68". Standard clearance passenger vehicles should not attempt to go up this road. A short distance up the Nellie Creek road is some camping, (several possible sites) but camping is not permitted along CR20 in this section of the road. To proceed further up the Nellie Creek road, a minimum stock 4WD is best to have. The road starts out kind of rough and with potholes as it passes the initial campsites and then improves in a relative sense. While rocky in stretches, there are never any difficult places up to the creek crossing. Along this stretch there are a couple other campsites right off the side of the road. In 2.0 miles, the road crosses from the east to the west side of Nellie Creek, then climbs a steep switchback and continues generally north. In another .4 mile, it makes a hard left while another road veers off to the right. This older road gives access to Crystal Peak. In another mile, the road to the trailhead begins to level out in an open meadow. From the meadow it's another .8 mile to the trailhead from there for overall mileage of about 4 from CR20. Plan on this drive taking a minimum half hour or longer depending on how much you want to rattle your vehicle.
The parking area and vicinity at the trailhead offers some primitive campsites but the ground here is not very level, so the best campsites are about a quarter mile back in the trees where there are several good sites. There's also good opportunities back in the long, wide open meadow. On summer weekends, expect the trailhead to be crowded and camp sites more difficult to find. Since Uncompahgre Peak is the 6th highest 14er, it attracts a lot of attention.
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For UN 13,106, head north on the very-well established Uncompahgre Peak trail # 239 (or #6239 on FS Topo 2016). This trail follows up along Nellie Creek then climbs out of the creek drainage at about three-quarter mile and switchbacks to the left. Right at that switchback, leave the Uncompahgre trail and head north on another trail (#232 or 6232) that gains elevation on several switchbacks to a pass at 12,380 ft. Coordinates for this intersection are: N 38° 04' 06.81" W 107° 25' 56.35". At the pass, leave the trail and just hike on tundra eastward toward the undistinguished summit of UN 13,106. The tundra will give way to a brief rocky cap section that has to be broken through to reach the flat, rocky summit. The high point is on the west end of the long, flat summit ridge. That ridge progresses from the rocky west end to more and more tundra as you hike ENE if heading on over to UN 13,091. That's all there is to this one. The summit offers a commanding view of the Nellie Creek valley below and of course, there's Uncompahgre dominating the skyline to the west, where you can probably see numerous hikers as you enjoy this summit to yourself.
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Year Climbed: 2003
UN 13,091 is sequenced with UN 13,106. One way mileage and elevation gain are measured from the summit of UN 13,106. Round-trip mileage and elevation gain assume completion of the sequence.
From the summit of UN 13,106, walk NE along the almost flat summit ridge for about .75 mile until you can drop down to the east, avoiding a minor cliff (or early season a snow cornice) and reach the broad, tundra saddle at 12,500 ft. From the saddle hike ESE gaining about 400 feet elevation on more tundra to reach the elevation marker of 12,893 on the USGS map. Continue directly east on even more tundra toward the summit, located on a small, flat plateau. If you stay directly on the ridge, you'll be on some rubble for a while followed by a short Class 2 cliff that rings the plateau. Once on top, locate the high spot and cruise the tundra over to it.
Like UN 13,106, this summit offers a commanding view of the Nellie Creek drainage. Off to the east is Crystal Peak, a high 12er that offers a nice hike from lower down on the Nellie Creek road. To descend, either retrace your ascent route or try the following: For a shorter return route, retrace your path along the ridge to the west and drop back down into the separating valley between UN 13,091 and UN 13,106. Then climb up through some large boulders and gain a shelf that leads to the south, below the summit ridge of UN 13,106. Contouring just below 12, 800 ft on elk trails, drop southwest into a steep drainage that leads directly down to the trail head. This descent is not too difficult, but definitely steep. With a little care, we arrived back safely at the car by mid afternoon after having hiked UN 13,158, UN 13,106 and UN 13,091. Taking this short cut back to the TH will save a little over 2 miles of hiking. The round-trip mileage provided reflects taking the short cut.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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