UN 13,162 is a scrappy Class 3 ascent if done by the connecting ridge between it and UN 13,550 to the east. Both summits are located above the Twin Lakes, which are accessed off the Pearl Pass Road. 4WD is required to reach the trailhead. From the trailhead, both summits may be completed in a day. We climbed a number of 13ers located around Conundrum Basin and Coffee Pot Pass as part of a five day backpack trip. Mileages estimated will include backpacking miles. We have sequenced UN 13,162 with UN 13,550. Other summits in this five day trip include: Triangle Peak (13,380); White Rock Mtn.; UN 13,216; UN13,537; Hilliard Peak; Keefe Peak and Hunter Peak.
From the Town of Gunnison: Turn north at the center of town on HWY 135. Pass through Almont and continue toward Crested Butte. About 2 miles before reaching the town, turn right onto CR738 which also becomes FR738. This is locally known as the "Pearl Pass Road." The road starts out paved, then changes to graded gravel. It initially passes through a subdivision. Before turning off the highway, you'll have outstanding views of Teocalli Mtn. Passenger cars can make it in the first 4 - 5 miles to a little past the junction where the East River comes in. Just about the time FR 738 begins to gain elevation, there is a primitive camp area on the right. Passenger cars should be parked here. Higher clearance vehicles and 4WD can continue north. Stay right at the next road intersection in about a mile, continuing on FR738. The road will drop down briefly to a low water crossing of West Brush Creek. Continue driving another 4.5 miles appx. to the Twin Lakes trailhead parking which turns off the main road to the left. If only driving in to climb Teocali, it is not necessary to drive all the way to the Twin Lakes TH. There is a primitive campsite on the west side of the creek at these coordinates: N 38° 56' 26.55 W 106° 51' 36.78". Elevation 10,100 ft. This is about 1.1 mile south of the Twin Lakes TH. An indistinct road turns off to the left and leads down to cross the creek with the campsite being on a bench just above the creek at the coordinates above. If unable to ford the creek, then it's possible to car-camp where this road turns off,
There are some good, primitive campsites right at the trailhead with some protective trees. You may find other weekend adventurers camped here. Also, see the coordinates provided above for a possible campsite before reaching the Twin Lakes TH that can serve as the TH for hiking Teocali.
Note: This backpack approach may not only be used for UN13,550 and peaks in that immediate area, but also for the line of summits bordering Conundrum Creek as far north as Hunter Peak. Since Conundrum Creek and hot springs is a very popular and now regulated destination backpack typically accessed from Aspen and the road to Ashcroft, the access we are suggesting here will avoid the crowds, have a higher starting elevation, provide access to even more summits and offer less competition for campsites.
From the trailhead, hike NW on trail # 402. Initially, you'll have to find a way to cross Middle Brush Creek - possibly using your vehicle or wading. Go north up the hillside some and then turn NW on the trail to the Twin Lakes. It's appx. 3.2 miles to the north end of the northernmost lake at 11,580 ft. with 1,400 feet of gain. The trail crosses into the Maroon-Snowmass Wilderness. Self-registration is required for a permit for overnight visitation. The trail starts out on the east side of the creek but crosses over to the west side a half mile below the lakes. It starts out crossing open terrain, passes through some higher altitude forest and goes through any number of willows as it approaches the lakes. In 2000, when the trail crossed over to the west side of the drainage, it was so difficult to follow in the wet and dense willows, we abandoned efforts to do so and blazed our own path, avoiding some of the willow-bashing. Perhaps it has now been improved.
Trail #402 shows on Forest Service maps as playing out above the Twin Lakes. We actually found usable trail all the way to the saddle WNW of the lakes at 12,500 ft., passing through lush, flowering vegetation on the way up. It was shortly after the saddle that the trail began to play out in the tundra benches above the northern end of West Brush Creek. But it makes little difference. In this location, you can find several campsite opportunities and small tarns for water supply by working your way west from the pass above Twin Lakes. The views and the solitude are outstanding. It is also easy to access "Coffeepot Pass," about a mile NW from the Twin Lakes pass and drop into Conundrum Basin. It's an easy backpack (except for the altitude) over mostly tundra. A short distance down on the north side of Coffeepot Pass, you can pick up Trail #1981 as it drops in from Triangle Pass. This trail drops down to Conundrum Hot Springs almost 2 miles down from Coffeepot Pass, and can serve as your access for Hunter, Keefe and Hilliard Peaks. The trail goes all the way out to CR15 between Aspen and Ashcroft. To avoid possible overcrowded campsite conditions at Conundrum Hot Springs, try camping about a mile up the trail from the springs in the upper basin on some of the tundra benches below the east flank of UN13,216. It may be a 20 - 30 minute walk down to the springs, but you'll enjoy a great deal more privacy and solitude. If packing in from Brush Creek & Twin Lakes, total mileage to this campsite will be about 5 miles with 2,400 feet of elevation gain.
This link from the US Forest Service may provide more information about trail #1981 to Conundrum Hot Springs: Conundrum Creek Trail #1981 - Hiking Guide
You may be able to find some primitive campsites in the vicinity of the lower Twin Lake. We did not camp at the lakes. We camped well above the lakes on a higher tundra bench area where the trail plays out in the tundra, since we were here to climb multiple summits over several days. In addition, we also camped on a flatter tundra/grassy bench area north of Coffeepot Pass by about 3/4 mile, well off the trail and east of the UN13,216 summit at an elevation of around 12,200 ft.
From a viewpoint at the north end of the northernmost lake, the south face and west ridge will appear quite formidable with a steep, rocky south face and rugged looking west ridge. From the lake, head north, gaining about nearly 800 feet into a higher basin at the foot of the south face. Gain more elevation on a tundra-covered talus slope that leads through some cliff bands before it plays out. You'll have to doing some zigging and sagging through the rock bands, tending towards the west ridge. If you wish, you could work your way on over to the west ridge and then head east up the ridge to the summit. When we had opportunity to do so, we felt the south face route was going well enough to continue on it. About 300 feet below the summit, an eastward, upward sloping ramp leads over to the SE ridge of the peak. To get to that ramp, we did have to scramble (3rd class) through one narrow, rocky gully that had a darker colored rock. A later summer snow patch marked the ramp above. If you find and follow this ramp, you'll come out on the SE ridge, about 200 feet below the summit, at a small saddle with an astounding view of serrated, SE ridge of Castle Peak. Walk and still scramble at times on easier maroon rock to the summit.
This summit offers a fantastic view and different perspective of Castle Peak. After catching your breath, for bonus points, continue over to UN13,162 to the west by following the west ridge. It will not be an easy traverse from UN13,550 and may require anywhere from 1 to 2 hours to complete the 3rd class route with one section of ridge to descend on steep, exposed loose rock.
UN 13,162 is sequenced with UN 13,550. One-way mileage and elevation gain are measured from the summit of UN 13,550. Round-trip mileage and elevation gain assume completion of the sequence and will also include backpacking mileage and elevation gain.
While standing on the summit of UN 13,550 and viewing the ridge that connects to UN 13,162, after considerable discussion about how to best proceed to the next summit along the west ridge of UN 13,550, we decided to go right along the ridge and see if we could negotiate our way without too much difficulty.
Descending to the first saddle is easy, and the next short section of hiking up along the ridge is easy enough up to the unnamed, no-count summit that is between 13,550 and 13,162. The section of ridge that we could not clearly see before from UN 13,550 was to be the problem though. Continuing west from the false summit, the next hundred yards are easy, but then, the ridge plummets off into a broken and rocky mass. At this point, there is really no viable choice but to continue along the ridge and climb down through all the rocky mess. This we did with tedious and great care. Most all of this is 3rd class, steep, exposed and riddled with loose rock. After some time, we made it down through this rugged section and breathed a little easier as we traversed over to the next saddle. From here, it may appear that there may still be some other difficulties as you near the 13,162 summit because of a rock band, but you must proceed on with no other obvious alternative. It turns out that there is an easy break in the same band and you can hike on through to the summit with only minor difficulties. It took us almost two hours to negotiate the rugged ridge. Of all the peaks in this area, this traverse may be the most difficult.
From the top of this summit, you can see the basin west of Twin Lakes where we suggest a first night's backpack camp if continuing on to other summits in this area. To return to the Twin Lakes, retrace your steps back to the first saddle east of the summit and then descend from the saddle amid a great deal of broken rock to a basin northwest of the lakes. You will be descending on a rock glacier of sorts. Once past all the rocks continue the descent SE back to the lakes amid lush, flowering tundra and grass. This descent route could be used as an ascent route as well. The class rating would by Class 2+, mainly for having to navigate the rock glacier uphill. In this manner, the peak could be done without including UN 13,550 and the 3rd class work of the connecting ridge.