13ers Abound (written for CampGear)
14ers—they are no secret to those who love the mountains. Here in Colorado, we have 53 peaks achieving the famed altitude of 14,000 feet, although the exact number is often disputed. However, as I am sure many of you have experienced, the 14er designation has caused disproportionately high recreational usage in a state famous for mountain ranges like the San Juans, Elks, Front Range, and Medicine Bow—basically a state of high peaks. Many folks are set on bagging all the 14er peaks in checklist fashion. However, if your intention is to have some solitude on your summit venture (and aren’t necessarily wanting to make an attempt in the dead of winter), I highly suggest trying one of 600+ 13ers our beautiful state boasts—such as Precipice Peak! (38.11947°N, 107.53523°W)
Honestly, my first interaction with Precipice Peak was the view from the summit of Uncompahgre Peak, a 14er in the San Juans. The unique shape of the summit left a major impression on me—so naturally I had to try and climb it. After piecing together the very limited beta available for Precipice Peak, my two equally adventurous friends, Brandon and Justin, and I were as ready as we ever would be…
No trails meant we would be responsible for our own route finding based on suggestions from two or three limited trip reports online. The one constant between the trip reports seemed to be ‘stick to the gully as long as possible to avoid steep deadfall.’ Well, we followed the beta and we regretted it. As the gully got steeper, the conditions got really sketchy. As we decided the best move would be to exit the gully, our only option was to scramble up the walls due to a waterfall. As a geologist, I have many words for the rock that the gully was made up of, but I will keep it simple: super sketch. Without getting too far into the details, the motto of the day ended up being “%$&# the gully.”
After some nervous laughs and a few moments to reflect on the gully, we were finally above tree line with distracting views and an alpine meadow, which lead straight to the saddle below the summit—wonderful.
From the saddle, the summit push was filled with otherworldly hoodoos and bizarre rock formations. Fortunately, all of this rock was much more solid than the gully. I could attempt to truly describe what it was like, but a photo is worth 1,000 words, right? Well, I’ve got many photos and a limit on available words—so check them out!
Needless to say, we decided to fully avoid the gully on the descent and, instead, chose the steep deadfall. This route was challenging, but fun, and less potentially life-threatening (despite the name ‘deadfall’). We truly enjoyed hopping from log to log, getting a little muddy and basking in the emerald light shining through the forest canopy—certainly a delightful end to an eventful day.