It’s always nice to return from the mountains after completing an objective, be it reaching a summit or skiing a certain line. It can be really fulfilling, not just because of the achievement, but also for that small reward you feel when you cross something off your list.
Mountain climbers and peakbaggers can be pretty list oriented, Christy and I certainly are. That’s one way we stay motivated and keep track of new things to do. Many of our goals are written down. And we’ve found it’s quite common that in the process going after mountain goals– climbs, runs, ski descents, etc.– that we catch a glance of some neighboring mountains or couloirs that look fun, interesting, or challenging, and so we them add to that list. It’s actually quite common to come home with a longer list than when we started. The list only grows, it never really gets shorter.
Back in 2004 when Christy and I were in full peak bagging mode, she with the 14ers and myself with the Centennials, we found ourselves atop Windom Peak in the Weminuche Wilderness and we took in the view. There are more interesting and dramatic mountains in that part of the state than anywhere else in Colorado. And while many peaks caught our eye (which were promptly added to the list), one of them across to the east really grabbed our attention.
A quick glance at the map informed us the mountain we were gawking at was Mount Oso, 13,690 ft. At the time, like a lot of Colorado peak baggers early in their career (and obsessed with 14ers), a mid 13er didn’t get a high priority. Funny how that is. But we still took note.
Fast forward 13 years, with all the 14ers and Centennials climbed and skied, we found ourselves loading the backpacks and heading in to finally see what Mount Oso was all about.
It was worth the wait. It took us into a new zone of this wilderness area that offered some completely different perspectives on peaks that have become somewhat familiar through the years.
Beartown and Mount Nebo
From a start at the remote trailhead in Beartown (which takes all day to get to no matter where you live and which includes a pretty rough jeep road), we hiked in over Hunchback Pass. Once over the pass we descended Vallecito Creek to Nebo Creek. We hiked up Nebo Creek to a pass with Ute Creek where we took a break and decided to take on another list objective of the trip, Mount Nebo, 13,205 ft.
Much like our introduction to Mount Oso, back in 2010 we backpacked into nearby Trinity Creek where Mount Nebo framed the sunset each night. After admiring it for several days, we added it to the list.
So we took on Mount Nebo halfway through our day’s hike. We ditched the big packs and scrambled up the East Ridge. It was about an hour and half jaunt roundtrip, after which we continued along on our backpacking route to Rock Lake, below Mount Oso.
Our hike continued along the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), past West and Middle Ute Lakes, to a small pass that lead over to Rock Creek. Rock Lake is a short hike down from the pass and below Mount Oso, and was where we camped for the next couple of days. It was a cool spot.
Afternoon weather arrived right as we set up camp, which made for a really cool sunset on The Guardian, 13,617 ft., down across the valley below.
The following morning was really nice, and we made our way up the south side of Mount Oso. It was a pretty scrappy and exposed route to start, but it improved as we neared the summit.
And once up top we got to look over to the other peaks that initially introduced us to this bear of a mountain. It was cool to be there.
After another night camping we woke to clear skies again and climbed up nearby Peter’s Peak, 13,122 ft., with our coffee, oatmeal, and stove setup for a little breakfast on the summit. That was Christy’s idea of course.
And after one big cup of black coffee we descended back down to camp and packed up. It was time to start the long trip back to Beartown, via Rock Creek, Vallecito Creek, and Hunchback Pass.
What a great trip. And while we were there we saw eight new peaks we wanted to climb and three future backpacking routes. We’ll just add those to the list.