Saturday, October 21, 2023

Whitecap Mountain, 12,376', Rico Mountains, from Hotel Draw

Essence: The Rico Mountains are a small range separated into two blocks by the Dolores River and the historic mining hamlet of Rico on CO 145. There are seven ranked peaks on the west block and five on the east. Whitecap lies one mile southwest of Blackhawk Mountain, the high point in the range. The long, 4.2 mile approach on the Colorado Trail begins from Hotel Draw in the Hermosa Creek drainage. The woods retreat in the crystalline, high alpine Straight Creek basin. Leave the cross-state trail at "Blackhawk Pass" and the excitement begins. The half-mile-long north ridge of Whitecap is an exercise in mindfulness for experienced mountaineers. It is exposed and the rock is shattered and loose. The near vertical crux on the summit cone argues for limiting group size to two. The flat-topped, relatively spacious summit is another of Colorado's remarkable points of vantage. LiDAR, a new, more accurate measurement technology, has elevated Whitecap to 12,409 feet with a prominence of 365 feet. The hike is within the San Juan National Forest.
Travel: In a 4WD, high clearance vehicle turn west from US 550 into Purgatory Resort and measure mileage from there. Drive up the winding road and turn right on FSR 576 near the upper parking lots at a small brown building (0.4 mile). Turn right at 3.2 miles toward the Hermosa Creek Trail. At 8.7 miles the spur to popular mountain bike trails branches left. Stay on the main road following a sign for Hotel Draw and Bolam Pass. The road deteriorates. Ford Hermosa Creek at a shallow, distributed, and flat crossing at 10.2 miles. Avoid in high water. At 11.2 miles turn left on FSR 550 (unsigned) toward Hotel Draw. The dirt road narrows and is prone to developing deep ruts. The track is impassible when wet. There is a small pullout and sign for the Colorado Trail at 15.0 miles, Benchmark 10,419'. Allow 45 minutes to one hour from Purgatory.
Distance and Elevation Gain: 11.1 miles; 2,900 feet
Total Time: 6:00 to 8:00
Difficulty: 8.8 miles trail, 2.3 miles off-trail; navigation moderate; Class 3 with considerable sustained exposure with unreliable holds; two, 50-foot near vertical walls
Map: Hermosa Peak, Colorado 7.5' USGS Quad
Date Hiked: October 21, 2023
Quote: When you walk across the fields with your mind pure and holy, then from all the stones, and all growing things, and all animals, the sparks of their soul come out and cling to you, and then they are purified and become a holy fire in you. Martin Buber 
 
Whitecap Mountain is first glimpsed from the south ridge of Blackhawk Peak. The overall impression is one of beauty, of the intermingling of red earth and gray stone, softened by the pale ephemeral grasses of autumn. We had been forewarned that the north ridge was "nasty and scrabbly," and indeed, the mountain looked somewhat intimidating. (Thomas Holt Ward, photo)

Route: Whitecap rests on the divide between the Dolores River and Hermosa Creek. It may be approached from the west. Our route is ideal for those coming from the east. From Hotel Draw hike northwest on the Colorado Trail to the pass east of Blackhawk Mountain. Ascend west on a trail toward Blackhawk. Leave the trail and head southwest on a faint social trail to the south ridge of Blackhawk. Walk west on a barely visible game trail to the southwest ridge of Blackhawk. Follow the ridge as it makes an "S" turn onto the north ridge of Whitecap. Remain on the ridge to the summit.
 
From the trailhead, elevation 10,400 feet, the Colorado Trail (CT) is open to hikers, equestrians, and bicyclists. Hotel Draw is a common resupply location for thru-hikers. Plus, there are popular mountain bike loops on both sides of the divide passing through this point.
 
Start out on the north-south running ridge dropping away to Hermosa Creek on east and Scotch Creek on west. The trail ascends gently through a mixed Douglas-fir and spruce forest enlivened with aspen. (Thomas Holt Ward, photo)

The vista opens eastward at 0.4 mile overlooking Graysill Mountain and Grayrock Peak. Though commonly climbed from Pando Creek on the east, the mountains can be approached from the southwest, pictured.
 
As the trail levels out, look north to Point 11,924' on the south ridge of "Blackhawk East," also known as R1.

Pass over Point 10,721' and then enjoy a slight downhill. Below, youthful spruce are sheltered by their old-growth elders. Sadly, there has been a substantial Douglas-fir die-off since I passed through here in 2019.
 
The CT hangs onto the 10,700-foot contour while traversing a sunny glade. (THW, photo)
 
Cross a streamway at 2.1 miles. Beyond is a bountiful, head-tall flower garden. In autumn, the diverse seed heads create a cacophony of crisp, scratchy, rattling percussive sound. Hop across signed Straight Creek at 2.5 miles, 11,020 feet. There were deer and elk hoof prints at this dependable water source. (THW, photo)  
 

Pass through treelimit and enter the spectacular Straight Creek basin crossing the waterway again at 11,460 feet. The predominant color of the earth is bright red. The basin and surrounding mountains are composed of Cutler Formation, over 1,000 vertical feet of sandstone, siltstone, and conglomerate beds. The bands of gray columnar cliffs seen throughout the area (including the north ridge of Whitecap) are sills--intrusions of crystalline igneous rock between preexisting layers of Cutler. (Hence the toponyms for the ghost town Graysill near Bolam Pass and Graysill Mountain.) (THW, photo)  
 
The treadway stays east of unnumbered Point 12,300'. Blackhawk Mountain is now line of sight.
 
The trail makes a sweeping turn to the right at 4.0 miles, 11,800 feet (image-lower left). Our route to Whitecap goes over the south ridge of Blackhawk at the saddle (image-center). A couple of times on my way to Blackhawk, we left the trail at the sweeping turn and did a 0.3 mile shortcut directly up the basin. It is best saved for an option on the return. The climb is steep, not a time-saver (in either direction), and you'd miss the glorious pass.
 
Arrive on "Blackhawk Pass" at 4.2 miles, 11,980 feet. The field of vision northward is so rich it takes a moment to sort. Below, in the foreground are Flattop Mountain and banded Section Point. On the horizon, the wide sweep takes in Lizard Head, Sheep Mountain, San Miguel Peak, Grizzly Peak, and Hermosa Peak.  
 
From the pass walk west up the east ridge of Blackhawk. When I first climbed Blackhawk in 2007 there was no trail on the ridge but it is clearly visible now. (THW, photo) 

The next objective is the south ridge of Blackhawk. While you could stay on the trail, it will save time and vertical if you ditch it at 4.4 miles, 12,200 feet. Watch for a thin, informal footpath cutting across the slope. We noticed a few footprints on this path but there was no sign of travel beyond the south ridge. This image was shot from the junction with the trail to Blackhawk.

The boot-wide thread crosses two debris channels and gains about 100 feet.

Arrive on the south ridge of Blackhawk at 4.6 miles, 12,300 feet. Whitecap is finally visible. It took us 1:25 to cover the one mile to the summit from here. I am no longer fast and most experienced hikers intent on the peak will be stronger and swifter than me. But this is not a passage to rush. We were 15 minutes quicker on the return to this point.

We cut west on a very subtle game trail while losing a little elevation. We were feeling the route out as we went and it was coming together beautifully. Be sure to peruse the Aspen Creek basin as you walk along its headwall. 
 
Intersect the southwest ridge of Blackhawk at 4.8 miles, 12,220 feet. The route to Dolores Mountain, the lowest of the Ricos on the east block, diverts in this area. Meanwhile, our ridge makes an S turn, heading south to start.

Stay on the ridge as it turns west for an incredibly pleasant stroll through a fellfield. Fell is the Gaelic word for stone. Fellfield communities are stone fields, less than half covered with plants, generally cushion plants like moss campion and dotted saxifrage over which the wind flows easily. Yes, you could cut the corner but don't! It has its rewards.
 
Tap the true corner at 5.0 miles, 12,220 feet, and turn south with just a little over half a mile remaining to the summit. (THW, photo) 

This shot of Dolores Mountain with the lengthy gray sill summit ridge was taken from the corner. The west block peaks starting from the left are: Landslip and Expectation mountains, Anchor Mountain, Eagle and Calico peaks, unranked Johnny Bull Mountain, Sockrider Peak, and the tallest of the set, Elliott Mountain. (THW, photo) 
 
We made every effort to stay on the ridge crest. Below, I'm approaching the narrowing divide. (THW, photo) 
 
While the terrain drops 200 feet overall in the next 0.3 mile, there are some significant stone knobs that must be mounted. Scrambling is Class 2+ to begin. Plates of stone sound like clanging dishware. The first challenge is a somewhat exposed Class 3 scramble.

We went straight up the center.

Below, I'm over the top of the warmup knob with plenty of room to play on its south side. (THW, photo) 

The drop to the west is chillingly sheer.

In the foreground of this image is the contact line between a red band of Cutler and gray sill. Beyond is the saddle and the first of two walls.
 
Bypass the red gendarme on the east, dropping no further than necessary, and arrive in the 12,020-foot saddle. This image looks back at the gendarme from the base of the first wall. (THW, photo) 

Here's a closeup shot of the wall, perhaps 50 feet in height. If it was any steeper the mountain would fall back on itself. The rock is shattered and literally, teetering. Climb this one with the lightness and grace of a fairy. Test everything and be reluctant to trust anything. Brace, don't pull. I got to the top and thought, "Well, that was one of the most badass things I've ever done." But it was soon to be superseded! (THW, photo) 

The ridge shrinks to a short knife on top of the wall.

 The mountain offers a moment of reprieve, widening itself out across a stable blockfield.

And then, the totally unexpected, a flat of tundra turf snug up against the base of the 150-foot summit cone. The initial ramp pitched reasonably enough to the start of the crux (at the arrow), another fiercely steep, almost vertical 50-foot wall. Again, the rock looked ready to cut loose with the slightest touch. I found the setup intimidating. My partner graciously offered to retreat if I wanted to turn back. I paused and asked the mountain permission to proceed. I got a strong yes so I asked for its protection. We dug deep and mustered up the courage to give it a shot.

Looking at the image below, we decided to climb the razor instead of the dangerous debris gully to its right. I led, lightest person first, with my partner in lock step. We talked constantly. What worked, what didn't. Three quarters of our holds failed. But just enough reliable blocks propelled us up the mountain. 
 
The cone rounds off. (THW, photo)

This image looks down on the access ridge from the roundoff. Burnished red Cutler, gray sill, golden grasses, and dark green spruce interweave to create an Earthen tapestry. El Diente Peak and Mount Wilson are due north and not all that far away. (THW, photo)
 
We topped out on the surprisingly roomy summit at 5.5 miles. The purpose of this blog is to document the American West, not me, but this image captures what this mountain will do for you. It will fill you with ecstatic joy. (THW, photo)

The register was placed in 2007. I am in awe of those who have climbed Whitecap repeatedly, and the few and true mountaineers for whom Whitecap was just one of four mountains climbed in a single day from Rico: Dolores, Blackhawk, Harts, and Whitecap. We were the first to sign in 2023. Ah, so that's why we were encouraged to summit--the mountain was lonely. Below, on the skyline are the La Plata Mountains and Sleeping Ute. (THW, photo)
 
We had intended to climb Dolores but were running out of time on this short-light day. To the northwest Lone Cone is pictured in the saddle between Sockrider and Elliott. On the right is the challenging trio in the San Miguel Mountains.

East of the Animas River trench are the myriad peaks in the inexpressible Weminuche.
 
Downclimbing the cone and traversing the north ridge was trouble-free: done it once, can do it again; five points of contact available; better visuals; secret passages remembered and re-enacted. (THW, photo)
 
Clambering down the lower wall was good sport.

Back on the south ridge of Blackhawk, if you'd like to diversify your trip, shoot down through the basin. Favor the north side to stay clear of willows. Intersect the CT at the sweeping, four-mile turn. During the third week in October it was quiet out there. We saw a handful of mountain bikers on the CT and a couple of hikers getting a late start on Blackhawk. This was our last peak of the season in Colorado. We look forward to returning yet again to the Ricos to climb Dolores next summer. (THW, photo)

Monday, October 9, 2023

Mount Tukuhnikivatz, 12,482', La Sal Mountains

Essence: "Sierra La Sal" was named by Silvestre Val├ęz de Escalante, the Spanish Franciscan missionary-explorer during his expedition through Utah in 1776. A dozen peaks over 12,000 feet high compose the 25 mile-long range. Its stature in Utah is second only to the Uinta Mountains. Mount Tukuhnikivatz was named by indigenous Utes. "The Place Where the Sun Sets Last" references the  peak's location on the western periphery of the chain. Five ridges ripple from the summit cone, an aesthetic for the public throughout the region and an irresistible magnet for the climber. Two of the ridges provide standard access routes to the peak. The one described here is the easiest--a trail hike beginning at La Sal Pass and concluding with a 500-foot talus ascent. "Tukuhnikivatz the King" (Edward Abbey) has a prominence of 742 feet relative to its parent Mount Peale, the high point in the La Sals. Now for the unfathomable. Standing on the apex, the earth drops out from under one's boots, plummeting 8,500 feet to the desert floor. Look out over the furthest reaches of the West. The hike is within the Manti-La Sal National Forest.
Travel: Measure distance from mile marker 9 at the post office and La Sal Store in La Sal, UT. Drive east on UT 46. The highway climbs out of town. Enter Manti-La Sal National Forest. Pass mile marker 12 and begin watching for a brown sign for Upper Two-Mile Road. Turn left at 3.6 miles onto a well graded gravel road, FSR 0208. At 5.4 miles turn left on FSR 0073 signed for Medicine Lakes and La Sal Pass. At 7.4 miles cross La Sal Creek. This is the one location where high clearance is required. Even when running low, water pools deeply. This ford would be impassible in high water. The road climbs for miles through mature stands of aspen, positively aglow in autumn. The turnoff to Beaver Lake is at 11.3 miles. At 12.0 miles pass the left turn to Medicine Lakes. There is dispersed camping throughout the drive. Park on the right at 12.4 miles, signed La Sal Pass, 10,140 feet. Your mileage will likely vary. 
Distance and Elevation Gain: 6.4 miles; 2,400 feet
Total Time: 4:00 to 5:30
Difficulty: Trail, off-trail; navigation easy; Class 2 with no exposure; last 500 feet of vertical is on a rather steep slope with shifting talus. The mountain is typically snow-free from mid-summer through mid-fall.
Maps: Mount Peale; Mount Tukuhnikivatz, Utah 7.5' USGS Quads
Date Hiked: October 9, 2023
Reference: Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness, by Edward Abbey. Ballantine Books, 1968. All the Abbey quotes cited below in italics were taken from my first edition copy purchased used in Hotchkiss, CO in 1984. For a highly entertaining tale of Abbey's "scramble" up the north face of Tuk, see his chapter, "Tukuhnikivatz: Island in the Desert."
Quote: No, wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization that destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself. Edward Abbey 

Geyser and La Sal passes divide the range into three blocks: North, Middle and South. As seen from Island in the Sky, Mount Tukuhnikivatz is the pyramidal peak in the Middle Block. Mount Peale is to its right, partially hidden. Mount Mellenthin is the broad-topped summit to its left.
 

Route: From La Sal Pass, hike roughly north on a well established trail to the east ridge of Mount Tukuhnikivatz. Climb west off-trail to the summit. Retrace your steps to the trailhead. The blue line represents our failed attempt to climb Mount Peale via the Razor Fang traverse, briefly discussed at the end of this post.

Nights were sub-freezing in October so we camped shy of the pass. In dawn light Tuk and Peale rested quietly in radiance and the aspen trembled with brilliance. In autumn the leaves turn a bright, uniform yellow, glorifying entire mountainsides with bands and splashes of gold.

Trailhead parking is located on the north side of the road at La Sal Pass, elevation 10,140 feet. Dedicated 4WD is required for the road on the west side of the pass. Call the Moab Ranger District (435-259-7155) for road conditions before attempting this "dangerous road." 
 
The hike begins on the Burlfriends Trail and segues to the Tuk Trail in half a mile. The countryside right at the trailhead is already tantalizing with sloping meadowlands, aspen, old-growth conifer, and the rough-cut south slopes of Mount Peale. 
 
Hike northeast then north up an expansive grass slope. Share the trail with occasional mountain bikers and livestock. The route to Tuk comes into view immediately. The trail climbs to Point 11,190' and then switchbacks north to Point 11,841' (image-right), trail's end. It's a simple matter to gain the east ridge from there. Then it's a straightforward heft west to the summit. (Thomas Holt Ward, photo)

This image looks back at La Sal Pass and South Mountain. We are so enamored with the La Sals we plan to return to explore the South Block. At 11,817 feet, South Mountain is shorter than the peaks to its north but it makes up for it with the series of deep gashes on its northeast face.

Could there be anything more alluring than a curvaceous boot-worn path wandering into an aspen grove? (THW, photo)

At 0.5 mile, 10,200 feet, leave the multi-use Burlfriends Trail and bear left onto the Tuk Trail. The sign claims the trail ends in 1.5 miles but it's actually another 2.0 miles.
 
Enter the forest and begin a gentle ascent. Spent aspen leaves softened the dirt path. Transition into a deep and ancient Douglas-fir, Engelmann spruce forest with a primeval vibe. Left of the trail is a moumental spruce weighed down with cones. (THW, photo)

The band of timber is thin and at 0.8 mile we got our first good look at the Razor Fang. I thought it enrapturing and hoped to pull off the traverse to Peale. We'd read several trip reports and figured our changes were 50:50. (THW, photo)

Below, I'm walking toward a spring near the cluster of conifers. Point 11,190' is directly ahead and Point 11,841' is image-right. (THW, photo)
 
The spring, 0.95 mile, 10,480 feet, is protected by a triangular log fence. The green trough was empty. Carry all the water you will need on your journey.
 
There are multiple paths at the spring. Hike due west for 0.1 mile and then follow the trail as it cranks sharply north to cross a wide-open slope. Livestock grazing is permitted on nearly the entire Manti-La Sal National Forest. The forest plan has not been updated since 1986. A bunch of cattle in the road. Too dull-witted to get out of the way, they trot along in front of the truck for a quarter of a mile before I can pass them. And later, Somebody's goddammed cows, Scobie's perhaps or McKee's, I can't see the brand, gape at me from the lower side of the meadow. I wave my arm and stick at them and they bolt suddenly for the trees.
 
The well-graded, mellow trail ascends toward a crown of conifers. 

Our home ground is Colorado and the La Sals are clearly visible from many high points in the La Plata and San Juan mountains. We were hoping to do a visual reversal but the day was hazy. Lone Cone is just distinct enough to stand out on the horizon line under the sun. (THW, photo)
 
At 1.35 miles the well-engineered footpath makes a sharp turn to the west, and zigzags past more massive trees. Alight on a south-trending ridge at Point 11,190' at 1.8 miles. The south face blockfield of Tuk impresses but be sure to look further afar to the Henry Mountains and the Little Rockies. The trail once again turns north and moderates steepness with switchbacks. (THW, photo)

At 11,440 feet a sign nailed to a tree informs that in 2013 mountain goats were introduced to the La Sal Mountains by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. The goats are keen on salts found in human urine. To protect rare plants found in the fragile tundra, pee on talus, not plants. For more information on this controversial transplant of goats, see the 2023 article in Moab's The Times-Independent. Ironically, this region is within the Mount Peale Research Natural Area established in the 1980s to protect several species of endangered alpine plants.

When we were driving up the road early in the day I looked up to a beguiling ridge covered in golden grasses and wondered if by chance the route went up that slope. And now here I was in that very spot, native grasses illuminating the path. (THW, photo)

Tuk's only challenge becomes more clear.

Arrive on Point 11,841' at 2.5 miles. Seeing the Middle Block peaks so close for the first time was a euphoric moment. (THW, photo)
 
The Tuk Trail ends on Point 11,841' but a faint social tail continues on up to the east ridge.
 
Gain the ridge at 2.7 miles, 11,960 feet with 500 feet of vertical remaining. The high-angle talus cone is in your face. You can't quite see the crest, but the climbing does round off onto the summit ridge beyond this image.
 
A subtle use trail tackles the first 100 feet. The grade is reasonable on the rock-tundra mix.
 
At 12,080 feet rock prevails over soil. The small caliber talus is stable. There is a braided and crude social trail initially but effectively you are on your own.
 
At 12,200 feet any semblance of trail is gone, the stones are bigger, and much of it is loose. The grade steepened on the rock pile but it never felt dangerous. Hikers with a moderate amount of experience on talus will have no trouble. Just be slow and methodical.
 
Like the Henry and Abajo mountains, the La Sals are a laccolith formed when a large mass of magma solidified into stone below the earth’s surface. The young range intruded above the surface 29 to 27 million years ago. Notice the crystalline nature of the igneous diorite rocks. They are considered intrusive because crystals had time to form and grow within the earth's crust.
 
When you reach great big beautiful slabs of stone, the pitch eases and the mountain rounds off.
 
Arrival onto the summit ridge is revelatory. The visual field is, a great vast aching vacancy of pure space.
 
The anticipation was intense as I walked toward the edge of the earth. My first visit to Moab was a pass-through in 1982. We stopped at Walker Drug, the only grocery store in town, for supplies for a private float down the San Juan River. Side streets were dirt, only the main drag was paved. Mount Tukuhnikivatz made an indelible impression on me. Life takes its turns and 40 years later I was circling back to climb it. (THW, photo)
 
Crest the westernmost summit in the La Sal Mountains at 3.2 miles. At a leisurely pace with a couple of pauses, it took us 2.5 hours. Alas, the sky was hazy but we could make out Boulder Mountain west of Capitol Reef, the linear Book Cliffs north of Arches National Park, and the fourteeners in the San Miguel Mountains of Colorado. (THW, photo)
 
Then why climb Tukuhnikivats (sic)? Because I prefer to. Because no one else will if I don't--and somebody has to do it. Because it is the most dramatic in form of the La Sals, the most conspicuous and beautiful as seen from my terrace in the Arches. Because, finally, I like the name. Tukuhnikivats--in the language of the Utes "where the sun lingers."

In our experience the whopping 8,500 feet of relief to the Spanish Valley is rivaled only by Telescope Peak, 11,048', the roof of Death Valley, where the drop is 11,330 feet to Badwater (282 feet below sea level). Below, the West's greatest canyon-cutter, the Colorado River, splices the Moab Rim, cleaves Behind the Rocks, and meanders, entrenched and lost from sight on its journey to the sea.
 
As for the chromatic field, I like to think it is the sole possession of the American West. All around the peaks of the Sierra La Sal lies the desert, a sea of burnt rock, arid tablelands, barren and desolate canyons. The canyon country is revealed from this magnificent height as on a map and I can imagine, if not read, the names on the land. To prove his point Abbey lists 121 place names, seen and (mostly) unseen, concluding with "Moab (cf. Kings II:iii, The Holy Bible)." (THW, photo)
 
The Middle La Sal Traverse is well described in trip reports. The massive counterclockwise circuit begins at the Gold Basin Trailhead and mounts "Little Tuk" (Point 12,048'), shown, Tukuhnikivatz, crosses the Razor Fang to Mount Peale, and cruises north over three substantial rollers to Mount Mellenthin. (THW, photo)
 
The North Block ripples off into the distance beyond Geyser Pass.
 
In June, 2016, we climbed five of six ranked peaks above 12,000 feet in the North Block. This image was shot from Mount Waas looking south to the Middle Block. (THW, photo)
 
The landscape splays out to the south crossing an immense span from neighboring South Mountain to Sleeping Ute Mountain, the Abajo Mountains, and Bears Ears.

Descending, maintain a friendly relationship with the rocks and you will glide down effortlessly.
 
Below, diorite blocks hold fast to the inclined mountain, gold ripples through purple-green stands of timber, and Medicine Lakes reflect the Utah-blue sky. (THW, photo)
  
Razor Fang Attempt
The vast majority of hikers should retrace their steps to the trailhead. "Razor Fang" is the informal name for a segment on the traverse to Mount Peale. It is rated the most difficult route in the La Sal Mountains because of the exposure on the thin ridge and shattered rock with unreliable holds. The traverse should be respected and reserved for experienced mountaineers. Do your research before attempting this crossing. There are many excellent trip reports on the internet. Below, my partner is descending into the Tuk-Peale saddle at 11,740 feet.
 
We made it up the first fang no problem. It was just a little spooky as we got accustomed to the exposure and friable rock.

This is the scene we encountered as we topped that first spike. On any other day we would have taken our chances but my son was getting married three days hence and we were risk adverse! We couldn't see the challenges ahead well enough, the rock was nervous, the exposure grave. Disappointed, we turned around. If you find yourself in a similar frame of mind, it is only 0.6 mile back to the junction where the Tuk Trail meets the east ridge.
 
We didn't want to give up on Peale so we returned to the saddle and made a reasonable drop southeast onto a green bench at 11,500 feet. From there, we attempted to cut east to the Mount Peale Trail. That proved both tedious and dangerous. Talus on the side hill passage was at the angle of repose and the mountain slid out from beneath us. We gave up and skittered and slid down into the trees. I mention this failed attempt as a cautionary tale. If you decide not to cross the Razor Fang, return to the Tuk Trail.
 
This image looks back up at the Razor Fang from our bailout bench. We engaged the Mount Peale Trail at 10,800 feet. We didn't have enough time to mount the rugged 2,000 feet to Peale. Thwarted this time, we intend to return to climb the high point of the range on the standard route next season.