Monday, October 14, 2013

LIST: Ranked Class 5 Peaks over 13,000 feet

There are seven "ranked" peaks over 13,000 feet that require class 5 climbing to reach the top. In other words, by their easiest route, these seven mountains are the most difficult high peaks in the state. Mountains like Longs Peak or Crestone Needle which have difficult class 5 routes but easier hikes or scrambles as well would not be included. This list also does not include mountains like "Coffeepot" which require fifth-class climbing to reach their summit but do not meet the requirements for being "ranked" (i.e. they have less than 300 feet of topographical prominence).

There are three peaks in the Centennial list (100 highest) that require 5th class climbing. As you will see below, there are four other 13ers that also fall in this intimidating category. It is interesting, though not altogether surprising, that all of the mountains on this list (except the debatable "Whitney Peak") are found in the San Juan Range.

NOTE: I believe this list is complete but there are 637 mountains in Colorado that are above 13,000 feet and have more than 300 feet of topographical prominence. Many of these peaks are quite obscure and have seen only a handful of ascents. If you know of a ranked summit that requires 5th class rock climbing by its easiest route than please let me know!

Dallas Peak
Dallas Peak from Blue Lake Pass
1. Jagged Mountain (13,824 feet) (5.2)
Deep in the Weminuche Wildnerness lies one of Colorado's most reclusive and inaccessible mountains. Jagged Mountain is a jewel of Colorado mountaineering and deserves a larger reputation than it has. This hard-to-reach mountain is one of the few in the state that requires more than one day to climb. The route itself is a winding, complicated multi-pitch climb with dangerous scrambling, loose rock, tricky routefinding, and several technical cruxes that probably necessitate the use of a rope. There is a great deal of exposure, including a narrow ledge traverse with thousands of feet of air whipping at your ankles.

2. Teakettle Mountain (13,819 feet) (class 5.2)
Teakettle is part of a rugged portion of the San Juans that includes several challenging peaks: Sneffels, Coffeepot, Dallas, and Teakettle. Of the three Centennials on this list, Teakettle is probably the easiest summit to reach. There is a 50-foot 5.2-5.3 summit pitch leading up the unique summit cap (hmmm...why did this mountain get its name?) to an exhilarating and tiny summit.

3. Dallas Peak (13,809 feet) (class 5.3)
Dallas Peak is often cited as the most difficult of Colorado's 100 highest peaks. Dallas's challenging summit cap is generally given a high-end 5.3 rating. The last two hundred feet on Dallas are steep, junky and full of class 4 and 5 terrain. The most difficult moves are just below the summit. You can rappel from near the summit directly past most of the hardest difficulties.

4. Peak Fifteen (13,700) (class 5.2)
Peak Fifteen is the next-door neighbor to more famous 13er Turret Peak and both of these rugged mountains lie in Weminuche Wilderness Area in the San Juans. This technical and committing route is one of the hardest all-around climbs of all the standard routes in the state and most people bring a rope. Peak Sixteen, Peak Fifteen's unranked neighbor, is also a technical mountaineering goal requiring 5th class climbing to reach its summit and together these three mountains for an amazing and impressive massif.

5. Coxcomb Peak (13,656 feet) (class 5.3)
Probably the easiest peak on this list, Coxcomb involves just a short section of class 5 climbing. This flat-topped peak is not particularly imposing but can surprise you. Coxcomb is known for loose rock, poor protection, and some exposure on the summit ridge. Be prepared to rappel.

6. Whitney Peak (13,276') (class 5.6)
Inclusion of this peak is up for debate, as the "class 5" section of it is one boulder. Apparently, however, this boulder is the highest point on the peak and thus to truly climb the peak in the eyes of some you must stand on the top of the boulder. Apparently, scaling this boulder takes a few moves of class 5.6 "climbing."

7. Lizard's Head (13,113 feet) (5.8+ R/X)
Lizard Head Peak- Colorado's most difficult summit over 13,000'
Simply put, Lizard's Head is Colorado's hardest ranked peak above 13,000 feet. This intimidating spire is a rotten, exposed nightmare and thus is rarely climbed. The easiest route is the Southwest Chimney, a three-pitch climb on runout choss. There are other possibilities too, all of which are going to require equally or more difficult technical climbing.

Honorable mention:
Sunlight Spire (13,995 feet) (5.10c)
Though it does not meet the criteria to be a ranked peak as it has only 215 feet of topographical prominence, Sunlight Spire is one of Colorado's most dramatic and difficult summits to reach. To add to its allure, the summit pitch is a beautiful and bomber splitter-crack that clocks in at the high 5.10 level. This crack can be freeclimbed or aided (see this photograph for a good view of the amazing summit cap). Based on the more accurate but less syndicated 1988 datum, Sunlight Spire just overtops 14,000 feet, possibly making it the most difficult 14,000 foot summit in the contiguous 48, even more difficult than the famous summit cap on California's Thunderbolt Peak, which, by the way, is also "unranked" by Colorado standards yet considered one of the must-do California 14ers.

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  1. Nice work! Thank you for putting this great list together. It is my understanding that Colorado's 7 ranked peaks with at least 300 feet of prominence and over 13,000 feet that require class 5 climbing to reach the top in the highest number in the lower 48 states. And that Wyoming is a close second with 6 peaks, California at a distant third with 2 peaks and no other states in the lower 48 that have peaks that fit this stringent criteria. Please confirm this. Thanks again! Steve from Lone Tree, CO

    1. Steve, I only found 7 peaks in Colorado as you say. As to the other states, I can't really speak to that. Thanks for checking out the article!

  2. Sorry, what I meant to say was "is the highest number in the lower 48..." instead of "in the highest number in the lower 48...". By the way, I found another source online called Lists of John which confirms your count of 7 in Colorado and also the numbers of the other 2 states that I mentioned in my earlier post. Thanks again for everything that you do with this great website! Steve in Lone Tree, CO

  3. That's great that Colorado has 7 of the Class 5/minimum of 13,000 ft/300 ft of prominence. The 'Lists of John' website shows that there are only 15 such peaks in the lower 48. The other 8 are: Grand Teton (WY) 13,770/5.4/6,550; Mount Warren (WY) 13,722/5.3/982; Turret Peak (WY) 13,620/5.x/640; Mount Woodrow Wilson (WY) 13,502/5.1/522; Mount Koven (WY) 13,265/5.0/445; Spearhead Pinnacle (WY) 13,220/320; Courte-Echelle (CA) 13,353/5.6/329; Mount Fusilade (CA) 13,020/5.5/400
    Love your website!
    Steve in Lone Tree, CO

    1. Interesting information! Thanks for reading and for the compliment!