Peak 8,140ft 2x P300
Dunckley Flat Tops HP P500
Peak 10,086ft P300
Peak 9,740ft P300

Fri, Aug 26, 2022

With: Eric Smith
Ingrid Dockersmith
Christian Giardina

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX
Peak 8,140ft previously climbed Wed, Jul 28, 2021


We headed south today to Yampa with plans to rock climb a small volcanic plug that Eric and I had first visited a year earlier. On that first visit, we had scrambled most of the way to the summit, but were stopped by some class 5 terrain near the top of its South Ridge. We came back this time with rock-climbing gear to have a better chance. Afterwards we visited another difficult plug nearby, Finger Rock, but had no success. We then headed west into the Routt NF for some easier summits near Dunckley Pass.

Peak 8,140ft

The volcanic outcrop is found just north of Yampa on the west side of SR131. It is a short hike from the shooting range parking lot adjacent to the Yampa Cemetery. Since one needs to hike behind the shooting range, it's a good idea to not do this when anyone is using it. It took just over 15min of easy hiking along an old road and then the ridgeline to reach the start of the scrambling on the South Ridge. Though steep, there are good holds and the scrambling is no harder than class 3. Another five minutes saw us to the base of the climbing portion. There is a 12-foot crack leading to a ledge, then an 8-foot face climb that proved to be the crux. I reluctantly took the lead when no one else offered, nor could be cajoled. Luckily, the route isn't too difficult. With Christian belaying, I went up the wide crack in a few minutes' time, placing one cam. At the ledge I was happy to see that the face section looked a bit easier when I was standing next to it. I took a few more minutes to size it up before working my way up on decent, but not great holds. This part felt a bit insecure, but once I had gotten a foot above the steepest part, I was able to relax as the rest of the route is trivial. The summit is a bit airy but with enough room to hold the four of us. I spent most of the time trying to build a reasonable anchor that would hold me at the summit should I have to take the weight of someone falling. There aren't really any good cracks at the top for this, so I found a few solid rocks I could wrap slings around and then equalize them to my harness. Eric, tied into the middle of our 50m rope, came up second ten minutes later and found a place to hang out behind me. Ingrid came up third at the end of the rope, a bit more nervously than Eric had managed. She had a second, shorter rope tied behind her that we planned to use to bring Christian up on. Ingrid was so nervous that she wanted to go down immediately, but Eric talked her into staying while we brought up Christian. To our surprise, Christian decided not to do the rock-climbing portion of the route. Perhaps we didn't make it look too inviting?

There was no register at the summit and we'd forgotten to bring one of our own. After having Christian pull the shorter rope back down, we chose to go back down the same way, Ingrid being lowered first while I still had her on belay. Eric decided to join me in rappeling the route, leaving some red webbing at the summit to facilitate our exit. After pulling the rope behind us, we packed up our gear and headed back down the scrambling portion and the lower, easier part of the ridge. We found a small gopher snake in the grass along the way. Of course we had to pick it up to play with it before leaving it back where we found it. We were back to the start by 9:30a, having taken 2.5hrs for the exercise.

Finger Rock

This is a more imposing volcanic plug found on the east side of SR131, south of Yampa. There isn't really any parking along the highway in the vicinity - we parked half-cocked off the shoulder on the west side of the roadway, southwest of Finger Rock. We had no beta on this objective, so had only a small expectation for success. Mostly, I wanted to see it up close to see if there were any possibilities. There is a RR track running parallel to the highway that must be crossed first, then an fenceline that had a section conveniently cut out. From there, one can hike up a modest slope to the backside of Finger Rock. The possibilities are limited for weak climbers due to the abrupt faces on most sides. The backside (east) of Finger Rock offered a steep chimney/groove that runs up to the South Arete. It has an awkward but doable start, but the bigger problem seemed to be other more serious difficulties higher up that we couldn't evaluate clearly from below. I sensed that the others had had enough rock-climbing thrills for the day, so was not surprised when I got no pushback after suggesting we leave it for another time. Back down to the Jeep we went.

Dunckley Flat Tops HP

Ingrid suggested we might fill the remaining day by visiting Dunckley Pass northwest of Yampa in the Routt NF. We spent about 45min driving up well-graded gravel roads to the pass in the northeast corner of Rio Blanco County. Dunckley Flat Tops is a large plateau area north of the pass, on the border with Routt County. The highpoint is at the southeast end of the plateau, conveniently only half a mile from the pass. We drove a little higher from the pass on a dirt road that ends a short distance further. One can easily park at the overlook picnic site for a slightly longer hike. There is a decent use trail that goes up the right side of the SE Ridge, the easiest way to the plateau. The others went that way while I explored a more direct line up the ridge, finding class 2-3 scrambling, but nothing extraordinary to recommend it. Once on the plateau, it's easy cross-country through grassy meadows and some forest, taking about 20min from our starting point to reach the highpoint, an indistinct point somewhere in the forested area. We found no register and didn't leave one. We all took the use trail on the way back down.

Peak 10,086ft

This unnamed summit is on the south side of the pass, so we reparked the Jeep at the picnic site. The highpoint is about half a mile to the southeast, the hike entirely through forest. A good trail winds its way from the parking lot to a picnic bench on the NW Ridge with a nice view, taking but a few minutes to reach. From there, it's cross-country through forest along the ridge to the highpoint, taking less than 15min. The first crack of thunder was heard about halfway up. Christian expressed some concern, but the others sort of shrugged it off. Christian then took off at double pace, getting up and immediately back down while the rest of us were still heading up. Some light rain would fall, but not enough to get us wet. There are some views, but the weather muted them. No register on this one either (or the last summit for that matter). We made it back down in 10min, happy that there was no more thunder claps to be heard.

Peak 9,740ft

This summit is located a few miles east back down the paved road, then up a well-graded road to Chapman Reservoir. We parked off the side of the road on the east side, and above the reservoir. Still no more thunder, so Christian was game to join us again. The summit is about a quarter mile uphill to the east. The light rain had left much of the grassy areas damp and would get our boots about half-soaked on the way up and down. The lower half of the slope we ascended had been heavily grazed by sheep recently. Wet, slippery poop posed the greatest danger. We made it up the slope in eleven minutes, back down in eight. No views whatsoever. Done with the silliness by 1p, we headed back to Steamboat Springs to dry off and engage in more civilized pursuits...


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