Stewart Peak (13,983′), Baldy Chato (13,401′), and “Column Ridge” (13,795′) | Colorado | 10/17/20

Stewart Peak (13,983′) | CO Rank: 55/637

Baldy Chato (13,401′) | CO Rank: Unranked

“Column Ridge” (13,795′) | CO Rank: Unranked

San Juan Range | La Garita Wilderness | Creede, CO

10/17/20 | 9.8 miles | 3,373′ gain | Class 1/2


For our last 13er trip of 2020, Allie and I had our sights set on Centennial 13er Stewart Peak. We booked a hotel in Gunnison and drove down Friday night, meeting up with Allie’s mom Peggy who joined us all the way from Kansas. We set out early Saturday morning for the Cebolla Trailhead. There are multiple ways to climb Stewart Peak, but it made the most sense for us to summit Stewart from the north, since we could easily tack on two unranked 13ers, Baldy Chato and Column Ridge. This ended up being a good route decision for us, but it was a long day above 13,000′.

We were on the Cebolla Trail by 8am. The trail leaves the dirt road and switchbacks into the forest above the East Fork of Los Pinos Creek. This area doesn’t seem to get much use. In fact, we didn’t see a single other person all day!

The Cebolla Trail
Looking down the East Fork Los Pinos Creek drainage

After about a 1/2 mile, the Cebolla Trail left the forest and struck out through a large patch of willows. The willows obscured the trail almost entirely, but occasional tall wooden poles led us through the maze.

Just above treeline, before the willows.
Looking back
In the willows…connecting the dots by heading pole to pole.
View to 14ers Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre

Just after the willows let up around 12,500′, we left the trail and hiked directly up Baldy Chato’s slopes. From here, it was about 900′ to the summit on gentle tundra.

Heading up Baldy Chato

From the summit, we had a great view of the rest of our route. Next up was Column Ridge. We followed the long connecting ridge, avoiding some of the larger bumps. It was a long 1.5 miles, I was seriously dragging.

Stewart Peak (left) and Column Ridge (twin points on the right)
Interesting rock on the south side of Baldy Chato
Peggy is probably wondering why she decided to come with us. I wonder the same sometimes.
A flock of ptarmigan. I tried to tell them they were white now so they weren’t hidden in the rocks, but they didn’t believe me.

Near the top of Column Ridge, the terrain became rockier. We kept left (east) of the ridge to stay on grass as much as possible. Of the two summits that make up Column Ridge, the westernmost is slightly higher.

Almost to the top of Column Ridge
Allie coming up the rocky summit, Stewart Peak (left) and the eastern summit of Column Ridge (right)
From the summit, looking back at the long ridge to Baldy Chato
Column Ridge had some nice views to the south…
…and the west

Peggy had decided not to summit Column Ridge with Allie and I, instead opting to head directly to the Stewart saddle. We quickly summited and then cut over to the saddle, avoiding the lower, eastern summit.

The eastern summit of Column Ridge. We cut left to head directly to the saddle.

We found Peggy on the saddle and ascended the last 400′ up Stewart Peak together.

Peggy, Allie, and Harper head up a rocky section on Stewart
We had hiked up to what we thought was the summit…only to see it was actually over there. Oops!
Looking down Stewart’s east ridge. This is apparently the more common ascent route.
Views north of Stewart, maybe you can just see a dry Pauline Creek below.

It was windy so we didn’t stay on the summit long. We hiked back down to the saddle and then cut below Column Ridge. We didn’t need to re-summit anything on the way out so we avoided as much unnecessary elevation gain as possible. There was however, about 150′ or so that we needed to regain to get back up and around Baldy Chato. It doesn’t sound like much but it felt like a ton after a long day.

Back to the saddle, Column Ridge on the left
Allie & Harper heading back towards Baldy Chato

Once up and over Baldy Chato, we retraced our steps back down the slope to the willows. It took a few minutes to figure out where to enter the willows, but eventually we found it and were on our way through the maze and back to the more obvious trail through the forest. We made it back to the car after quite a long time on trail and drove the two hours back to our hotel. I ended up getting a migraine from being up high for so long, so we cancelled our Sunday hiking plans to sleep in instead. We were all hoping I’d feel better after a little extra sleep and could still get one more short hike in on our way home.


17 thoughts on “Stewart Peak (13,983′), Baldy Chato (13,401′), and “Column Ridge” (13,795′) | Colorado | 10/17/20

  1. Pingback: Fairview Peak A (13,214′) | Colorado | 10/18/20 – Colorado Chelsea

  2. Column Ridge is a cracker…most impressed. Chelsea, you could have been in Scotland from what I could see of the upper part of that walk (other than the height difference of course). Didn’t realise you had ptarmigan over there too. I know what you mean about them “forgetting” to change plumage with the seasons. I’ve seen that here – same goes for the mountain hares – have seen them sitting beside the track believing they are invisible.


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