12 September 2016

Stardate 2016.699

Teakettle before it lost its spout (July 1993).

Tea Time

Once again I’ve a bit of summit fever today. I'm not sure why. The good weather riding and mountaineering season edges up the difficulty stick over the next several months. Often, as difficulty increases, so does the fun meter. Maybe my subconscious is trying to tell me something. Who knows! Nonetheless, while perusing old photos and trip reports, I started reminiscing about a favorite summit, an itty bitty summit that comfortably allows only two climbers. That alone warrants a cup of fine tea.

Teakettle Mountain sports an elevation of 13,819 feet, ranking 98th in elevation in Colorado. Peaks on the 100-highest list are known as Centennials. Teakettle holds the number two altitude slot in the Sneffels Range, an east/west sub-range of the northern San Juan Mountains. If you have traveled Colorado's Highway 62, Teakettle is one of the numerous points serrating the sky in the rugged row of summits shadowing the highway between Ridgway (no e in this Ridgway) and Dallas Divide.

Teakettle (left) and Potosi Peak (13,786 ft) touching the sky in June 1993.

The igneous rock in this region provides a glimpse into the Lower to Middle Tertiary Periods, dating 20 to 70 million years ago. The prehistoric volcanic activity was widespread and violent. From many vantage points, Teakettle is aptly named. However, during the 1998-1999 winter, the spout fell off. Teakettle is one of several Centennials that are technical by their easiest route.

Teakettle's airy summit; Potosi provides the backdrop.

Tidbit: The monarch of the area is 14,150-foot Mount Sneffels, probably my favorite 14er to climb, especially the deeply inset snake couloir poised on the north face. The name Sneffels originates from the Jules Verne classic Journey to the Center of the Earth. In 1874, while crossing Blue Lakes Basin, directly below Mount Sneffel’s southwest face, a member of the Hayden Survey compared the high basin with the hole in the earth in Verne’s classic. Dr. Frederick Endlich, a scientist with the survey, exclaimed, “There’s Snaefell,” in regards to the Icelandic mountain located in the vicinity of the hole (Bueler, 1986). Having spent numerous days in Blue Lakes Basin, I can vouch that not only is it a delightful hole, but arguably harbors one of the finest wildflower displays in the state. It’s a magical place to lie and watch peaks and clouds spar with each other.

Majestic Mount Sneffels (left) rises above Blue Lakes Basin in fall.

Teakettle was first climbed in 1929 by Rolfe and Alonzo Hartman. Yet, by the mid-1970s, Teakettle was one of the few peaks with only several pages of names in its summit register. In fact, its neighbor Dallas Peak (13,809 ft, rank 100), did not entertain a third ascent until 1976 (Bueler, 1986). I didn’t find the technical portion to be difficult; it’s a short one-pitch hop onto a tiny summit — a tiny 3- by 7-foot summit. The overall climb consumes time; the rotten volcanic rock covering very steep slopes can be tedious at best. Hence, a serious undertaking from a weather and potential rockfall standpoint; there are no easy bail points. We were blessed with a blue bird day.

Todd, my climbing cohort, gives some context to Teakettle's handle hole.

Until we meet again...


Literature Cited
Bueler, William M. 1986. Roof of the Rockies: A history of Colorado mountaineering.
Cordillera Press, Inc. 251 pp.

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