Jagged above a lake

Jagged Peak is another remote, high 13er in the San Juans. To give you an idea of its remoteness, it has 3 recommended approaches: from the Animas river to its west, from Vallecito Reservoir to its southeast, and from Beartown to its northeast. Since it has the least elevation gain, does not require extensive 4WD road travel, and was along my way, I chose to come in from the reservoir, requiring 31 miles and about 6,000 feet of elevation gain.

I started at 3:30 AM and, at a fast walk, reached the former location of the third bridge around when it was light enough to assess the situation. The bridge was destroyed by an avalanche 8-9 years ago, and since this is Forest Service land, it will not be replaced. Most people choose to ford the river, which can be dangerous early in the season, but I found a nice log crossing about 100 yards downstream.

Continuing along the trail, I identified Sunlight Creek and left the main trail, following one of several faint game trails toward the river. I managed once again to find a dry crossing, this time where the river splits around an island, by reaching the island on rocks, then balancing across to the other shore on a smaller log. While I was pleased to have avoided a ford, my feet and legs were soaked most of the rest of the day from dew and rain collected on plants.

The formerly-maintained Sunlight Creek trail crosses the creek near the riverbank, then heads upstream on its north side. While deadfall and avalanche debris have obliterated the trail in several places, use and sporadic cairns make it usable well up the canyon. I left the trail near the upper edge of some cliffs on the north side, leaving the main creek for the valley north of Jagged. On the way down, I found that the trail simply takes a wider line around these cliffs.

I slogged my way up the slope west of the stream, ignoring game-trails on the other side, and emerged at the base of the long valley leading to Jagged Pass. I met the decent-sized herd of elk that call it home, and saw plenty of their droppings as well. Jagged is at the far end of this valley, so I had plenty of time, while walking to its base, to contemplate the clouds forming behind me. I also enjoyed the white granite scenery, which reminded me of the eastern Sierra Nevada.

Jagged’s north face is broken and not especially steep, and there appear to be several ways to reach the summit ridge. Once close to the pass, I spotted the often snow-filled gully mentioned in the route description, and started up the ledges to its right. Unfortunately, much of the not-so-hard climbing on this face is on outward sloping slabs, or things one does not normally climb, like turf and wet gravel. Constantly wet and gritty soles led to lots of counter-pressure, and an occasional unorthodox move, like kick-stepping in wet turf.

After backtracking a few times, I reached the notch and, passing to the south side, quickly made my way along a comfortably-wide ledge system to the summit at 10:50. The weather was starting to look serious, so by 11:00 I was already on my way down, more or less retracing my steps. There are an absurd number of rappel stations on this 4th-class route on an obscure peak. I took a piece of cord with me, and encourage anyone who climbs Jagged to do his or her part to clean up the unnecessary tat.

I quickly made my way down the valley in a small hole of blue sky between rain along the Vallecito and clouds forming behind. Fortunately, the rain along the valley had mostly subsided by the time I reached it, and I endured no worse than light drizzle and re-soaked plants on the return.

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