Mesa County Highpoint Trip Report

Leon Peak (11,236 ft)

Date: September 12, 2005
Author: Adam Helman

Note: All NAD27 UTM coordinates are in zone 13S.

This effort was part of a larger journey collecting Colorado county highpoints in early September 2005.


The approach to Leon Peak is adequately described in Dave Covill and John Mitchler's guidebook to the Colorado county highpoints. I obtained GPS-derived UTM coordinates (255071 E, 4327741 N) at 10,512 feet for the parking lot along the western shore of the Weir and Johnson Reservoir.


The ascent consumed 1 hour 53 minutes elapsed from the carpark. Once atop the northeast-trending summit ridge I refused to lose elevation by descending south in order to lessen the extent of required rock-hopping.

It was a brisk and windy morning - so much so at times that I was unhappy with the wind wreaking havoc with my balance atop the assorted rocks. To avoid the southern wind I descended north from the summit, noting as well that the distance of rock-hopping was thereby minimized prior to reaching meadow and forest.

I then headed southeast, eventually connecting with the original, northwest-trending ridge at the point just below where any rock hopping is required and at about 10,650 feet elevation.

This ploy was a considerable success, and I recorded a descent time of 1 hour 24 minutes without counting a lengthy break to enjoy my summit food once back in the forest. It had been too windy on top to have more than an apple fruit bar sprinkled with cinnamon.

Given the above experience I herein describe an alternative route that may be usefully applied to both minimize the degree of rock-hopping, which can be quite slow and cumbersome; while also avoiding most of the deadfall present in the forest as one heads northwest up the obvious ridge.

Suggested Route

Proceed 0.3 mile north and northeast along the obvious trail FT717. Note the northwest-trending ridge in front of you. Rather than walking up the ridge, head northwest, parallel to the ridge, on a heading of 315° true, through the meadow immediately to its south. A good point to exit the trail is UTM (255409 E, 4328000 N) at 10,539 feet.

Travel approximately one quarter mile to the far (northwest) end of the meadow. Congratulations! You have just avoided several minutes of unsavory deadfall within the forest along the ridge.

At meadow's end strike out north onto the ridge and take it northwest, eventually passing through the small meadowed area noted in Dave and John's book. Continue directly on the ridgeline until the ridge starts getting populated with more rocks and boulders than trees. This occurs a couple hundred yards northwest of the "A" in "GRAND" on the USGS 7.5 minute quadrangle. I obtain UTM (254852 E, 4328635 N) for a waypoint 150 yards southeast of the point described.

During my descent I had regained the northwest ridge at this critical point. Note the 20 foot tall rock fin on the north edge of the ridge. Immediately to the west locate a steep gully that drops off the ridge to the north. Descend this gully halfway and then contour sidehill, maintaining elevation, across the gully's west slope to the base of a steep rock and scree slope located west of the gully's base. This downclimb loses some fifty vertical feet but gains you access to the flat and easy terrain immediately above the opposite slope. Access the easy terrain beyond by climbing the steep scree slope. The total horizontal distance of this relatively dicey section, from northwest ridge to easy terrain, is no more than 1,000 feet.

The rocky east ridge of Leon Peak is now visible to your south. Parallel the ridge northwest, remaining in the meadow and forest, until immediately northeast of Leon Peak's summit. Strike out directly for the summit, with a modest 500-700 horizontal feet of rock scrambling, and no large boulders, remaining for the ascent.

Return the route of ascent.


Leon Peak features rock scrambling - tedious yet doable. The rocks are no larger than those of certain other Colorado highpoints, with the final 600 vertical feet of Mount Holy Cross offering larger boulders still on average. Perhaps the reason Leon Peak's rocks have received attention stems from the fact that a greater fraction of the route involves rocks and boulders compared with efforts elsewhere. Since the climb's length and duration are small, one concludes that this large fraction results from a normal amount of rock scrambling residing within a smaller overall effort.

Finally, with the correct mindset one views the rocks and boulders as simply another obstacle to be overcome - a jumbled parcel of earth as Nature intended.