Montezuma County Highpoint Trip Report

Lavender Peak (13,220+ ft) and Mount Moss (13,192 ft)

Date: July 20, 2005
Author: Layne Bracy

Tomahawk Basin approach (trailhead about 9,900 ft)

From highway 550 in Durango, I drove west for 11 miles on highway 160 then turned right onto CR 124. A sign for La Plata Canyon precedes the intersection. The Kennebec Cafe is located at the NE corner of the turnoff.

The first 4.6 miles of CR 124 are paved. At 8 miles, the dirt road becomes rougher, but may still be passable for low-clearance vehicles. At mile 10.4, the road now requires high-clearance/4WD. The TH/entrance to Tomahawk Basin is an unmarked 4WD road on the left at mile 10.6, which forms a sharp angle with CR 124. I parked my vehicle on CR 124 about 50 feet past the turnoff, where I could get almost all the vehicle off the road.

Started hiking up the Tomahawk Basin road at 4:52am, using a handlight for the first 1/2 hour. At about 10800', the road splits, and I took the left branch. This branch soon ended near a mine building, and I followed a faint trail below the mine. This trail eventually hit the right branch of the 4WD road. I continued along the road to a switchback at about 11100'. The road switchbacks up to the north, so I left it and headed west, following a loose trail up a steep slope.

The trail faded away and I continued west towards a waterfall at 11500'. I bypassed the waterfall to the right and headed up the basin towards the Babcock-Moss ridge. I ended up walking some on a snowfield, but never bothered to use the crampons or ice axe I carried.

The Babcock-Moss ridge is very jagged, with a number of defects at which it might be attained. I chose to aim for the southern portion of the ridge because 1) grassy slopes made the ascent look easiest here and 2) I was determined to make sure I did not go too far north and hit the east slope of Moss. I reached the ridge, about 12800', after 2 hours.

Up on the ridge, I could now appreciate the beauty of the area. Owen Basin, green, red and white, fell away to the west. Babcock Peak, with its impressive summits and ridge to Spiller Peak, rose just to the south. I never saw a viable way for me up Babcock. To the north, Hesperus, Lavender and Moss were lined up in a row.

I followed the ridgeline north, at first bypassing obstacles on the east side, then following a faint trail on the west side of Mt Moss' southern buttress. I contoured northwest around Mt Moss on a talus slope. Even some of the boulders are loosely placed here. I reached the Moss-Lavender saddle without losing much elevation and headed towards the cleft between Lavender's twin summits.

The route is class 2 until just below the twin summits, then requires a short scramble to the notch. The summits are an easy scramble away, and I reached the western one at 7:45 am.

Yellow plus Lavender made green today.

I spent 40 minutes relaxing and scrambling about the summit area, visiting the eastern twin and a 3rd summit to the east, which is a little lower. I could not tell which of Hesperus or Lavender is higher. Impressive pillars rise just north of the summit area.

The hike over to Mt Moss is class 2 and took 15-20 minutes. Moss measured about 45' lower by my altimeter. I left Moss' summit at 9:05 am, walking down its south ridge. On the descent, I left the Babcock-Moss ridge at its northernmost notch, finding the slope below it rocky and loose.

I used the snowfield more on the descent, seeing a few hikers on the 4WD road and a couple who were heading west up Tomahawk Basin. Returned to the car at 10:50 am for a 6 hour round-trip time.

Babcock Peak awaits my next visit to the La Plata Mountains.

Climb statistics: 6 miles and 6 hours round trip with 3,500 feet of elevation gain.

photos (look in July 20, 2005 album)