(Last Updated On: October 5, 2015)
Anyone who has visited Crested Butte has set their eyes on Whetstone Mountain. Although one of the lesser known peaks to tourists, Whetstone Mountain seeps into the minds of the locals and captures their imaginations. Only after staring at this giant massif that stands south of town does it begin to gain a particular allure. And although it gets skied in winter, I’d argue that Whetstone is ever more appealing in fall when golden aspens decorate its lower flanks, giving the whole mountain a warm glow.
It has been my goal to climb Whetstone in the fall for the last 3 years now. Two times prior, I attempted accessing via Carbon Creek. But, the approach was simply too long. With the building of the new Baxter Gulch Trail and associated private property easements on the northeast side of Whetstone, access has now become much easier. With the perfect weather and the fabulous fall hues, I decided to give it another go. And I was able to convince Alex to come along with me.
We began on the Baxter Gulch Trail which is accessed just south of town on a turn-off (west) just after PAWS by the electrical plant. A view of the slopes from near the trailhead.
Alex on the Baxter Gulch Trail.
As the trail led us into the gulch, we caught a good glimpse of Whetstone Mountain itself.
The Baxter Gulch is still being constructed, so shortly after crossing the gulch, we left the trail, ascending the northern slopes of Whetstone. As we climbed, we caught some great views.
Alex making her way up the ridge with Red Lady behind.
We had been on talus for awhile, and still had quite a bit further to go. Nice to see the M-Face up close without snow.
So, we climbed on. Alex.
Alex nearing the top.
Never really noticed this beautiful lake before….
The true summit (12,516′) lay over yonder. We’d been on it before and decided not to go to the true summit this time due to time constraints.
Spectacular views of Carbon and the West Elks to the west.
Another view north.
Not wanting to deal with going down on the same talus we ascended, we decided to try a different descent route. We descended the ridge on the left, down the west side of the mountain.
Looking back up.
We then wrapped around to follow along the Baxter Gulch where the leaves were as beautiful as ever.
We passed the remnants of this old cabin along the way.
Eventually, we found our way back to the Baxter Gulch Trail and followed it back to the trailhead.
Although there is no trail to the top of Whetstone, the peak itself is not a very difficult climb for those accustomed to walking on talus. With the building of the Baxter Gulch trail, legal access to Whetstone Mountain’s summit has now become a lot easier, and will become even easier when the trail is finished. It’s hard to imagine a better peak to climb during the peak of leaf season.
Want to do this hike yourself?