RT Length: 12 miles
Elevation Gain: 4587’
I’d intended to be on the trail by 4am, but the last 2.5 miles of 4WD road past Grape Creek TH to Music Pass TH took longer than I’d anticipated. It is indeed a 4WD road that requires some clearance. It was better than South Colony Lakes though. I brought snowshoes but decided to leave them in the truck. I was the only vehicle in the very large parking area when I left. I put on my helmet and was on my way by 4:30am.
The trail starts at the west end of the parking area.
The trail is class 1 all the way to the Lower Sand Creek Lake. I came across a (full) trail register quickly
And continued on a well-maintained trail west 1.2 miles to Music Pass, where there was another (full) trail register.
From Music Pass there’s a great view of the entire route:
From Music Pass the trail loses 450’ in elevation as it brings you to the valley below.
Stay straight at the first junction (2 miles)
And turn left at the second (2.3 miles)
I quickly crossed Sand Creek on a bridge put together by fallen logs, and continued along the class 1 trail
The trail was easy to follow, but, ah, spring conditions. If there wasn’t water on the trail there was snow. More than once I regretted leaving my snowshoes in the truck: It was posthole city at 6am.
I swithchbacked up to the lake, where the trail ended (or was covered in too much snow to follow). I made it to the lake after 3.5 miles of hiking. My next objective was to skirt the north side of the lake and ascend the gully to make it into the upper basin. Here’s an overview of the route:
Here’s where I began the ascent. Note, that big rock to the left is basically a waterfall. On my way down it was nice letting the water sprinkle over me in the heat. There is a gully to the right that is an actual waterfall with lots of flowing water. If it were winter or no flowing water it could be an alternate route to the basin.
The rock to the right has a huge cave underneath it (big enough for several people to fit inside). It looked perfect for a mountain lion or bear den so I chose to hug the opposite rock more on my return.
The gully only goes for about half a mile before you turn left (south) and cross the basin
There was a lot of snow here, and it was impossible to avoid it. It was still early morning but there hadn’t been a freeze the night before so the snow was soft. Postholing was terrible and I knew it was only going to get worse so I chose to ascend via the first ramp I saw instead of inspecting the others. As I was postholing I aimed for this rock, which was visible above the willows.
I made it to the ramp, a bit displeased to find the snow just kept getting softer. Before making the decision to ascend I made sure I had an exit route. I knew if I ascended here the snow would be too soft to descend, most likely at about the time I reached the top. If I was going to continue I was going to need to make this a loop. I looked over to Music Mountain and the way down, took some pictures for further reference, looked at pictures of the route I’d taken from this morning, and consulted the sky (70% chance of thunderstorms after 4pm today, I so needed to be able to make it down well before then). I saw a viable route to descend via Music with avoidable snow and decided to go for it. Note: you only have two options to ascend and descend this loop, as it cliffs out everywhere else. Before committing know your options. I strapped on my crampons, got out my ice axe, and went for it.
The snow was soft, so kicking in steps was easy (almost too easy at times and I had to re-make them when the snow turned to mush under my feet).
A view from inside, looking up and looking down
Eventually the snow ran out and I scrambled on rock/tundra to reach the top of the ledge. Here’s the route from the ledge to the summit
Note: This is NOT the only route. You could make this easier by hiking to the saddle and then turning left and hiking up the class 2 (possibly easy 3) ridge. I chose instead to go up the face and get in a little scrambling. As with a lot of scrambling routes, there is no exact route; you need to pick it and choose it carefully. Here’s how I went, once again, sticking to the center as much as possible.
The rocks were surprisingly stable, although there were several areas that looked as if they’d recently experienced a rockslide. I made it to the summit at 9:30am
There was a water bottle summit register at the top, and great views of the surrounding mountains.
I turned northwest to head down the ridge of Tijeras towards its saddle with Music Mountain.
Here’s the route I took in a nutshell
For much of this ridge walk I stuck to the ridge, but there was a time I dipped to the left a little. This is not a simple ridge walk, and did require some scrambling. Nothing that gets your heart going like on the way up Tijeras, but scrambling nonetheless.
Here’s a look back up the ridge of Tijeras
Once down on the saddle the walk to the base of the Music Mountain climb was easy.
Here’s a look at my route down Tijeras and over to Music
Climbing up Music Mountain was the biggest challenge of my day. The entire route was scrambling that took committed attention to each and every move. Luckily the rock was solid and there were many hand/foot holds. Since I climb solo I was extremely careful and tested each hold several times before committing, which made the process slow. Also, I didn’t look down: This ridge was spicy. I began by going straight up the ridge and staying on that ridge through class 3 and 4 sections, only altering one time to use a gully because I felt the ridge was too dangerous (but I’m sure you can make it go all the way because I had no problem downclimbing the entire ridge). Here’s an overview
And step by step, straight up and over. It’s more committing than it looks
At the top of the first ridge I saw a lot more scrambling (and what looked like a knife edge from below but really wasn’t) and decided to divert the main ridge by finding a gully to climb instead. This is the area I had no trouble downclimbing.
And then more ridge work. I’m standing on one of three ‘highpoints’ on Music Mountain, taking a picture of the other two. This was the easiest part of the ridge
I couldn’t be sure which point was the actual summit of Music Mountain: There was no summit marker/cairn and all three points seemed to be the same height, so I just made sure to hike to the last one. On my way back I took altimeter measurements of all three. Surprisingly, the point in the middle measured highest, and the first point measured lowest. In any event, I hit all three and took a picture at the furthest point because it offered the best views
Time to head back. I took Music’s East Ridge down. those grassy ledges and rock faces are steep! Nothing compared to the previous ridges of the day, but they still took careful planning and foot placement. Nothing special to add here except watch out for the gullies and try to stick to the tundra or ridge when possible. Here’s the route I took down
And a look back up at the ridge
Here are the current options for gaining the ledges on Tijeras. I took the smaller one to the left
I made it back down the gully to the lake and followed the trail back to Music Pass
Re-summiting Music Pass was a bit of a buzz kill after such a long day, but this would still be high on my list of most beautiful places to hike. The mountains were absolutely gorgeous!
I made it up to Music Pass and opened the trail register to sign out, but when I did so no less than 10 miller moths flew out at me. I slammed the lid and said ‘no thank you’ and was on my way. There wasn’t really a place to sign out anyway, just a record of who’d been there. I didn’t bother signing out of the second register, not wanting the same experience.
I made it back to my truck at 3:15pm, making this a 12 mile hike with 4587’ of elevation gain in just under 12 hours.
Here’s a topo of the route
I saw some wild horses on my way out… either that or the horses got out. In any event, we chatted for a bit until it started to rain. It seemed those thunder storms were going to happen today after all!