RT Length: 13.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 4500’
We go family camping with the Girl Scouts every Labor Day weekend, and every Labor Day weekend I spend one of the 4 days hiking. I left the campsite at 1am, intent on driving up to Music Pass trailhead early in the morning when there weren’t any other vehicles on the narrow 4WD road. Just my luck, around 3:30am I ran into a rather large Ram 3500 truck, carrying a trailer in the bed, coming down the road. It took us about 20 minutes to find a way around each other. Luckily, I only had the one truck to pass. The trailhead was full of trucks however (lots of hunters). It was earlier than expected so I took a quick nap and was on the trail at 5am.
The trail starts at the west end of the parking area, and heads west.
There’s a trail register shortly after the trailhead.
The trail here is easy to follow
I made it to Music Pass after hiking for 1.25 miles, and realized I’d forgotten my camera (so, sorry, selfies with my iPhone once again today). There’s an information sign here, and another trail register. Last time I opened this register 50 moths frantically flew in my face, so this time I left it closed.
From here I followed the trail as it lost 450’ of elevation and headed northwest along Sand Creek Trail 1337. Here’s an overview of the route towards Milwaukee Peak
And step by step, first descending into the basin. I continued straight at this crossing. Note, there were signs saying not to enter the water, as they were being treated to remove all fish from the drainage.
I followed Sand Creek Trail
Staying right at the second junction
Crossing a stream at 11420’
The last junction I came to was for Upper Sand Creek Lake and Cottonwood Pass. I turned right and headed towards Cottonwood Pass
The trail continued through the basin. Eventually I was going to have to find a grassy ledge and follow it to an upper basin. Here’s that ledge I’d be aiming for
But before that I had to make my way across several small streams
There was evidence of the fish kill in the streams, as well as tons of dead worms; and bear tracks
I came to a sign that said the trail ended, and told me to follow the cairns. The cairns were extremely helpful, but I did get lost crossing the final stream. I couldn’t figure out where to do it, but it was obvious on my way back. If you (like me) aren’t able to completely follow the cairns in the dark, cross the stream and head northwest up the side of the mountain and you’ll eventually hit the trail, as it will become obvious.
The trail weaves through the forest towards a grassy ramp that leads to the upper basin
Once in the upper basin the trail ends, but there are many great cairns that will lead you to the saddle. The ‘trail’ stays to the left.
At the end of the basin the goal is to ascend to the saddle. There are cairns that will get you there. This is the basic route
At the saddle the trail picks up again. I turned left and headed southwest along the trail, rounding the north side of Milwaukee Peak. Here’s an overview
And from the ridge, rounding the corner
Once I’d rounded the corner the real fun began. Now’s a good time to put on your helmet if you haven’t already.
Here’s an overview of the rest of the hike
And step by step. Here’s the first big obstacle. I went down here
And came to a notch with a class 4 rock to climb. This isn’t more than 8-10 feet high. There are plenty of hand and foot holds here. Make sure to ascend to the left
Here’s another look at the notch from a different angle. This is how you want to ascend/descend
Once past the notch there was a narrow ledge to traverse, with a large drop off. I was toe-heeling it across this area and leaning into the mountain. This would not be a fun place to slip.
Next, I aimed for this notch (stop at the notch, don’t go past it)
At this notch there’s a boulder a couple feet wide blocking the path. It’s easy to hop over, but don’t. This is your indication to ascend the gully. I’ve circled where the is rock in red
Here’s another view. In this picture the rock is circled on the left, and this is how you enter the gully
Here’s what the gully looks like
And here’s topping out of the gully
From there it’s an easy (if airy) traverse to the summit. I summited Milwaukee Peak at 8:55am
From the summit of Milwaukee here’s the route over to Pico Aislado (which means ‘Isolated Peak’ in Spanish).
In the beginning I could just stick to the ridge (better pictures of some of the obstacles here on the description of the way back, but they all stay at class 3). There were some ups and downs but nothing too difficult. At the ‘saddle’ this is the path I took, staying low, keeping under the rock line. There’s no need to stick to the ridge here, as you’ll end up losing elevation later.
Take note of the ‘cairn’ I’ve circled here. You’ll be aiming for it later. (It’s not actually a cairn, but it’ll look like one from below).
I came to the last gully on this side of the mountain, turned right, and kept to the left as I ascended.
I kept aiming for where that circled ‘cairn’ was. As soon as I found it, I turned right and followed the ridge to the summit
I summited Pico Aislado at 10:30am
I headed back the way I’d come, following the ridge to the ‘cairn’ (circled in red) and then the gully back down
I felt the gully was easier to go down than up
Here’s the route I took back to Milwaukee Peak
There were two difficulties on the ridge back. The first reminded me of the knife edge on Capitol, but with less exposure. I probably could have descended to avoid this, but what’s the fun in that? I went straight up and over
The next obstacle was this class 3 rock formation. Once again, straight up and over
Then it was an easy ridge hike back to Milwaukee Peak. I summited and headed left (northeast) to descend
Back down the gully
Down the mountain to the notch, which was much easier to downclimb than upclimb
And back down the ridge to the saddle, and through the upper basin
Here’s an overview of the route to Music Pass
And some pictures of the class 1 trail out. The 450’ of gain up the pass isn’t that bad.
I saw no less than a dozen hunters in the area after gaining Music Pass, all with bows and arrows. Some were knocking on trees, others were making calls, and some stood guard with binoculars. I’d seen bear tracks, marmots, and pikas, but besides that not another animal all day. I made it back to my truck at 3pm, surprised to see Strava hadn’t logged my route, so sorry, no detailed topo this time. The hike took me 10 hours to complete. I also guestimated on the elevation gain by looking at other reports. I took my mileage off my iPhone (which stated 13.7 miles, 195 floors, and 36,864 steps). Time to finish my weekend of camping! All of my girls are seniors in High School now, so this will be our last Labor Day campout.
Here’s a hand-drawn map of my route
2 thoughts on “Milwaukee Peak – 13,526 and Pico Aislado – 13,621”
Thank you so much for your detailed climb. It helped me to get a better idea of the range. My friend fell June 19th and we were trying to figure out exactly where that might have been. The SAR took him down the moutain on June 21. We are very grateful for the SAR.
I am so sorry for your loss. The mountains aren’t forgiving, and this area especially includes some very dangerous terrain. SAR is made up of the best humanity has to offer. Sending prayers and hugs.