PT 12581 and Turner Peak – 13,233

RT Length:  4.72 miles

Elevation Gain: 2178’

Not gonna lie… I woke up late and wasn’t able to do the peak I’d planned, so I switched gears and headed to Cottonwood Pass instead. I was on the trail at noon, starting out by crossing the road and heading east along the obvious trail.

You can see both PT 12581 and Turner from the beginning

At the saddle, I turned right and continued following the ridge

This was an easy tundra walk, all the way to the summit of 12581

I summited PT 12581 at 12:35pm

PT 12581:

From there the route to Turner was obvious.  Here’s my route:

I continued following the ridge east, losing 490’ of elevation

Once at the Turner/12581 saddle, I started ascending.  At first, the rocky outcropping looked interesting, but it was class 2 all the way.  It was 1130’ to the summit of Turner Peak.

Once past the rocky area, it was tundra all the way to the saddle

The route obvious to the summit, the rocks here were solid and easy to navigate.  I simply followed the ridge southeast

I summited Turner Peak at 1:40pm

Turner Peak:

This was all I had on my agenda for the day, so I turned around and retraced my steps back to PT 12581

Then followed the ridge west towards the trailhead

I made it back to the trailhead at 3pm, making this a 4.72 mile hike with 2178’ of elevation gain in 3 hours. All in all, quite a pleasant afternoon.

On to the next trailhead!

Mt Yale – 14,196 & Mascot Peak – 13,435

RT Length: 10.72 miles

Elevation Gain: 4839’

Note:  I do not recommend doing this hike in reverse. 

Two days before this hike I’d driven down Cottonwood Pass and noticed the route for Mt Yale and Mascot Peak looked virtually free of snow, whereas the other peaks in the area seemed to be holding a lot more snow. 

I arrived at the Denny Creek Trailhead and was on the trail at 4:40am.  There was only one other vehicle in the lot, which could hold around 40 cars.  I’m not going to go into great detail about the hike up Mt Yale because it’s very well documented and mostly a class 1 trail.  I’ll just add a few pictures of today’s route. 

There’s a great trailhead sign indicating the start of the trail at the north end of the parking area

There were three frozen creek crossings, all easy to cross on logs (but remember, ice is slippery, so take care)

The trail was well packed to treeline.  No traction was necessary.

I saw a rabbit directly on the trail.  This rabbit didn’t seem to mind my presence, and refused to move/run away until I was about 2 feet away from it.  It ran and ‘hid’ under a pine tree, but since it’s now white I had no trouble seeing it behind the branches.

Once at treeline there was still snow, but it was easy to follow the trail to the saddle, and then southeast to the summit of Mt Yale.

The summit of Mt Yale is the highest point at the southeastern part of the ridge.

I summited Mt Yale at 8:20am.  There was a sign at the summit (I don’t remember it being there last time I summited, and I’m surprised no one has taken it back down/hidden/destroyed it yet)

Mt Yale: 

Mt Yale was where the tracks in the snow stopped, but Mt Yale wasn’t my primary objective today so I didn’t stay long on the summit.  Instead I continued heading southeast, making my own tracks, postholing at times.

I came to a gully that I was going to descend before heading to the saddle between Mt Yale and Mascot Peak.  There was more snow in this gully than the pictures show, and I was glad I wasn’t doing this in winter.   A ice axe would have been helpful today, and I should have put on my spikes, but instead I balanced myself with my trekking pole on the slippery snow and made cautious decisions about foot placement.  I descended 1122’ to the saddle.

Here’s a look at my route from Mt Yale from the Yale/Mascot saddle.  The snow at the top was more troublesome than it looks.  There also seem to be several ways to descend to the saddle.

From the saddle the route up to Mascot Peak was simple, straightforward, and not as steep as it looked from Mt Yale.  This was the easiest part of the uphill climbing for the day.  The only difficulty was the wind.

I summited Mascot Peak at 10am

Mascot Peak: 

I was making this a loop today, so after a few pictures I continued southwest down the ridge. I stuck to the top of the ridge.  There’s a great view of Cottonwood Pass until you get to treeline, so as long as you stay on the ridge it’s difficult to get lost.

Here’s looking back at Mascot Peak and Mt Yale from the ridge

Just before treeline I left the ridge and headed right (west) down what could loosely be called a gully. 

I aimed for an old, solitary tree standing amongst the rocks, and then followed the gully as it descended southwest to Denny Gulch

I kept following the obvious curve as it headed to treeline (no trail here, just keep taking the path of least resistance towards Denny Gulch)

In case you want to do this route in reverse, here’s looking back at the route from before treeline and up to the ridge.  I would not have wanted to upclimb this, and instead recommend taking the class 1 trail up to Mt Yale. This was very steep, and fun to scree surf down. 

Once at treeline I kept aiming for Denny Gulch, following a drainage of sorts southwest

It’s obvious when you reach the gulch, as the mountain starts to back up again.  There was a small stream running, and I decided to follow this stream south.  I kept crossing and recrossing the stream to find the best route.  There were a few animal trails here, and a lot of ducking, climbing, and bushwhacking over fallen trees and through overgrown bushes to get back to the road. 

I could have followed Denny Gulch all the way to the road, but ended up coming across a well-defined game trail that headed northwest.  I took that for a short distance, and it turned into the remnants of an old mining road that looked like it hadn’t been used in half a century or so. 

I followed the old road until it abruptly ended, but I could hear vehicles on the road in the distance, so I aimed southwest towards the road

Once at the road I followed it west back to the trailhead

I made it back to my truck at 12:40pm, making this a 10.72 mile hike with 4839’ of elevation gain in 8 hours.

The Mt Yale Summit Sticker can be bought here

Milwaukee Peak – 13,526 and Pico Aislado – 13,621

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

Milwaukee Peak: 

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

Pico Aislado:

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