13403, Cleveland Peak – 13,414, 13384, & Dead Man Peak – 13,050

RT Length:  23.05 miles (CalTopo), 17 miles (Strava)

Elevation Gain:  7080’ (CalTopo), 9474’ (Strava)

I parked at the Music Pass trailhead the night before, the only other vehicle in the lot until a 4Runner pulled up. 

I made it an early night, and was on the trail at 4am, heading west towards Music Pass.

I passed a trail register, which was full of moths and only one piece of paper.  I didn’t bother signing it.  The trail is class 1 and easy to follow

A tree has recently fallen near the signs at the top of Music Pass.  I continued on the trail and lost 450’ as I descended to Sand Creek below.

Now is a good time to get a look at how you’re going to ascend the ridge from Sand Creek Lake.  Getting up the ridge is not easy.  I would not recommend the route I took up (dotted line).  The easier route is up a gully.  Also note the cliffs you’ll want to avoid.  It’s important to make it to at least 13000’ before traversing to the ridge, as there are cliffs and chutes you’re trying to avoid. This is the overall route I took

After 3.3 miles I took the second junction and turned left.

I crossed Sand Creek and made my way to Sand Creek Lake on the class 1 trail.  There was a lot of deadfall in this area

I made it to the lake as the sun was rising.

At the lake the trail ended.  I knew I needed to ascend the ridge, so I headed south, which required some bushwhacking.

From here I’m going to show you how I descended, as it was much safer than the way I ascended.  At around 11,400’ there’s a gully.  It’s obvious, and the only one.  Follow and ascend the gully southwest and then south.

This is where you ascend the gully. This can be done mostly on grassy ledges. 

Once up the gully, it’s time to make it to the ridge.  You don’t need to go all the way to the top, instead, ascend to about 13000’, then traverse over to the ridge at its lowest point. It’s important to make it to at least 13000’ before heading west to the ridge, to avoid the drop offs and smooth gullies. The terrain here is full of loose rocks.  Every one rolls, so be prepared to wear your helmet and take your time.

It was at 13000’ I unexpectedly awoke a bobcat.  He was not happy with me, but allowed me to take his picture before bounding off.


I continued heading west, across some tundra and rock filled gullies, towards the ridge.

Once on the ridge, I followed it straight up to PT 13495.  However, this is an unranked point, so there is no need to go there.  Instead, you can skirt this summit and instead head over to PT 13403 (also unranked).  If you decided to go up and over PT 13495, it’s all class 2, both up and down.

From the summit of PT 13495, this was my route up 13403.  The ridge looked like it went at class 3, but I decided to keep it class 2 and ascend the face

And some closer pictures

I summited PT 13403 at 10am

PT 13403:

My next objective was to follow the ridge south towards Cleveland Peak.  Here’s my overall route up (going down I stuck to the ridge, which was class 3 with maybe a few class 4 moves)

I made it down to the saddle, and crossed over on some scree. 

From there I tried to stick to the ridge, but every so often I had to drop to the right.  This is choose your own adventure.  The ridge goes at continuous class 3, easy class 4, and was the most difficult climbing of the day. 

I summited Cleveland Peak at 11am

Cleveland Peak:

My next goal was PT 13384, to the southwest.  There was a little more class 3 ridge work, and then I crossed a plateau and made it to the Cleveland/13384 saddle

Once there, I followed the ridge to the summit.  The ridge goes at class 3

Here are some closer pictures of the ridge

I summited PT 13384 at 12:10pm

PT 13384:

Dead Man Peak was to the north.  To get there, I would have to make my way back to the Cleveland/13384 saddle, re-ascend to the plateau, then head northwest over to Dead Man Peak

I made my way back to the Cleveland/13384 saddle

Re-ascended up to the plateau

Then descended 550’ and re-gained 400’ to the summit of Dead Man Peak.  This could all be kept at an easy class 3 by sticking to the ridge

The summit is circled in red, to the northwest

I summited Dead Man Peak at 1:45pm

Dead Man Peak:

To get back to Cleveland Peak, I had to go back down to the saddle, and re-gain 770’ of elevation

After re-summiting Cleveland, I had the most difficult part of the downclimbing to do to get back to the 13403/Cleveland saddle.   

I was able to stick directly to the ridge.

I did not summit PTs 13403 or 13495 this time, but skirted them to the right

Once I could see Lower Sand Creek Lake, I stayed high on the ridge to pass all the cliffs, then descended straight towards the gully below.

I bushwhacked it to northwest to Lower Sand Creek Lake, then found the trail and took it back to Music Pass

Then followed it back to the trailhead

On big days, I tend to get wildly different numbers from CalTopo and Strava.  CalTopo says I did 23.05 miles with 7080’ of elevation gain, and Strava says I did 17 miles with 9474’ of elevation gain.  In any event, the hike/climb took me 16 hours, 15 minutes to complete.   

On to the next trailhead!

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

Tijeras Peak – 13,612 & Music Mountain – 13,365


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


Tijeras Peak:

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


Music Mountain:

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!