Engelmann Peak – 13,362 and Robeson Peak – 13,140

RT Length:  6.65 miles

Elevation Gain:  3448’

I started from the Ruby Gulch Trailhead at 6am. 

I headed south along the road, and turned left at the danger sign (visible from the parking area)

I followed this closed 4WD road for just under a mile.

At 10835’ I left the trail, to follow this drainage east. There was a small cairn on the left, indicating the entry point from the road

You could probably follow the drainage all the way to treeline, but I only followed it for a quarter mile or so, and then I gained the ridge to the left.

Once on the ridge, I followed it northeast to treeline

Once at treeline, the route was obvious.  I just followed the tundra towards the summit.

The tundra eventually gave way to rocks.  I hiked up and over them (class 2)

And could then see the summit.  There was even a trail for some of this part of the hike.  This was all very straightforward, class 2, and easy to navigate.

I summited Engelmann Peak at 8:20am

Engelmann Peak:

From Engelmann I could see Robeson, Bard, and Parnassus to the south

I’d already summited Bard and Parnassus, but wanted to get in unranked Robeson just to finish out the group, so I headed south. 

The entire route to Robeson was on tundra.  I lost 560’ of elevation, then gained 345’ to the summit.

There was nothing remarkable about the summit. I summited Robeson Peak at 11am

Robeson Peak:

Now to head back.  I retraced my steps northeast to the Engelmann/Robeson saddle

When I got to the saddle I turned left, put on my microspikes, and headed west down the drainage. The drainage goes class 2 all the way down, but I’m sure during a lot of the year there’s snow to contend with. 

At treeline the gully became narrow, and a small stream formed, but it was still easy to follow the drainage

Eventually I came to a dirt road, and took that road west towards the road I took in

I took that road north back to my truck

I made it back to my truck at 11am, making this a 6.65 mile hike with 3448’ of elevation gain in 5 hours.

On to the next trailhead!

PT 13070 and Pomeroy Mountain – 13,151

RT Length:  6.6 miles

Elevation Gain:  3008’

I started at the North Fork Reservoir because I wanted to fish and spend the night camping before heading out.  That 4WD road in though!  It was intense! 

If you’re not spending the night, and your vehicle made it this far, take the right road to Billings Lake and you can cut off some hiking and park in the basin

If not, you can pay for a site at the reservoir, or do what I did, which was park just outside of the entrance in a dispersed site. 

Here are some pictures of the North Fork Reservoir and the campsites there.  Note:  The bathrooms were disgusting and the doors didn’t close.  The fishing was good however, and the reservoir beautiful.

If you’re starting from the dispersed campsite, just walk north through the trees and you’ll hit the 4WD road.

I was on the trail at 6am, following the dirt road.  I hiked it for just over a mile before turning off and leaving the road.  Side note: I counted no less than 3, and up to 5 moose in the upper basin that morning. 

I took the solid route up, the dotted route down.  I’d recommend taking the dotted route both up and down, as there are several old miners trails there that go all the way to the ridge.

Here are pictures of my route up to the ridge.  This entire hike after leaving the road was class 2.

It was then a simple class 2 ridge walk over to PT 13070

I summited PT 13070 at 7:40am

PT 13070:

From PT 13070 I could see Pomeroy Mountain to the southwest

I didn’t head southwest, but instead made my way back down to the saddle

Once there, I could clearly see several old mining/social/game trails that led down into the basin.  They were relatively well established, and easy to follow, as they each stopped by the empty mines.

Here’s the route I took back down into the basin and 4WD road 240

There were several options here, and all led back down to the road

Looking back up at the mines, you can see there are trails that go to each one.  If I were to do this again, I’d pick one of those trails and take it to the saddle, instead of taking the entire ridge.

It was easy to find my way back to the road because I was above treeline

Now to head over to Pomeroy

This is the overall route I took to get there

I followed the 4WD dirt road as it curved around the basin, and then ended at the Pride of the West Mine (I’d explore the mine on my way back down).

I continued on the trail that went past the mine for a short ways, and then went west, up this hill.  I placed a large cairn at my exit from the trail

I continued heading west, and then made my way to the ridge, staying to the north of the willows.  The talus here was loose.

When the talus ran out, I followed the rocky tundra northwest to the summit of Pomeroy Mountain

I summited Pomeroy Mountain at 9:30am

Pomeroy Mountain:

Here’s looking northeast at PT 13070

I re-traced my steps back down to the mine

Then, since it was still early and I still had my helmet on, I decided to explore a bit.  The mine is flooded, and falling apart at the entrance, but was still a really neat structure. 

After a few minutes of exploring, I followed the 4WD dirt road back to my campsite.  Also, there were a lot of large campsites along the way that were for dispersed campers as well. The only paid sites were near the reservoir.

I made it back to my campsite at 10:45am, making this a 6.6 mile hike with 3008’ of elevation gain and lots of time exploring the mine in 4 hours, 45 minutes.  The map below is hand drawn in, as STRAVA stopped working when I hit the summit of 13070 and gave me incorrect stats.

On to the next trailhead!

Hunter Peak – 13,497

RT Length:  15.22 miles

Elevation Gain:  4854’

Due to weather, I wasn’t able to summit Hunter Peak along with the rest of the ridge last week, so I was back again to try to summit with the little bit of snow it had received in the past few days.  I parked at the Conundrum Hot Springs Trailhead, and was on the trail at 4:30am. 

I followed the class 1 trail south for 5.75 miles

After hiking for 5.75 miles, and at 10040’ of elevation I left the trail and headed west up the hillside, staying in between two drainages.  This included a lot of bushwhacking, but I was headed towards the arrow, staying more left, but really just trying to find a route through the trees to get thee. I didn’t see any game trails.

As I made my way out of the trees, I had a good view of Hunter Peak, and my intended route to the ridge

I made my way southwest towards the ridge, entering the basin

I was about halfway through the basin when I saw a cool cave in the middle.  I wasn’t headed that way, but took a picture of it anyway.  I thought I saw what looked like a bear standing at the mouth of the cave, but I was too far away to tell

A minute later, I heard talus scattering, and looked over to see a black bear running as fast as it could away from me.  It was at around 12000’, booking it towards treeline.

Here’s a video of the bear running away from me.  He was quite a fast bear.

I continued heading towards the ridge.  There were several choices for gullies.  Here’s the route I took.  This was all difficult class 2.

And some step-by-step pictures up the gullies to the ridge.

Once on the ridge I turned right, and followed the ridge northwest, immediately going up this gully

After ascending the gully, I made my way to the ridge, and stuck to it.  This was class 2

There was another, final gully to ascend, also difficult class 2

I summited Hunter Peak at 10:30am

Hunter Peak:

The views from the summit were beautiful! 

But it was starting to snow, so I retraced my steps back down the ridge and gully

Both ways go, but the red dirt on the right is easier

Then it was down and out of the basin

It was starting to snow, so I headed towards that clump of aspens

Then bushwhacked east, back down to the Conundrum Hot Springs Trail

Once on the trail, I followed it north back to the trailhead

I made it back to my truck at 2:15pm, making this a 15.22 mile hike with 4854’ of elevation gain in 9 hours, 45 minutes.

On to the next trailhead!

Hilliard Peak – 13,409 and Keefe Peak – 13,516

RT Length: 24.35 miles

Elevation Gain: 5700’

Due to weather issues, I did this as a multi-day trip. Due to permit issues, I camped just before the camping permit boundary for Conundrum Hot Springs (worked fabulously!!!). My stats are taken from several GPX files meshed together.

I started from the Conundrum Hot Springs Trailhead at 4:45am, after a quick nap on Independence Pass after a long drive and a long day.  Here’s the trailhead:

I followed the class 1 trail for 6 miles to the permit boundary, which is noted by a very visible sign. 

It was obvious this is a popular camping spot (just before the permit boundary).  There are a lot of social trails that lead off into the trees as well for campsites, if you don’t want to camp right next to the sign.  Here’s where I camped.   It’s relatively close to the stream, which is great for filtering water

I set up my tent, as I planned on being here for a few days. The next morning, I started out at 4:45am.  The trail is still class 1, and crosses Conundrum Creek several times.  All creek crossings were easy.

After about 2 miles I came to the Conundrum Hot Springs campsites, an old abandoned cabin, and more small creek crossings.  I took the trail to the right towards Triangle Pass

I was now still on Trail 1981, headed southwest, into the willows

At 12000’ I left the trail, and followed a drainage west

At about 12200’ I turned right and headed north, across the basin.  Yes, there were a lot of crows. 

I kept heading north, skirting a small pond.  This was all class 2

My goal was to gain this ridge.  This was my route (still class 2)

Once on the ridge I placed a large cairn, turned left, and headed west up the ridge

The terrain quickly narrowed and became class 3, full of chossy, loose rock. It never got more difficult than class 3, but the terrain was sketchy.  I was able to stay directly on the ridge.

As the ridge rose, it curved, and I stayed more to the left

I topped out, turned the corner, and saw more class 3 ridge work as I now headed northwest

I lost a little bit of elevation, then followed the ridge to the summit

I summited Hilliard Peak at 9:45am

Hilliard Peak:

From Hilliard, I could see Keefe Peak to the northeast

But first, I was going to have to get over the crux of the route: This pointy mountain right here.

I followed the ridge northeast, and came across this fun formation. I easily passed it to the left

This brought me to a small saddle.  I ended up climbing this part by taking a game trail to the ridge, then crossing over to the right side and heading up

And now for the crux

This is the route I took

But there’s a lot you can’t see…  So here it is step by step.  This is class 4

This was a small, airy traverse, about 6 feet long, ad no more than a foot wide

The good news is after that it’s all class 2 to the top of Keefe Peak.

I summited Keefe Peak at 11am

Keefe Peak:

I decided to make this a loop, and head east down an old avalanche runout.  Let me preface this by saying it worked, but the runout is quickly growing back, and there was a ton of bushwhacking.  Plan your route carefully.  Here are some pictures of the route that led me directly back to the trail (1981) and Conundrum Creek below.

Here’s looking up at the route I took down.  You could also take this route up, and just do Keefe from this angle, and skip the class 4 section of the traverse.  It’s a lot of elevation gain in a short while though (3200’ in 7.5 miles) with a lot of initial bushwhacking, but it goes.  I came down the left side (when looking up), but would recommend sticking more to the right and avoiding the middle.

Back on the trail, I followed it back to my campsite, and stayed there for another night. 

Here’s a look at the route out from the campsite back to the trailhead.

And my topo map

13216 and 13537

RT Length:  25.61 miles

Elevation Gain:  5474’

Due to weather issues, I did this as a multi-day trip. Due to permit issues, I camped just before the camping permit boundary for Conundrum Hot Springs (worked fabulously!!!). My stats are taken from several GPX files meshed together.

I started from the Conundrum Hot Springs Trailhead at 4:45am, after a quick nap on Independence Pass after a long drive and a long day.  Here’s the trailhead:

I followed the class 1 trail for 6 miles to the permit boundary, which is noted by a very visible sign. 

It was obvious this is a popular camping spot (just before the permit boundary).  There are a lot of social trails that lead off into the trees as well for campsites, if you don’t want to camp right next to the sign.  While I saw a US Forest Service truck in the parking lot, I didn’t see a service member all weekend.  Also, I’m not advocating anything negative here:  I understand why they have the permit system, I just think permit systems aren’t well implemented.  For example:  I couldn’t get a permit for this weekend, yet more than half the reserved sites were empty THE ENTIRE WEEKEND.  Here’s where I camped.   It’s relatively close to the stream, which is great for filtering water

I set up my tent, as I planned on being here for a few days, and was on the trail again by 8am. The trail is still class 1, and crosses Conundrum Creek several times.  All creek crossings were easy.

After about 2 miles I came to the Conundrum Hot Springs campsites, an old abandoned cabin, and more small creek crossings.  I took the trail to the right towards Triangle Pass

I was now still on Trail 1981, headed southwest, into the willows

At 12000’ I left the trail, and followed a drainage west

Now it was time to gain the ridge of 13216. 

This is the route I took

And some step-by-step pictures.  This was all class 2

When I made it to the ridge I turned left, and was surprised to find it wasn’t a straight shot to the summit.  I followed the ridge south

And was surprised once again to find this wasn’t the summit either.  It was a little further to the southwest.

It was all class 2 to the summit

I summited 13216 at 11:40am

PT 13216:

My next goal was 13537, to the north

I followed the ridge over Conundrum Pass, all class 2 to the pass

Once at Conundrum Pass/13216-13537 saddle, the route became a class 3 scramble.  From my visual it looked like a straightforward scramble up the ridge, all the way to the summit, but what I couldn’t see was a dip in the ridge.  I started my scramble up.  

I came to a false summit, and noticed I could no longer climb up:  I’d need to parallel the ridge and summit from the other side.

Here’s where I made a mistake.  I tried to traverse over to the other ridge too high:  I should have dropped down a few hundred feet, then re-ascended via the obvious gully.  The route I took was sketchy class 4.  Everything was unstable, rocks moved, and the scree was solid dirt with kitty litter sitting on top.  I would not recommend the route I took.  From below, this is the route I took.

And here are some pictures of that route.  Once again, I’d recommend dropping down further and ascending via the gully. My microspikes saved me here.

Eventually I came to a gully that looked like it went.  I was tired of the terrain I’d been traversing, and welcomed the gully, only to find it was just as bad.  Large loose rocks, hard dirt, kitty litter, etc. I headed towards the ridge.

Once on the ridge I turned left, and followed it south to the summit

I summited 13537 ay 2pm

PT 13537:

Originally, I’d planned on doing the entire traverse, but I could see clouds moving in.  Indeed, it started snowing and hailing on my decent, so it had been a good idea to call the ridge for the day and head back to camp. But I didn’t want to take the same route I’d taken in, because I felt it was too sketchy to repeat.  Instead, I decided to walk north down the ridge to where I’d seen the gully earlier, and descend that way. 

Here’s a look down that gully

And my route back into the basin

The gully was much steeper than it looked. I was glad I had on my microspikes. 

From below, here’s a look up that gully. It goes all the way to the ridge.

And now, to make my way back to the trail.  I aimed southeast, doing my best to avoid the large rock bands

When I could see PT 13216, I stayed high, and then descended via the same drainage I’d come in on. 

Back on Trail 1981, I followed it northeast, back to my campsite.

I stayed there for the night, but here are some pictures of the 6 mile hike out to an overflowing trailhead full of vehicles. 

And my topo map

Mt Soso – 13,417

RT Length: 7.04 miles (From Rock Lake)

Elevation Gain:  2793’ (From Rock Lake)

This trip report starts at Rock Lake.  For instructions on the approach to Rock Lake, as well as the drive to Beartown from Silverton, click here.  

Since I was already at Rock Lake, at around 11850’, I made it a late start and was on the trail at 6am.  I was in the camping area directly in front of the lake, and from there I headed south towards the pass.

There is a trail that picks up on the east side of the lake, that will take you all the way to the pass on a class 1 trail

It’s rocky, but there is a well-defined trail here with cairns

At the top of the pass I headed southwest, following the cairns as they descended a bit. The trail goes on to Half Moon Lake, but I didn’t want to go there, so after descending down a small gully I changed directions, and gained the ridge to the west.

I spent a lot of time putting cairns in this area to help with navigation, but as long as you gain the ridge, the next part of the route will be obvious.

From the top of the ridge, this was my route up to the ridge of Mt Soso. 

It looks straightforward, but I ended up losing a lot more elevation than I wanted to, mainly because there’s a gorge that you can’t see from the pass.  I initially tried to go straight over the large boulders to the left, but it cliffed out.  You’ll need to stay more to the west. I lost almost 600’ of elevation making my way down into the basin.

This is all class 2, and easy to navigate.  Here’s a picture of the gully that will lead you to the ridge.  This is a class 2 gully, and you’ll find a game trail if you stick to climbers left.

From the top of the gully, looking back on the route I took there, I had a better view of the gorge I’d been trying to avoid.  There was a beautiful waterfall I hadn’t been able to see from the other side.

Once on the ridge, I turned right and followed it southwest. 

After about a quarter mile of class 2 terrain the ridge became class 3 for a bit.  I spent a lot of time putting together cairns for the rest of the route.  This is the route I took

Here are some step-by-step pictures.  Most of this is class 2, with some easy class 3 thrown in

Now is a good time to get a visual on the rest of your route.  The upper ridge is sustained class 3, but I dipped down a bit and took the grassy gully to the summit

Here’s a better look at the ridge

And some close-up pictures of the class 3 scramble.  I was able to stay directly on the top of the ridge for this, until I came to just below the grassy area.  If you’ve made it this far you can probably just go straight up and over the ridge, but I felt safer dropping down and taking the grassy gully up. I put a ton of cairns in the area to help guide the way.

Here’s where I dropped down about 20 feet

And then went up the grassy gully (class 2+)

Topping out of the grassy gully

And then it was a quick walk north to the summit

I summited Mt Soso at 9am

Mt Soso:

From the summit I could see my hike into the basin, and the cliff band I’d needed to avoid

I stayed on the summit longer than I normally would, because it was such a nice day.  Then I re-traced my steps back to Rock Lake, first by heading south to the ridge

And then taking the grassy gully down.  There’s an obvious willow bush in the path.  Turn right and head to the ridge BEFORE you make it to this lonely bush.

Then following the cairns back up to the ridge (circled in red)

Here’s the overall route down the ridge, back to the access gully that led up the ridge

And some step-by-step pictures

Then back down the gully, into the basin, avoiding the cliffs and waterfall

Then back up to the pass

From the top the view can get a little confusing, because there are a lot of rocks.  Here’s the route:

You’re aiming for this gully, which will have cairns that will lead you back down to Rock Lake

There is a trail here that will lead you back to the lake

Notice there are a lot of campsites in this valley area as well

I made it back to Rock Lake at 11:45am, making this a 7.04 mile hike with 2793’ of elevation gain in 5 hours, 45 minutes.

Irving Peak – 13,218 and North Irving – 13,017

RT Length (from Rock Lake): 11.44 miles

Elevation Gain (from Rock Lake): 4009’

This trip report starts at Rock Lake.  For instructions on the approach to Rock Lake, as well as the drive to Beartown from Silverton, click here.

Since I was already at Rock Lake, at around 11850’, I made it a late start and was on the trail at 6am.  I was in the camping area directly in front of the lake, and from there I headed south towards the pass.

There is a trail that picks up on the east side of the lake, that will take you all the way to the pass on a class 1 trail

It’s rocky, but there is a well-defined trail here with cairns

At the top of the pass I headed southwest, following the cairns as they descended a bit. The trail goes on to Half Moon Lake, but I didn’t want to go there, so after descending down a small gully I changed directions, and gained the ridge to the west.

I spent a lot of time putting cairns in this area to help with navigation, but as long as you gain the ridge, the next part of the route will be obvious.

From the top of the ridge, I could see Mt Soso, and the gully I would need to climb to access the next basin, where Irving and North Irving were. 

This is the route I took to get to the gully.  There are a lot of small ponds in this area, and marshy areas.  I found I could skirt the water to the north, and then easily access the gully

I first had to descend 450’ into the basin (I stayed high, as you can descend much further if you take a different/lower route), and then re-ascended 560’ up the gully.

The gully really wasn’t that bad to ascend

At the top of the gully, I could see Irving Peak and North Irving.

I had a clear visual of how I wanted to ascend, and descend to get there.  This is the overall route I took.  I stayed high, losing about 650’ of elevation, and paralleled the mountainside at around 12300’ to get to the base of Irving Peak.  The dotted line is my descent route off North Irving (more details later).

Here are some close up pictures of the route

When I made it to the bottom of Irving Peak, I had a few options.  I decided to head up the gully to the left, but this meant I’d need to descend about 50 feet on the other side and then regain the ridge.  Now is also a good time to note my decent route from North Irving.  If I were to do this again, I’d choose the same route.  The gully I took down would not have been fun to upclimb. The area circled in red is what I was trying to avoid, as it didn’t look like it ‘went’.

Here are some pictures of my route up to the ridge (all class 2+)

And once on the ridge, the area I dropped down to avoid, and then regain the ridge

Some step by step pictures avoiding the rocks and accessing the gully

The gully was at worst class 3

At the top of the gully, here’s looking back on my route from the pass

I turned left, and followed the rocky ridge southwest to the summit of Irving Peak.  This was a class 2 scramble

I summited Irving Peak at 11:15am

Irving Peak:

Now to head over to North Irving.  This was a class 2 hike northeast down to the saddle, then 240’ of elevation gain as I followed the ridge northwest

I summited North Irving at 12pm

North Irving:

There was a storm coming in, so I quickly made my way back down towards the Irving/North Irving saddle. 

There are several gullies you can take down.  I took the second one, circled here in red.  I do not regret my choice.

Once out of the gully, I retraced my steps back the way I’d come, to the Oso/Soso saddle

From the Oso/Soso saddle I aimed for the ridge to the northeast, losing and then regaining elevation.

From the top the view can get a little confusing, because there are a lot of rocks.  Here’s the route:

You’re aiming for this gully, which will have cairns that will lead you back down to Rock Lake

There is a trail here that will lead you back to the lake

Notice there are a lot of campsites in this valley area as well

I made it back to Rock Lake at 3:30pm, making this an 11.44 mile hike with 4009’ of elevation gain in 9 hours.

Rock Lake Approach from Silverton to Beartown

The approach drive is 21 miles from Silverton to Beartown, starting out on 110, then turning right onto 589, or the Alpine Loop, towards Stony Pass.  It’s a really good idea to make a gpx file for this drive, as I’ve encountered several people who got lost in the area while taking side roads.

 

At the fork in the road, keep left to head towards Stony Pass.

The 4WD road quickly begins gaining elevation, but is easy to follow.  There are several places to pass vehicles coming the other way.  After about 5 miles, you’ll make it to Stony Pass. 

From Stony Pass you’ll lose over 2000’ of elevation as you make your way east, towards the Rio Grande River.

I did this hike in September, when the river crossings were low.  In fact, they were lower than I’d ever encountered them before, and my Tacoma had no problem crossing.

First river crossing:

Then there’s a junction.  Stay right, and take the road that goes towards Beartown

Second river crossing:

From here you are now on 3A, and the road gets more difficult.  It does feel like it’s been graded recently though, as it wasn’t as bad as I remember it being last year.

I parked at a nice campsite at 10890’.  My truck could have made it further, but I love my truck, and didn’t want to drive it further down the road. Here’s the topo for the drive in

Now for the approach to Rock Lake.  This entire approach is class 1.

Here are the stats: 

2.7 miles and 1263’ of elevation gain from my parking spot to the top of Hunchback Pass

5 miles and 2349’ of elevation loss from Hunchback Pass to the Rock Lake cutoff

4.8 miles and 1713’ of elevation gain from the Rock Lake cutoff to Rock Lake.

I started out heading southwest along the dirt road (3A), towards the actual trailhead, passing a sign for Beartown along the way.

There were many capable vehicles parked at the trailhead

I followed the trail, 813/Vallecito Trail, as it wound its way up towards Hunchback Pass. 

At this point I was above treeline, but that would soon change.  From the top of the pass I descended down into the basin

Encountering willows (bring your rain gear) and re-entering treeline.

I crossed Nebo Creek, which is a great place to stop for lunch, or to filter water

This is where the downed trees began.  There were dozens of them, but luckily this is also a horse trail, so there were paths already beginning to form around the downed trees.

At around 10135’ I came to the junction for the Rock Creek Trail.  It’s marked by a wooden post, and easy to miss in the dark.

I turned left, and followed the Rock Creek Trail

The trail was easy to follow as it gained elevation, heading southeast, paralleling Rock Creek. I entered a wide basin (where I’d been charged by a bull moose on a previous trip to the area), and headed through willows towards Rock Lake.

The willows gave way to trees and switchbacks

Which gave way to more willows

At the end of the willows, was Rock Lake.  From where I parked, it was a total of 12.51 miles with 3044’ of elevation gain to Rock Lake

There are tons of places to set up camp directly in front of the lake, but also on its east side.  If you see campers set up on the north shore of the lake, realize there are many, many more along the trail ahead as well (hikers left).

Here’s my topo map for the route in from Beartown

And now some pictures of the way out, from Rock Lake back to the Vallecito Trail.

Back at the junction I turned right, and followed the Vallecito Trail.  At this junction, there’s a great place to camp (if needed).

Now for the fun part:  2350’ of elevation gain back to Hunchback Pass

I re-crossed Nebo Creek

And came across tons of wild strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries.  Since it was September, they were all ripe, and a great snack halfway back up the pass

I re-entered willows, and followed them towards Hunchback Pass

From the top of the pass, I headed back to the trailhead

From here you can see where I parked my truck

Back at the trailhead, I followed the 4WD dirt road back to my truck

When I got back, I found another vehicle parked in the campsite alongside mine, ready to combat those pesky marmots (I saw several on my drive out).

Here are some pictures of the drive out.  Remember, it’s all left turns now to get back to Silverton.

After Stony Pass I came across a rather large herd of domestic sheep grazing on the hillsides

Here’s my topo map for the entire route

As always, please contact me if you’d like a gpx file for this route.

Taylor Peak – 13,157, Powell Peak – 13,197, Otis Peak – 12,481, Hallett Peak – 12,723 & Flattop Mountain – 12,330

RT Length:  19.75 miles

Elevation Gain: 5983’

I started from the Flattop Mountain Trail inside Rocky Mountain National Park, at the Bear Lake parking area,  at 4am.  I’ve been to this trailhead a few times, and it fills up before 6am, so plan on getting there early to secure a spot. 

There is great signage in this area, leading you to the trailhead

I followed the class 1, well-marked trail for 5 miles up to Flattop Mountain, gaining almost 3000’ of elevation in the process

As soon as I hit treeline the sun began to rise, and I saw a small herd of elk, led by one male bull.  He bugled to me, and the ptarmigans began to chirp .

Elk Bugling:

Ptarmigans waking up:

I continued following the class 1 trail to Flattop Mountain (which is really just a plateau).

At the top of the plateau is a sign.  At this sign I turned left, following the cairns.  Note:  there isn’t a sign indicating there is a trail to the left, but there will be dozens of rather large cairns to follow towards Hallett Peak

While you could certainly summit Hallett Peak first, my main goal were some 13ers further ahead, so I skirted Hallett Peak to the right, staying at about 12360’, which kept me on rocky tundra.

As I headed southwest, staying on the rocky tundra, I could see both Otis Peak and Taylor Peak.  It was my objective to summit Taylor Peak next, which meant I’d need to lose about 400’ of elevation to the Otis/Taylor Saddle (also where top of Andrews Glacier/Andrews Pass is located)

Here’s my route up to Taylor Peak from the Otis/Taylor Saddle. Note, my route up is solid, my route back down (after summiting Powell) is dotted.  I would recommend these routes in the same order I completed them.  The entire day consisted of class 2 terrain for all the peaks I summited.

Here are some close-up pictures of the terrain to the summit of Taylor Peak

 

I summited Taylor Peak at 8:30am

Taylor Peak:

From Taylor Peak I could see Powell Peak to the southeast. 

To get there, I’d need to contour southwest down the south side of Taylor, and then follow the ridge towards Powell Peak.  The route is obvious, and easily kept class 2.

Here’s the route from the Taylor/Powell Saddle

And some close-up pictures of the route

I aimed for the highpoint, a large rock on the ridge

Here are some closer pictures of the route to the summit

Powell Summit rock, easily scaled from the left

To be honest, I’m not sure where the true summit lies.  When I got to the large rock outcropping I saw what looked like a cairn a short distance away, further southeast, but when I went further southeast to that point, the rock looked higher.  When I got home my track showed the rock was the highpoint, but there wasn’t anything indicating it was (no cairn/summit register/etc.)  A point further northwest looked high too, so I made sure to walk over there, but my photos are from the rock outcropping.

I summited Powell Peak at 10:15am

Powell Peak:

https://youtu.be/0oxEIaN_wYg

I then retraced my steps back to the Taylor/Powell Saddle

But instead of re-summiting Taylor Peak, I skirted the summit to the left, staying at around 12750’

This was all class 2, but required a bit of rock hopping

As I continued to round Taylor Peak, Otis Peak came into view.  The path towards the summit was obvious

I made my way down to Andrews Pass, and then up towards Otis Peak

I summited Otis Peak at 12:45pm

Otis Peak:

I could see Hallett Peak to the northwest, and descended to the Otis/Hallett saddle

And then headed northeast up to the summit of Hallett Peak

I summited Hallett Peak at 1:45pm

Hallett Peak:

Now to head back to the trail.  This was all class 2, and there were cairns to guide the way.  Be careful not to aim for the obvious trail in the distance, as it will not lead you back to the trailhead.  This is the route you should take.   If you look carefully, you can see the sign you’re aiming for from earlier in the morning

At the junction I turned right, and followed the class 1 trail back to the trailhead

I made it back to my truck at 4pm, making this a 19.75 mile hike with 5983’ of elevation gain in 12 hours.

On the way out, I was stopped by another herd of elk, walking along the road.

On to the next trailhead!

McHenrys Peak – 13,330

RT Length:  17.46 miles

Elevation Gain:  4442’

I started from the Glacier Gorge trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park at 3:30am.  There were already several parties in the parking lot (probably 10 vehicles), but didn’t see another person on my route all day.   This is also a bus stop for access to Glacier Gorge (and lots of other hikes).  All this means is that it was overly crowded the last 2 miles of the hike on my way down.  Passing people became impossible, and more of a stroll as I hiked out with hundreds of other hikers. 

I followed the class 1 trail, staying on the Mills Lake trail.  There were wonderful signs that made getting lost difficult. 

I passed Alberta Falls at 1.15 miles, and continued following the trail to Mills Lake

After hiking for 3.35 miles I passed Mills Lake, and at 3.85 miles I passed Jewel Lake.  Side note:  there’s great fishing here.  Lots of hungry trout, eager to feast on any worm you drop in.  The larger trout are in the stream above Jewel Lake, and in Mills Lake.

I continued following the class 1 trail all the way to Black Lake (6 miles in).  This part of the trail had a lot of wood foot bridges, and rock slabs to cross.  All class 1, but the rock slabs were tricky to navigate in the dark.

I made it to Black Lake, and continued on the class 1 trail, up a waterfall, and across more rock slabs.

Here the trail kind of fizzled out, but I continued following cairns as I crossed a small creek, and headed southwest towards McHenrys Peak. There are a ton of cairns in this area (circled in red). 

Here’s the overall route to Frozen Lake (not pictured) and up Stone Man Pass.  There are plenty of cairns to guide you, but for the rest of the hike be careful:  there are a lot of granite slabs that are quite steep to navigate (all class 2), and slippery where wet.

Here are some close up pictures to Frozen Lake

I easily rock hopped and crossed the lake on its north side, and continued heading west towards Stone Man Pass

There are still tons of cairns in this area, but choose your route based on the best conditions.  The rocks are very slippery where they are wet.  I was aiming for the gully below Stone Man Pass.

I didn’t think the gully was that bad.  I stayed right on my way up, but took the other side down.  I’d recommend climbing up the left side of the gully, as it was more stable, but both were fine.  Here are some pictures of the gully

Once at the top of the gully, I turned right and headed northwest towards McHenrys Peak.  Everything you can see here is class 2, and there are cairns to guide your way.

I rounded the mountain, and was now on the west side of the peak.  Here is got a bit trickier.  There were still cairns to follow.  I headed up a rock slab, and rock filled gully.  This was easy class 3

Here’s the overall route of the rest of the climb.  I felt this was difficult class 3, with some exposure. 

There was a chimney to head up, and then a short but intense scramble to the summit

I summited McHenrys Peak at 9:50am

McHenrys Peak:

The summit looked like it could have several actual summits, so despite the large cairn and summit register, I made sure to walk all around the summit to make sure I’d actually summited.

Now to head back down. The trickiest part was descending the initial section, and finding my way back around the side of the mountain.  Once I was there, it was easy to find my way to Stone Man Pass, and then back down to Frozen Lake.

And then I followed the cairns northeast, back towards the trail that would lead me to Black Lake

Then followed the trail all the way back to the trailhead. 

I made it back to my truck at 2:30pm, making this a 17.46 mile hike with 4442’ of elevation gain, as per CalTopo.  Strava told me it was a 15.02 mile hike with 6573’ of elevation gain.  I tend to go with CalTopo when I write, for consistency purposes, especially since Strava tends to grossly exaggerate elevation gain. 

Also, there were a few elk along the trail who didn’t seem bothered by my presence… they wouldn’t even look up from whatever they were eating to acknowledge me.

On to the next trailhead!