Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Mount Silverheels

Mount Silverheels
Now that summer is in full swing for me that means multiple climbs per week.  Just a few days ago a few of us climbed a nice 11er, but for this trip I choose a mountain a bit further from home that I have been eyeing for the past two years.  Mount Silverheels is in the Front Range, but as you look across highway 9 the Tenmile and Mosquito Ranges sit extremely close.  The first time I noticed Silverheels was on my ascent of Quandary Peak last year, which is a nearby 14er.  Silverheels looks like a massive daunting summit, and I believe it is commonly climbed and skied in the winter months.  I have eyed the South Ridge Route since I got Roach’s 13ers book, and we were not disappointed.
Brian was up for another hike, so we made plans to meet at our usual 285 parking spot of Meyer Ranch.  Getting to the Silverheels TH is quite simple.  From Denver follow 285 South till you are just outside of Fairplay, turn north onto 6th Street.  The sign for Fairplay will be just beyond this road so if you drive past the sign you will be taking a longer route to the TH.  Once on 6th Street follow it to Bogue Street and take a right (north), this turns into Beaver Lane which in time turns into Beaver Creek Road.  Follow this road till you see a sign on the right side of the road directing you to the Beaver Creek NF Access.  Where this sign is, is the winter TH…no thanks!  This is FS659 now; a few miles up the road you will pass the non-existent camp of Beaver Creek.  Your almost there, there was no sign for the FS184 road, but there was a sign for FS183 so just go up to the next road heading to the East.  The TH elevation should be 10,740ft so double check that and there will be a pretty good creek crossing. We parked here in an old makeshift campsite next to the creek.  A high clearance 4X4 would have no issue crossing the creek and driving the first mile of road.  Looking back it would have been nice to bring my truck, but we survived the extra 2 miles of hiking without issue.  After crossing the creek there will be an immediate Y junction, take the road heading up the hill to the NE.  Follow this road for about 1 mile till there is a clearly visible closed road on the left or north side of FS184.  This is considered the 4X4 parking and will cut the distance of the entire trip by about 2 miles if you have a worthy vehicle.
Big Bull Elk
As I was saying previously, we did not have the luxury of a 4X4 vehicle so we made the hike from the main road.  It went by pretty quick, but I did get devoured my plenty of mosquitos early on.  We actually had quite a late start since the weather forecast was good, so we didn’t step on the trail till about 8am.  The first mile only gains about 400 vertical feet so it’s pretty mellow, a mountain bike would be perfect.  If biking was your thing, you could easily bike nearly 3 miles each way along this route.
The Herd on the Ridge
After taking the closed road elevation starts gaining rapidly.  The nice thing if you like geology is that this section goes right through what appears to be the Morrison Formation.  There are a lot of good rocks specimens to look at in order to keep you mind occupied on the steep of the road.  It doesn’t last too long and eventually connects up with a much better road.  After looking at Google Earth, it appears the road you connect to is the same FS184, but that is a guestimation based on satellite imagery, nothing concrete.  From here the road is really mellow till you hit the base of PT 12,282.  From there the road is gone and there are some trail and some off trail hiking to be had.  I considered this a class 2 climb since we were off trail more than on, but it is a very easy route just sticking to the south ridge.
Quandary and the Tenmile Range
There are some ups and downs along the ridge so be prepared for that.  After we crossed PT 12,282 and dropped down the wind picked up probably to the low 30mph range and we had to throw on a jacket to protect from the chilling winds.  The unfortunate thing about this mountain is Silverheels looks so close all day.  You have to break this mountain up into layers and accomplish one at a time.  It is 4.5miles one way to the summit, so that is a pretty good distance to cover.  The route never got very steep, which eased the pain on my knees on the way down.  One of the better things about this hike is if you look to the west there is a hell of a view of some 14ers.
When the roller coaster finally ended and we were on the South Ridge proper, it was just a low angled hike to the top.  As we looked to the basin to the west we could see a massive herd of Elk.  I have never seen so many Elk in my entire life.  There had to be at least 100 of them down there.  As we moved up the ridge we could really hear them talking to one another.  This was a first time experience for me listening to their calls and I was pretty neat.  We were never really getting close to them, but eventually they started moving towards the west ridge.  I was able to find the Bull before they all made their way too far off, and he looked impressive.  The Elk were around 13,000ft high, I’m assuming they are this high to avoid the incredible heat down low but I’m no animal expert.
Quandary and Pacific
I was huffing pretty hard the last 1,000ft so the viewing of the Elk helped take my mind off of the torture.  Brian took off on me as I slowed, but we were still managing my pace of 1,000ft per hour so I was still happy with that.  The last 400ft or so turns into rock fingers and smaller amounts of grass.  I made my way up there and you could find trail-like areas here and there.  Somewhere around 11:30 am we were on the summit.
There were 4 others on top with us and one chocolate lab.  The sky was blue so the views all around were amazing.  With the zoom on my camera I could pick out about 8 people on Quandary.  It was nice relaxing on this summit, not having to worry about weather.  After a good 30minutes we started the descent.  I never look forward to the descent since my toes seem to burn in these Keen boots I have.  It wasn’t too bad, but the increase in temperature wasn’t making it too comfortable.  The hike down the ridge has an amazing view and that definitely helped the miles roll along.  It didn’t seem like too long and we were back to climbing up PT 12,282.  From there it’s a hike down a road.  We made it back to the car around 2pm or so and had a good beer.  I would recommend this route and I could see this mountain being a skiing paradise come winter.  I just may have to do that one day.

Date: 7/22/2013
Starting Elevation: 10,760ft
Mount Silverheels summit: 13,825ft
Total Gained Elevation: 3,415ft
Class: 2 (easy)
Distance: 9.00 miles
Time: 5:15 moving, 1:15 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Brian

1 comment:

  1. Hello Nick!
    Just wanted to start off by thanking you for your post. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your experience. A buddy and I are going out to the Silverheels area for an elk hunt this fall. We are looking for a place to set up camp and as I searched Silverheels your blog came up. It looks like your adventure was taken in 2013 but I thought I would just ask and see if you remembered and had a recommendation on any good camping spots around the Silverheels?