Sunday, June 22, 2014

Mount Wilcox

Mount Wilcox
Mount Wilcox has been on my list for some time now.  I have gridded the area from I-70 to the north covering all the major peaks along the corridor to Geneva Mountain to the south.  This was the last peak I needed to finish the Guanella Pass area.  I have been to the Wilcox area about four other times, but multiple peaks sometimes don’t work.  Here I am back to climb Wilcox, and from a different route.  I find it’s always good to have company and it didn’t take much convincing to get Cole and Jenny to head out with me.
We met at 5am in Denver and made the drive up to the Silver Dollar Lake TH.  To get to the TH head to Georgetown and follow the Guanella Pass road till you pass the Guanella Pass CG.  Just after the CG there will be a road heading off to the right called Naylor Lake Road.  This road is a dirt road and can be a little rough.  We had no problem with Jenny at the wheel of the Subaru.  About a mile up the road is the parking for the Silver Dollar Lake TH.  We arrived about 6:30am and were off on the trail a bit before 7.
Silver Dollar Lake and Squaretop Mountain
The area surrounding Naylor Lake is all private property so this trail is the best access to the mountain.  Beware that we heard gun shots on our descent, so this area is probably a gun club or militant camp..haha.  One thing to note was my GPS was not working well at the beginning of the hike.  It kept beeping saying it was losing satellite service.  That is why I don’t have complete data for this trip, but I’m sure you can piece together all the missing parts.
I made the bad decision of eating some McDonalds before the hike and I wasn’t feeling to well from the start.  We slowly made our way up the trail until I got my body working.  There was quite a bit of snow along the trail, as it opened up above the lake the snow fields were quite large.  Depending on your comfort you could bring micro spikes or walk across it with good boots.  I was fine in boots, but then again I love snow.
As we worked on the traverse towards Silver Dollar Lake we saw a Mountain Goat high up on Squaretop Mountain.  The picture I took was zoomed in as far as I could get, so he was up there quite a ways.  Cole was naming of the birds as they buzzed by us, it’s always good to have people around with different knowledge banks.  The trail got muddy and wet as we approached Silver Dollar Lake.  Jenny got a good soaking so we took a minute at the lake for personal maintenance. 
The terrain rises a bit towards Murray Reservoir and the trail disappears beneath the large snow fields.  We just headed directly up and had no problems not using any traction.  As we approached Murray we started discussing our options for the day.  This route is really easy for a combination of a couple peaks.  Argentine is just to the west of Wilcox along the same ridge.  Cole and Jenny wanted to go for it, so we started making a more direct route through the rocks towards Argentine.
Grays and Torreys
I recommend our ascent route, primarily because there are some really cool rocks.  With that being said, we didn’t make much progress.  We all love rocks too much and found ourselves rock hounding more than hiking.  At one point we found this large pegmatite boulder and out came the rock hammers.  You have to love geologists.  It is always nice to be on a laid back trip with lots of time for discussion.  All three of us took Geomorphology during the spring semester together so we all love calling out all the different landscapes we see as we go.  Geologic discussions in the field are one of the things I enjoy most, especially in the mountains.
My legs were pretty beat, probably from a lack of use.  These desk jobs are not all they are cracked up to be.  I decided to tell Jenny and Cole to take off for Argentine without me and I would meet them on the main ridge.  They agreed so we split up a few hundred vertical feet of the main ridge.
I found an awesome rock rib to climb up.  There was some beautiful metamorphic rock with very cool pegmatites.  I love to be adventurous so I put together a nice class 3 route, but there are easy ways to navigate around the rocks to stay on class 2 terrain.  I climbed up maybe 50 vertical feet of killer rock then the grass terrain came back in leading towards the ridge.  It didn’t look like Cole and Jenny were running up the mountain so I started rock hounding again.  I found some nice rose quartz among other rocks that would continue to weigh my pack down.
Pano from Squaretop to Torreys
Cole and Jenny had just made it over the first false summit and it looked like they had decided against climbing Argentine, as the weather was starting to turn.  Just then I spotted two ptarmigans in the rocks.  I always love finding these birds, and they seem to like being photographed.  I waited there so Cole and Jenny could check them out.
Now that we were re-grouped we started heading towards Wilcox.  We probably only had about half mile and 700 vertical feet to go, but at 13,000ft that can go pretty slow.  I was breathing pretty hard, so I took my sweet ass time.  The rocks along the west ridge are neat and I kept finding my pockets full of new specimens.  After a good march up the mountain we finally summited.
The weather was getting dark and gray, but nothing bad.  We enjoyed our solo summit, unlike the 100 people on Bierstadt across the road.  Cole brought up our summit beers and they were ice cold.  The funny thing was, we needed to put our gloves on to hold the chilled beer.  It started to snow graupel on us just as we decided to hit the road; I guess someone was telling us it’s time to get going.
Summit Beers
We decided to make a loop out of this trip so we just had to head down the gentle slope of the mountain, find our way through the trees and hook up with the road.  I had been on most of this part before, so it was nice knowing I kind of knew where to go.  We found our first snow field and I wasn’t about to walk down it, a glissade opportunity was finally here.  It was probably only 100 vertical feet down, but I’ll take what I can get.  Cole and I enjoyed watching Jenny do her first glissade, it was quite acrobatic.
The next snow field was rather steep and had no good run out so I told them we should just walk it.  The snow was a bit harder and it took us a while to cross it, but we were never in a hurry.  Always play it safe.
Once off the snow we had the willows to deal with.  Cole took point, and by the time he was done with them you would think a moose had trampled through.  On the other side it was a simple hike through the woods.  The down fall is pretty bad in this area, but we didn’t have any issue navigating our way through.  We started hearing gun shots so that was a little sketch.  As we kept making our way down it seemed like they were coming from the other side of the lake, so we slowly made our way to the road.  We met up with the road about 100 yards into the private property.  It wasn’t well staked so, keep that in mind if you use my GPS map for future hikes.
I highly recommend this route for anyone wanting to do Squaretop, Argentine or Wilcox.  We all enjoyed it, and the bonus is there are no people like the over populated 14ers.  I love the solitude of the 13ers; they are way more fun too.  Our next stop was Beau Jo’s in Idaho Springs for some mountain pie and beer.  And it was amazing.  Till next time. Cheers!
GPS Track
Date: 6/21/2014
TH Elevation: 11,200 feet
Mount Wilcox: 13,408 feet
Total Gained Elevation: ~2,260ft
Class: 2
Distance:  ~6 miles
Time: Lost Data 
Climbing Partner: Jenny, Cole

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