| A Lazy Day on Guanella Pass, or so I Thought
On wednesday, Chase and I made a plan to go hike Holy Cross via the Halo Ridge. I wanted to get one more simple hike in before winter comes in this weekend. He planned to meet me in Golden at 4 and we head out from here. When the alarm went off though, i was comatose. i texted him to meet me at 430. He shows up around 5, and we both are not feeling the drive or the long day ahead. Since we woke up so damn early, we didnt want to waste it, so we decided to head up to Guanella Pass and hit some 13ers. I had a read a couple trip reports from others detailing the Square Top- Argentine - Wilcox combo from Naylor Lake and thought that fit the bill for a lazy day. Chase agreed, so after wasting more time at starbucks we were on the road by 610.
The first issue we had was not being able to find the silver dollar lake trailhead. A trip report said it was about a mile from the pass and well signed. We drove around both sides of the pass, going down a private driveway on the grant side of the pass before realizing our error. We drove back and parked on the top of the pass. Now it looked like we were just going to get square top...this day was getting lazy fast. Finally we started hiking about 8am. The weather was amazing and the temperature was pretty much ideal, so I figured it was still a pretty good day.
The trail up square top is great. Very easy to follow. There was a little of bit of ice on a few sections in the willows, but we managed fine in trail runners. The trail goes along the side of the slope for a while until starting to gain elevation near the lakes.
approaching the first false summit
id say square tops trail is a little steeper than Bierstadt on average, but its not bad at all. There are a few false summits but the true summit pops up eventually. The summit is big! I had always thought squaretop was rather unimpressive from guanella pass, but i was proven wrong.
summit of square top
While sitting on the summit and admiring the views, we discussed heading over to argentine and wilcox. They didnt look that far away, but I knew that we end up pretty far from the car. I remembered the trip reports saying the silver dollar trailhead is about a mile from the pass and suggested to chase that we go for it. we figured it wouldnt be more than an extra mile and a half. We both agreed that just square top was not enough of a day and began descending down squaretop to argentine.
looking back at squaretop on the way to argentine
In my opinion, this was the crappiest segment of the hike. It was a little snowy, and the talus was kind of loose in places. It was relatively slow going, but it was easy enough. Before long, we were at the low point of the ridge. The views are absolutely awesome...for me it was a new look at areas that I have been in before, so that was really cool. There are some powerlines which are ugly, but everything else is so awesome I hardly noticed. There is a little house on the ridge, anyone know what thats about? it looked like it was anchored pretty well and seemed to be in reasonable shape (for being at 13000 feet).
the ridge to argentine peak
little house on the ridge
scenery on the ridge to argentine
The trudge up to argentine is definitely not as bad as it looks. From square top, i thought it was going to be a mix of loose talus and snow. Turns out it was pretty solid. There was some snow, but it was shallow...there was one icy section that was over some pretty steep snow but it was short. Before too much longer we were cruising to the top of argentine peak. Looking to Naylor Lake, it didnt seem like we would be that far to the road. it also looked as if it was close to the top of the pass. I felt confident that we had made a good choice
summit of argentine
chase on top
more summit scenery
After a few minutes relaxing, we began heading over to Mt. Wilcox. The descent to the low point of the ridge seems to take longer than it should. You get a good view of squaretop...looks like there is a pretty sweet couloir in the middle of it, anyone know anything about this?
ridge to wilcox
the ridge to wilcox looks like it will be loose and ugly near the top, but as it turns out its solid talus that is very easy to ascend. We topped out on wilcox and took a few minutes to really sit and take it all in. The view you get of bierstadt-sawtooth evans is amazing...makes them look like a pretty serious group of peaks. Looking down towards the lake, the descent seemed easy and obvious.
grays and torreys back there
chase on wilcox
me on wilcox
bierstadt sawtooth evans
The descent route is mainly just sidehilling down mellow grassy slopes. It gets a little tedious, but its easy. We aimed for the start of the road, not realizing that naylor lake is private property. Luckily no one was there and we cruised on out of there. To avoid the private property, youd have to continue angling through the forest for a ways and then cut down to the road. wouldnt be too difficult.
long cruise down grassy slopes
Now all we had to do was walk down the road and back to the pass. As we walked down the road, I realized we were losing a pretty good amount of elevation. I started to think maybe i wasnt as clever as I thought as I was. We passed the trailhead that we were looking for in the first place (silver dollar lake) and i lamented the fact that the car could be right there. But it wasnt, so we marched on. Finally, we reached the road. I instantly realized we were at the winter closure. DOH!! from hiking bierstadt this winter, i knew it was roughly 2 more miles to the pass. Bummer.
We laughed our way up the road, hoping a motorist would help us out and give us a lift, but no dice. Some guy in a truck drove by and gunned it past us. appreciate it dick. We trudged onwards, deciding to cut some of the switchbacks to save distance and effort. We saved distance. We came up through the forest to find a 20 foot retaining wall blocking us. definitely the crux of the day. There was a way around it to the left up a steep icy hill. fun times.
5.7+ id say
Finally after one final bushwack through the willows we were back at the car. we were done! i ran over and ripped off my shoes and socks as fast as i could and plopped down in the seat and closed my eyes for a couple minutes before heading back down to golden.
This is a really, really cool route. The route finding is very simple, the terrain is easy and the views are spectacular. Just make sure to park at the silver dollar trailhead, or at least at the winter closure lot. Id guess our mileage was somewhere between 12 and 15 miles. previous trip reports say different things, so it may remain a mystery. It took us about 8.5 hours car to car. I am starting to see what people like about 13ers...being able to get off the beaten path is nice. We didnt see a single person all day long.
Now bring on winter!!
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