Peak(s):  Silverheels, Mt  -  13,822 feet
Post Date:  09/08/2013
Modified:  09/09/2013
Date Climbed:   09/07/2013
Posted By:  rajz06

 Silverheels - The Road Less Traveled    

Starting Point: Beaver Creek TH (10,740’)
Peak Climbed: Mt. Silverheels (13,822’)
RT Distance: ~9.5 miles (estimated)
Elevation Gain/Loss: 3,500 feet (estimated)
RT Time: 5 hours 30 minutes (including 30 minutes on summit, 25 minutes on vantage points, and 20 minutes on poorly executed off-route descent)
Group: Solo

Everyone loves a gentle giant. Growing up in a culture replete with mythological tales, I was always fascinated by giants. One such giant was Kumbhakarna, from the Hindu epic Ramayana. When it was time for Kumbhakarna to reap the reward of his penance and secure a boon, a wicked scheme by the gods resulted in his tongue being tied and the blessing he asked for was for “sleep” rather than power over the gods. His “wish” was granted and his yearly cycle was being recumbent for six months and awake for six! So too, may be the case with Colorado’s highest peaks – that they sleep and become benign for half the year through summer and fall, and malicious for the other half when they create their own weather and snow conditions. My goal today was to visit the gentle giant of Centennial 13ers, Mt. Silverheels, and pay a visit while he was asleep!

Silverheels - The Gentle Giant

My research on the forum only brought up one report of an ascent up Silverheels’ south ridge and that was in winter so perhaps this will provide some useful beta. The Beaver Creek trailhead is in Fairplay, 0.3 miles north of the unmarked campground on FS 659, 5.0 miles along Beaver Creek Ln from the junction with 4th St.

Beaver Creek Trailhead

The trail starts as a 4WD road as it crosses to Beaver Creek’s east side and climbs up the lazy slopes.

Beaver Creek crossing

Gentle 4WD road

The grade of the road was gentle through this section and I decided to warm up with an equally gentle run. In about a mile as the road climbed to a high point, I found an offshoot heading north and followed this into the woods.

Detour but still a road

The road picked up in steepness approaching treeline, and views sprung to the northwest as the road meandered in and out of the thinning trees.

Meandering road

View to the west

Just over thirty minutes in, I got my first view of the crest of Silverheels, far enough in the distance that it appeared nothing like a giant - yet.

At treeline - the giant comes into view

The road headed toward Pt. 12,282 so I stayed on it as it skirted this summit on its west side.

Road heads toward Pt. 12,282

The rocky west slope of Point 12,282 looked prime for a quick scramble and I obliged!

Scramble to pt. 12,282

This summit provided a neat vantage point with lovely views all around.

View from Pt. 12,282

I surveyed the remainder of the route to Silverheels and realized that the appearance was somewhat deceptive.

Surveying the route to the peak

Nearly 2 miles remained and some 1600 feet of elevation would need to be gained over the broad south slopes. Roach rates this hike Class 1/1+ but I did not find anything resembling a Class 1 trail beyond this point. Of course, none was needed as I mentally mapped the best route to the summit. I descended off Point 12,282 and started an ascending traverse skirting the grassy slopes to my right.

Staying below the grassy slope

The hike from here was on tundra interspersed with rock gullies and it looked like the most direct approach would skirt Pt. 13,004 to its west or hiker’s left.

Skirting Pt. 13,004

Sidehilling across a rocky section

As I sidehilled around the grassy slopes, I found segments of a trail which petered out before long.

Trail? What trail?

I wondered if I’d missed the Class 1 trail by not going over Pt. 13,004 and made a mental note to hit this summit on my return.

Viewing the route taken

Even avoiding summing this point, there was a bit of elevation to be lost before I could start the final pitch.

One more short descent

At the final saddle

As I made it to the final talus leading to the summit, I spotted a herd of sheep on the final pitch.

Sheep on the rocks!

I accidentally startled the herd but was lucky enough to get a shot as they sped across the slope in front of me.

Sheep speeding!

I was inspired by the sight but still could not duplicate their pace up that final pitch! It wasn’t for lack of trying, though!

May Goatsspeed be with you!

Two hours and ten minutes after I’d forded Beaver Creek, I was atop Silverheels getting a rare birds-eye view of the entire route I’d taken.

Reviewing the route to summit

The views of the Tenmile range were striking as always.

Quandary and the Tenmilers

The next shot looks over the north ridge of Silverheels, with the familiar sight of Grays and Torreys in the distance.

View to the north

On my descent I made sure I summited Point 13,004. As I surveyed the area from this vantage point, I decided that I could skirt Pt. 12,282 and hit the road below treeline (planned route in blue).

Descent from Pt. 13,004

What’s that they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? No GPS and questionable route-finding skills do not make for effective short cuts!

I did a descending traverse circumventing Pt. 12,282 but headed too far west (hiker’s right) once I got below the trees.

Skirting Pt. 12,282

I didn’t intersect the road as I’d expected, and when I got to the creek I was greeted by this sight.

Ford that!

After some scouring of the area, I found spots where the creek split and was able to cross smaller waterways to make it across to the other side, joining FS 659 some two miles off the trailhead – a "shortcut" that added some 20 minutes to my descent, but hey, it was all in the spirit of adventure and it was scenic!

In all, it was a rewarding excursion into the lair of the gentle giant; I came, I saw, I tiptoed around the sleeping giant and left. May the mountains ever be so gentle.

Shhh...don't wake up the giant!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

Nice one, Raj!     09/09/2013 17:03
I've done Silverheels from the east and from the west. Looks like I'll have to head back and try it the way you did it. Thanks for posting this!


Less Traveled No More     09/09/2013 20:56
As long as people buy into the ego-filled posting of ”accomplishments” via this meaningless site (it does not do anything to preserve and protect the beauty of the 14ers and 13ers, quite the opposite), one is more likely to destroy the solitary experience one can still enjoy on some Colorado peaks. I haven't seen too many reports from you on Grays & Torreys, Bierstadt or Longs Peak. Do you avoid them because they're too crowded? Your post has just ruined this peak for the next hiker in search of solitude. Nice one, Raj!


Thanks...     09/10/2013 01:52
..Jay! I believe you will enjoy this route.
Chamonix: I'm hardly a pioneer when it comes to seeking less crowded routes to these peaks. These majestic peaks and landscapes have been around a few eons and will survive a few more after we're gone, and I'm just following my heart to their summits. I hope my reports convey my sense of awe at the grandeur of these mountains and carry their good tidings to like-minded seekers. I understand your point and have no misplaced sense of conquest in documenting my trips, only gratitude that my body and mind allow my heart to have its fill.


she     09/10/2013 02:22
Silverheels is a she, but other than that, you've posted another good report. I think your route is the same one that I did when I hiked Silverheels. Keep posting reports man, you do a fine job with them!

@Chamonix....why are you wasting your time on this site then? And whatever you do, don't look at the forum right now with congratulation threads going on. Your head might explode!


Mountain Encylopedia     09/10/2013 06:19
Raj, you are all about these mountains! I see your name on the trip report sections as often as I check the site I really enjoy reading your reports. I can't wait to start these more obscure peaks where route finding is more necessary. I'm going straight for your reports when I get there

@Chamonix... you need to get a life dude. You can have whatever opinion you want, but when you discourage someone else just to look like King Douche? Then you're garbage. Believe me, this ”meaningless site” wants nothing to do with you


I'm...     09/11/2013 01:56
...humbled by your support.
d_baker: Are all mountains of the female gender then? That would explain why I'm so drawn to them!
emohr: Thanks!


Silverheels     09/11/2013 10:15
The name is from a woman that lived in the area in the late 1800's (I believe.) She was reportedly the only one that had stayed in the area to care for the sick when they were going through a smallpox epidemic.

Many times a mountain will be referred to as she though. Not sure why that is.
Many other mountains are named after men.


Thanks     09/18/2013 01:45
I just did Silverheels via Hoosier Ridge today. Had I seen this report sooner, I probably would've chosen this route! Thanks for posting!

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