| Square Top -> Argentine -> Wilcox Loop
Square Top Mountain (13,794', CO #111), Argentine Peak (13,738', CO #129) and Mount Wilcox (13,408', CO #316)
Date: 25 August 2013
Trailhead: Guanella Pass
Distance: 10.42 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 4915' total (according to my GPS)
Time: 6:30 round trip
I had planned to lead my friend Barry up his first class 3 fourteener this weekend, but with rain forecast all weekend we decided to postpone. That left me looking for a last minute option so I turned to my bicentennial list for inspiration. As my left ankle was still sore from a bad roll in June, I was looking for something relatively easy that I could hike by myself. Square Top Mountain quickly popped up as an easy and relatively close climb. When I saw that I might be able to knock out the nearby bicentennial Argentine Peak and ranked 13er Mount Wilcox on the same hike, I had a plan for Sunday morning. I downloaded a GPS track of the 10-mile Square Top-Argentine-Wilcox loop from Guanella Pass and uploaded the track in my GPS.
I left the house in the dark early Sunday morning and drove my Jeep to Guanella Pass via the southern route through Grant on CO Rte 285. This route is probably no faster than the northern route via Georgetown on I-70, but it was a nice change of pace. North of Grant, Guanella Pass Road is dirt and a little rough in places. However, as I climbed toward the pass, the road got progressively better. The top section at the past must have been paved in the last year or two. As expected, it was a mob scene at Guanella Pass, but I parked in the west side lot and was one of only a few people hiking west from the pass instead of hiking east to the fourteener Mount Bierstadt. I started hiking from the parking lot at 11,680' at 7:28 am in my new Asolo Drifter GV boots. (I paid $79 for these in like new condition at the REI used gear sale. They cost $230 new.) There was a well-established trail leading from the pass toward Square Top Lakes. I hiked at a good pace and passed a few hikers along the way. After a left turn away from Square Top Lakes, the trail became fainter. At about 12,240' I turned right onto Square Top's southeast ridge where the trail faded away and the route became a little steeper. I reached the large flat 13,794' summit of Square Top Mountain at 9:11 after just an hour and 42 minutes of hiking. While on the Square Top's summit for about 10 minutes, I talked with Valerie (IHikeLikeAGirl) who had previously climbed Argentine and Wilcox, but had not done the loop.
At only 9:15 am, my ankle was feeling fine in my new boots, the skies were looking reasonable, and Argentine Peak didn't look all that far away so I decided to do the loop. The initial descent off Square Top was a little steep on somewhat loose talus, but not too bad. From Square Top's summit it took me just under half an hour to descend 800' to the bottom of the saddle connecting Square Top and Argentine. The ascetics of the climb along the ridge to Argentine were somewhat diminished by the power lines crossing the ridge just south of Argentine's summit. I reached Argentine Peak's 13,738' summit at 10:35 am, an hour and 15 minutes after leaving Square Top's summit. On Argentine's summit, I was joined by two other hikers who had hiked up from the Silver Dollar Lake Trail. I later learned that this trail might have been a better way for me to descend on the south side of Naylor Lake. After trading some pictures on Argentine, I headed back toward Square Top but quickly curved to the east and followed the ridge to Mount Wilcox. I descended about 950' to the Argentine-Wilcox saddle and then followed the more complex ridge up to Wilcox's 13,408' summit under increasingly cloudy skies. I reach the summit of Wilcox at 11:49 am, 57 minutes after leaving Argentine's summit. A few flakes of snow fell on me while I was on Wilcox. From the summit, I had a clear view of my destination at Guanella Pass 2.8 miles away - as the crow flies, not as I hiked.
My plan was to follow the GPS tracks I had downloaded which would lead me to the road connecting Naylor Lake and Guanella Pass Road. My initial descent of Wilcox was on nice grassy terrain, but was followed by some side hilling and then a steep descent toward the east end of Naylor Lake. At some point as I got close to the lake, I entered the Naylor Lake Club's private property. The closer I got to the cabins on the south side of Naylor Lake, the more I suspected that I was on private property. As I was walking behind what looked like guest cabins, a lady called out to me and asked if I knew I was on private property. I honestly answered "no", apologized, and asked her what the fastest way was for me to get off the private property. She pointed me down the dirt road and didn't make a big deal of it. I later learned that some hikers do get chewed out when trespassing in this area. It wasn't until I passed through a gate down the road that I saw the first private property/no trespassing signs. Just a little beyond the gate, I passed the Silver Dollar Lake trailhead and parking area. In retrospect, I should have read the trip report from which I got the GPS tracks more closely as it did mention crossing private property. It looks like a reasonable way to avoid the private property would be to head toward Silver Dollar Lake from around 12,600' on Wilcox's southeast side. This route would likely require a steep descent and then short steep climb back up toward the lake, but it would put you on the Silver Dollar Lake trail which just skirts the Naylor Lake Club property on its south side.
I finally reached Guanella Pass road at 1:20 pm. The signs a the parking area at the 10,870' road intersection provided me with a full picture of the area and the private property. From intersection I slogged 1.2 miles up Guanella Pass road cutting two switch backs to save some distance, but probably not much effort. I got back to my car at 2:00 pm after 6 hours and 30 minutes of hiking. My GPS measured the loop as I hiked it at 10.42 miles with a healthy 4915 feet in elevation gain. While my feet were definitely feeling the distance and climbing, I was very happy with how my new boots felt on their first serious test. And my ankle held up pretty well as well. The summer Sunday afternoon traffic on CO 285 was heavy, but kept moving and I made it home in plenty of time for dinner.
Route showing private property to avoid
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):