| McMillion Dollar Views: Red Mtn Pass Series
*Second Edition to the Red Mountain Pass Series
*Red Mountain Pass Series
This edition is the second in a series of trips taken over a period of two weeks. The idea of linking my three reports of three different mountains came only recently. The three peaks that we hiked are all along the Hwy 550/Million Dollar Highway/Red Mtn Pass area, and they're a reasonable bunch to do in winter when other peaks may have access issues or avalanche concerns. I hope I have provided enough information and inspiration for others to check them out.
Thank you, and I hope you'll enjoy these reports!
1st Edi., A Beating on the Anvil
3rd Edi., Duco
4th Edi., Just One More
December 22, 2013
McMillan Peak (12,804’)
San Juan Mountains
Red Mountain Pass area
Hikers: Terri Horvath & Darin Baker
Trailhead: East side of Red Mountain Pass summit area/Hwy 550 ("Million Dollar Highway")
Route: W face (see map w/approximate route at end of report)
Distance: ~4.5mi’s RT (miles/round-trip)
Elevation Gain: ~1650’
Difficulty: Class 2 snowshoe w/minimal avalanche danger
Note: There are areas that could be a problem if avalanche conditions are rated "considerable” or higher, but on our day the conditions felt safe on the route we were on.
Time to Complete: ~5hrs, 40min (includes breaks and time on summit)
The start of the hike off of Hwy 550/Red Mountain Pass summit area
Gear: daypack w/Essentials; additional seasonal/winter time gear (e.g., snowshoes, avalanche gear, goggles, thermos, etc.)
Resources Used For Trip Planning: summitpost.org (link); St Paul Ski lodge website; CAIC avalanche forecast; NOAA weather forecast; CDOT road conditions
A week before this hike, Terri and I had gone up Anvil Mountain which can also be accessed from Hwy 550 on the south side of Red Mountain Pass. On that outing, we enjoyed the scenery of the surrounding peaks in their early winter cloak. At the end of that day, a skier in the parking lot had suggested McMillan as another safe winter option. We both tucked that suggestion away as a possible future endeavor.
A week goes by with a couple of trips to the Ouray Ice Park, but it’s time for another peak. We had plans to try Duco Benchmark (13,339’ which is the highpoint of Brown Mtn A), but on Saturday there was fresh snow fall in the mountains and Red Mtn Pass received ~7” but without much wind. The approach for Duco crosses some avalanche run-outs before getting to the SW ridge, so we decided to skip to a Plan B.
We discussed several options, and in the end we made the decision to hike McMillan, and it’s a decision I’m glad we made! I think the views from Anvil were pretty sweet, but in comparison, I think the summit view from McMillan surpasses those of Anvil’s. Plus, this hike was easier!
Terri lives in Montrose so it’s a reasonable drive to make the morning of the hike. In fact, we didn’t start from the trailhead until 10am-ish! The nice thing about a 12er like this one is that the access is easy and it’s already at fairly high elevation, and once beyond treeline, there’s not much more elevation gain! I’m starting to like these 12ers more and more. ;)
The route follows CR 14 and goes past the St Paul lodge. Honestly though, we just followed the ski tracks and went in SE direction that would get us on the W face.
St Paul Lodge
After just a mile into our hike, we left the road in favor of going toward the W face. There were ski tracks continuing S on the road, but there were also tracks heading E towards the upper parts of the mountain. Here, skiers spread out for a variety of terrain. We continued to follow a track that took us to treeline.
Almost out of the trees and on the W face
In the above photo, we paralleled the skin track and went between the two clusters of trees. Once beyond those trees, our line to higher ground is behind (and above) the trees in the center of photo.
Terri coming up the slope above the trees
Terri takes over on lead for a while
Trico Peak (13,321’)
Which way to the summit?
In the above photo, we made the mistake of turning to the left near the saddle thinking the highpoint we could see (not pictured in photo) was the summit. However, it was Pt 12,572’. Not until we got a little higher did we realize we went in the wrong direction. (We should have veered to the right before the saddle seen above.)
A billboard to let us know that we were going to the wrong “highpoint”
Or is that a drive-in movie theater at 12K? Some of you youngsters might want to google to see what a drive-in theater is.
Terri coming over a bump en route to the summit
Redcliff & Coxcomb can be seen in the distance on the right.
The western most summit of McMillan, and peaks on the W side of 550 (Potosi in the distance on far right)
Terri heading to the true summit; Silverton below and residents of the Weminuche beyond
Billboard? Drive-in? Or maybe a sign to attract aliens?
Storm Peak A (13,487’) to the E/SE
Silverton Mountain ski operations & terrain (see both ridges in foreground)
“T 10” (13,477’)
Three Needles (13,481’)
(Summit is on right end of obvious ridgeline)
Kendalls, Grenadiers, Needle Mtns
To the S/SW
Time to go down and get out of the cold biting wind
Red Mountain No. 3 (12,890’), closest peak right of center
To the N/NE; Red Mtn No. 3 starting it off on the left
To the S from the west slopes of McMillan
Another fine day in the mountains -- as we're entering the Solstice swing!
Thanks for reading,
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):