| Tuesday 13er Trifecta
Estimated: 11 miles, 3800' vertical gain.
Square Top Mountain, CO Rank #111
Argentine Peak, CO Rank #131
Mount Wilcox, CO Rank #315
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Since mid-May, Kevin and I have made the best of several open Tuesdays by hitting peaks around the Front Range. This week, we'd bandied about several options, and narrowed things down to either the Apache-Navajo traverse (my idea) or a loop connecting Square Top, Argentine, and Wilcox (Kevin's). With the forecast offering a shaky, but acceptable 40% chance of T-storms, we opted for the latter, figuring the shorter approach and multiple bailout options would be safer and more efficient.
Most people seem to hike Square Top from Guanella Pass, but that route doesn't work if looping the cirque around Naylor Lake from Square Top around to Wilcox is the objective. In looking over available trip reports here and elsewhere, we didn't see anything that mentioned starting this particular combo at the Silver Dollar Lake TH. However, this route works really well, as no backtracking is required and it yields two bicentennial 13ers plus Wilcox.
The Silver Dollar Lake TH can be reached at a turnoff about a mile from Guanella Pass. It's well signed, and there's a small parking area across the road. We hit the trail, motoring through the forest toward treeline. Just before we left the trees behind, rain began falling, and we hunkered down under some trees for about 15 minutes. Then, it was decision time. Going all the way to Silver Dollar Lake seemed silly, as the ridge to our left wasn't getting any less steep or loose. While checking out potential ascent paths, I looked over at Argentine:
The rain clouds were giving way to patches of fog alternating with blue sky, so we we began the grunt up wet, slick grass that was dotted with rocky sections that provided better traction. This was steep, reminiscent of a hasty, rainy descent from Jones Mountain into Burns Gulch a couple summers ago. This time, though, the weather was cooperating. There were only a few sections of loose crap, but enough to make me inch closer to wishing I had trekking poles for stability.
I stopped to take a breather and snapped this shot of Naylor Lake.
Once atop the ridge, we stopped for a few moments and continued on to Square Top. Those of you who've hiked this peak know that it's a long bloody trek across the summit ridge. No, it's not hard or steep; rather, it seems to take longer than it should. The summit's about half a mile from the putative high point seen here.
Once on top, we took about ten minutes to refuel and take some pictures.
I believe this is Shelf Lake, nestled below Decatur Mountain. I'm sure someone out there can correct me if that's something else.
On toward Argentine
As we neared the Square Top-Argentine saddle, I looked over at Mt. Wilcox, hoping that the weather would hold. From this vantage point, the ridge looks like it could hold some interesting scramble opportunities.
Looking back up at Square Top.
Like the first peak, Argentine's summit doesn't immediately emerge. Ascending from the saddle to the first hump was steep, but quick. Unlike Square Top, there are some diversions up here, owing to the presence of electric lines that cross the peak.
We were glad to find this little shack open, noting that it looks well-grounded and could save our butts if the building clouds decided to mean business.
From the summit, we had nice views of Grays & Torreys, as well as Square Top.
I was getting a little sketched out by the weather, and was ready to head out, even willing to forego Wilcox if necessary, so we marched on, praying that the power lines wouldn't attract anything more potent as we hurried down. Most of the nasty clouds seemed to hover above Grays & Torreys or well behind Square Top, but the sky was clear in most directions, including that of Wilcox and of my truck.
I could tell Kevin really wanted to grab Wilcox, so I told myself to man up, and we headed toward its summit. Along the way, he got ahead of me, and struck a pose.
Once atop Wilcox, we looked down at our long, gentle return down a ridge that we hoped would end with a short bushwhack that ended right next to my truck. This option seemed preferable to dropping down to the end of Naylor Lake and walking the road back down.
As we descended, we could see the Silver Dollar Lake trail across the way. It's faint, but visible about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom of the photo, starting at the left margin, and tracks horizontally across, parallel to the ridge top.
On our ascent, we passed the narrow snow strip, then the lower cliff band that goes upward to the right, and followed the narrow grassy strip, emerging just right of the big ridge bump. If I knew how to add arrows in, I would, since it'd make this more obvious…
We managed to avoid the willows at the ridge bottom, and spent only 10 minutes or so bushwhacking through the trees to the road. We emerged only a few hundred yards away from my truck, where goodies awaited.
No Flat Tires here. If I ever do Bierstadt or Sniktau again, New Belgium would seem more appropriate. I'd never really considered IPA and donuts before, but man, did they go well together after this hike. Lamar's is becoming a must-stop on the way out of town for local hikes. Next time, I'm gonna bring one for breakfast, one for the summit, and one to munch on post-hike. Maybe a good stout, say, Old Rasputin, would go well with it.
Technical note: My camera lens is both scratched and scuffed, so the pics are bit scruffy, but I think having this route on file in a TR will outweigh the shoddy pics in the long run. Besides, I'm not selling these or anything. For informational purposes only.
Thanks for reading.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):