Peak(s):  Square Top Mtn A  -  13,794 feet
Argentine Pk  -  13,738 feet
Wilcox, Mt  -  13,408 feet
Otter Mountain - 12766
Date Posted:  06/03/2013
Date Climbed:   06/02/2013
Author:  Derek
 Back To Where It All Began...  

Back To Where It All Began...

Square Top Mountain A - 13,794'
Argentine Peak - 13,738'
Mount Wilcox - 13,408'
Otter Mountain - 12,766'

Mileage - 11.0 miles
Elevation Gain - 4,000'
Trailhead - Guanella Pass - Upper Lot
Route - Squaretop: West Slope, Argentine: South Ridge, Wilcox: West Ridge, Otter: West Slopes

And so it goes...
Sadly, this month (June) will officially be my final month as a Colorado resident. Changes in life and family have made it necessary to head eastward. It's upsetting knowing that I won't have any more "spur of the moment" mountain trips like I have had in the past 7 years, and going forward I will have to place a lot more time and effort into the planning. Looking towards the bright side, since my mountain travels will all require air travel, maybe I can put more of an effort into checking out other mountain ranges around the country.

Regardless, it has been a fun run here in Colorado and I have no doubts that I will truly miss it.

Back to the beginning...
The west Guanella Pass mountains were definitely not the first mountains I ever climbed. I had already clicked off a number of 14ers before I ever headed there. However, it is this group that I credit for starting me down the "lower peak" path that I would maintain throughout my years in Colorado. The seclusion I felt among these peaks many years ago would fuel my mountain desire for more than just summits, but for exploration. From my first trip up these mountains, the excitement of rarely traveled peaks continued to grow and there was no turning back. Obviously, the glory factor isn't always there when asked on a Monday at work "Did you climb a 14er?" and I have to respond with "No, but I climbed an unnamed 10er covered in trees!". But, that is where I found my mountain love, and to this day I credit those fun little mountains to the west of Guanella as starting me down that path.

I figured it would be fitting for me to take one more trip over these peaks before I headed out. To "go back to the beginning", if you will. With plenty of time on my hands (wife and baby are already out east) I decided to head up Saturday afternoon and watch the sunset from Guanella Pass. After an intimate evening involving just me, the sunset and a Subway sandwich, I drove a couple miles north of the pass to set up a bivy for the night.

Revisiting the old friends...
I woke up Sunday morning around 4:30, then proceeded to hit snooze for about an hour. Oops. By the time I finally rolled up to the TH, the sun was already covering the tops of the peaks. For some unknown reason (I blame it on the whirlwind of moving and boxes) I happened to forget my sunscreen at home. I cruised the Beirstadt parking lot and found some guys who were nice enough to hit me up with some. (Thanks guys!) I then headed up to the upper lot and started onto the trail at 6:15. Right off the bat, I could tell that a winter of LCW and IPW peaks had left me under acclimated for the higher mountains. I followed the Square Top Lakes trail for a mile or so as it made its way southwest in the general direction of Square Top Mountain. Right before the trail turns to the upper lake, I branched off towards the large, mellow slopes above. The slopes don't seem too steep, but the elevation sure seems to click away quickly. About 2 hours after leaving the TH, I was at the large, open summit.

Early morning shadows across the road on Bierstadt.

Square Top from along the first portion of trail.

Lower Square Top Lake.

Near where I left the trail and headed up towards the slope on the left.

Final 600' to the summit of Square Top.

Views to the NW from the summit. (Grays, Torreys, Argentine, Edwards.)

From the west end of the large summit, I dropped to the north towards the saddle of Squaretop and Argentine. There were some loose blocks to deal with, but I was able to find patches of snow that made for some nice glissades. The south ridge of Argentine was much snowier than I was expecting. As I slowly worked my way up, I had to use caution to maintain a good distance from a cornice on the left and the snow slopes off the right. There were a few tracks, and also some ski/snowboard lines along the ridge...likely left by KansasBoarder judging from his Trip Report. Once beyond this snowy portion of the ridge, I topped out on the second lower summit. The lower and higher summits are divided by some large power lines and a little work building. I stopped to see how the building had handled the winter (not well...filled with snow...) and finished the ascent to the true summit of Argentine.

Close look at the ascent ridge I was headed for on Argentine.

Naylor Lake from the saddle of Squaretop and Argentine.

Wilcox wearing a hat.

Headed up Argentine.

The shack between the two Argentine summits.

Wilcox from the summit of Argentine.

The descent from Argentine to the Wilcox saddle was tons of fun as I was able to glissade most of the way. The ascent from the saddle up to Wilcox was stiff, however I was able to spot a light trail through the talus that I don't recall seeing before. Nice! The summit of Wilcox was the first summit of the day that actually seemed warm. With the lack of a brisk wind (finally) I chilled out on the summit for a long stay. To the east were wonderful views of the Mount Evans Wilderness area, which I finally finished this past year. To the south I could just make out the northern end on the Lost Creek Wilderness, which sadly appears that within which I will be leaving 4 unfinished peaks. To the north stood many of the fun "I70" peaks...Bard, Parnassus, Citadel, etc. It felt good to take it all in one last time from the same spot as 7 years ago.

Looking back at my descent from Argentine, near the saddle with Wilcox.

Mount Wilcox.

Terrain up to Mount Wilcox.

Summit of Wilcox.

Seven LONG years ago.

2013. Older and balder.

After a long break, I decided to maintain an eastward heading instead of dropping back down to Naylor Lake. Otter Mountain was about 1.5 miles away, and somehow I had never gotten around to visiting its rounded summit. The terrain in between Wilcox and Otter was neat, almost like a prairie in the sky. There were mini water traps scattering the landscape, adding to the uniqueness. The ascent up Otter was straightforward, just a large round bump needing about 350' vertical to summit. The summit provided a pleasant percepective of the Guanella Pass road far below. From the summit, I headed southward towards a slight ridge that I could see on the topo map. It looked steep, but direct. And it was steep, and direct. It was steep enough in parts that I had to use trees to prevent from tumbling down the mountain. Before long, I popped out onto the Guanella Pass road, right near the winter closure gate. Now, in the winter I have no issue hoofing the final miles up to the pass. However, I was hot and didn't feel like walking the road in warm conditions. I stuck out my thumb and caught a ride back to my truck without issue. I know. I'm lazy. 8)

Otter Mountain, far in the distance.

Terrain on the way to Otter.

Clear, grassy slope to Otter.

The days trek from the summit of Otter.

Beirstadt and the Guanella Pass Road from the ridge descent of Otter Mountain.

Trees along the descent.

Looking back up at Otter during my hitchhike back to Guanella Pass.

Final map of the day.

Ta-ta for now...
And so it ends. I've loved my time here in Colorado, and will cherish all the memories of climbing its peaks. I've made lots of new friends and climbing partners, none of whom I will soon forget. I'll still be around the site, seeing who is going where and climbing what. I'll probably still even contribute to the trip reports, seeing as I will probably be out here for work/visits a few times a year. (You can't escape the Lost Creek Wilderness Trip Reports that easy;) ) Thanks for the good times...

Happy trails, safe travels, and keep heading up.

--Derek Freed

 Comments or Questions

hey Derek, your hat is crooked
06/03/2013 19:42
Derek, all of your friends will be here anytime you make it back man! Best of luck to you my friend! Great TR


Say it ain't so...
06/03/2013 19:53
I've enjoyed your TRs for awhile now. Thanks for all your contributions, Derek. Sorry that you have to go eastward. Gross.


Thank you Derek
06/03/2013 20:06
For all the valuable trip reports. I have used many of your reports in the past to guide me along the way on the more secluded, lower peaks that I also enjoy. Best of luck on your eastward journey. I am originally from the east coast.....can't exactly say I'm jealous of your future home.

Always wondered
06/03/2013 20:09
I always wondered what my ”last” hike in Colorado would be. Sounds like you bookended yours appropriately. You'll be missed out here. Good luck!

Wishing you and your family the best!
06/03/2013 20:33
Take care Derek. Are you on Summitpost or something similar?


We're gonna miss you!
06/03/2013 20:35
I don't know that I will EVER be able to hike or climb in the LCW without remembering my two treks with you. Best of luck to you, your wife and your daughter.


Gret report.
06/03/2013 20:36
I'll miss ya, buddy.


Good luck, my friend.
06/03/2013 20:59
Derek, we're all gonna miss you, and it was a pleasure to call you one of my hiking partners. Take care of those ladies!


Will miss you!
06/03/2013 21:07
These were some of my first ”lower peaks” too. I'll really miss your reports on the lower peaks. How will I ever know what's fun to hike when the weather is horrid over 12K?

Hope that you can make frequent travels west in the years to come!


Good luck and have fun...
06/03/2013 22:33
... in your new adventures. I've enjoyed your reports.

Brian Thomas

No, but I climbed an unnamed 10er covered in trees
06/03/2013 22:43
Unnamed 10ers covered in trees are very underrated. So sad you're leaving, where ever will I find a partner to climb unnamed 10ers covered in trees now?


good luck!
06/04/2013 00:59
Nice report and a fine farewell. Good luck to you and your family back east.
I'll miss your reports too, but I'm glad to hear you'll still be a contributing member here.
Safe travels....


06/04/2013 03:46
You'll always have a place to stay when you come back to finish the LCW.


Great way to bid adieu
06/04/2013 04:31
Thanks for the reports you've written. Best of luck and hope to hear of your return in the upcoming years.


06/04/2013 04:38
Your LCW and western IPW reports are my gold standard. Plus, I'll miss arguing Dostoevsky and Gogol with you. You'll lose the mountains, but gain the Kirtland's warblers. Happy trails, Derek.


06/04/2013 11:59
Derek, it was great to meet and hike with you a bit these last few months. At least you'll get to see more Tigers games. Good luck!


Bloody hell
06/04/2013 12:57
I guess we'll never get an after work Jeffco peak in. Damn.
Best of luck wherever you go, Derek.


Colorado will miss you
06/04/2013 14:31
Love your trip reports. Always thorough and about peaks I want to explore as well. Your contributions will definitely be missed!


Another fond farewell
06/04/2013 14:38
This is too bad Derek, you have been an integral part of this site, hopefully you will find time to explore new states and places now that you aren't confined to Colorado. There is more to life than the LCW. Although I must admit - when I stood atop McCurdy back in the fall, the first thought that came to my mind was ”Ok - I can now understand what Derek sees in this place”.

You can make the best of wherever you end up - goodluck.

Jon Frohlich

Farewell and best of luck out east
06/04/2013 15:04
Not the trip report I was hoping to ready today. Sucks to see you go. It was great to get to hike with you a few times and I wish we could have done a few more. Wish you luck and hope to see you back out here soon.


Wildflower cruxes
06/04/2013 15:17
Man we had some good times. Our western IPW trips will always be some of my favorite. I will not forget Martenette: the thick bushwack, the heavy scent of unseen Elk, the exquisite views, and the treasure filled register. Your love of wild places knows no bounds.

I want to share a little story about Derek:
Derek, Vonmackle, and I put together a trip for Valhalla from the South Rock Creek drainage in the Gore last August. What little we could find about the South Rock Creek drainage claimed it would be an arduous bushwack. Derek, in his usual fashion, planned the route and had all the maps. The night before the trip, Derek's daughter became sick and he had to cancel. Vonmackle and I decided to meet at the TH the next morning and head up blind, if you will. We drive up the TH at 6 AM and find Derek in his truck waiting for us. Seeing Derek was a great suprise. He lead us cross-country through thick deadfall and forest to our base camp at a lake high in the basin and then left us to descend back to his truck and his family. Regrettably, I haven't found the chance to hike with him since.

Derek, you are a good man. Thanks for the memorable adventures and laughs through the years. I look forward to reading of your future adventures in life and mountains!


Representing the mitten...
06/04/2013 15:32
You did it about as well as anyone. I've read and enjoyed all of your reports.

Good luck, dude...


Thanks ...
06/04/2013 15:50
For the many wonderful trip reports, and comments to daily topics. You will be missed. Best of luck to you and your family. Happy trails!


Take Care, Derek
06/04/2013 20:06
It's been a while, but it was a pleasure getting to know you at the happy hours. Best of luck to you and your beautiful family in Michigan.


06/04/2013 22:01
This is kind of sad...... Great photos. I hope you find interesting places to hike where ever you are headed.


06/05/2013 14:40
I never got to meet you, but Jay521 recommended I go hiking with you cause we share a similar love of bushwhacking the obscure peaks! Came close on Webster BM to running into you. You might leave CO, but CO will never leave you! Enjoyed your reports on this site and the old site as well!

That descent down the ridge on Otter is one of the most beautiful, those trees in there are stunning!


Good luck, Derek!
06/05/2013 20:46
I'm sure you'll find another niche to explore out East. Thanks for all the LCW reports - glad they'll still be coming.


06/06/2013 16:35
Sorry to see you go. I really enjoyed your LCW reports as they will come in handy in my future.

Best of luck to you!

you rock, Derek
06/06/2013 16:37
Will certainly miss your great beta via the reports. Looking forward to seeing you out here as soon as you can get back. Best always, the Sword.


Sorry to see you go
07/29/2013 18:29
You've definitely provided some great reports through the years. Best of luck!


Wishing you
04/02/2015 19:45
much health and happiness. It was great to hike a few times with you.

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