Peak(s):  Storm King Pk  -  13,752 feet
Seven, Pk  -  13,682 feet
Jagged Mtn  -  13,824 feet
Silex, Mt  -  13,628 feet
Guardian, The  -  13,617 feet
Hunchback Mtn  -  13,136 feet
Date Posted:  08/23/2018
Modified:  08/03/2019
Date Climbed:   08/11/2018
Author:  Mtnman200
Additional Members:   RandyMack, d_baker
 Wanted: Dead or Alive   

Randy and I made plans for four Weminuche Wilderness bicentennials (Storm King Peak, Peak Seven, Mt. Silex, and The Guardian) from Lake Silex and as well as Jagged Mountain (a centennial peak) from Sunlight Creek. When Darin (d_baker) heard our plans, he suggested that all five peaks could be climbed from a camp near Leviathan Creek. Because Darin also wanted to climb the same four bicentennials, we made plans to meet him at a campsite in the Leviathan drainage. Terri Horvath, who I was familiar with from the Fourteenerworld days but had never met, would also meet us there but had other climbing plans. Terri is a climbing machine and has done all but about 25 or 30 of the thirteeners.

Why is Bucky holding a SPOT? Darin and Terri know. You will, too, a few paragraphs from now.

Note: Sorry about the haze in many of the photos. That is visible smoke from numerous forest fires that we could even smell occasionally. Also, no marmots were punted in the making of this trip report.

Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. Randy and I left home mid-morning and made the six-hour drive to Silverton. It took another couple of hours to drive over Stony Pass to the Beartown trailhead. The road to Beartown has deteriorated over the past year; for details, see Darin's Trailhead Status Report.

After eating a quick dinner, we grabbed our backpacks and headed over Hunchback Pass to a very nice campsite about 1/4 mile past the intersection with the Nebo Creek Trail. There's something very peaceful about being in the Weminuche Wilderness, and we soon settled in for the night.

The view from our campsite near Nebo Creek

Friday, Aug. 10, 2018. Randy and I continued backpacking down the Vallecito Trail toward Leviathan Creek. We were beginning to get impatient and thought we might have missed the turnoff, but our InReach indicated we were essentially at the turnoff. After walking another 75 feet along the trail, we came to a cairn and some nearby surveyor's tape that Darin had thoughtfully left.

Randy and I brought water shoes for crossing Vallecito Creek, but the water level was so low that we rockhopped our way across the creek. At a trail intersection not long after crossing Vallecito Creek, we took the right fork (marked with animal bones) to continue up the informal, but surprising decent, trail up Leviathan Creek.

About an hour later, we encountered Terri who was on her way to the Vallecito Trail, hoping to find someone who might have a needle and thread for boot repairs. Terri's boot issues ended up postponing her plans to climb Peak Nine.

Randy and I continued on to a nice campsite at about 11,450' where we met up with Darin. We spent the afternoon resting and making plans for climbing Storm King Peak and Peak Seven with Darin tomorrow.

Our campsite was dubbed "Camp Hanging Post." The post has been there a long time.

Home sweet home for the next few days

Others have had marmot trouble near Leviathan Creek (e.g., Ben [benners] and Steve [marmot72, in a twist of irony]) and in nearby drainages. If you read what happened on Day 2 of Darin's July 2016 trip report, you'll understand why Bucky is on the Ten Most Wanted list.

Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018. Today, Terri would be soloing Leviathan Peak and Vallecito Mountain. Meanwhile, Randy, Darin, and I headed NW up the slopes until we reached an informal trail that headed toward the upper basin south of Peak Eight. We continued past an unnamed lake at about 12,480' and a pond at the Peak Seven - Peak Eight saddle. We then descended north until we could contour east at about 12,500' toward the 12,820' saddle between Storm King and Peaks Eight and Nine.

Vallecito Mountain and Leviathan Peak from near the unnamed lake at about 12,480'

Eddie and Darin discover there is no shortage of rocks on the way to Storm King Peak.

The ridge up Storm King Peak from the 12,820' saddle between Storm King and Peaks Eight and Nine

After a short break at the saddle to re-energize, the three of us climbed up the ridge toward Storm King Peak until we saw a way to traverse left (west) into a couloir. In hindsight, we should have climbed a bit higher on the ridge before moving into the couloir, but it all worked out fine. Soon, we topped out on the summit of Storm King Peak (13,752') but found no summit register. The weather was still great, with no clouds, which was nice after yesterday afternoon's hail storm.

View from the summit of Storm King Peak

A sea of rugged mountains as seen from the summit of Storm King Peak

And another view from the summit of Storm King Peak

Darin stands triumphantly on Storm King Peak

On the descent, we got out of the couloir and back on the ridge at a higher elevation than on the ascent. This was a good move and made for a faster, easier, and safer descent. From the 12,820' saddle, we reversed course and headed to a point a bit north of the pond at the Peak Seven - Peak Eight saddle.

A scramble west brought us to a 13,020' saddle on Peak Seven's north ridge. More scrambling ensued, sometimes up boilerplate slabs, and before long we reached the summit of Peak Seven (13,682') and signed the makeshift summit register.

The views from the summit of Peak Seven were fantastic.

With views like this, who wants to go home?

Another view from the summit of Peak Seven

And another great view from the summit of Peak Seven

After enjoying the views, we returned to the pond. On our way back to camp, we stopped to explore a wide rift in the rock on the east side of Peak Seven that still held a fair amount of snow.

The rock rift on Peak Seven

Snow in the rock rift on Peak Seven

Back at camp, Randy and I reviewed our plans to climb Jagged Mountain tomorrow. We intended to climb Jagged last year but were rained out on 8/13/2017 and hailed out on 9/3/2017. We were determined to stay ahead of the weather and redeem ourselves this year.

Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018. Today, Darin would be soloing Peak Six while Terri backpacked to her food cache near Rock Creek. At 4:45 AM, Randy and I were on our way toward Leviathan Lake. Unfortunately, we didn't take the best route in the dark, which definitely cost us some time. Once past Leviathan Lake, it was a straightforward climb up rock and scree to the Peak Six - Leviathan Peak saddle where we could see our objective.

Jagged Mountain taunts us (as seen from the Peak Six - Leviathan Peak saddle), but will we get the last laugh today, or will Jagged?

A climber's trail allowed us to quickly traverse to Jagged Pass and on to the first crux: a vertical crack followed by an exposed left-angling ramp. We were pleased to see only minimal water on the first crux and scrambled up. Above the first crux, we saw a rappel anchor, confirming we were on the right route.

As Randy and I climbed the ledges toward the cliffs above us, we got too close to the prominent couloir on our left and probably went up a harder route than necessary but soon were back on track. At the second crux (a tall step), I remembered pushing down onto a clump of grass in August 1991 to mantle myself up. This time, Randy and I made use of a wide crack at climber's left to get up this crux. It helped that we took off our packs and handed them up.

The third crux is about 40' below the notch that allows access to Jagged's SW face. There are two choices to get up the ledges: left (easier but more exposed) and right (shorter, less exposed, but a bit harder). We took the left choice and soon were at the notch.

A short traverse brought us to the chimney that became more difficult sometime in the past year due to a large rock that now blocks the top of what had been a Class 3 chimney. After looking at a possible bypass, we returned to the chimney. Randy was able to get a sling placed around the larger of the two rocks at the top of the chimney, which allowed me to belay him as he used a leg press technique (feet pressed against one side, and back pressed against the other) to get on top of the chimney. Because Randy was about 2.5' above the sling, he potentially could fall up to 5', but the security of the belay made the chimney seem surprisingly straightforward.

From the top of the chimney, Randy scrambled the short distance to the summit of Jagged Mountain (13,824'). The cover page of the Colorado Mountain Club summit register included a comment that "guides caught top-roping will be shot on sight."

The chimney on Jagged Mountain, with our sling around the boulder. Randy is out-of-sight above the chimney, on his way to the summit.

A hazy view from near the final chimney just below the summit of Jagged Mountain

After Randy returned to the chimney, I belayed him down and then took my turn climbing to the summit. It felt great to redeem ourselves after not even starting up the first crux last summer due to wet and icy conditions.

We retrieved our sling in case we needed to back up one of the rappel stations on the way down, plus we would soon need the locking carabiner. Our 30-meter rope was just long enough for a double-rope rappel at the third crux, but at the second crux it was about three meters short of reaching below the big step. Randy set up a rope retrieval system that allowed us to do a single-rope rappel. We used the same system at the first crux, which we knew in advance would require a single-rope rappel with our 30-meter rope.

Our rope retrieval system at the second crux. The locking carabiner allows safe descent even if the knot managed to pull through the quick link (we made sure it couldn't), and the white cord tied to the end of the rope allows easy retrieval of the rope and carabiner.

Eddie is rappelling below the first crux. Almost to terra firma! No Jagged trip report is complete without the obligatory rappelling photo.

Back on secure ground below the first crux, we could finally relax and celebrate with some Powerbars. Clouds had been building, so soon we headed back to the Peak Six - Leviathan Peak saddle. A little light rain fell for about 15 - 20 minutes near the saddle, but we didn't mind.

The Peak Six - Leviathan Peak saddle and Leviathan Peak (right) from Jagged Pass

Leviathan Lake from the Peak Six - Leviathan Peak saddle

Randy celebrates his centennial peaks completion by making a "C" at the Peak Six - Leviathan Peak saddle. He did 87 of the centennial peaks as an out-of-state climber from 2009 - 2014.

We found a better route back to camp, arriving at 2 PM. Rain fell from 4 PM until 6 PM but couldn't dampen our spirits after how well the day had gone.

Monday, Aug. 13, 2018. Today's goals: Mt. Silex and The Guardian. I decided to be a slacker today but did get up to see Darin and Randy off at first daylight. They set out climbing up grassy slopes to reach a bench at around 12,400' which led to the basin below Mt. Silex and The Guardian.

Looking south down the Vallecito Creek valley from the basin below Mt. Silex and The Guardian

From there, Darin and Randy hiked over boulders and talus up the basin to reach the grassy (and often loose) ledges that cover these two peaks on their southwest slopes. They climbed north and northwest to reach the southwest ridge of Mt. Silex a couple hundred feet below the summit and then hiked and scrambled up the rocky ridge to reach the summit of Mt. Silex (13,628'). The views of Storm King Peak and The Guardian were quite impressive from Mt. Silex.

Darin reaches the summit of Mt. Silex

The Guardian as seen from the summit of Mt. Silex

A dramatic view of Storm King Peak from Mt. Silex

View to the southwest from Mt. Silex, with Windom and Sunlight Peaks visible on the left.

Darin checks out the dramatic view of The Guardian (the next objective for Darin and Randy)

Selfie featuring Randy and Storm King Peak

After a short break on the summit, Darin and Randy headed back down the way they came until they were low enough to begin traversing toward the saddle between the two peaks. After reaching the saddle, they discovered a ledge system that led them toward The Guardian below the 13,220' high point on the ridge between Mt. Silex and The Guardian. This traverse route was very well-cairned.

The ledge system led to a series of gullies below The Guardian's summit ridge. After scrambling partway up a couple of these gullies, Darin and Randy decided that the climbing would be easier on a rock rib separating two gullies (less loose rock), and they were able to reach the summit of The Guardian (13,617') this way. Neither peak today had a summit register.


The Leviathan Creek drainage as seen from The Guardian. Can you spot our campsite? (Hint: Look for the orange tent where a slacker is napping.)

The view looking northwest from the summit of The Guardian

The Guardian is well-named, standing prominently over the Vallecito Creek valley as if guarding it against intruders. For this reason, the view from the summit is quite dramatic. Our campsite was even visible from there!

An impressive view south down Vallecito Creek from The Guardian

Randy stands on the summit of The Guardian

Darin looks south from The Guardian

The Guardian stands dramatically above Vallecito Creek, seen here from the summit

Rio Grande Pyramid and The Window are visible in the distance from The Guardian

Mt. Silex as seen from The Guardian

Darin checks out the view to the east from the summit

After spending some time enjoying the view from the summit of The Guardian, Darin and Randy began decending, returning to the saddle the way they came before. From there, they carefully hiked down steep dirt and rock slopes and downclimbed some gullies to reach easier talus and scree slopes leading down to the basin where they began. From the basin, they retraced their steps back to camp.


Darin is climbing down The Guardian a couple hundred feet below the summit.

Looking up at The Guardian from the Leviathan basin

Looking south down the Vallecito Creek Valley from the basin below Mt. Silex and The Guardian

After Darin and Randy returned, the three of us broke camp and backpacked down to the Vallecito Trail, where we took a much-needed and well-deserved break before heading to our respective campsites. Darin stopped near Rock Creek where Terri was camped, while Randy and I headed on to our previous campsite near Nebo Creek.

Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. After sleeping in, Randy and I backpacked to Hunchback Pass. Randy wanted to climb Hunchback Mountain (13,136'), so I waited at the pass while he headed NW to Hunchback Mountain's east ridge and then continued west to its summit. Not surprisingly, Randy didn't find a summit register.

White Dome as seen from Hunchback Mountain. These two peaks can be combined with Peak One.

Vallecito Lake from Hunchback Mountain

Hunchback Mountain as seen from Hunchback Pass

The trail at Hunchback Pass

After Randy returned to Hunchback Pass, we continued down to the trailhead. In a few minutes, Terri and Darin arrived. After saying our goodbyes, we made the short drive to Kite Lake for more adventures, while Darin and Terri headed back down the Beartown Road to civilization. All in all, we couldn't be more pleased with how the start of our trip went.

For Part 2 (Kite Lake and Beartown peaks), click here.

Blue = ascent routes to Peak Seven & Storm King and Mt. Silex & The Guardian; red = descent routes back to "Camp Hanging Post"

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

Great trip, guys!
08/23/2018 03:28
Those are some amazing mountains!


08/23/2018 11:00
No troubles with marmots this trip?

Congrats to Randy for finishing the Centennials!

Gotta love that area!


Levi turn-off
08/23/2018 12:09
Latitude: 37.63928
Longitude: -107.53535

The above lat/long is from my SPOT device and it's where we turned off the Vallecito to access the trail into Leviathan. The trail isn't "noticeable" from Vallecito until about 10-20 yards through the tall grass, and then the trail reveals itself.

Ricky, no problem with marmots! Didn't even see one near camp, and I think I only saw one baby marmot up higher near the lake below Pk Seven.

Eddie & Randy, thanks again for having me along! And congrats to both of you for the centennials! (Eddie's second go-around!)


10/05/2018 17:50
1. Thanks, Doug. We had a good time and agree that the mountains in the Weminuche are amazing.
2. Ricky, I've been seeing fewer marmots, deer, elk, etc. the past couple of years. Fewer spiders in the boulder fields, too. And thanks for congratulating Randy. He was quite pumped up to finish on Jagged.
3. Darin, thanks for climbing with us and especially for suggesting Leviathan Creek. That definitely saved us some work and made for better camping as well.


More Direct Route Into Leviathan Basin.....
09/26/2020 00:04
After hiking into Leviathan Basin, I am adding in some beta for the benefit of those who come here to use this trip report. I used the coordinates listed by Darin to cross Vallecito Creek and make the right turn to go towards Leviathan Creek, then the left turn to go up into the basin. On the hike out, I discovered a partial trail that went straight down to Vallecito Creek, thus not needing to cross Leviathan Creek (I actually was not near Leviathan Creek), and, best of all, the straight shot to the Vallecito Creek allowed for boulder hopping to cross the creek, and thus, no need to remove my hiking boots and ford the creek.

The beta to use going UP INTO the basin is listed below, so the short cut can be used both ways.

When hiking from Beartown TH, go down hill, pass Stormy Gulch, pass Rock Creek, then about a mile (or more) from there, go to this point:
N 37.644807 / W -107.530568
This is the turn off from the main Vallecito Trail. There is a small cairn at this spot (I bolstered with loose rocks and a piece of wood). The trail goes off at a 45 degree angle, not a 90 degree turn.

Then, there is a turnoff from the secondary trail to cross the north end of the meadow, to access Vallecito Creek. This meadow is the same meadow used for the previously mentioned crossing by Darin, but this path will be further north (i.e. closer to Beartown TH):
N 37.643924 / W -107.531845

The exact point to stand on the east side of the Vallecito Creek and see a collection of larger boulders allowing for walking across the water is:
N 37.644887 / W -107.532414
The boulders are exposed enough to walk across, then on the west side of Vallecito Creek, the route goes straight up, crosses through a grassy/plant like section, and then you merge/join right into the trail going up into Leviathan Basin. On the way down, I followed the normal trail and continued straight, where there is a slightly defined path, and this lead me to discover this slight short cut. I just followed the foot tracks in the existing plant growth, thinking this was the main trail. I was happily surprised to see water running north to south, which I knew was the Vallecito.

Disclaimer: If the water flow in Vallecito Creek is high (during May, June), this route may pose an issue, because the rocks/boulders I crossed could be under water. Darin's coordinates would act as the default spot, given that is the normal crossing (I did take off my boots and walk through this spot going up).

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