Peak(s):  Keller Mtn  -  13,085 feet
Date Posted:  08/08/2020
Date Climbed:   08/07/2020
Author:  Kellertaylor84
 Keller Mtn - East Ridge - Suggested Route   

I don’t traditionally write very many trip reports, but I felt after my hike up Keller Mountain that I have a responsibility to do so. If you read nothing else, please understand this hike is long (12.5 miles round trip / 4400’ of elevation gain over the duration), requires sound route finding, and has some challenging Class 3 segments that will test your abilities and in my humble opinion should only be attempted by very experienced individuals. Skip to the end if you want to hear back an easier route that we took down and would be much preferred to our ascent. With that said, this hike was AWESOME and one of the most beautiful myself and my friends had done – and didn’t see a single other hiker for the 10.5 hours it took us to hike it up and back. I’m hoping with sound information, and maybe 2 signs, more folks will get to take in Keller Mountain.

Given the mountain bearing my name has been a target 13er since becoming aware of it last year, I had done a lot of research on various sites to “prepare” myself and my buddies when going up, especially with the frequency of travel and likelihood we would be by ourselves. Most sites classified the East Ride route as a Class 2 with some “easy” Class 3 sections. Having done some “easy” class 3 14ers, Longs Peak etc, I assumed it would be similar and myself and the one hiker in my group that has done Longs classified this hike harder.

Friday August 7th, 2020 myself and two other experienced hikers took to the Rock Creek Trailhead just north of Silverthorne. Trailhead is good size and plenty of RV or camping areas along the couple miles of dirt road to the starting point. No 4x4 needed to reach the main trailhead. We were planning the East Ridge route to Keller Mountain and had a good grasp based upon prior reviews of what this would entail, we thought. All descriptions in short said: take boss mine trail to its end, follow not well used and faint trail / gulley to the ridgeline, then follow ridgeline to Keller.

The hike to the mine was extremely clear, easy, and these 2 miles took no time at all.

Rock Creek Trail

At the end though, the route finding began. For the next mile we found trail on and off for a while and eventually, given no trail we could locate, went very vertical for about 100-200 vertical feet towards the indicated ridge on gps (a must on this hike). At the top of this vertical section we found a trail that turned into grass just below tree line tundra and took it up the ridge.20511_02

When the trail faded, you can feel you’re on the ridge based upon the fantastic views and trees getting smaller, so we basically just head up. There are no real markers from well below tree line to the top to be clear. After most of the trees clear you have a great view of the first false summit as well as the talus hell you are about to endure.20511_04

The grade gets extremely steep and it is talus for days to the top of the many false summits. At the top of the first one (roughly 5 miles in) you get your first glimpse of the Keller Mountain summit another mile away. Once you descend you are entering the most challenging push of the hike. You don’t descend much but you hit the part of the route where you have to ledge climb for roughly .25 miles on the NW side of what appears to be an unnamed 13er itself. These ledges have multiple angles to attack – high / low / really low – but you’ll have to find the route you’re most comfortable with which was different on the ascent vs descent for us.20511_05

On the ascent I stayed high and tried not to lose any elevation, but coming back, we ended up dropping down a small gulley that was hard to cross / get a good line on and that proved challenging with the loose scree / talus but was more comfortable for us at the time. Once you clear going around this small peak, you hit the Class 3 section of the hike where navigating becomes paramount. My venture across this section to the summit proved OK, but I found myself trying to stay high and having to back track, drop down, and go around large exposed areas. I stayed on the south side the entire time as the North is not an option.

Class 3 Section

There is NO clear route and you must have sound footing and hand holds for most of this portion and there is some real exposure compared to the balance of this hike. Once you careful navigate these class 3 moves, the summit is within reach just .35 ish miles away with a quick climb up large talus and then an easy walk across the ridge to Keller’s Summit.

Summit Pano
Looking back from summit towards Class 3 section and false summits.

While the views are great and undoubtedly worth being 1 of 3 to summit in 2020 according to the summit registry, the impending adventure to plot your course back across the Class 3 section and ledges loom. Unfortunately once you do that you still have to battle the false summits and the endless talus back down to tree line. Once we did all of this painstakingly we began to follow our gps path up the mountain and at about 8.8 miles (total) we hit the large vertical incline I mentioned previously. It was clear that the trail continued NE and we decided to venture down in hopes it would circle back around towards the boss mine trial. 15 minutes later it was clear we were not going to be turning back towards the mine and we were running parallel with the boss mine trail itself.

Trail Down

While we couldn’t find the ventured trail on ANY apps or gps, we were walking on the best trail of the day (other than the hundreds – literally – of downed trees we had to scale) so we continued hoping for a connection. Unless the trees are cleared, you have to be very careful not to lose the trial during this part of the adventure.

The trail was littered with downed trees, literally hundreds you had to scale.

2 miles later (which seemed like hours given we were tired, anxious, and hopeful that we would not have to backtrack) we ran smack into the Gore Range Trail. The connection from Gore Range Trail to what I’ll call Keller Mountain Trail was not marked in anyway and was hidden by many downed trees.

This is from Gore Range Trail looking up the "trail".

.5 miles from there we hit the boss mine trial and another .5 miles back to the trailhead.

SUGGESTED ROUTE: Without a doubt the route to summit Keller Mountain in my opinion would be to take the boss mine (rock creek) trail to the connection with Gore Range Trail.

Dave "Trekman" Lipinski showing which way we would suggest heading!

Head west on Gore Range for .5 miles and attempt to find the southern trail connection (happens at about 9,900 ft elevation) that will literally take you straight up the entire ridge to tree line before you have to create your own path towards the first false summit.

In closing and a reminder, this is a 12.5 mile hike with for real Class 3 moves required and should not be taken lightly, but I hope with some realistic expectations of the fantastic adventure that is out there to grab more folks will be able to take advantage. Stay safe out there

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Comments or Questions

Great minds come up with the same idea?
08/08/2020 13:48
A friend and I did Keller in 2010 and took almost the exact same route you did. I don't recall the class 3 stuff being all that difficult but it was a long time ago. We took pretty much the same route down hitting the Gore Range trail. My partner had read somewhere about that ventured trail and we found it took it down to the Gore Range trail. One thing that has obviously changed is the number of downed trees. We didn't have all that many - in fact, that "ventured" trail was pretty damn good!

Nice report on a fun mountain!


Old Abandoned Mining Road
08/08/2020 14:23
I believe that trail was an old mining road. I used it a few times back in the 90's. It shows on the 1929 and 1934 Dillon, CO 15 minute maps but who has those except old timers like me. Like Jay521 said the trees are something to deal with. I enjoyed going that way and may try it again sometime. Nice report!

gore galore
As Mentioned
08/08/2020 23:43
This ventured trail is the lower part of the Old Abandoned Orphan Boy Mining Wagon Road that ends west from the Gore Range Trail in the Keller Mountain cirque. I have used this trail in the past for climbs in the cirque. This June I hiked this abandoned trail from the Orphan Boy Cabin to the G. R. Trail after climbing Orphan Boy Point, 10,765 from Boulder Lake. There is a huge erosion slide that has brought down hundreds of trees across a portion of the trail about a half mile from the cabin which makes for a nearly impassible crossing but can be done with a lot of work. The extent of the trail is littered by downed timber and is an exercise in trail finding and much patience.
I will also admit to having the 1929 Dillon, Co 15 minute map which according to planet54 will land me in the old timer category also!
Keller Mountain never seems to disappoint as the adventure in this report shows but I don't necessarily agree with the placing of two signs wherever they might go as the report suggests.

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