Peak(s):  Dolores Peak  -  13,290 feet
Middle Peak  -  13,300 feet
Date Posted:  10/12/2020
Modified:  10/13/2020
Date Climbed:   10/03/2020
Author:  Bombay2Boulder
 Middle and Dolores Peaks -The fun summer route   

San Miguels, the premier chossineering destination in Colorado. If you have experienced the peaks here in all their summer-dry spell-no moisture chossy glory, you get it. There was very little beta about these peaks online, so these two were on the dread list as people had mentioned horrible choss conditions in summer. The cooney's have a good route on their website for these, I will recommend following those, I did for the ascent and had a great time. Special shout out to supranihilest, his trip and condition reports have been really helpful for me, especially on how to avoid the sucky parts of any routes. :D But for real, thanks to his trip report, I had a very good idea of what route not to take. :P

I am hoping this trip report helps those who want to climb these peaks in summer and looking for a better route up these. These are two very highly visible and dramatic peaks if you drive in this area. You have seen them from the Kilpacker trailhead, I didn't know which these peaks were when I was down there for the first time almost 5 years back. One thing I would like to highlight that this is an excellent area for dispersed camping. There are tonnes of dispersed camping sites on the road to the "trailhead". I would love to come back here and camp in summer, this can be really good if you want to bring family and kids here, lots of fun hiking in the area for everyone if the kids don't want to join for the peaks. Strava has the stats for these peaks at 6.39 miles with 4,134 ft of gain. (It might not be accurate.)

The fish creek trailhead is almost 2WD accessible. The final 100 yards need clearance, but any SUV or subie can make it to the "trailhead" Please look up climb13ers for the TH directions. There are a couple of camping spots at the trailhead and space to park almost 6-7 cars if people arent camping and haven't claimed the space. If you are visiting this area during hunting season, please make sure you are wearing bright colors and are visible, this is a popular area amongst hunters and you would be off trail from the get go. Same with pets, make sure they are wearing orange.

So now for the route, make sure you DO NOT follow the fish creek from the trailhead. There is a trail sign there and even a climber's trail but it will lead to terrible bushwack at some point. Also, I will absolutely recommend going up Middle Peak first if you are doing this in summer, the descent of Dolores is loose and will be not fun to go up in summer (more on that later). So for the starting point, if you are at the trailhead and facing towards the peaks, on your left side you will see a shelf that looks like a old road, just go up there and follow the road/gpx/map. There are a lot of old logging roads on the approach here. You will avoid any bushwack if you follow those to the correct drainage. I absolutely did not have any bushwack on my approach all the way to the Middle- Dunn Peak saddle. Extremely pleasant and mellow approach.

The Trailhead and the shelf section

On the shelf , old logging road , this is like 25 ft up the trailhead.


Taking the old logging road towards the Dunn-Middle Peak saddle. There are a lot of roads here, just follow whichever leads in the direction


Looking back, forest taking over the old roads.

Going deeper in the forest, still on old road, not a lot of deadfall and very pleasant hiking, the Dunn-Middle saddle is coming into view

Dunn Peak on left


Middle Peak comes into view

Aim for the saddle


This is the most dense part of the approach, still no bushwhack or deadfall.

Forest regrowing

V pretty. I stayed from the creek on the approach, the area around the creek is extremely cliffy, no need to go there


Middle Peak's ridge visible on the right. That's the ridge you will take

Some sidehilling on Talus, there was a use trail there

Looking back towards Dunn Peak's ridge. You can take this as an alternate route up Dunn Peak first

Dunn Peak ridge on the left

Approaching the saddle. Getting closer

Saddle visible on the center right.

I was very surprised to see a use trail all the way to the saddle. This area must get local traffic

Use trail

Getting closer, the saddle and the ridge up Middle coming closer.

Middle Peak's ridge

If you wanna add Dunn Peak, you can take the saddle to the left. I had enjoyed this approach so much that I decided to leave Dunn Peak for later.

Almost to the saddle

To the saddle, I absolutely avoided coming anywhere near the creek on the approach, this is the key to a good non bushwhacking, non cliffy approach.

Looking back in the basin

Looking towards the ridge to Middle Peak's false summit

Middle Peak's false summit is the high point in front

Approaching, some interesting colors on the rocks here. There is a use trail here, it's class 2 upto this point.

Looking back towards Dunn Peak

Great views

Up the red rock on the saddle. Class 2 talus at this point.

Use trail here

Looking back towards Dunn Peak's saddle.

Amazing views

OO things about to get spicy. At this point, the trail was class 2. Well, it can be still kept at class 2 if you want all the way to false summit. Sticking to ridge proper here will get to class 3/4, but the rock is very suspect. I personally recommend just going to the left of the ridge to keep it to class 2, there is a gully you can take all the way to the false summit.

Rock is suspect

This is the fully to the left of ridge proper, you can stick near to the wall on the right, rock is still loose so be careful if you are climbing with someone. Will recommend helmet.

Gully to the false summit

I came back to the ridge, false summit in view

Loose rock again here

A climber's trail exist here to the top of the false summit

Middle Peak's false summit

There is a giant cairn on the false summit

Middle Peak false summit

Middle Peak's true summit on the right.

There is a climber's trail all the way to the false summit

Approaching Middle Peak

Talus class 2

Looking back on the ridge

Golden slopes

Final few feet to the real summit

Middle Peak's summit almost there

There was no summit register on Middle Peak so I left one. The views were insane throughout, very uniqueviews of the Wilsons.

I spent quite some time on the summit just soaking in the views. Then I started the traverse over to Dolores Peak

Looking back towards Middle Peak summit

Dolores Peak is visible on the traverse

Dolores Peak

You can skirt across the false summit, no need to gain it.

Climbers trail exist to skirt the bump

Looking back after the false bump

Peak on left is not Middle Peak

There was a good climber's trail to the summit of Dolores Peak. I pretty much followed it to the top.

Summit of Dolores, great views all around.

Dolores Peak summit

Dolores Peak had an interesting summit register. There were quite a few entries of people this year, not a lot of the usual names. I was kinda surprised to see how many people had summited this obscure 13er. Lot of hunter entries too. There's gotta be an easy way up Dolores.

Mike Garratt placed register

Looking back towards Middle Peak. Lone cone also visible way back.

Middle Peak is the light colored bump

Looking towards Wilson group peaks and the 13ers and Navajo Basin

A very unique view

Beautiful views


Now for the descent, I followed the ridge down towards fish creek. A few things I would like to point out here. If you want the easiest way back, just re-summit Middle Peak and take the same way back down as you took on the ascent. This will avoid the choss you will encounter on the descent here. The route I took on the descent has a crossover on a class 3 dry waterfall to get to fish creek. This will be impassable in early summer/spring or when there is snow there. Please plan accordingly before blindly following the descent path.

I followed the ridge all the way to the bottom

Mid way down the ridge

You can see the trailhead from here

Kept going down here.

I followed the rib all the way down

The last 300 ft of this descent is just pure choss scree skiing. You have to be comfortable on that kind of thing otherwise you will hate life.

This is where I dropped into fish creek and crossed back to the "trail" i used on ascent.

Extremely loose sliding choss here, NOT fun to go up

This is the gully I took to drop near fish creek. This will not be passable with water/ice. Also note, this was the only feasible gully in summer, all other gullies cliff out. I will repeat again, I donot recommend my exact descent route, better go back up Middle or traverse up high to the ascent route.

Looking back on the gully

Crossed the fish creek and back into the forest, going near the "trail" which I used on the way up

Not too crazy of a bushwhack

This is where I entered the forest near my ascent trail. Just pick a logging road here and follow it back to the TH. I dropped near the fish creek for the last 200 yards to the trailhead and found it extremely unpleasant and just took the ridge back to get to the old logging roads and eventually back to the trailhead.

Into the forest

Beautiful fall colors on the drive back.

Looking on the peaks on the drive out

Overall a very beautiful day. I am glad to have done these two peaks and are pretty high up on the repeat list in the San Miguels, which is a very short list. The aspens were very beautiful on the drive out. Thanks for reading. I hope this report is useful to some people planning on hiking here.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 6 7 8 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 21 22 23 25 26 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 55 56 57 58

Comments or Questions
Nice report & photos
10/13/2020 08:22
"San Miguels, the premier chossineering destination in Colorado." That wins the contest for best trip report opening line ever. Thanks for the beta, Yusuf, and especially for the descent advice.

great photos
10/13/2020 07:44
particularly #44, very unique perspective, indeed.

10/13/2020 13:34
Great report, Yusuf. I'm super happy to see these great peaks getting some love, and via a different and interesting route too! Middle's ridge from Dunn looks awesome, and it sounds like pretty much the entire south side of Dolores is a no-go zone. You and I and Whiley have all found that out now!

Choss Boss
10/13/2020 13:43
Eddie- Thanks for the kind words. Highly recommend this area, we didn't get snow from the last storm so these peaks will be snow free till the next storm.
TelaCity- Thank you.
Ben- I feel Dolores's south side should be a pre req if you want to attempt the slope up Mears. I had flashback! I was very surprised though to see the number of signatures on Dolores this year, there's gotta be an easy way up this as not a lot of people mentioned coming in from Middle or going to tag Middle.

10/16/2020 19:19
For providing some beta! I meant to do these on LD weekend, but got distracted in the Wemi. I‘ll eventually get down there for these.

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