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Peak(s):  Storm King Peak  -  13,752 feet
Mt. Silex  -  13,628 feet
The Guardian  -  13,617 feet
Date Posted:  09/21/2021
Modified:  09/28/2021
Date Climbed:   09/08/2021
Author:  bergsteigen
Additional Members:   14erAddict, TaylorHolt, Tony1, RyGuy
 Touching the heart of the Wemi   

Storm King, Silex and The Guardian

  • Total mileage: 20
  • Total Elevation gain: 9,112'
  • Trailhead: Beartown (HC 4WD)
  • Partners: Ryan, Tony, Taylor, Nicole
  • Class: 3

Way back at the start of summer, Taylor started pressing us on organizing this trip into Beartown. Back before the smoke, monsoons deluge induced mud slides and when summer held actual promise. Thankfully this trip wasn't sacrificed to the weather gods and we had absolutely perfect weather for the entire trip!

Day 1: Pack into Camp + Storm King Peak

  • Mileage: 9.12
  • Elevation gain: 3,770'
  • Class: 3

After an uneventful drive into the camp I used before (minus one 10' rocky section) the night before, we jumped into Ryan's Jeep and Tony's new Toyota to drive the remainder up to the trailhead after finishing packing our overnight packs. Let's just say the road has deteriorated significantly since I was last here in 2018, and neither driver was amused. Neither driver wanted to drive back up here for the day hike on Day 4. I personally loved the unamused look Tony gave me when I slyly suggested it.The Texas wheelchairs are tearing up the road and quickly ruining it. 3 years ago, there were a handful of people in the area. Now, there's a steady stream of flag waving out-of-staters all day long creating a dust plume.

After setting up marmot guards on both vehicles, we started up the trail with Taylor providing all the stoke for the heavy backpack in. It was nice to see the trail in daylight, and we made quick work up to Hunchback pass for our first break of the day.

Nicole descending off the pass

Taylor kept the descent down to Trinity Creek entertaining with a riddle. It kept us engineers and literals entertained in the wrong direction for hours. Meanwhile I had an LL Cool J song in my head in response. Don't ask. We also enjoyed the view of our peaks as we descended, which proved to be very important for the next days route choices. Why one should always take photos of peaks from various angles. It proved to be good beta.

We descended the trail to just above the Valecito - Trinity creek juncture and crossed by the waterfall. Tony and I went above it, the others below. From there it was following the game trail turned climber trail (with cairns) all the way to our campsite. Well, almost. Taylor and Ryan descended closer to the creek, while Nicole, Tony and I were on the trail. We yelled down multiple times that we were on the trail. The "trail" is faint in spots, and can get lost when there's deadfall, but one just needs to keep the eyes open to find it again. It made for a fairly easy stroll.

We had debated where to put camp. One was at Lake Silex, another was below the steep slope up to the lake. But when we saw a nice open meadow that was obviously a frequently occupied camp site, most of us were sold. After going up to Lake Silex, our campsite was definitely The Spot.

Ryan approaching the meadow, Storm King above

Camping meadow

Our plan was to set up camp, and then go summit something, anything. My bivy was up and ready in about 20minutes. Then we dealt with filtering water. Both Taylor and my Steripen failed. Failed. New batteries didn't work, still fail. So now all of us were waiting on Tony's Sawyer Squeeze. This took a lot of time. So our summit start was delayed by an hour an a half.

We had toyed with doing Peak 2&3 or Peak 7 or Storm King. We started up the steep grassy slope enroute to Lake Silex with Peak 7 on our minds. When we got to the saddle with Storm King after tedious and slow steep talus, we ran the numbers, and decided that going for a high value target like Storm King was the best decision.

A mini tundra reprieve from the tedious talus enroute to saddle around the corner to the right. Peak 9 looms above
Trinities from saddle

Storm Peak south ridge scramble

The first part of the ascent up the south ridge was fun blocky scrambling and class 2+ terrain. Quite enjoyable.

Blocky scrambling

Tony by a cairn on the scramble

But the nice terrain would soon end. The last bit of the route up to the summit ridge is loose and nasty. We mostly hugged the far right all the way around, to keep one side on the solid rock, then curved back to the west, staying below the rock above. You want to aim for the notch that's visible above Nicole and Ryan's head in the below photo. That's where you access the summit ridge.

The group scoping the loose gully
Optional scrambling high above the loose class 2 gully to stay solid

Once we accessed the summit ridge, it was a short stroll to the summit. Yay! First new Wemi summit in a year!

Tony approaching the summit

Summit group selfie

Storm King Pano

We enjoyed the summit for as long as we could, but we knew that it was late in the afternoon, and we had to get back down to camp before it got too dark.

Going back down the summit ridge, I view the sucky class 2 gully. Sooo slow to move on that crap. We all did our best to spread out and not let loose any rocks.

Looking down the loose gully, and finding our ascent on the solid rock on the rib below
Ridge descent to notch

After we all got back down to the solid rock, we could all breathe a little easier. The worst of the high nasty was over.

Ryan hanging out by the transition from scree to solid

Another short break by the saddle, where we discussed the shitty gully up to Mt Silex from the west. NO ONE wanted to do this route. It looked horrid, loose and steep.

NOPE, NOPE.... more NOPE (Scree gully up to western saddle with Mt Silex)

From this point forward, all of us were thinking of other options to get the next 2 peaks.

Sun is setting on backpack day 1, with camp still far below

We made it back to our camp before dark, but the water filtering went well into the dark hours. At least my dinner didn't require water. So I squeezed water after I had eaten, so the group could eat. We all took our turn filtering for the group. So much squeezing.

From there, we all settled into an eventful night of sleep, me in my new bivy for the first night ever.

Day 2: Mt Silex and The Guardian

  • Mileage: 6.03
  • Elevation gain: 3,447'
  • Route: East Bowl to saddle NEW ???
  • Class: 3

After seeing that nasty steep scree gully up to Mt Silex, we spent some time looking for beta on ascending the peaks from the east. We knew a group had descended that way, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's an easier way, or that it doesn't involve some class 5ish terrain. So we all agreed to make the attempt, with the possibility that we would get stumped and have a zero summit day. We did decide that we wanted to start just after sunrise, so that we would have good eyes on the approach route finding.

We had the perfect campsite for this route, as all we had to do was cross the stream at our water filtering spot on a fallen log. From there it was easy travel on and off game trails below the rocky mound that we had spotted from the descent from Hunchback pass on our approach to camp. We contoured around this rocky mound till we got into the east bowl.

Easy grassy travel around the rocky mound to the east
Nice light as we traverse around and into the bowl

Game trail travel into the bowl, while The Guardian looms above

Once we end around the rocky bulge, we get a closer view of our route which will zig zag up the bowl on grassy ledges and over talus to go up rocky ledges and more talus to the saddle between Silex and The Guardian.

Entering the east bowl, Silex on the right
View from rocky rib and the East Bowl, Silex above

From the rocky rib, we followed the grassy valley up to the far right corner below the east ridge of Silex. From there we followed the obvious game trail as it zig zagged up the grassy ledges up to the next level. The ledges are just to the left of the first talus field that looks a bit like a bowtie on the above photo on the right.

Approaching the grassy ledges next to the lower talus field

Nicole starting up the first ledge zig zag
Second grassy ledge
Looking down on Tony once above the grassy ledges.

Above the grassy ledges, is a large talus field that Ryan went straight across. The rest of us went further to the left/south and saved our ankles. We hit the next set of grassy ledges as it met the talus on the left side of the below photo.

Talus field above first grassy ledges
Second set of grassy ledges

We zagged back to the right/north along the grassy ledge to get to an area with some minor scrambling up to the left on rocky ledges. There was another route up some mossy ledges, but it looked more involved with bushes and wetness.

Mossy ledges didn't win on the route choice.
Ryan with rocky ledges above, where we zagged to the left

Scrambling up the ledges to the left
Talus field #2. Saddle above center

Above the rocky ledges, was another talus field that ended with some solid rock up to the saddle between Silex and the Guardian.

We took a nice break on the saddle, enjoying the views.

Nice light on Jagged

From the saddle, the ledge trail system over to Silex, is just a wee bit below the saddle. The route has a few cairns, but the route to Silex was on fairly wide ledges and we were quickly below the summit area.

Ledges to Silex
Looking back to the saddle on the ledge traverse

When we got below the summit area, we saw a loose class 2 gully to the left, but most of us stuck to the more solid scramble on the right.

Last bit of the traverse to Silex
Looking up on the scramble section

Loose class 2 gully we avoided on the left

We celebrated the first summit of the day, but couldn't stay too long, since the traverse to The Guardian was much longer and more involved.

Silex summit group shot

Silex pano 1

Silex pano 2

From the summit, we dropped back to the solid scramble area.

Tony on the solid scramble, with Vallecito Valley below

We went back up to the saddle to scout the route a bit, but Taylor couldn't see much from above. Tony and I had spotted a cairn at the saddle, so we went down to that spot. From there it was hop scotching from one cairn to another. This route is VERY well cairned. There are options in spots, but right at the saddle, the route gets very narrow and exposed, so we took our time with the route finding.

Scouting the route through the narrow exposed section. Ryan at the crux, Tony on lead further on the ledge.
More ledges
Looking back towards the saddle from an obvious cairn

Nicole and Taylor in a fun scramble section

Summer flowers hanging on up high

After the ascending traverse, we found the rocky gully/ridge before the loose gully below the summit. Blocky and rather solid up the the class 2 summit ridge

The blocky gully to summit ridge
Summit ridge above the scrambling

Our favorite summit

Guardian summit pano

Sad to leave the summit with the amazing views all around, but we had to get back down to camp, before dark - again.

Summit ridge, with descent to the left

Once back down to the ledges. We made much faster time back to the saddle, as we knew all we had to do was spot the next cairn and go!

Below the summit gully, looking at the traverse to saddle
Rollin on the traverse

Wide ledge with the obvious cairn by Ryan

Almost back to the narrow exposed section right before the saddle.

After another nice break at the saddle, we reversed our zig zag route down through the ledges and talus quickly. We turned the corner around the rocky mound as the sun was getting low, and the long shadows made everything interesting.

Game trail traverse back to camp

After zombie walking the last section back into camp, we got to eat dinner and filter water before we lost the light. Enough light to watch as 4 deer approached our camp - their usual nap spot, and entertain us. Scare us too. Since I was in a bivy and not a tent, a deer stepping on me or cuddling with me during the night, was a higher probability or problem. So when a deer got within a foot of me in the pitch black, I let out a series of octave screams that amused the group. Well the aversion therapy worked, I was able to fall asleep without a deer close by. I figure they eventually walked past me, but they didn't step on me.

Day 3: Pack out of Camp

  • Mileage: 4.85
  • Elevation gain: 1,895'
Sunrise over camp with Alpenglow on Storm King

I was the first out of my bivy in the morning, since the aspen glow was on point! We slowly ate breakfast and broke camp. We had a long trek uphill to the pass today with a heavy pack, so we delayed that as long as we could, knowing it would get hot soon enough.

The deer surrounding us in the high grasses also woke up and wandered around us.

What's Taylor taking a photo of?

How the deer pee

Once on the trail with the heavy packs, we made quick work of the game/climbers trail back to the main trail and the waterfall intersection.


Taylor with the waterfall

Tony strutting in front of the waterfall

Trail discussion and stretch session

It's still summer, barely

On the hike back out, we took time to look back on the route up the East Bowl and snap some zoom shots of the route

The Guardian, Silex and Storm King with Pk 9 taunting us

East Bowl zoom

East Bowl route overview

It was a hot slow ascent up to the pass, at least the riddle today from Taylor was much easier. We dropped back down to the vehicles and drove back to camp to relax for the afternoon, playing cards and having cold beverages and eating ALL the food.

The Poles in the distance

Kite Lake in bowl above Ryan

Before and after. Has the stoke or sass level changed?
  • Day 0: Canby Mtn
  • Day 1-3: Storm King, Mt Silex, The Guardian
  • Day 4: Nebo group (Boyz did Hunchback, White Dome, Peak 1)
  • Day 5: Stoney Pass Peak or Yoga (I let the young people run up a repeat for me)

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

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50

Comments or Questions
Summit Photo
09/21/2021 15:06
I guess no one told me we were doing a group photo on Storm King, cool guys.

As always...
09/22/2021 06:41
... great pics and narrative, Otina.

"a group"?
09/24/2021 05:10
Good to see the game trail to the Silex-Guardian saddle worked for you. I agree that Silex Lake should be enjoyed only from a distance. Who wants to camp in a north-facing bowl of loose talus, or wallow up a loose chute? Much better to do the peaks separately, or traverse around over Peak 9.

Boggy B
09/24/2021 14:13
route for that pair. It looks much nicer than the gully route, which sucks mildly but isn't half as bad as it appears head-on from across the way.
I will say that sleeping (in the one decent site) at the mouth of Lake Silex is a worthy experience though concerning when you consider where all the rock shed by the W face of Silex ends up.

09/27/2021 11:33
Taylor - ‘We TriedĚ to get your attention, you were mesmerized.

seano- Sometimes those game trails in the SJ‘s are darn brilliant! Since I haven‘t done much in the heart of the Wemi, I haven‘t gotten eyes on some of the peaks and routes yet, so planning can be more adventurous. Saving the best for last

Boggy - You have much younger knees than me ;) While scree chutes definitely look more intense head-on, it just wasn‘t going to be a good idea with a group of 5. As to camping by the lake - geologic time is now.

08/08/2023 18:01
Liked on Friday for how the deer pee, commenting today to say thanks for the route beta. Camped at 10.5 on the east slopes, went straight up and linked with your route. From camp to the rocky rib was easy, albeit steep. Swaths of grass and thin trees. Thanks again!

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