Peak(s):  Milwaukee Peak  -  13,522 feet
Pico Aislado  -  13,611 feet
Music Mountain  -  13,380 feet
Date Posted:  11/02/2022
Date Climbed:   09/24/2022
Author:  pgres
 Some Groovy Music   

Some Groovy Music

This route, while difficult, had the best rock I've had the pleasure of scrambling on in Colorado. Milwaukee is compromised primarily of conglomerate while Pico Aislado and Music are both granite. Each peak held an aesthetic and fun ridge romp. Each ridge held its own challenges, but at no point did the scrambling feel desperate. Exposed and challenging maybe, but never desperate. We had originally planned to tag Tijeras as well, but we unfortunately ran out of time.

"Was that 4th Class, or was that low 5th?" This was a recurring question throughout the day. For those of us who primary climb in the gym and haven't quite made the transition to roped climbing outside, there were plenty of spots where the moves, grade, and hand/foot placement felt on par or harder than what gyms will typically identify as 5.intro, 5.5, or sometimes 5.6. On the other hand, our friend that has more experience with technical rock climbing sided with the terrain never exceeding difficult 4th Class. The denotation between 4th Class and 5th Class seems to be fairly blurry though, especially if you've ever compared Colorado 4th Class to California or Washington 4th Class. With neither side able to convince the other, we jokingly settled on a grade of 4.15d. We went ahead and threw in an "M1" designation for a few ice patches we'd encountered on a ledge and an "A0" designation for shiggles.

The GPX track is approximate from the bottom of the basin to the notch on Milwaukee, but route finding is fairly intuitive and has minimal consequence. Ridge GPS tracks are notoriously inaccurate. I did try my best to mark the top of descent route through the Tijeras Cliffs as this was the most consequential area if you get off-route... especially if descending in poor lighting.

We drove to the upper trailhead for Music Pass, which was fairly easy to get up in the stock Subaru Outback (especially compared to South Colony Lakes). From there, you ascend to Music Pass (Incredible views if you wait for alpenglow to hit the peaks) before descending down into Sand Lakes Basin. Follow a well-defined trail to a junction with a sign for Cottonwood Pass. The trail is much harder to follow from here. You'll arrive at a flat clearing (shows as a lake on the map). Stay to the left in the tree line to avoid walking in marshy/swampy terrain. The trail will ascend steeply to the left before leveling out and traversing to the right into the lowest part of the basin. The trail continues up towards the pass following the bottom of the basin. Once you reach the pass, there's a well defined trail to the notch that defines the start of the Class 4 scramble to the summit of Milwaukee.

Route Information (Less Quandary):
Mileage: Approximately 12 miles
Elevation: Approximately 5300'
Class: 4.15d, M1, A0
Time to Complete: 13 Hours (ish)

Exposure: Extreme
Rockfall: High
Route-Finding: Extreme
Commitment: Extreme

Sunrise on (left to right) Tijeras, Music Mountain, Pico Aislado, and Milwaukee Peak from Music Pass
Just above Cottonwood Pass on a well-defined trail that leads up to the Notch on the North Ridge of Milwaukee. Excellent views of Humboldt, Broken Hand Peak, and Crestone Needle from the pass.

Milwaukee Peak - Standard Ledges Route vs. North Ridge

Gina and I attempted a combination of Milwaukee Peak and Pico Aislado about a month earlier. The ledge traverse is highly exposed in places and has quite a bit of rubble on it. The gully that takes you to the summit can best be described as "Grass 3." The "scrambling" is more like clinging to slick tufts of grass in a steep gully that ends in a cliff below... not ideal. The route left us feeling less than confident about the rest of the day, so we elected to go back down without making an attempt on Pico Aislado. After having done both routes, I highly recommend a variation closer to ridge proper. While the standard route felt technically easier than tackling the ridge, which maybe contained a low 5th class move or two (protected), it was much more unnerving and contained more objective hazard (IMO). Wild Wanderer posted a highly detailed trip report on this route:

The North Ridge on the other hand is on bomber conglomerate and contains a lot of fun scrambling and route finding. Climb out of the notch on the black rock just to the left. Once above the notch, turn to the right to enter a dihedral that ascends above the notch to a secondary ledge about 30 feet above the standard route. There's an interesting quasi-mantle at the top of the dihedral. You'll follow a series of rock gullies/cracks and incremental ledges on the East Side of the ridge before topping out on the ridge proper. Continue following the ridge proper. With careful route finding, this route is very reasonable. We ended up taking a chimney that contained one or two low-5th stemming moves, but it looked like there may have been a 4th class alternative. While more technical, I never felt like my hands and feet were questionable... unlike the grass gully.

Our approximate route shown in red. The standard route follows the lower ledge marked by long section of grass.
Descending into the notch (going around to the right is easier and less exposed)
Ascending one of the cracks on well-textured, bomber conglomerate
The 4th (maybe low 5th) Chimney just before topping out on the ridge proper
On the ridge proper
One last difficult portion before the summit
Looking down wall just below the summit
Summit of Milwaukee!
Pico Aislado in the distance - fall colors were popping in Cottonwood and Dead Man Drainages
The Ridge Between Milwaukee and Pico Aislado

Pico Aislado NE Ridge

@WildWanderer's report has a great description of the Standard Route up Pico Aislado:

Rather than follow the standard route, we'd read that it was possible to more or less tackle the NE ridge to access the summit of Pico Aislado from @SnowAlien's trip report ( so we decide to give that a go to avoid unnecessary elevation loss and avoid anything that sounded like it would be "Grass 3." The photos in the report provide a good idea of where to go, but I wanted to include some photos that show our route and provide some additional clarification.

If you plan on ascending via The Wedgie, you'll want to begin traversing over to the East Face of Pico Aislado from the saddle between Milwaukee and Pico. If you want to take on the more difficult NE Ridge route and want to enjoy some additional scrambling, it's possible to stay ridge proper all the way to the notch below Pico's NE Ridge. This route is mostly Class 3 with a few Class 4 moves thrown in if you stay ridge proper.

It originally looked like we'd be able to climb out of the notch and traverse over to the ridge proper early on, but we ultimately stayed to the climbers-left of the ridge proper because the climbing was great and the rock was solid and textured. The ledges/gullies below the depression in the face stayed at class 3, but ramped up fairly quickly to exposed class 4 climbing until the angle eases as you approach the summit. This was the section that sparked the "4.15d" discussion.

One of the more exposed portions of the ridge between Pico and Milwaukee
Our Approximate Route in Red - We added a cairn to the top of the wall where we exited the notch. Please note
that there are multiple variations that can be taken in this area!

Climbing out of the Notch
The first series of gullies to the next major ledge
The climbing gets more difficult as you approach the middle of he depression
The last few moves before topping out onto the ridge
On the ridge proper
A good look at what I considered to be the crux of the route (It's steeper than it appears) on the downclimb -
we figured it was better to downclimb the route we knew than the route we didn't (The Wedgie)
Another look at the crux area of the route
Coming back across the ridge towards Milwaukee
A good look at the exposure on the North side of the ridge
Great views of Broken Hand Peak, Crestone Needle, and Crestone Peak

North and South Ridges of Music Peak

I wasn't able to find much beta on the North Ridge of Music Peak, but we decided to give it a try. Staying on the ridge proper the entire way would definitely require some stiff 5th class moves. As it was, our route was difficult 4th class with tricky route finding when we had to descend down and around certain obstacles. There's a lot of exposure to the East and the large granite pieces are more reminiscent of what you'd see in the Elks than in the Sangres... except solid and not sketchy. The South Ridge goes on the Ridge Proper and while it's solid and straightforward, it's not the best downclimb... I'd describe it as 3rd/4th class textured slabs with maybe a low 5th move or two thrown in. Ultimately, the meandering route we took on the North Ridge had too many twists and turns to document well, though I'll attempt to provide direction on one area that was particularly interesting.

Approaching the North Ridge of Music
Gaining the ridge proper
Our group split up at a particularly exposed and narrow portion of the ridge. This is an image of the lower route.
This is an image of the upper route... this section was highly exposed. The route takes you across a very narrow ridge (3-5" wide) for a few feet
before traversing a ledge just to the left of the ridge proper that hangs above a 600-700' drop over the East Face of Music Mountain.
Another angle of the narrow ridge leading to the ledge on the left side. It's important to exit at the point where the climber is in the photo.
The shading on the ridge appeared to signal there a deep notch a few feet further, so we preemptively dropped down to the right, which was the right
decision. Had we continued, we would have had to backtrack some very difficult and exposed 4th class moves or downclimb an overhanging feature.
Tricky downclimb after descending to the right. I'd say this section was pushing low 5th.
A fun knife edge section a little further along the ridge (600' drop to the right)
Looking up the ridge towards the knife edge section.
Climbing up to the ridge proper after the knife edge
One of the harder climbing spots on the ridge proper (can be bypassed)
Another view of the same spot
Looking towards the final summit pitch. Tackling the ridge head-on would be stiff 5th class. We
skirted around the headwall to the right and then turned up towards to the left to scramble to the
Looking down about halfway up the headwall
Scenic Ledge
Pretty incredible colors in Dead Man drainage
Looking down towards Upper Sand Lake
Starting down the South Ridge
One of the trickier downclimbing sections on the South Ridge
Ridge proper goes, but it's slow, slabby, and exposed
Note the location of the dark gully that splits the cliff band in the upper left portion of the photo - this is the descent route. It's not as bad as it looks.
A look back at the South Ridge of Music
Looking down the descent gully - staying to the right side can keep you on Class 3, solid rock until the angle
eases lower down.

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

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95

Comments or Questions
This settles it for me
11/02/2022 11:07
This group must be done as a day trip now!! Well done all around

Send It!
11/02/2022 13:41
Thanks! Definitely doable as a day trip! We had a group of 5, which slowed us down a bit. Also have to check out the South Ridge of Tijeras... not much beta surprisingly...

11/04/2022 11:59
Looks fantastic. Great report - thanks!

11/09/2022 15:35
is a really excellent trip report. Route looks like a classic and is definitely going on the shortlist for next summer. Awesome work and thanks for the beta!

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