Peak(s):  Square Top Mtn A  -  13,794 feet
Date Posted:  10/10/2007
Date Climbed:   10/07/2007
Author:  KeithK
 Peak Z errrr... Squaretop Mountain!  

Squaretop Mtn. (13794')
Route: Southeast Ridge/Slopes from Guanella Pass
Elevation Gain: 2300'
Round Trip: 6.5 miles
Greenhouseguy and KeithK

With ridiculously unpredictable weather defying all too inaccurate forecasts, Brian and I decided late on Saturday that we'd get in a hike of some sort on Sunday morning. The Lost Creek Wilderness would be a perfect destination, as the 12ers afford easy retreat from hazardous conditions, and the area is always great hiking. So, on our way up 285, somewhere just after Bailey, the sky convinced me to practice spontaneity and I blurted "We should just do Squaretop!". Not surprisingly, Brian went right along with the idea, and we weren't long for the turn in Grant to head up Guanella Pass. A 13er seemed like such a splendid idea! And the weather was about as pleasant as one could expect this time of year.

Squaretop hides behind it's long, broad east ridge...

This hike is simplistic, but the fact that we chose to do it without proper route studying made it much more interesting. We knew where the trailhead was, and that was about it. I remembered some vague descriptions of the route from trip reports, but not enough to where I felt confident in any other strategy than to follow the trail straight down from the parking lot. It is straight-forward, and in a short time we reached the lower Squaretop Lake.

Squaretop Mtn. sits high above its lakes...

The trail skirts the lake to the south, then forks just below the start of the southeast ridge. Staying on the trail will take you to the upper Squaretop Lake, and allow you to begin the tundra stomp up onto the ridge, which is where you want to be. The left fork is the South Park 600 trail, which is the way we chose.

Similar picture of the lake with 2 routes drawn in; the red shows the route we chose, while the blue shows the route I would recommend...

The trail junction...

Ultimately, it doesn't matter which direction you choose, because your goal is to simply gain the top of this low ridge and hike straight up to the main ridge above the cirque.

After a couple hundred yards or so, there is a sign that points out the route...

Tundra stomping up the slope...

At this point, I was enjoying the change of pace from trail hiking, and it was just a matter of "do it yourself" switchbacking up the seemingly endless tundra slopes. The true summit is actually quite a good distance west of the easternmost point, which is where we were aiming. Once gaining the top, it is a simple hike through rocky sections over to the highest point. It was cool and breezy, but for the most part the weather was very tolerable. Although, it was cooling down more and more as the day progressed.

As I had anticipated, the views were fantastic, with a nice look in all directions except north. Longs Peak was hidden amongst clouds, but the Ten Mile Range and Mosquitos were nicely visible, as well as the entire South Park and Lost Creek Wilderness areas to the south. Of course, Grays and Torreys are sitting deceivingly close by.

Grays and Torreys...

The Lincoln Group and Quandary...

The Retirement Range of the Lost Creek Wilderness...

Mounts Spalding, Evans and Bierstadt...

South Park...

Brian's summit shot...

My summit shot, can you tell that it's a tad bit chilly?

Cold yet satisfied, we began the knee busting descent back down the mountain. There is something to be said for a good trail, as descending the bumpy, uneven tundra is plenty hard on the joints, even with trekking poles. It was nice to make good time, though, and we were back down to the lower ridge above the trail proper in no time.

Looking down the slope on the descent...

Peaking over the edge of the ridge at Squaretop Lakes...

The rest of the hike was uneventful. We did run into one couple on their way up the ridge, and two more on the trail that were just enjoying an afternoon hike, but for the most part, this was a day of solitude. The Bierstadt lot didn't even look to be very crowded. This is definitely a great time of year to be hiking in these more popular areas.

As we reached the car, the first flakes of snow began to fall, the first I've seen this year. It was another splendidly satisfying day in the mountains!

 Comments or Questions

10/11/2007 19:37
That picture of Beirstadt and Evans is amazing. A very rare angle.


Great Day!
10/12/2007 04:26
Nice peak pics; Squaretop is in a perfect position for some good views.

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