Tuesday, June 28, 2016

La Sal Mountains, North Block: La Sal Peak to Manns Peak from Beaver Basin

Essence: The La Sal Mountain range is relatively small but it is the second highest in Utah. (The Uinta Mountains rank first.) The La Sals soar 8,000 feet above Moab. The tallest prominence, Mount Peale, elevation 12,721 feet, is in the middle cluster of three summit blocks separated by Geyser and La Sal passes. This hike features five of six ranked peaks above 12,000 feet in the North Block. It tags two other named prominences. Approach the unobstructed, above timberline ridge from the east side of the range. Superb alpine flowers are embedded in the tundra. Social trails assist through many of the talus fields. Optimal in summer, enjoy a refreshingly cool hike while Moab sizzles. 
Travel From South of Moab: In a 4WD vehicle with high clearance, zero-out your trip meter while turning east from US 191 onto Old Airport Road, posted Ken's Lake. In 0.5 mile, turn right/south on Spanish Valley Road. It becomes La Sal Mountain Loop Road in 3.1 miles. Enter Manti-La Sal National Forest at 7.7 miles. Geyser Pass road leaves on the right at 12.2 miles and the Warner Lake road goes right at 14.9. After the  viewpoint at Mason Draw, 20.0 miles, the paved road switches steeply downhill. At the Castleton Gateway Road at 25.9 miles, turn right on FSR 207.
Travel From North of Moab: In a 4WD vehicle with high clearance, zero-out your trip meter at US 191 and Utah 128. Go east on the scenic byway for 15.7 miles. Turn right on La Sal Mountain Loop Road. At 26.4 miles bear left onto the Castleton Gateway Road, FSR 207. 
Travel from Castleton Gateway Road: Measure again from here. Pass the Fisher Mesa Trailhead at 5.2 miles. Bear left as the pavement ends at 5.7 miles. At the sign for Gateway at 7.9 miles, bear right, staying on FSR 207. At 10.4 miles, go right onto Beaver Basin Trail, FSR 669. This is a serious 4WD track. Cross a potentially big creek at 11.3 miles. Pass backcountry camps with porta-potties and biting deer flies. At 11.8 miles, take a right fork while passing a sign for Don's Lake on the left. Go right on road 20. The challenging road is steep and narrow with sharp rocks as it plows through an encroaching aspen and fir forest. There is a roomy primitive camp with a fire ring at 14.5 miles, elevation 10,140 feet. Beaver Creek is directly below. We camped and walked up the road from here the next day but you could drive another mile, shaving two miles from the hike. Wild water, no facilities at the trailhead.
Distance and Elevation Gain: 10.1 miles; 4,950 feet of climbing
Time: 7:30 to 9:00
Difficulty: 4WD track, trail, primarily off-trail; navigation moderate; Class 2; no exposure
Map: Mount Waas, Utah 7.5 Quad
Date Hiked: June 28, 2016
Quote: People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I think that what we’re really seeking is an experience of being alive so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. Joseph Campbell

Deep emerald green woods in Beaver Basin contrast with talus fields above timberline and ruddy cliff and canyon country far below. Traverse from La Sal Peak, the northernmost summit in the North Block, to Manns Peak.
(THW, photo)

Route: Begin in Beaver Basin and gain the ridge at Saddle 11,740' between Green Mountain and Mount Waas. Turn north and climb Mount Waas, Castle Mountain and then La Sal Peak. Head back south, skirting Castle Mtn. Climb back over Mount Waas and continue south, climbing Green Mountain and Pilot Mountain. Go over or contour around Dry Fork Peak and then summit Manns Peak. Return to Beaver Basin via the trail from Jackass Pass. Ranked peaks: La Sal, Castle, Waas, Pilot, and Manns. Named peaks without 300 feet of prominence: Green and Dry Fork.

From the camp at 10,140 feet located in Manti-La Sal National Forest, walk or drive up the pleasant two-track. Blooming on the floor of the fir and aspen forest in late June are elderberry, mountain parsley, golden banner, larkspur, and white peavine. Large meadows slip down into Beaver Creek while a Western tanager sings. At 0.7 mile, Manns Peak, Jackass Pass, and Dry Fork Peak beckon from the south end of the hike. This image looks back at camp.

At 1.1 miles, the deteriorating road points northwest, winding into upper Beaver Basin at 10,600 feet. Park here. The trail joining from Jackass Pass to the southwest, our return route, is not obvious, perhaps because of snow sheets. Head northwest, staying north of Beaver Creek, cutting off lengthy switchbacks. Keep your eye out for the uncommon sugarbowl, a large nodding purple flower as you clamber up a slope strewn with avalanche debris. (THW, photo)

Find a pleasant, off-trail route through an uncluttered Engelmann spruce forest, staying on the south side of a talus field. The first objective is Green Mountain-Mount Waas Saddle 11,740', pictured.

Launch into the talus at about 11,200 feet. The La Sal Range is a laccolith. Intrusive igneous rock was forced upward by magma under pressure creating a mountain dome. Sedimentary rock has largely been eroded away leaving the core mound, primarily diorite. Patches of insistent tundra are matted by an untold abundance of purple-pink moss campion. Lingering snow fields made the climb to the ridge more challenging than normal. Underfoot, scree slid downhill at the angle of repose. Once on the ridge at 2.0 miles, this difficulty is over.

From Saddle 11,740', turn north and find the perfectly wonderful social trail winding almost 600 feet up Mount Waas. The highest of the six northern 12'ers is essentially a colossal pile of scree and talus. Summit at 12,331 feet in 2.4 miles. If this is your home turf, visually locate familiar landmarks including Moab, Arches National Park, and Castle Valley. Navajo Mountain and the Henry Mountains are in the southwest; Lone Cone over in the east. Get a comprehensive look at the southern portion of the day's journey, pictured. (THW, photo)

The sojourn north from Mount Waas to La Sal Peak is pure delight. On a fragmentary trail drop 670 feet to the Waas-Castle saddle (11,660') and shoot up the scree-covered south side of Castle Mountain on an accommodating use trail. (THW, photo)

Crest Castle Mountain, 12,044 feet, at 3.3 miles. The prominence is a smooth laccolith dome so surely it was named for the free-standing monoliths under its purview. The Book Cliffs are off in the north.

While there is no trail up La Sal's rounded southwest ridge, there are plenty of foot platforms in the tundra. Alpine flowers are especially diverse and plentiful on the steep slope. Here is a partial list of alpine flowers blooming on the ridge in June: alp lily, minuartia, wall flower, ivesia, phlox, dotted and snowball saxifrage, purple fringe, alpine rock jasmine, mouse ear chickweed, fairy candelabra, alpine sage, pygmy bitterroot, sibbaldia, alpine avens, candytuft, alpine clover, old man of the mountain, deep rooted spring beauty, smelowskia, sulfur paintbrush and sky pilot.

Reach the northernmost crest in the chain at 3.7 miles. La Sal Peak just makes the 12'er cut at 12,001 feet. Walking in freedom on the ridge, without rushing we were three hours into the hike, had climbed 3,000 feet, and were taking a break on our third peak. The baked sandstone covering the broad crest is cap rock on top of laccolith that hasn't eroded off. The mountain falls away softly for 3,000 feet on three sides so there is a strong sense that one is standing at the conclusion of the range. (THW, photo)

Back on the La Sal-Castle saddle (11,660') it is reasonable to contour on the east slope of Castle Mountain to return to the Castle-Waas saddle. It is off-trail but the slope is shallow and rocks are stable. However, you must contemplate whether to climb back up and over Mount Waas or do the wrap-around on its west side. I am unnerved by steep side-hill traverses so this was an easy decision for me. I happily and readily climbed 670 feet to the summit and took the trail back down the other side, losing 590 feet to the saddle. The majority of my experienced mountaineering companions opted for the west-side traverse. Half way across the faint game trail disappeared and they were stranded on a steep slope. At the angle of repose, rock was sliding above and below them as they proceeded. Opinions varied. It was deemed either annoying, exposed, or simply tolerable. Most wish they had reclimbed the peak.

In the image below, our group is gathering on Saddle 11,740' at the end of their Waas wrap. They are fewer than 15 minutes ahead of us. We are back on the saddle at 5.1 miles. There is some very minor cliff structure on the northeast ridge of Green Mountain. Stay right on the ridge and top Green at 5.5 miles, elevation 12,163 feet. While the relief is 423 feet, there is not 300 feet of prominence between Green and Pilot Mountain. Since Pilot is the higher of the two, it is the legal summit.

The relaxed walk between Green and Pilot Mountain is so glorious I wish for it to go on and on forever. At 6.0 miles, we are standing on Pilot, elevation 12,220 feet. As seen in the image below, an abandoned pack trail rises up from the west. (THW, photo)

The south side of Pilot has a copper pit with brilliant blue stones scattered around. Further down the mountain is a quartz vein with sizable chunks of the milky crystal. Jackass Pass is in the Pilot-Dry Fork Peak saddle (11,620'). If the weather is poor or you have had enough, this is your bailout into Beaver Basin. For those continuing on to Manns Peak, you may contour on the west side of Dry Fork Peak, 11,849', on a perfectly good trail, pictured. The easy walk over the top for ridge purists will add 229 feet, not enough to qualify it as a legal summit, but still a sweet pleasure.

Reach the Dry Fork-Manns saddle (11,620') at 6.8 miles. A strong social trail leaves from the saddle and remains consistent all the way to the peak. The trail climbs on the west side of the false summit but you may opt to remain on the ridge all the way to the summit at 7.3 miles, 12,272 feet.

The field of vision from Manns is superb. Directly south is Burro Pass, shown, the most direct route up Manns Peak (via  Warner Lake). Looking at the Middle Block, Mt. Peale is on the left/east, Mt. Mellenthin is center and Mt. Tukuhnikivatz is on the right.

It is only noon and I want to climb Mt. Tomasaki, the southernmost mountain in the North Block but the statistics are daunting. The out-and-back from Manns Peak will add approximately three miles and 1,765 feet of climbing for a grand total of over 6,700 feet. (THW, photo)

From the top of Manns all the North Block peaks are visible except for La Sal which is positioned behind Waas.

Return to the Manns-Dry Fork saddle at 7.9 miles and walk around the west side of Dry Fork Peak on a trail holding the 11,600 foot contour, pictured. Sky pilot is the standout alpine flower in June.

Return to Jackass Pass at 8.1 miles and descend northeast toward Beaver Basin on the established trail.

The underutilized trail is crumbly and steep in the upper basin but switchbacks are helpful. Pass beneath cliffs and then wander down through a pleasant and beautiful forest. Snow in the shady woods hid the trail so my GPS track may be slightly off. Where we closed our loop at 8.9 miles and 10,700 feet, there was no sign. Perhaps we missed it. Otherwise, the Jackson Pass Trail would be hard to find going in the opposite direction. The runout on the road back to camp afforded welcome processing time after walking atop a ridge that is both feasible and boundless.

The La Sal Mountains are a landmark of contrast, orientation, and home ground.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Cumberland Mountain, 12,388', and Peak 12,101', via the Colorado Trail

Essence: Accessible and friendly walk for hikers of all abilities through old-growth Engelmann spruce and a spectrum of superb wildflowers along the Colorado Trail. An off-trail climb up the east ridge of Cumberland Mountain past the spectacularly perched Muldoon Mine ruins. Optional Peak 12,101', informally named Kennebec Peak, is the northernmost point on the east block, affording a see-forever San Juan Mountain vista. 
Travel: Measure from Main Ave. and 25th Street in Durango. Driving west, 25th Street transitions to Junction Creek Road and then to La Plata CR 204. Stay straight at 2.9 miles as CR 205 goes off to the right, following a sign for the Colorado Trail. Pass the CO Trail at 3.5 miles where pavement turns to dirt and the road becomes FSR 171. Pass the Junction Creek Campground at 4.9 miles. Wind up the broad gravel road with some washboard. Pass the Animas Overlook (last outhouse) at 10.6 miles and continue along the western flank of Barnes Mountain. The road narrows and grows increasingly rocky. It is never steep so 2WD vehicles with good clearance and sturdy tires should reach the trailhead. At 14 miles the road gets really rough (sharp rocks!) and becomes a shelf with aspen protecting the huge drop. The view of Silver and Lewis Mountains is superlative. Stay on the main road as tracks branch. At 15.4 miles, go through a little pass to the north side of the ridge. A wild view of a string of San Juan Mountain peaks opens at 19.2 miles. At 20.9 miles the road splits. Go left, following the sign for the Colorado Trail on FSR 171N. The road narrows and gets even rockier. Watch for a small sign for the Colorado Trail on the right side of the road at 21.5 miles. There is plenty of good parking. No facilities. Allow 1:15 to 1:30 from Durango.
Distance and Elevation Gain: 6.4 miles; 2,550 feet of climbing for both peaks; 5.2 miles with 2,200 feet of gain for Cumberland alone.
Time: 4:00 to 5:30
Difficulty: Colorado Trail, social trail, off-trail; easy navigation; no exposure.
Maps: La Plata; Monument Hill, Colorado 7.5' Quads
Latest Date Hiked: June 25, 2020
Quote: How cunningly nature hides every wrinkle of her inconceivable antiquity under roses and violets and morning dew! Ralph Waldo Emerson 

As seen from Durango's Rim in February, 2014, from the right are: Peak 12,101', Cumberland Mountain, Snowstorm Peak, and Lewis Mountain.

Route: By the time Colorado Trail thru-hikers traveling from Denver to Durango cross the access road, they have walked 465 miles with 21 remaining. Ascend the Colorado Trail on gentle switchbacks. Just before reaching Kennebec Pass, walk south to the Muldoon Mine. Climb the east ridge of Cumberland Mountain. Walk down the northwest ridge toward the Kennebec Pass Trailhead. Turn east and at Kennebec Pass, go north to Peak 12,101', Kennebec Peak. Return to the pass and finish on the incoming trail.

Begin on the north side of the road. On an excellent path rising from the trailhead at 10,400 feet, allow yourself to be wound up and around on gentle switchbacks through deep woodsy glades and luscious wildflowers. In consort with receding snow are a bounty of glacier lilies, goofy little flowers with their heads pointed down. (THW, photo)

Groves of old-growth Engelmann spruce are the finest anywhere in the region. They are the deepest forest green with pale and delicate new needles. The oldest known living spruce in Colorado is more than 850 years old. Trees with trunks three feet in diameter are about 500 years old. There is a group of four giants 0.8 mile up the trail rising to 200 feet. A common growth pattern creates a curve at the base of the tree. Their swooped trunks are close to four feet thick. Shortly beyond the grove look below the trail and you will see a series of springs and water gushing down the hillside. (THW, photo)

At 1.2 miles, 11,200 feet, emerge from the forest. Here, the Colorado Trail shares the trackway with the aptly named Sliderock Trail for 0.6 mile. The trail platform is thin and marginal, prone to obliteration by scree slides and rocks peeling off the carmine columnar cliffs directly above. It is fine for hikers but duly respected by local mountain bikers, most of whom resort to hike-a-bike. The east ridge of Cumberland, our climbing route, may be seen image-left. (THW, photo)

In early summer this portion of the trail is practically overtaken, not by exfoliating rocks, but by kittentails. (THW, photo)

At 1.8 miles, 11,740 feet, a post marks the junction with the Muldoon Mine trail. This image looks back on the Sliderock Trail.

Turn south and travel on the historic mining track beneath the east face of Cumberland Mountain. After big winters, a snow sheet tends to linger in a gully between the junction and the mine. Crossing can be treacherous and the safest option is usually to drop below the snow before regaining the track.

The Muldoon Mine is perched on an east-facing terrace dug into the mountain. The porch of the living quarters takes advantage of the drop-away view. The railroad track is interspersed with divinely fragrant phlox where it clings to the precipitous edge. A bright yellow generator sits just inside the door of the workshop. The mining claim was patented in the early 1880s but there is no record of production prior to 1917. It was worked for gold and silver for two years and again from 1935 until 1936 by early settler Herman Dalla. (THW, photo)

This image was captured in 2016. In 2020, the two seater outhouse was listing even more precariously over oblivion.

From the mine at 2.1 miles, elevation 11,820 feet, climb the broad grassy ridge to the summit, a 570-foot ascent. In this image, hikers are descending the welcoming ridge. The ridge pitches up toward the crest but foot platforms are good.

The ascent yields startling and revealing views of Lewis Mountain, 12,681'. What appears to be a broad, hulking eminence when seen from Durango, is actually a curved ridge, which is narrow and exposed for three miles.

Gain the peak at 2.4 miles after 2,100 feet of climbing. Dwarf phlox are flung all over the crest. (THW, photo)

The panorama from the top affords an unmatched perspective on the west block of the La Plata range. (THW, photo)

The Sliderock Trail can be seen in this image emerging from the deep forest and running to the southwest of Olga Little Mountain, 11,426'. Kennebec Peak is image-left. Distant peaks in the San Juans look like a choppy sea. (THW, photo)

Snowstorm Peak, 12,511', adjacent to the south, is separated from Cumberland by a blasted out landmark called The Notch, a destination and turn-around for 4WD vehicles. There is a dependable route up the east side of Lewis Mountain and over into Columbus Basin by walking through The Notch (where this image was shot), proceeding under crimson Snowstorm Peak, past the Bessie G Mine, and climbing Lewis via a social trail.

Descend the northwest ridge on a social trail trampled into scree and dirt. Our route hooks back shy of the Kennebec Pass Trailhead but it would be a simple diversion to walk there. Typically, 4WD vehicles are parked at the terminus of the La Plata Canyon Road. Popular Taylor Lake is 1.2 miles by foot west of the trailhead. Indian Trail Ridge, at skyline in this image, is a distinctive north/south connector that carries the Colorado Trail from the La Platas to the San Juan Mountains. (THW, photo)

As the ridge dissipates, simply cut north to rejoin the Colorado Trail at roughly 3.0 miles. Turn right and stroll 0.3 mile to Kennebec Pass. At 11,740 feet, the pass is the low point between Cumberland Mountain and Peak 12,101'. If you are running low on time or weather threatens, simply follow the incoming route back to your vehicle. It is only 0.7 mile and 370 feet of climbing to the top of Kennebec Peak. This image, taken from the east slope of Cumberland, shows the south ridge of Peak 12,101' with Kennebec Pass at its base. 

I heartily recommend climbing the broad, gently rising ridge to Peak 12,101' for an astounding view of the San Juan Mountains. Please click on the link for a description of this out-and-back. (THW, photo)

By mid-summer the wildflowers surrounding Kennebec Pass are stellar. The tundra is covered with hybridized Indian paintbrush of variegated hues and there are big patches of the ultra feminine queen's crown.

Fringed gentian is the harbinger of the annular fading of all things bright and cheerful and the coming of autumn.

Close the stem and loop back at Kennebec Pass at 4.6 miles. It is a fast, not quite two mile trek back to the trailhead. A list follows with some of the blooming wildflowers one may see on this hike. Some are early summer flowers, others late. They are roughly ordered by their elevation preference, low to high.

Mule's ears, penstemon, lupine, wild iris, larkspur, golden banner, yarrow, golden eye, burnt orange agoseris, serviceberry, glacier lily, spring beauty, draba, Jacob's ladder, bluebell, mahonia, senecio (pakera), white peavine, purple vetch, elderberry, ninebark, current, native honeysuckle, mountain parsley, Engelmann's aster, meadow rue, Geyer's onion, white violet, purple violet, strawberry, red columbine, ballhead waterleaf, whiplash erigeron, Drummond's rockcress, hairy golden aster (mountain gold), candytuft, kittentail, little sunflower, orange sneezeweed, green gentian, western valerian, edible valerian, blue columbine, bistort, Wyoming paintbrush, magenta paintbrush, marsh marigold, pussy willow, Parry's primrose, king's crown, queen's crown, mouse-ear chickweed, dusty maiden, star and fringed gentian, alpine avens, phlox, snowball saxifrage, dotted saxifrage, northern rock jasmine (fairy candelabra), pink and white clover, sky pilot, old man of the mountain (alpine sunflower), purple fringe, deep rooted spring beauty, alpine buttercup and snow buttercup.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Madden Peak, 11,972', and Parrott Peak, 11,857', Western Approach

Essence: This hike offers early-season access to the western La Platas when snow lingers on the peaks. It is also superior in autumn when the aspen are golden. The two-summit climb in the southwest corner of the range requires minimal effort and time. Walk up the west ridge of Madden Peak with infinite, wide-open space behind as you ascend into the full glory of the mountains. Only the drive is time consuming and potentially troublesome.
Travel: This approach requires a 4WD vehicle with high clearance. The access road is off of US Hwy 160, roughly 22 miles west of Durango and six miles east of Mancos. At the top of "Mancos Hill," mile marker 61.8, turn north onto signed Madden Peak Road and measure from here. The gravel road narrows and turns to dirt as it becomes FSR 316 at one mile where a track goes off to the right. Stay straight and gain elevation quickly. Tall scrub oak in scattered ponderosa gives way to a thick aspen forest. The primitive dirt road has a lot of deep ruts and would be impassible when wet. In other stretches, the surface is rocky. At 6.9 miles, FSR 353 branches left (closed). Continue straight, passing over a cattle guard. The track descends with a view of the west flank of La Platas. At 8.0 miles, pass a trailhead on the right with a faded sign. This trail is not helpful for this hike. At 8.2 miles, the road splits at a Y. Take the right branch for a short distance to a large parking area and circular turn-around in a lovely pastoral spot with aspen and bluebells. 
Distance and Elevation Gain: 5.0 miles; 2,100 feet of climbing; add 0.3 mile for the Parrott south ridge option.
Time: 3:00 to 5:00
Difficulty: Trail, off-trail; navigation moderate; no exposure
Maps: Thompson Park; La Plata; Hesperus, Colorado 7.5' Quads, or, Trails Illustrated No. 144, Durango, Cortez
Latest Date Hiked: May 30, 2022
Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the disheveled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.
W.B. Yeats

From Madden Peak, Lone Cone and Little Cone are on the far horizon. Hesperus Mountain is at the center of this La Plata cluster. 

Route: The stem and loop utilizes abandoned roads for much of the distance. The loop may be done in either direction. This description ascends the west-southwest ridge of Madden and then bears south to Parrott. Return to the 11,540-foot saddle and descend due west to link with an old jeep road. Walk west down the road to close the loop. The blue-line route continues down Parrott's south ridge and then pivots northwest to rejoin the standard route near Starvation Creek. 

Walk east from the parking area, elevation 10,220 feet, on a good trail for about 100 feet to an abandoned road and turn left. Make a mental note of this location for your return trip. The lovely dirt track, free of rock, holds to the softly rounded west ridge of Madden. The path climbs steeply through an aspen forest with a few coniferous companions. In the spring, glacier lilies, spring beauties, and buttercups, abundant at the edges of snow patches, yield to columbine. Ignore the roads that branch off to the right and go downhill. This image was captured in late September on our return. 
(Thomas Holt Ward, photo)

At 0.6 mile, 10,740 feet, an equally prominent dirt track branches right at a shallow angle going uphill, image-below.  This initiates the loop. If you want to climb Parrott first, take the right-hand two-track until it is below the Parrott-Madden saddle. To climb Madden Peak first as we did, continue straight, steeply up, staying on the ridge. (THW, photo)

The road soon leads onto a wide-open grassy hillside, transitioning to a single-track. Big views open to the west. Look back on the small town of Mancos, Mesa Verde, and Sleeping Ute Mountain.  Enter a fir-spruce forest at one mile where snow stubbornly hangs on into June.

At 11,460 feet, emerge from the trees. It is an exhilarating moment when both peaks come into view. This image shows the social trail leading onto the ridgetop as it heads toward Madden Peak. The multiple short adits along the ridge are associated with the Kiabab Mine worked in 1936. A group of unpatented claims cover the ridge between Starvation Creek and the East Mancos River but no ore was produced.

The view corridor opens to the north and colorful Helmet Peak. (THW, photo)

A large cairn on the ridge marks the beginning of the off-trail portion of the hike. The route holds to the ridgeline from here to Madden and on to Parrott. For the most part, it is easy walking through the talus though there are some large, unstable blocks. (THW, photo)

In June, we walked on top of a cornice with characteristic sun cups. (THW, photo)

Alpine flowers nestled in tundra cover the dome of the mountain. Early bloomers include mountain parsley, alpine clover, alp lily, alpine willow, minuartia, old man of the mountain, moss campion, and sky pilot, pictured. (THW, photo)

Crest Madden Peak at 2.0 miles after just 1,760 feet of climbing. This is the easiest and fastest route to the summit.

There is a commanding view of the La Platas from Madden Peak. This image shows just a small wedge but it includes Gibbs Peak, Hesperus Mountain, Burwell Peak, Spiller Peak, the Knife, and West Babcock. (THW, photo)

Descend the south ridge of Madden Peak heading directly toward Parrott while walking on thin plates of clinking igneous stone. (THW, photo)

In half a mile reach Saddle 11,540'. From here, it is a 317-foot rise over 0.3 mile to the summit of Parrott Peak. While on the saddle, locate a social trail that climbs just to the right/west of some minor cliffs before making for the ridgetop. (THW, photo)

Parrott is more than it appears. There are two rollers on this little mountain. Crest the southernmost prominence on the West Block of the La Platas at 2.8 miles. There is something so sweet about this little peak in its all-important position. A long stretch of the Highway 160 road cut is to the south and then the Colorado Plateau in the great beyond. In the north the San Juan Mountains are the thinnest line. The image below shows the return track doing a rising traverse to Madden's west ridge. 

For the standard, black-line route, return to Saddle 11,540' at 3.1 miles. Descend due west through a friendly, uncluttered forest. In half a mile, you should encounter Starvation Creek at elevation 11,100 feet. Surely something dreadful occurred here in distant history to merit this name. But now marsh marigold, the happiest flower of them all, gathers around the creek. As snow recedes, glacier lilies thrive in this location. (THW, photo)

Hold your altitude and you will encounter the old road just beyond the creek. Turn right. We saw no footprints on this road but it was covered in elk tracks. Look back for a perspective on the loop and the two peaks. (THW, photo)

At 4.2 miles, come to a T intersection and turn left. This is just before the aspen treeline. Close the loop at 4.4 miles and turn left to return to the trailhead. 

South Ridge Blue-Line Route
Ridge purists may descend on Parrott's south ridge to the weather/radio station.

Pivot and walk northwest in a descending traverse across a tedious talus field to rejoin the standard route.