LoJ: #257 (Pre-LiDAR #259) / 13,503' Mears Peak

Range › San Juan Range
Quadrangle › Mount Sneffels
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 38° 00' 33.97", W 107° 51' 42.76" (Not Field Checked)
Neighboring Peaks › Peak Icon S 6 Peak Icon S 7

Peak Summary

From a hike or backpack into the basin south of Mears, this peak is a difficult, nasty, loose scree ascent that at a minimum should be rated Class 2+ and maybe Class 3 just for the treacherous scree. The remote basin however, offers a very nice wilderness feel for being so close to a well-populated area. A group of elk tend to summer in here. Lidar increased elevation by 7 feet.

Mears Peak South Slopes Route

Class 3
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
Climbed with S 7
RT From Sheep Ck-Deep Ck Trailhead: 9.5 mi / 4,400'
RT From Iron Mtn Trail Base Camp : 2 mi / 2,700'
From Iron Mtn Trail Base Camp: 1.00 mi / 2,700' (One-Way)
  • Trailhead
    • Sheep Ck-Deep Ck Trailhead

      From SH145 at "Society Junction," 4 miles west of Telluride, drive on 145 just a little east past the junction and turn left (north) onto "Airport Road." On Trails Illustrated #141, this road is labeled the "Last Dollar Road," #638. The Uncompahgre NF map labels it similarly. Follow the road uphill and around a sharp turn at the head of a drainage. The road continues west past the Aldasoro Ranch entrance. Bear right when the Airport Road turns off for the Telluride airport. Continue NW and in under a mile, park at the coordinates provided on the right in a trailhead parking lot with a small corral. The Uncompahgre NF map indicates that this is the beginning for trail #418.1B. There is some private property across from the trailhead parking.


      As with all peaks in the Telluride area, camp sites are at a premium. Because of the private property close by, trying to car camp at the trailhead is not advisable and not allowed anyhow. The closest designated campgrounds are the "Town Park" on the east end of Telluride and the "Sunshine" CG south of Society Junction on SH145. (Good luck trying to find an open site.) For anything else, your best bets will be back west on SH145 near the Silver Pick Road turnoff (CR60M); and south on CR63L/J several miles past Illium.

    Approach Map Photos
    • From Sheep Ck-Deep Ck TH via Iron Mtn Trail Base Camp

      Because of the difficulty of the terrain and the fact that we wanted to climb 3 summits out of the basin south of Mears Peak, we made this trip into a backpack, hence an "approach" description for the backpacking segment.

      From the trailhead, follow trail #418.1B northward for a short distance on an open slope. A sign at the TH calls this the Deep Creek and Whipple Trail access. It then switchbacks briefly to the south and then back north to eventually join an old roadbed beside a diversion ditch in an aspen forest. Follow this ditch for nearly a mile to where it crosses Sheep Creek. Past the creek, the trail turns west, still contouring, and then after about 200 yards, makes a sharp turn to the north. Continue along the ditch, ignoring a trail sign for a trail that heads down. After another half mile or so, the ditch intersects "Whipple Creek." That is the name for the creek that drains the basin on the south flank of Mears and S.7. This name does not show on most maps. On the USGS quad, the stream here has no name.

      Cross over Whipple Creek on a bridge and pick up the trail on the other side. Hike for about 10 minutes as the trail follows the creek. The trail then makes a sudden turn to the left, goes up a little, then begins to head gently downhill, paralleling the creek. From that sharp left, hike about 10 minutes watching for an old grass-covered roadbed on the right that heads uphill. Follow it north. This becomes what the Uncompahgre NF maps labels as the "Iron Mountain trail, #418.1C. If our directions fail to get you there, this is the trail you want. The Trails Illustrated map shows this trail in brown, indicating it's a lesser trail that receives little if any maintenance. Hike on up this trail for nearly another 2 miles until it terminates at an old mine site at 10,862 ft. Below the mine tailings, contour on up the valley across rock and grass heading for the next group of trees at 10,800 to 10,900 ft. and a nice grassy area on the south side of the creek. Hike a short distance up a small ridge and you should be able to locate a good campsite in the lush grass.


      The best camping will be as described above, at an elevation of 10,800 to 10,900 ft. approximately, in grassy, open areas amid the sparse trees.

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    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info Mears Peak South Slopes

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 2002

    Mears Peak combines well with S.7 but not so well with S.6 because of technical problems along the connecting ridge. Mileage and elevation gain provided for Mears does not include continuing to either summit. See S.7 for details on the Mears to S.7 traverse along the connecting ridge.

    From a campsite at 10,800 ft., or if you've walked in to do Mears as a day hike, look at the south facing slopes below and west of the summit. There will be several parallel tundra/grassy slopes separated by rubble-filled gullies. All of these slopes terminate higher up because of rocky outcrops and cliffs. Cross the creek and head up the slope farthest to the right. Gain as much elevation as you can on the tundra/grass. Eventually, the greenery will give way to small, rocky talus that slides away with each step. Once you leave the tundra/grass, you will be on broken rubble, scree, talus, etc., the remainder of the climb. Gain elevation until a cliff stops further progress, then angle east and north to avoid the cliffs and look for a break to continue on up. The footing will not improve. At times, the talus thinly covers sloping slabs of rock, making footing even more treacherous. As you continue to angle upward, you may find a small gully of solid rock that can be climbed with some 3rd class scrambling. Above it, you will emerge onto yet another talus-strewn slope. Hike in the direction of a small saddle west of the Mears summit. Once at the saddle, stand upright again, at least for a short time. If you go earlier in the summer, you may find some snow covering the talus. The angle is steep enough where you would probably want ice axe and crampons or at least, micro-spikes.

    From the saddle, pick a route to the summit of Mears, still east of your location and another 500 vertical feet of gain. Be grateful for the somewhat better footing. When you reach the split summit, the view will help relieve the tension of the climb. To the north - the open lowlands of the western slope. Immediately around you, the contrasting rugged peaks. To descend, return as best you can by the same route. Be careful on the scree - this stuff, once it begins to slide, may not stop. If you haven't had enough already, continue west along the ridge to S.7, a 3rd class ridge traverse of well over a mile in length.

    An interesting side note: The summit register we found on Mears recorded that Kent Beverly of Grand Junction had climbed Mears from its NE couloir, which he indicated he had attempted 5 times before succeeding.

    Additional BETA

    Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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