(G & M: #132)
Sequenced with UN13,460 East, Sayres Benchmark is an easy Class 2 walk-up ascent, but with a fair amount of elevation gain, that utilizes mostly a closed, old mining road as a hiking access, which branches off the road up the South Fork of Lake Creek. Better clearance vehicle is preferable for reaching the trailhead.
Sayres BM NW Ridge Route
Two possible access routes but both involve Highway 82:
From US HWY 24 between Leadville and Buena Vista, take the State HWY 82 west, around Twin Lakes for 14.5 miles for the turnoff left (south) onto the South Fork Lake Creek road. (FR391)
From Glenwood Springs/Aspen, drive on State HWY 82 through Aspen and continue driving one of Colorado's most thrilling passes to the summit of Independence Pass. Continue over the pass, down the east side and from the final switchback that drops you down to valley level, it's about 4.5 miles to the turnoff for the South Fork Lake Creek road (FR391).
Once you turn onto FR391, drive over the new bridge (placed summer of 2014) that crosses the Lake Fork and perhaps stop to admire the narrow gorge the bridge is built over. Continue driving through private property initially for another 2.7 miles or slightly further to where the road forks for Sayres Gulch (FR 382). Park in this vicinity. The road to Sayres Gulch will branch off to the right. The road you want for UN13,460 East and Sayres BM continues more directly toward some trees and a crossing of the creek. Our last visit to this road, the Forest Service had closed it with a locked gate not very far up. They have closed this road for restoration purposes. Even if you had 4WD and the gate was open, you would not get very far anyhow because the condition of the road had deteriorated so much.
The road up Sayres Gulch (FR 382) was still open up to the wilderness boundary as of 2002.
On the east side of Independence Pass, designated Forest Service campgrounds include Parry Peak and Twin Peaks. There are also numerous primitive sites all along Lake Creek. One of the best is here: N 39° 04' 54.99" W 106° 32' 21.86". This is where a diversion tunnel empties out into the Lake Fork and is just under 2 miles west of the turnoff for the South Fork of Lake Creek.
On the west side of Independence Pass, there are designated Forest Service campgrounds at Difficult Creek, Weller, Lincoln Gulch and Lost Man. There are no good primitive sites, but you may be able to use the trailhead parking area across from the Lost Man CG.
As you drive in on FR391, there are primitive sites you can choose from once you're past the private property. There is good camping at the trailhead and a few other spots just before.
Open This Route in a New Window
From the trailhead parking, you want to locate an old mining road that heads up to the south, following a broad, forested ridge on the east side of Sayres Gulch. The road shows on the 1960 USGS quad, but has been removed from the San Isabel NF map. In 1992, this road was closed by a gate. To get to that road, you'll need to cross the South Fork of lake Creek and also, possibly the creek coming out of Sayres Gulch. We found a couple of small dams for measuring stream flow that gave us dry access across. Once across the creek(s), begin following the old road that deteriorates quickly as it switchbacks up the mountainside numerous times. Once the road left the trees, we took a more direct course, staying close to it, but hiking due south over mostly tundra. At 12,000 feet, there will be an old cabin. Leave the road here and contour east across the basin and gain the NW ridge of UN13,460. The remaining ascent will be mostly on tundra with some rock scattered in, and of course, rockier as you approach the summit. There's a lot of elevation gain to this one over short mileage, but it's never difficult.
A slightly different approach to this summit would be to continue following the old mining road which continues up the basin west of UN13,460 and ascends all the way to Pt. 13,430. Then head north for the 13,460 summit.
From the summit, you may want to continue on over to Sayres Benchmark. it's an easy mile and a half ridge walk with tundra and some rocky rubble.
Year Climbed: 1992
We have sequenced Sayres BM with UN13,460 East for medium-length day hike. One-way mileage and elevation gain to Sayers are measured from the summit of UN13,460.
From UN13,460 East, the twin summits of Sayres stand out clearly in the distance. Hike south over PT.13,430, then SSE over another minor bump to a saddle at 13,020 ft. below the Sayres summits. In late June, the hiking along this ridge crest was easy with a minor snow crossing problem at one point. From the 13,020 saddle, gain about 650 feet to the more east-west running summit ridge of Sayres. Hike east over the western summit and walk up to the final, eastern high point. Much of this ridge traverse from UN13,460 will be on tundra, chiprock and rubble, all of which is easy to handle. The final summit is more rocky.
For the return hike, walk back over the western summit, then drop down into the NW basin to pick up one of the old mining roads at a mine just above the 12,400 foot contour shown on the USGS map. From there, follow old road back to the cabin at 12,000 ft. and continue down either following the old road or hiking on tundra back into the trees where you'll probably want to finish on the old road.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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