Silver Mountain B
From San Joaquin Ridge, Silver Mountain is a Class 2+ ridge traverse of about 1.3 miles. Our route approaches from Ophir and utilizes an old 4WD mining road. Outstanding views. Pre-Lidar elevation was 13,470.
Silver Mountain East Ridge Approach Route
Long Day // Back for Dinner
RT From San Juaquin S and W Ridge:
From "Society Junction" 4 miles west of Telluride, drive south on SH145 and take the turnoff for Ophir. Drive east to the town and then continue east on FR630 (the Ophir Pass Road) to the coordinates provided. There is an old mining road that switchbacks up the mountainside to the old "Carbonero Mine" at about 11,450 ft. None of our maps ( USGS quad, Trails Illustrated, Uncompahgre NF) seem to agree on the exact location of this road and we have not been there since 1996, so you may have to do a little research on your own. The coordinates we've provided were taken from Google Earth and shows a road heading NE up through trees that at least eventually ties in with the road up to the mine. The USGS quad and Trails Illustrated maps show another road coming in from just out of Ophir and joining the track to the mine. In 1996, we could never find this access, so we drove east up FR630 to a little ways past the turnoff for Swamp Canyon and located a 4WD track that took us all the way to the mine where we parked. The Uncompahgre NF map does not show this road at all, so it may be closed, at least to vehicle traffic.
An article in a 2014 May edition of the Telluride Daily Planet indicates that the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety was calling for bids to help mitigate the water coming from the mine that has in the past caused tailings to spill down and over the Ophir Pass road. Glenn Pauls is the owner of the property and has accumulated over 1,100 acres in old mining claims in hopes of an eventual trade with the National Forest Service. All this suggests that access to the mine may be closed. If so, San Joaquin and Silver Mtn. may be accessed by two other possibilities: 1. Trails Illustrated and the USGS quad both indicate an old road that heads north out of Ophir to the Gertrude Mine. The ridge off the east side of Straatsburg Basin could then provide a means of accessing the east-west ridge that connects Silver Mtn. and San Joaquin Ridge. 2. About a half mile east of the turnoff for Swamp Canyon on FR630, there's a trailhead for FR508.1A which leads across the ridge, dumping hikers into the head of Bridal Veil Basin. It crosses the ridge just east of Pt.13,432. From there, you could hike west along the ridge crest to the true summit of San Joaquin Ridge.
While there are no designated Forest Service campgrounds near Ophir along FR630, there are a limited number of primitive sites where you may be able to vehicle camp overnight. Be aware of private property issues. Back north along SH145, there's the "Sunshine" campground about two miles back from the Ophir turnoff.
Click thumbnail to view full-size photo + caption
Year Climbed: 1996
Note: Silver Mountain combines well with San Joaquin Ridge for a ridge-walk day. Therefore, this route description includes mileage and elevation for both summits and begins from the summit of San Joaquin Ridge. In addition, our assumption is that climbers do not have 4WD available, so the overall route begins from the trailhead off the Ophir Pass road.
From San Joaquin ridge, head back west to the false summit of Pt.13,446, losing and then regaining about 250 feet. Descend west from Pt.13,446 directly on the ridge on small, broken rock. As you lose elevation, you'll find yourself forced to the north side of the ridge and onto slopes strewn with loose rock. There will be some tricky drops that may require one-at-a-time maneuvering for a larger party. After dropping a good 50 feet off the ridge, keep contouring west across a similar loose slope, but not quite as bad. Approach a saddle just east of Pt.13,463. There are three choices here: A. Ascend up the steep face of the false summit by way of a couloir and continue across the top B. Contour at the saddle level around on the north side trying to stay just below the cliffs C. Descend on the north side about 100 feet to a rocky bench and contour west below Pt.13,463 to a saddle on the west side. Since we could not tell for sure if either option A or B would work at a non-technical level, we chose C. The descent to the bench was of moderate difficulty and the bench itself was comprised mostly of large boulders with some snow. An ice axe might be useful here depending on snow conditions. The ascent back to the saddle on the west side of Pt.13,463 was steep, rocky and unstable. This bench is evident on the USGS map. From the saddle, it's an easy scramble to the true summit of Silver Mountain, a rocky place with an outstanding view looking down on the Alta Lakes.
To descend to the Carbonero Mine, go back down the ridge to the east and at the saddle, begin a descent on small, loose rock. At times, there will be enough scree, for a scree-ski descent. Follow the rounded ridge and then drop into Spring Gulch, contouring across at about 11,800 foot level to some trees and the next ridge east. Make the easy contour across the next gully and drop on down to the Carbonero Mine. If you were able to leave a vehicle here, be thankful that all the rock scrambling is over. If not, keep walking on down the old road back to wherever you left your vehicle along the Ophir Pass road.
"If you want something you never had you have to do something you’ve never done." Thomas Jefferson