#125 / 13,752' Storm King Peak

Range › San Juan Range
Quadrangle › Storm King Peak
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 37° 40' 35.43", W 107° 33' 34.21" (Not Field Checked)

Peak Summary

Storm King Peak is a challenging and entertaining 3rd class ascent in the Weminuche Wilderness. This lofty, top 200 summit has no easy vehicle access. The closest vehicle approach is the Beartown/Kite Lake trailhead north of Hunchback Pass. 4WD with good clearance is required. Though Storm King could be climbed in a long day from that trailhead, most peakbaggers will plan a multi-day backpack trip in order to climb the many 13er summits located in this area.

Storm King South Ridge & Couloir Route

Class 3
backpacker icon + Peak Icon
Backpack + Medium Day
RT From Bear Creek/Hunchback Pass/Kite Lake via Storm King Pass: 14.5 mi / 6,200'
RT From Storm King Pass: 1 mi / 1,000'
  • Trailheads
    This route can be accessed via more than one trailhead. Select the from the following trailheads:
    • Bear Creek/Hunchback Pass/Kite Lake Trailhead

      WARNING: This trail head approach REQUIRES 4WD with good ground clearance. The drive as described below from Silverton may take up to 2.5 hours.

      From the Town of Silverton, and where the main road splits at the NE end of town, drive 4.2 miles NE up along the Animas River on blue-signed County Road 2 to Howardsville. Turn right onto FR589 up Cunningham Gulch and stay right at the turn for the "Old Mine Tour" (4.4 miles) but do take the left fork toward Stony Pass (FR737) at 5.9miles. Once on the Stony Pass Road, expect 4W conditions. The road climbs steeply to the pass. Abundant wildflowers as you approach the pass may delay you. Once across the pass, the road becomes FR520 and eventually leads to Rio Grande Reservoir, but you will not drive that far. The road eventually descends down the valley to a low water crossing of Pole Creek. Watch out for the steep embankment climb out on the other side if the road is wet from rains. You could easily slip off the edge. After the crossing, continue south for about a mile to another fork where you'll turn right (west). Another long, low water crossing is found here across the Rio Grande River. This crossing is usually more shallow than the Pole Creek, but the closer you are to runoff season, the more difficult these crossings will be.

      It is also possible to come into this area from either Creede or Lake City over Slumgullion and Spring Pass to Rio Grande Reservoir. From state highway 149 either about 20.5 miles from Creede or 32 miles from Lake City, turn west onto FS520 and drive all the way to the reservoir on the well-signed, graded dirt road. Passenger cars can make it all the way to the "Lost Trail Campground" at the far west end of the reservoir. Beyond that point, FR520 continues west and crosses some rugged sections before connecting with the other section of FR520 coming down from Stony Pass and the low-water crossing of the Rio Grande. We have never driven in all the way on this section and from those we know who have, they have complained about one particularly difficult stretch.

      From the Rio Grande crossing, continue up what is now, the Beartown Road for a slow 7 miles (mainly because of potholes). The road goes all the way to Kite Lake at about 12,100 ft., but the Hunchback Pass trailhead is about 1/2 mile below the lake. There's a trail sign there and some very limited parking is available. Note: There was a fairly difficult section of road around the Beartown site due to muddy potholes.

      As the road begins climbing more steeply toward Kite Lake and the Hunchback trailhead, it becomes quite a bit more rocky in that stretch as well.  If you have driven in here to do the Ute Ridge group of summits, camp in the vicinity of where the road crosses Bear Creek just past the old Beartown site. See coordinates below. From that creek crossing, it's not quite .3 mile to the trailhead for Ute Ridge, which is a jeep track that turns off to the left and drops down to cross another lesser fork of Bear Creek. Park somewhere along this track if heading for Ute Ridge. On the Caltopo map, this trail is called the "Bear Town Trail" and designated FR869. On trails Illustrated Map #140, it does not appear to have a designation.  Coordinates for this road & trailhead are: N 37° 42' 54.53"  W 107° 30' 35.00"


      Camping

      You can find some very limited camping spots in the immediate vicinity of the Hunchback trail head. There's one particularly good spot back down the road a fairly short distance on the south side. There's also some good camping back toward the Beartown site. See coordinates provided.


      Campsite Locations

      Beartown Campsite › N 37° 43' 05.02", W 107° 30' 35.47"
    Approaches Maps Photos
    • From Bear Creek/Hunchback Pass/Kite Lake TH via Storm King Pass    13.5 mi. / 5,200'

      • Hunchback Pass to Nebo Creek  Moderate | RT: 5.5 mi / 1,900’

        This "approach" is part of a sequence of approaches that utilize the Vallecito Trail beginning near Kite Lake and above the "Beartown" site. The trailhead is located at: N37° 42' 44.57"  W 107° 31' 04.97". Use the "Beartown/Kite Lake/Hunchback trailhead information for instructions on how to drive to the TH.

        The trailhead is actually within the Rio Grande National Forest. The TH number is #813 on both the San Juan and older Rio Grande National Forest maps and is a part of the "Continental Divide Trail" at this location and segment. Once the trail crosses Hunchback Pass, it crosses over into San Juan National Forest and becomes #529, continuing south all the way to Vallecito Reservoir. If using Trails Illustrated #140, they identify this as the Continental Divide Trail and use the #813. Walk south from the TH and follow the easy gradient through open terrain with some willows to Hunchback Pass. The trail first sweeps SE, then makes a gradual turn SW, then west to the open, tundra-covered pass with about 900 feet of gain over just under a mile. Coordinates for the pass are: N 37° 42' 16.62"  W 107° 31' 12.37". Hunchback Mountain is west along the divide and can be easily climbed by those interested in bagging all the 13ers. You can drop your pack, stroll to the summit and return in under an hour.

        From Hunchback Pass, continue south heading straight down an unnamed fork of Vallecito Creek. The trail cuts trough plenty of willows in this section and stays on the west side of the drainage until just before the trees. Because of the numerous willows, plan on getting pants & boots drenched if it has rained recently. Also, as a general point, the Vallecito Trail is utilized regularly by pack horse groups so you can expect to see and experience some of the typical trail damage done by horses. The trail then turns to the SE and comes to an intersection. A newer trail (#813) that does not show on the 1964 USGS map heads east up Nebo Creek, crosses the Continental Divide and goes to West Ute Lake. That is the continuation of the Continental Divide Trail. The Vallecito Trail continues south and west from this intersection. Near the trail intersection, there is a very large and good campsite on a prominent knoll above Nebo Creek on the NW side. The campsite makes a good base camp for 13ers off the CD trail including Mt. Nebo, UN13,110, UN13,230, and UN13,169, all of which can be done in a single day from the campsite. See "Camping info" for more details.



        Camping

        The Nebo Creek campsite sits near the intersection of the Vallecito Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. The elevation is appx. 11,500 ft. Coordinates are below. They are something of a guess by using Google Earth, but the campsite is right off the main trail. There are several good tent spots and large logs near campfire areas. The creek is a short jaunt down the hill.

        Campsite Locations

        Nebo Creek N 37° 41' 12.36", W 107° 31' 14.88"

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      • Nebo Creek to Trinity Creek  Moderate | RT: 2.5 mi / 1,000’

        This "approach" is part of a sequence of approaches that utilize the Vallecito Trail beginning near Kite Lake and above the "Beartown" site. The trailhead is located at: N37° 42' 44.57" W 107° 31' 04.97". Use the "Beartown/Kite Lake/Hunchback trailhead information for instructions on how to drive to the TH.

        From the Nebo Creek campsite and the trail junction of the Continental Divide Trail #813 and the Vallecito Trail #529, head south down the Vallecito Trail. The trail swings to the west through forest, staying well above Nebo Creek and then makes an abrupt turn back to the south to cross Nebo Creek. We have usually found this crossing to be a little difficult and somewhat intimidating. The water is swift and nearby the stream heads over the beginning of a waterfall. Sometimes there are logs you can walk across on and other times, there's little help. You may have to wade.

        After crossing Nebo Creek, continue downhill, through a series of switchbacks and at 1.25 miles from the Nebo campsite, you should come to an open meadow on the right (west) side of the trail and see a secondary trail heading over to a crossing of Vallecito Creek, below where Trinity Creek comes in. This meadow area is often used as a camp spot by various groups, though it tends to be a little lumpy. From this location climbers can reach The Guardian, Mt. Silex, Storm King, and Peaks Seven, Eight and Nine as day hikes/climbs. But if you're willing to lug your pack back uphill, read about other higher elevation campsites under the "approach" for those peaks.  If hiking back up to the Nebo Creek camp or back over Hunchback Pass to the trailhead, this section from Trinity Creek back to Nebo Creek is the steepest part of the return hike gaining about 1,000 feet in elevation. It is also possible to hike all the way up Trinity Creek and cross the ridge that separates the Trinity Basin from the Vestal Basin and access the Vestal Creek summits.



        Camping

        An easily identifiable trail turns west off the main Vallecito Trail and leads over to where you can cross Vallecito Creek, downstream from where Trinity Creek comes in. This trail leads across an open meadow that is frequently used as a camp location. See approximate coordinates below.

        Campsite Locations

        Trinity Creek N 37° 40' 33.01", W 107° 31' 27.89"

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      • Trinity Ck to Storm King Pass  Difficult | RT: 5.5 mi / 2,300’

        The Trinity Creek Trail is generally an easy trail to follow up to treeline. From the campsite just west of the Vallecito Trail and below where Trinity Creek joins Vallecito, the place to wade across is obvious and the trail can be seen on the other side of the Vallecito. Fortunately the Vallecito is not as deep or swift here as it is further down where you cross for Sunlight Creek, nevertheless, it's a frigid wade across, especially in the early morning hours. By the end of a long day of hiking, you may find the wade rather refreshing.

        Once across Vallecito Creek, the trail heads up along Trinity Creek staying on the south side and mostly in conifer forest. This is not a maintained trail and does not show on ANY of five maps we have of this area including the USGS and Trails Illustrated. You can expect typical trail conditions for an unmaintained trail. At about 11,000 ft., the trail crosses to the north side of the creek and continues gaining elevation through open forest and grassy meadows. Above where the creek draining Silex Lake comes in, there are some usable campsite locations if you search around. It's also possible to continue on up to Trinity Lake and set up a base camp there, particularly if interested in climbing Peaks One, Two and Three from here.

        If heading on up to what we have called "Storm King Pass," you'll need to continue up the trinity trail to about 11,400 ft. elevation, then turn toward the south to begin an ascent into the basin that holds Lake Silex. On our last visit here in 2005, there was an intermittent trail that headed up into the basin that led up through the steep tundra slopes and ramps with rocky outcrops on the NW side of the drainage from Lake Silex. If you can't find this trail, there's still more than one way to get up here. Where the creek that drains Lake Silex comes out near Trinity Creek, there's the tongue of a rock glacier/talus field that you want to make sure you are west of in an open area that sits at the foot of a steep, mixed tundra & rock slope. If you have access to Google earth, there are three photographs that illustrate to some degree the route/trail up through here, or check out our approximation on the Google Earth view provided. If you manage to find the trail, it will first take you to a rocky bench area at about 11,860 ft. On this bench, you may be able to spot the trail passing through a gravel area if you've still not found it.

        The trail then continues up through mostly rubble and scree to a higher tundra/rock bench about 300 feet above the lake and WNW of it. From there, continue contouring around into the valley west of Lake Silex.  (If climbing Mount Silex and/or The Guardian, you'll need to veer off here and contour south and east around and above the lake as best you can to access a steeply angled couloir that allows access to the SW ridge of Silex.)  Walk west on up the valley to the pass between Storm King Peak and Peaks Eight and Nine. This is what we're calling "Storm King Pass." This last stretch up the valley will be on mostly broken rubble, scree, talus, etc. Before mid-July, you may get lucky and find enough snow patches you can string together to ease the hiking on the rubble. We've also seen some very friendly mountain goats in this area. Keep an eye on your equipment. They'll run off with anything salty. From the pass, you'll be positioned for Storm King, Peaks Eight and/or Nine or Seven. It's also possible to continue hiking WNW from the pass heading down toward a couple of small tarns that provide a good high camp location. See our map.



        Camping

        Best camping locations are at about the 11,400 ft. level along Trinity Creek and near the base of the tundra/rock slopes that lead up into Silex Basin. There's also above tree line camping near Trinity Lake and a smaller lake below Trinity Lake. We've also seen Outward Bound groups camped about 300 feet above Lake Silex along the faint trail to Storm King Pass and then there's better camping opportunities west of the pass near two small tarns that lie on a shelf above Balsam Lake. That section of basin is much less rocky and lush in places with vegetation and wildflowers.

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    • Via The High Traverse

      • Hunchback Pass to Nebo Creek  Moderate

        This "approach" is part of a sequence of approaches that utilize the Vallecito Trail beginning near Kite Lake and above the "Beartown" site. The trailhead is located at: N37° 42' 44.57"  W 107° 31' 04.97". Use the "Beartown/Kite Lake/Hunchback trailhead information for instructions on how to drive to the TH.

        The trailhead is actually within the Rio Grande National Forest. The TH number is #813 on both the San Juan and older Rio Grande National Forest maps and is a part of the "Continental Divide Trail" at this location and segment. Once the trail crosses Hunchback Pass, it crosses over into San Juan National Forest and becomes #529, continuing south all the way to Vallecito Reservoir. If using Trails Illustrated #140, they identify this as the Continental Divide Trail and use the #813. Walk south from the TH and follow the easy gradient through open terrain with some willows to Hunchback Pass. The trail first sweeps SE, then makes a gradual turn SW, then west to the open, tundra-covered pass with about 900 feet of gain over just under a mile. Coordinates for the pass are: N 37° 42' 16.62"  W 107° 31' 12.37". Hunchback Mountain is west along the divide and can be easily climbed by those interested in bagging all the 13ers. You can drop your pack, stroll to the summit and return in under an hour.

        From Hunchback Pass, continue south heading straight down an unnamed fork of Vallecito Creek. The trail cuts trough plenty of willows in this section and stays on the west side of the drainage until just before the trees. Because of the numerous willows, plan on getting pants & boots drenched if it has rained recently. Also, as a general point, the Vallecito Trail is utilized regularly by pack horse groups so you can expect to see and experience some of the typical trail damage done by horses. The trail then turns to the SE and comes to an intersection. A newer trail (#813) that does not show on the 1964 USGS map heads east up Nebo Creek, crosses the Continental Divide and goes to West Ute Lake. That is the continuation of the Continental Divide Trail. The Vallecito Trail continues south and west from this intersection. Near the trail intersection, there is a very large and good campsite on a prominent knoll above Nebo Creek on the NW side. The campsite makes a good base camp for 13ers off the CD trail including Mt. Nebo, UN13,110, UN13,230, and UN13,169, all of which can be done in a single day from the campsite. See "Camping info" for more details.



        Camping

        The Nebo Creek campsite sits near the intersection of the Vallecito Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. The elevation is appx. 11,500 ft. Coordinates are below. They are something of a guess by using Google Earth, but the campsite is right off the main trail. There are several good tent spots and large logs near campfire areas. The creek is a short jaunt down the hill.

        Campsite Locations

        Nebo Creek N 37° 41' 12.36", W 107° 31' 14.88"

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      • Nebo Creek to Trinity Creek  Moderate

        This "approach" is part of a sequence of approaches that utilize the Vallecito Trail beginning near Kite Lake and above the "Beartown" site. The trailhead is located at: N37° 42' 44.57" W 107° 31' 04.97". Use the "Beartown/Kite Lake/Hunchback trailhead information for instructions on how to drive to the TH.

        From the Nebo Creek campsite and the trail junction of the Continental Divide Trail #813 and the Vallecito Trail #529, head south down the Vallecito Trail. The trail swings to the west through forest, staying well above Nebo Creek and then makes an abrupt turn back to the south to cross Nebo Creek. We have usually found this crossing to be a little difficult and somewhat intimidating. The water is swift and nearby the stream heads over the beginning of a waterfall. Sometimes there are logs you can walk across on and other times, there's little help. You may have to wade.

        After crossing Nebo Creek, continue downhill, through a series of switchbacks and at 1.25 miles from the Nebo campsite, you should come to an open meadow on the right (west) side of the trail and see a secondary trail heading over to a crossing of Vallecito Creek, below where Trinity Creek comes in. This meadow area is often used as a camp spot by various groups, though it tends to be a little lumpy. From this location climbers can reach The Guardian, Mt. Silex, Storm King, and Peaks Seven, Eight and Nine as day hikes/climbs. But if you're willing to lug your pack back uphill, read about other higher elevation campsites under the "approach" for those peaks.  If hiking back up to the Nebo Creek camp or back over Hunchback Pass to the trailhead, this section from Trinity Creek back to Nebo Creek is the steepest part of the return hike gaining about 1,000 feet in elevation. It is also possible to hike all the way up Trinity Creek and cross the ridge that separates the Trinity Basin from the Vestal Basin and access the Vestal Creek summits.



        Camping

        An easily identifiable trail turns west off the main Vallecito Trail and leads over to where you can cross Vallecito Creek, downstream from where Trinity Creek comes in. This trail leads across an open meadow that is frequently used as a camp location. See approximate coordinates below.

        Campsite Locations

        Trinity Creek N 37° 40' 33.01", W 107° 31' 27.89"

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      • Trinity Creek to Rock Creek  Easy

        The 1.75 mile walk from the Trinity Creek camp to the crossing of Rock Creek is an easy, quick jaunt down the trail that will take under an hour with only about 400 feet in elevation loss. Though the trail starts out in forest, it crosses plenty of open valley terrain before re-entering forest for some broad switchbacks that make the final drop to the Rock Creek crossing. We have never found any useful logs to cross on here, so be prepared to wade, and at the crossing point, the stream widens out so the wade is long, but usually not challenging. If heading up to Rock Lake, you will not need to make the crossing. The Rock Lake Trail stays on the north side of Rock Creek. Vallecito Creek from the Trinity Creek intersection and heading downstream begins to offer attractive pools and stream fishing opportunities.

        The Rock Creek trail #655 provides access to Rock Lake, a seemingly popular destination for horse-pack groups. From a possible base camp location near Rock Lake, the following 13ers can be accessed, most of which are found on the Columbine Pass and Emerald Lake quads: UN13,302, Irving Peak, Peters Peak, UN13,222, UN13,220, Mount Oso, UN13,417, UN13,310, and UN13,340.



        Camping

        In past visits, we have not found very good campsites at this crossing, though you can certainly find spots to "make do." Perhaps some have developed by now. Better sites may be found south of the crossing in the open meadow area over toward Vallecito Creek.

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      • Rock Ck to Sunlight Crossing  Easy

        The Vallecito Trail from the Rock Creek crossing to the location where you can wade across Vallecito Creek to access the Sunlight Creek drainage is an easy two mile descent with a loss of 500 feet in elevation. The trail passes through a mix of forest and open meadow areas. Aspen trees begin to join the conifers. By now, the elevation loss from Hunchback Pass has left the hiker entrenched in this deep valley with mountain peaks soaring impressively above on either side of the valley. The trail will exit the forest into an open meadow just before arriving at the Sunlight Crossing location. You'll likely see more than one fainter trail heading off to the right (west) toward Vallecito Creek. There are several, excellent campsites located near the creek along the east bank and this could make a good base camp location for day excursions. As mentioned on the Trinity Creek to Rock Creek approach, stream fishing opportunities abound all along the Vallecito to this location.

        To reach Sunlight Creek from here: The approximate camp and crossing coordinates provided will put you well south of where Sunlight Creek actually comes into the Vallecito. Below that intersection, the Vallecito splits briefly and then below where the two branches come back together, the stream widens out a bit and offers a crossing possibility. Trying to wade across before the spring/summer runoff has subsided by mid-July can be tricky if not dangerous. A long ice axe in one hand and a solid, long stick in the other will prove very useful. Loosen the straps/buckles on your pack in case you fall in so you can quickly free yourself from the pack. On at least one of our trips across, we found an old rope and strung it up across the Vallecito at the crossing that provided a solid hand line. IF you check closely on Google Earth, someone has posted a photo at what we believe to be the actual crossing location we have used. From the east side of the Vallecito, you can look across and spot a trail over on the west bank. The times we've crossed here, water has ranged from knee to upper thigh deep. The current is challenging.



        Camping

        As mentioned above, there are numerous campsites along the east bank of Vallecito Creek in the vicinity of the crossing. Use our coordinates as a general reference point and go find your preferred spot. The area shows evidence of being popular with horse-packing groups.


        Campsite Locations

        Vallecito crossing to Sunlight Ck. N 37° 37' 52.44", W 107° 32' 21.60"

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      • Sunlight Creek Approach  Difficult

        The trick to finding the Sunlight Lake trail is to find a way to ford Vallecito Creek. Be sure and read the Rock Creek to Sunlight Crossing Approach for more detail. We have succeeded twice at a location about 150 - 200 yards down from where on the USGS map, Vallecito Creek has split and then come back together and then levels and spreads out a little. Try these coordinates from Google Earth: N 37° 37' 52.44" W 107° 32' 21.60". There will be a good trail on the other side if you're in the right location. Wade on across in water that may reach mid to upper thighs and can be fairly swift, earlier in the season. Once across, leave your boots off or on loosely and head upstream on the trail and cross to the NORTH side of Sunlight Creek. You'll probably have to wade this one as well. It's best to just go ahead and cross right where the trail meets Sunlight Creek. We've never found a better location by looking upstream on three separate trips.

        Once across Sunlight Creek, the trail begins the arduous journey up the Sunlight drainage. The incredible beauty and remoteness of the upper Sunlight Basin will compensate for the difficulty in getting there, or at least keep telling yourself that as you struggle up. The 2,400 feet in elevation gain will be one of the most difficult you'll encounter in the central Weminuche. WARNING: Do not be misled by either G&M or Rosenbrough's book (if you still have them), that the trail is on the south side of Sunlight Creek. Both are wrong. As you head up the trail, you will soon come to two avalanche swaths that have left copious quantities of uprooted aspens piled up like pick-up sticks. We last visited this trail the summer immediately following the avalanche in 2005. Getting through this section was an incredible pain. From what we understand, the unmaintained Sunlight trail has been somewhat re-established through this section. Be careful. It may still be easy to lose the trail. If you do lose it, be aware that the trail does pull away from the creek to the north some at two locations in order to gain elevation at steeper sections of the valley. It then crosses to the south side of the creek at about 10,880 ft. by means of a large log. (May or may not still be there.) This is a critical crossing to make if you want to stay on the trail. It occurs where the valley constricts and leaves little choice as to where to go. The trail takes you right to this crossing. (These coordinates MAY be close to the crossing, but are approximated from Google Earth and are not field validated: (N 37° 37' 53.80"  W 107° 33' 41.22") The trail then stays on the south side of the creek for about 3/4 mile, switchbacking up a steep, open, but heavily vegetated slope and swinging away from the creek to the south. Then the trail drops you back to the creek heading more WNW and crossing to the north side again around a willowy area where things have again flattened out and the stream meanders some. The trail may be difficult to spot in the willows. Just beyond this crossing, you'll be in the last good trees before the trail ascends to Sunlight Lake. There's an excellent campsite here, but if you're not entirely beat up yet, continue another .6 mile on to the lake where some more open sites exist. If you made it this far, congratulations! On the way on up to the lake, and before the trail begins to head more SW, you may observe a trail heading off to the right. This is the trail that goes up into the basin on the north side of Jagged. Coordinates for where this trail turns off are: N 37° 38' 19.31"  W 107° 34' 44.56".

        The following 13ers may be accessed as "day hikes" from the tree camp or a campsite by Sunlight Lake: McCauley Peak, Grizzly Peak, Greylock Mountain, possibly Jupiter Mtn., UN13,121, Peak Eleven, Knife Point, Peak Ten, Jagged Mtn., Leviathan Peak and Vallecito. Quite a spectacular and varied collection!


        It should be noted that the trail route drawn on this map is an approximation at best and should not be taken too literally except at a few critical junctures that are noted in the approach description. GPS plotting was not used.

        Camping

        The last good campsite that has the shelter of trees is at 11,550 ft. and the coordinates provided below. This is an excellent camp location with room for several tents and close access to water. It makes a good base camp for a number of 13ers in the surrounding area. You may also continue to Sunlight Lake where several sites exist but at the lake you'll be more exposed to the weather since there are only a few low trees.

        Campsite Locations

        Sunlight Tree Camp N 37° 38' 12.86", W 107° 34' 26.60"

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      • The High Traverse  Difficult

        What we are calling "The High Traverse" is a term we picked up from an Outward Bound group in 1994 that told us about this route and which we utilized to travel from the basin north of and at the foot of Jagged Mountain to an area in the upper Tenmile Creek drainage that offered a good campsite and base camp location for climbing Peaks Seven, Eight, Nine, Storm King, Silex and Guardian. For many groups, reaching those peaks would probably be best done by approaching up the Trinity Creek trail to Silex Lake, so we are providing this route as a secondary approach to those peaks in the event anyone wants to make the same traverse. The Outward Bound group we met was rather "secretive" about this route at that time. They would not allow their own guides or participants to mark it with cairns and were careful to avoid letting this develop into a trail. We have not visited this route since 1994, so it's current condition is not known. We used this route as part of a nine day backpack.

        From the basin north of and at the foot of Jagged Mountain, walk north up to the pass on the SW ridge of Leviathan Peak. You'll be hiking on some tundra and there was a sporadic trail at times. At the 12,,940 ft. pass, drop north into the Leviathan drainage. The descent is down a very steep and rocky gully with what we call "boulder rubble." This can be difficult to navigate with a full pack. Even well into July, however, there may be snow that you can utilize to avoid the rubble. Ice axe would be handy here. It was here in all this rubble, with absolutely no shelter whatsoever, that we were caught in 1994 in a huge deluge. Rain came down in torrents creating streams and waterfalls cascading off the Leviathan cliffs and all around. Lightening was striking about every 30 seconds and large boulders were sent tumbling down towards us. It was a horrific experience with no place to go to get out of it. Eventually, we made it down to a small tarn at 12,300 ft. From there, it would have been possible to descend on down to Leviathan Lake on more tundra-covered slopes, but that was not the plan.

        From the tarn, we continued NE regaining some elevation to another small tarn at 12,420 ft., north of and above Leviathan Lake, by following something of a rocky bench to that location. Following the advice of the Outward Bound group, we did not go north from here to a 12,900 ft. pass west of a knoll. Instead, we contoured east, then back to the north around the 13,064 ft. knoll and took aim for another unnamed lake over a half mile away that sits at the foot of Peaks Eight and Nine. From the small tarn at 12,420 ft., we crossed another extensive pile of quartzite rock and ascended about 100 feet to gain a bench level that would take us around the 13,064 knoll. The bench was tundra for a while, but gave way to large quartzite boulders again. We came to a shallow "bowl," filled mostly with tundra and divided by a short cliff band. We had to descend about 100 vertical feet to find a break in the cliff. The best place to get across it left a few feet of exposed rock at a moderate angle to go up and through. No problem if dry, but more intimidating if wet.

        We then continued contouring up a tundra-covered slope heading north. We had seen faint signs of a trail through here. We crossed a small stream not shown on the map and followed a vague trail which had two rock cairns marking it at the next bench section. By this point, we were on the broad, east ridge of Peak Seven. A little farther on, we came to another stream in a deeply entrenched cut that made direct, horizontal crossing impossible. We could see that we would either have to gain 200 feet in elevation to get across or drop a similar amount to reach a place where we could intersect the stream that drains the lake at the foot of Peaks Eight and Nine. We chose to go down, met the tributary of Leviathan Creek and then followed it up to the unnamed lake. A brief trail led us through one steep section but then faded in a field of grass and Marsh Marigolds.

        From the lake, we worked our way up NW to another pass at 12,740 ft. and a small pond just down on the north side. Along the way we encountered another large fissure with a stream flowing in the bottom. It was perhaps only 10 feet wide but seemed like it was 50 feet deep. We circumvented the obstacle by heading more directly uphill until the trench section played out. We then crossed a small stream and continued to the pass. Most of the ascent to the pass is on tundra which is a nice relief from all the boulder talus of earlier. From the pass, it will drop off to the north more steeply than the contour lines seem to indicate. A vague path led us down through a series of tundra ledges broken by solid rock walls. This gave way to a steep tundra slope and which gradually diminishes in steepness as it pans out across the valley. The huge basin below is lush with vegetation and wildflowers and only a few outcroppings. We followed emerging streambeds to avoid walking through all the wet vegetation until we came to the two small lakes/ponds located just west of Pt.12,203. There are any number of camping possibilities between the two lakes. The lake to the north is the higher of the two and we found a good site along the SW side. See coordinates below.


        CalTopo map shows the High Traverse route that can be taken from the basin and unnamed lake just north of Jagged Mountain over to a suggested campsite above Balsam Lake at a couple of small ponds located along the headwaters of Tenmile Creek. This is an optinal approach for 13er summits located in that area such as Peaks Seven, Eight and Nine, and Storm King, Silex and Guardian.

        Camping

        The higher elevation lake to the north seems to offer the best campsite opportunities with some protection from the wind by exposed rock domes. There are some small, low trees and willows nearby.

        Campsite Locations

        Upper Tenmile Creek Campsite n 37° 40' 45.54, W 107° 34' 27.47"

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    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info Storm King South Ridge & Couloir

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 1994

    The mileage and elevation gain estimates provided are based on starting this route at the "Storm King Pass" located between Storm King and Peak Nine, west of Silex Lake. If using the suggested campsite at the two small lakes at 12,200 feet west of the aforementioned pass and up above Balsam Lake, then the mileage would be 1.25 one way with total elevation gain of about 1,550 ft. If using that camp location, you'll need to make your way back up to the Storm King Pass to begin this route. Also - we've set the Hunchback Pass to Vallecito Creek to Trinity Creek approach as the primary approach for Storm King. We've also set "The High Traverse" from the basin north of Jagged Mountain as a secondary approach for Storm King and the other peaks located nearby.

    Even in 1994, we found a very clear trail at the Storm King Pass heading up the south ridge of Storm King. Follow it up on steep and fairly secure footing. At various points, the trail may diverge into one or more paths, but eventually, they all lead to the same place, so just stay close to the ridge and always on the west side. Things steepen as you progress upward. After about 500 feet of gain, you'll come to a significant notch in the ridgeline. This notch is easy to see from either the east or west sides of the peak. The path we followed veered left (west) and dropped us down into the very steep and narrow couloir, south couloir. Within about 75 feet of ascending up the couloir, it narrows even more to where you'll be doing 3rd class scrambling on solid rock at times. Some may argue this section is 4th class and the less experienced may feel a desire for roped protection, but the rock is good enough to make that unnecessary. Most of the time, the narrow bottom of the gully will accommodate your feet while you can place hands on opposing walls for holds and friction. This section is quite fun. After about another 100 feet, the couloir begins to widen out, maintaining about the same gradient, but becoming much more loose. Talus will be everywhere. In 1994, we found no cleared off path through this section. After perhaps 200 feet more of gain, begin working to the left to intersect the ridge and a trail may become evident again. Stand a little more erect now as you gain the ridge and then it's a short clamber to the summit, which is a little farther to the west.

    The summit of Storm King Peak allows a view of the northwest face of Silex. You can also see trinity Lake far below to the north and Peaks One, Two and Three along with White Dome. Much of the trinity Creek drainage can be seen and to the SW is the vast basin above Balsam Lake. Return as you came, but be careful to exit the couloir where you entered it. It would be a good idea to not get caught in this gully in a rain storm. Doing so could lead to critical problems. If you've already done Peak Seven, then you may want to call it a day. If not, you may want to consider adding it to the days agenda. Silex and Guardian may also be possible in the same day from strong climbers who don't mind long days on the peaks.


    Additional BETA

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