With 4WD access into Governor Basin, this can be quick and easy Class 2 hike to a peak with superb views, especially of the summits surrounding Yankee Boy Basin. Can be climbed from Governor Basin or the Imogene Pass Road above Telluride.
T.5 NW Ridge Route
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
RT From Yankee Boy Basin - Governor Basin Road:
Drive to the "Switzerland of America," Ouray, by whatever route you please. In Ouray, continue on US550 south and begin the climb out of town toward Red Mountain Pass. At the top of the first switchback, watch for the turnoff for "The Camp Bird" road. (CR26 or Ouray County 361) If you have time, stop and take a look at the gorge created by the Uncompahgre River. Then continue driving SW up the graded dirt road for the first few miles. About 4.5 miles up the road, stay right and continue on FR853.1B. (The other road that goes left takes you over Imogene Pass to Telluride.) Most passenger cars can make it comfortably to here. Continue across a spectacular shelf section of road (where things can become a little rough) and at about 6.7 miles in from the beginning of 361, there's another intersection where the road for Governor Basin turns off (FR853.1C) Turn down onto the Governor Basin road and find a place to park if you've made it in a passenger vehicle of some kind. It's all 4WD from here. The trailhead coordinates provided are for parking in this area.
If you do have high clearance 4WD, you can drive up the Governor Basin road about as far as the Virginius Mine remains, about 2 miles up. Otherwise, be prepared to walk up the same road. Park at 12,080 ft., where another old road bed takes off to the NE, then switchbacks to the south to eventually gain the saddle east of Mendota Peak. Local jeeping groups in Ouray rate this road a Class 4 or 4.5 on a scale of 1 - 5 for jeeping difficulty. There are some very steep, rocky and difficult sections to negotiate. We made it up here years ago in a Jeep Cherokee Sport.
For this access, there are a limited number of camp spots as you drive up the first few miles of Ouray County Road 361. One spot is called "The Angel Creek Campground," followed by the "Thistledown" campground. (See links below) Be careful regarding private property. In past years, we had been able to car camp in the vicinity of where the Governor Basin road turns off from the Yankee Boy Basin road. This may no longer be allowed. Then, there's a good campsite if you're able to drive up the Governor Basin road at one of the switchbacks at about 11,360 ft. at these coordinates: N 37° 58' 37.52" W 107° 45' 42.57"
Link to Angel Creek CG http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/gmug/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=32524
Link to Thistledown CG http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/gmug/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=32818
Year Climbed: 1997
This route description is based on the assumption that you do not have an adequate 4WD to make the drive into Governor Basin. Therefore, the mileage and elevation gain reflects a start from the beginning of the Governor Basin Road. If you are able to drive up to close to the Virginius Mine, the mileage will be reduced from 3.5 to about 1.5 and the elevation gain from 2650 to 1350.
Walk or drive up the Governor Basin Road (FR853.1C) to about a quarter mile shy of the Virginius Mine, where there's a nice flat area to park with nearby flower-strewn meadows. If you drove, you may want to consider leaving a few snacks around, away from your vehicle to distract the marmots from snacking on your vehicle while you're gone.
Follow the road on up to the mine and then hike south over steep rock to a bench at 12,800 ft. above a second mine. Continue across more rock, (or if you're early enough in the season and lucky, snow), and aim for the saddle east of the Mendota summit. To get to the saddle, you'll be hiking over a jumble of large, loose rocks. From this approach, the ridge that connects Mendota to T.5 looks intimidating with rocky spires, gendarmes and cliffs that seem to guard the way to the summit of T.5. Don't despair. Once at the saddle, an easy route unfolds through the obstacles as you turn left (east) and walk to the summit. Past the obstacles and Pt.13,337, the ridge widens out and becomes covered in small scree. Stroll on to the anticlimactic summit. Enjoy views down into Silver and Sydney Basins to the north & east and Marshall Basin to the south.
On the return hike you may want to stroll out along the narrow but easy ridge to the summit of Mendota Peak, even though it is unranked. The view is impressive with the huge vertical drop down to Telluride far below. As you return, there is an old trail that drops from the saddle north and takes a slightly more circuitous route back down to the main road. Snows in the earlier season may obscure much of this trail. Once back down into Governor Basin, take some time to enjoy the wildflower display. They are almost as abundant as Yankee Boy Basin and photographic opportunities abound with the spectacular St. Sophia Ridge as a rugged backdrop.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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