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LoJ: #514 (G & M: #512) / 13,159' UN 13159 UN 13,159 East Ridge via Trail #509

Range › San Juan Range
Quadrangle › Ophir
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 37° 51' 42.38", W 107° 45' 25.33" (Not Field Checked)

Peak Summary

By itself, a Class 2+ summit situated above the beautiful and seldom visited Mill Creek Basin and Columbine Lake, SW of Red Mountain Pass. We have sequenced this summit however with Three Fingers and T.11 for a much longer day. 4WD is not required but useful and can shorten mileage. There is an additional route for accessing this peak alone from US550 south of Red Mountain Pass. 

Class 2
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
RT From Columbine Lake #509: 5.8 mi / 2,855'
  • Trailhead Photos
    • Columbine Lake #509 Trailhead

      To reach Trail #509 if coming from Ouray: Drive to the summit of Red Mountain Pass on US550. Begin measuring here and continue driving south on US550. The first turnoff of two possible access points will come not long after the big switchback and the section where the highway  opens up and heads back south. The turnoff is 4.2 miles down from the summit of the pass. Turn right (west) onto a gravel road that drops down toward Mineral Creek and heads back north following the creek. This is FR820. It does not show on the 1955 Silverton quad, but it does show on the San Juan NF map and the FS Topo 2016 maps. The road will come to an area of avalanche damage and at that point, you must drive a short distance in and across the creek to continue on the road. In lower water conditions, this is no problem even for passenger vehicles, but in runoff season, the flow may be strong enough to discourage use of this access. Once across the creek, the road switchbacks up the hillside, with open, primitive campsites at each of the switchbacks. At the 3rd switchback, the road heads south and climbs very steeply to an area of parking where it crosses an open drainage. Just beyond there, it crosses just below an old mine. There is parking in this area for several vehicles, but the actual trailhead is still .2 miles south along the same road. You could even car-camp here, but there's no privacy. To get to the actual trail, continue south along the road the additional .2 mile and there will be a couple other pullouts, each of which can accommodate two to three vehicles. The trail is marked by one of those brown, flexible fiberglass posts and is identified as Trail #509. 

      Alternate access: From the summit of Red Mountain Pass, drive south on US550 past the first turn at 4.2 miles and drive another .7 mile to the turnoff for Ophir Pass on the right (west). If coming from Silverton and the "Y" intersection on the west side of town, it's 4.7 miles up to this turnoff. The Ophir Pass Road is marked with a brown sign with writing on either side of the sign. When you turn onto this road, it will drop down and cross Mineral Creek on a good bridge, then will head SW and begin climbing uphill. On the way down to the bridge, you'll pass two possible campsites. It's .2 mile to the bridge, then another .2 mile up the Ophir Pass road to a turnoff to the right for the trailhead road - FR820. This section of the road to the trailhead is a little rougher than the one from the north, but passenger cars carefully driven can likely make either approach successfully. Better clearance vehicles will have an easier time. 

      For additional information regarding this trail, see this link: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/sanjuan/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=42832&actid=50 or read our route description for UN 13,159. 


      Camping

      From the north access road, there is room for a vehicle and a primitive camp at each of the first two switchbacks. From the south access, there are two primitive campsite locations; one just after you turn off the highway, and the other a little farther down. We did not see any good tent campsites along the trailhead road. You could also car-camp at one of several pullouts along FR820. The closest campgrounds will be found along the South Mineral Creek Road - but this area is crowded all summer. 

    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info UN 13,159 East Ridge via Trail #509

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 2020

    While we were unable to actually reach the summit from this route because of high ridge-top winds, we felt it was useful to include this route as an alternate to the longer approach route that includes T.11 and Three Fingers. This way, UN 13,159 can be easily done as a solo summit. 

    From the trailhead, hike steeply uphill on a good trail that will take you through 15 switchbacks. Up until about switchback 8, the distance between each tends to be rather short. After #8, the distance begins to lengthen out. At 11,650 feet, the trail leaves the last trees and climbs steadily west up the valley. Point 13,051 is clearly in view at the head of this valley. The trail climbs to within about 200 feet of a saddle between Pt. 13,051 and Pt. 12,740, then turns north to go up and across a pass between Pt. 13,051 and Pt. 12,692. One way to reach UN 13,159 would be to leave the trail and hike up to the saddle between Pt. 13,051 and Pt. 12,740. Then, contour NW over to another saddle between Pt. 13,051 and UN 13,159. From there, finish on the rocky Class 2 ridge. 

    Another way to climb UN 13,159, would be to continue on the Columbine Lake trail over the saddle between Pt. 13,051 and Pt. 12,692.. Walk on past this saddle another .4 mile until your north of the saddle between Pt. 13,051 and UN 13,159. Turn south and head up first tundra, then talus to that saddle. At the saddle, turn west to finish on the rocky ridge to the summit. From this summit, you'll be able to see Columbine Lake in the distance. If you have time, continuing down the west ridge to another saddle and then dropping NW down to the lake is well worth the time & effort. This is one of the most uniquely colored lakes anywhere in Colorado. There are some camping opportunities around this lake. 


    Additional BETA

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