(G & M: #284)
A more isolated Sawatch summit that utilizes an old mining road for much of the easy Class 2 hike. Combines well with Sayers Benchmark. Higher clearance vehicle best for access.
UN13,460 NW Ridge Route
RT From South Fork Lake Creek TH #1:
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.
Year Climbed: 1992
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.
Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
Mountain Handbook ›
(Requires free registration & login to view)
"You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore." William Faulkner