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#256 / 13,498' UN 13498 Big Bear Peak

Range › San Juan Range
Quadrangle › Dolores Peak
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 37° 51' 25.23", W 108° 00' 42.06" (Not Field Checked)
Neighboring Peaks › Peak Icon "UN 13540 A"

Peak Summary

A more difficult summit than its twin to the east, UN13,540A. A rocky connecting ridge followed by some 4th class scrambling on loose, exposed rock to the summit. Then, a steep rocky descent into a rock-filled basin before you regain an access trail.  

UN13,498 East Ridge Approach Route

Class 4
Long Day // Back for Dinner
RT From Rock of Ages TH: 12 mi / 3,500'
  • Trailhead
    • Rock of Ages TH

      Note: In 2011, the access issue to Wilson Peak through the Silver Pick basin was resolved with the opening of the "Rock of Ages" trail. This new access utilizes part of the old access roads to the Silver Pick, but the TH actually begins beyond where it use to be, and is actually in the Elk Creek drainage.

      From SH145, between Placerville and Telluride, turn south onto the "Silver Pick Road," aka: CR60M, which is a graded dirt road. This turnoff is about 6.5 miles south of the intersection at Placerville with SH62. From the turnoff it will be just under 7 miles to the trailhead (6.8 appx.) In about 3.1 miles you'll come to an intersection. Do not turn - stay on the main road and in another .7 mile, you'll come to the critical intersection. At this turn, go right onto FR622. Passenger cars beyond here not advised. Avoid accidentally driving up a private drive further right. Continue up FR622 for 2.2 more miles to where the Wilson Mesa trail comes in. In the past, some would park and start hiking from here for Silver Pick Basin. Just another tenth of a mile, you turn right onto FR645. Follow it to the Rock of Ages TH as it crosses Big Bear Creek (low water crossing) and swings around the ridge that divides Silver Pick Basin from the Elk Creek drainage. There is a sizable parking area.


      Camping

      Plenty of at-large, primitive camping opportunities on this one. Just after you turn off SH145, and before you cross the San Miguel River, a single-track road heads off east along the north bank of the river. You may be able to finds quick, overnight spots along here. Just across the river, you may be able to find another overnight spot.

      When you turn onto FR622, watch for wider spots in the road and primitive sites just off the road. This goes for FR645 as well. You can car-camp at the trailhead and approaching the TH, there are several "wider spots in the road" and a couple of pullouts.

    Peak Icon Route Map

    Route Info UN13,498 East Ridge Approach

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 1999

    Warning: This route suggestion may cross private property. Travel at your own risk. If you come across signs warning of private property, respect them and try to locate a different passage. The property issues may come when you drop off the connecting ridge between UN13,540 and UN13,498 to the north into the east fork basin of Elk Creek.

    Note: The mileage estimate and total elevation gain estimate for this summit include having climbed UN13,540 to the east along the ridge.

    From the summit of UN13,540A, hike west, down along the ridge crest over mostly smaller talus, chiprock and broken but stable rock to the saddle. You may even follow for some distance, something of a trail. From the saddle, begin ascending toward UN13,498 along the ridge. All will go well until you're about 120 vertical feet below the summit. At this point, the dramatic cliffs of the NE face cut into the ridge. Further progress on the ridge becomes technical and exposed. We chose to leave the ridge here and contoured out onto the south face of the mountain, to a couloir filled with lots of broken rock and some minor cliff bands. Scramble up the couloir (4th class) and if in the same one we followed up, there will be a small chimney or crack to negotiate. This couloir is fairly exposed and with all the loose rock, helmets are advised. Be extremely careful to not put rocks down on party members. Caution was required - rope was not. The upper portion of the gully will give way to a scramble on loose rock, and a few more ledges to reach the summit. You should come out a short distance from the high point. Feel a little dwarfed by the surrounding 14ers and watch for distant climbers on them.

    To descend and return to your vehicle: Exit the summit as you approached it being very careful as you descend the couloir to not send your body plummeting down along with some of the rocks you'll inevitably send rolling down. Return to the connecting saddle between UN13,540 and UN13,498. Head down a very steep, north facing gully into the east fork basin of Elk Creek. Ice axe in early season may be required here. If no snow, expect for the first 400 feet of descending, loose rubble, gravel, sand and extremely loose, broken rock. Exit the rock quagmire onto more level terrain. In 1999, we found a large amount of recently used mining equipment around here, including an old school bus with still inflated tires, but no signs warning of private property. Continue on down the valley by either following a road that perpetually switchbacks or a trail to the right that descends through endless talus along the west flank of the mountainside. But when the forest begins to show as you reach tree line, drop to the edge of the trees and walk along the edge of the talus until you intersect the Rock of Ages trail. Take a look back at the spectacular NE face of UN13,498. Follow the trail back to your vehicle.

    Note: In regards to the descent route, if there appears to be a private property issue with accessing the NE basin of Elk Creek, you can also attempt to descend the west ridge of UN13,498 until you can drop north from another saddle about 1/2 mile west of the summit into another basin that will lead down to the Elk Creek trail. According to Fred Askins, this west ridge did not pose any major difficulties, but there were some 3rd class sections as you negotiate your way through some rock bands and minor cliffs. You can follow the Elk Creek trail east back to the Rock of Ages trail and TH. It is also possible to continue west along this ridge all the way over to UN13,123. After passing over 12,950, there will be a deep notch. Askins reported a 4th class downclimb on the south side of the notch and then regaining the ridge for the final summit ascent. No rope used.

    For an interesting discussion on the route between UN13,540, UN13,498 and UN13,123 (Wood's Peak), follow the link on the Links page to a post by Craig Patterson on Mountain Handbook


    Additional BETA

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