#231 / 13,535' UN 13535 K 49

Range › Sawatch Range
Quadrangle › Mt. Champion
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 39° 09' 07.65", W 106° 30' 02.96" (Not Field Checked)

Peak Summary

A basic Class 2 hike on mostly tundra with the usual amount of rock & rubble thrown in for good measure, typical of the Sawatch Range. Our route approaches this summit from the west and begins on the Independence Pass highway, on the east side of the pass. Front Range hikers may want to consider a trailhead start up the Halfmoon Creek area where climbers often access peaks such as Massive or Oklahoma.  

The North Fork Lake Creek TH we use for this peak has the advantages of 1. Easy access for passenger cars all on pavement versus a trailhead start up Halfmoon Creek that requires several miles of dirt road driving; and 2. Far fewer people and competition for campsites, etc. The disadvantage is greater hiking mileage. If you choose to access this peak from the Halfmoon Creek side out of Leadville, use Gerry Roach's directions for the Mt. Massive south trail access.

UN13,535/K49 South Face Route

Class 2
Long Day // Back for Dinner
RT From North Fork Lake Creek: 9 mi / 4,300'
  • Trailhead
    • North Fork Lake Creek Trailhead

      From Aspen, drive east on SH82 over the summit of Independence Pass and continue down the east side of the pass to the last switchback where the highway drops into the North Lake Creek valley. Just below the last switchback, there's a turnoff to the left (east) that's a short dirt road that leads to trailhead parking for several vehicles in 100 yards or so. This is just under 5 miles from the summit of the pass. The trailhead parking has a wood rail fence. The short drive in may have some potholes.

      If coming from the Front Range, turn west from US24 onto SH82 and drive west past Twin Lakes, continuing up along the Lake Fork until the highway makes the first switchback to begin the climb up Independence Pass. Just before that switchback, turn right (east) onto the dirt road that leads to the trailhead parking in 100 yards or so. This measures about 19 miles from US24/SH82 turnoff.  


      Camping

      Camping at the trailhead parking area is not good. If you can get your vehicle across the creek here, there's a faded track that leads up to a primitive site in some trees. Otherwise, there are designated National Forest campgrounds at Parry Peak and Twin Peaks campgrounds back towards Twin Lakes. We recommend a primitive site that has numerous camping possibilities about 2.4 miles back south on SH82 from the trailhead where a diversion tunnel empties water into the Lake Creek at these coordinates: N 39° 04' 54.99" W 106° 32' 21.86". About a half mile north of there is another smaller area on the west side of the highway at these coordinates: N 39° 05' 15.72" W 106° 32' 32.28".


      Campsite Locations

      Graham Gulch › N 39° 04' 54.99", W 106° 32' 21.86"
    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info UN13,535/K49 South Face

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 1997

    Our route described here is best suited for West Slope hikers, but the trailhead access for Front Range hikers, involves probably little more driving time than taking the long dirt road up Halfmoon Creek out of Leadville.

    From the trailhead, walk north on the old roadbed and find a place to ford the creek. Once across, follow an old jeep track north into a clearing with some old mine tailings. Locate a trail that continues north, then turns east climbing into the trees. This trail continues well-defined up into Lackawanna Gulch. Eventually, it fades in the higher meadows as you approach timberline. When the drainage splits, follow the left fork to a high basin and a pass at 12,460 ft. Pick up an old jeep track at the pass that leads down into the Halfmoon Creek drainage all the way to the "Champion Mill." Either walk the old track or blaze your own path across the tundra. The "mill" is still a prominent building easily seen from all over this valley and 20 years ago, when we did this climb, was in fairly good condition.

    From the mill, or perhaps a higher contour/traverse to save elevation loss, walk through forest to the north, crossing two minor drainages and head to the east side of a basin just above 12,000 ft. With the open view of the south face of K 49 here, chart a path of least resistance to the summit. The 1,500 feet of gain looks a little daunting but much of it goes on tundra with broken rock higher up that becomes progressively more unstable. We came out on the west ridge at about 13,200 ft. and then walked on more stable terrain to the summit, arriving at about noon with a 7:00 AM start. We lost a good 45 minutes this day trying to find a dry crossing of the North Fork of Lake Creek, back at the trailhead. It was early season, there was a lot of snow even down into the trees and the creek was raging. If you do this hike early in the season, an ice axe may be handy.

    From the summit of this seemingly insignificant peak dwarfed by its surrounding neighbors, you'll enjoy commanding views of both 14ers and higher 13ers all around. The terrain is typical of the Sawatch.  For the return hike, retrace your route back to the trailhead.

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