The name for trail #1996 is "The Lost Man" trail. It has two access points off Highway 82 out of Aspen. The first access is 14 miles east of Aspen and is a large parking area on the north side of the highway, across from the Lost Man Campground. This section of the trail leads up to South Fork Pass and Lost Man Lake. If accessing the Williams Mountains, this is the shortest and easiest access. Once across South Fork Pass, the trail number changes to 1940.
If coming from the Front Range, turn west off onto SH82 from US24 between Leadville and Buena Vista and drive past the Twin Lakes Reservoirs, through the small town of Twin Lakes and continue west up to the summit of Independence Pass. From the summit, continue driving west. At the first switchback heading down is what we are calling the "Roaring Fork River" trailhead. This is actually the other end of the Lost Man trail #1996. Drive on west past here, for another 4.3 miles to the Lost Man Campground and parking for the Lost Man trail on the north side of the highway. The parking lot is sizable.
This approach information is provided for those who would want to backpack in as far as South Fork Pass or beyond in order to climb the four Williams summits and possibly some other unnamed summits NE of the Williams group.
From the Lost Man trailhead, hike north to Lost Man Reservoir which is about one half mile in, gaining about 200 feet elevation. Before reaching the reservoir, a little over .3 mile from the TH, another trail turns off to the left. This is Forest Service trail #1993 to Midway Pass. Use this trail to climb UN13,033 (Williams South C) or if you want to attempt a traverse of all the Williams summits from the south. Otherwise, continue north from the reservoir on the Lost Man trail for about 4.5 miles total to South Fork Pass at 11,840 ft. The trail is fairly level most of the distance, with the steepest elevation gain just prior to the pass. At about 2.4 miles up the trail, or about .4 mile past the crossing of Jack Creek is a possible campsite that lies on the east side of the trail and overlooks a section of the creek that enters a shallow, rocky gorge. The campsite is not far off the trail. Try these coordinates: N 39° 09' 02.60" W 106° 36' 37.41". However, most would probably prefer to get further up the trail before camping. Overall, there was a lack of viable campsites along this trail all the way up to the pass.
Before reaching South Fork Pass, the Lost Man trail actually turns off to the east to go up to Lost Man Lake. If interested in climbing the lowest 13er in the state, you could turn off here and hike up toward Lost Man Lake to ascend the peak. Otherwise, where the Lost Man trail turns off to the east, continue north to South Fork Pass, now just a short distance away. At the pass, if you explore over to the west of the trail, there's a very small pond with some camping possibilities at these coordinates: N 39° 10' 20.21' W 106° 35' 33.53". If you do not wish to camp here, this is the location that we used to launch off for UN13,203 (Williams South B) and also Williams Benchmark (13,312).
For Williams Mountain and UN13,108 (Williams North), continue packing north, down the trail now for about another .75 mile to a third possible campsite in the vicinity of these coordinates: N 39° 10' 44.21" W 106° 35' 01.91". This is only a very rough estimate of where we camped. The so-called campsite we used was on the west side of the trail and barely off the trail and overlooked the creek. On the east side of the trail, if you wandered up over some rock outcrops, there was evidence of a couple of other marginally used spots. This made a good location to launch off for Williams Mountain and UN13,108 (Williams North). If you access them the way we did, you will need to continue down the trail to Deadman Lake. The terrain around Deadman Lake we found to be rather flat and wet, but there may be a viable campsite around there.
Sometimes, perhaps too frequently in Colorado, the best laid plans are altered by weather. We had planned this day to ascend Williams South C first, then continue on to Williams Benchmark and Williams South B. The morning our hike was to begin, we awoke to early September rain showers and the high peaks shrouded in clouds with new snow higher up. Not to be denied at least one summit, we decided to at least try to reach Williams South C, the closest and easiest of the three chosen summits.
From the Lost Man trailhead, head north up the trail as described in the "Approach" for the other Williams summits, but about .3 mile up the trail, and before reaching Lost Man reservoir, turn left onto the well-maintained trail #1993 that leads to Midway Pass and Midway Creek. The trail begins to immediately gain elevation on numerous switchbacks. After gaining about 900 feet elevation on the switchbacks, the trail begins to straighten out some and follows a minor drainage NW to a bench-like area. Further on, it breaks out of the trees and contours around a large, south-facing basin with tundra and willows and then works west over to near a small pond at an 11,965 marker. You may want to stop off and enjoy the view from this pond.
Continue on the trail from the pond to the west a little more and then turn north and begin the off-trail ascent to the summit of Williams South C by walking up the very broad and fairly gentle south ridge. There are low, wind-blown conifers that continue upward for some distance. Hike along their edge. Above them, the terrain changes over to a combination of tundra, gravel and smaller scree & rocks. In short order, you should gain the summit ridge. The true summit will lie north along this ridge by about another 10 minute walk. The southern summit is measured as being 8 feet higher than the northern summit, another .3 mile away.
If wanting to continue on to Williams Benchmark, one source rates the connecting ridge as Class 2. There are a number of minor ups and downs. From the Benchmark, you could drop off east into the unnamed basin and head down to the Lost Man Trail which could be followed back to the start. Otherwise, if Williams South C is your only summit for the day, as it was with us, head back down as you came. The day we climbed it, we were struck by a strong snow squall near the last trees and driven back down to some lower trees to seek shelter. When the squall abated, a lost glove sent us back up the peak, even though we had figured this climb to be a lost cause, and then the storm relented for a while and allowed us to make the summit with about 2" of new snow covering everything. September weather can be very fickle.