UN13,046, also known as "N 2" and sometimes called "South Snowdon" is a Class 2+ summit, usually climbed in sequence with Snowdon Peak for a nice day hike trip from the Andrews Lake trailhead south of Molas Pass. The trailhead is accessible by passenger vehicle.
If coming from Montrose-Ouray-Red Mountain Pass, drive on down US 550 to Silverton and do not go into the town. Rather continue right at the junction just west of town and head uphill on US 550 as it switchbacks and climbs to Molas Pass. At the 10,899 ft. pass, (where there's a large visitor pullout area with vault toilets), drive south and west on US 550 for .9 mile to the signed turnoff for Andrews Lake. The one-lane, paved road to the lake is just over .6 mile to the lower parking area, which is intended for day-use only. There is another fork to this road that heads uphill to a higher, and very large parking area that's intended for overnight horse-packing groups, backpackers and others staying longer term. There are picnic tables here and vault toilets. If climbing for the day of backpacking to Crater Lake, use this higher lot.
If coming from Durango on US 550, drive to Coalbank Pass, where there are pullouts for day use hikers on either side of the road. Continue driving north on US 550 for an additional 6.4 miles, first dropping in elevation to about 9,800 ft. at a sharp bend in the highway, then gaining steadily back up to the turnoff for Andrews Lake. The turnoff is signed. If you arrive at the summit of Molas Pass, you missed the turnoff. Turn around, drive back down .9 mile and drive on in and follow the directions above for parking.
Primitive and designated camping opportunities abound in the area. There is a Forest Service campground and trailhead at Little Molas Lake (west of the highway and just north of Molas Pass). The City of Silverton maintains a campground at Molas Lake where you can also find pay showers. The upper parking lot at Andrews Lake we have spent several nights in sleeping in the back of our pickup. There is no tent camping there.
If parked in the upper parking lot at Andrews Lake, hike down to the lake and find the trailhead at the NW corner of the lake near some vault toilets. The trail starts out paved as it goes around the west end of the lake and turns to gravel after crossing the lake outlet. This is trail #623. Once on the south side of the lake, it begins climbing uphill through forest on a series of gentle switchbacks, gaining about 400 feet in elevation. This is a well used trail. Continue up 5 switchbacks and then start keeping watch for the trail that cuts off for Snowdon Peak. The turnoff was marked by a large cairn. These coordinates should be close to that turnoff: N37° 43' 15.82" W107° 42' 26.31". You can see this turnoff on Google Earth. This trail to Snowdon will take you past some small tarns, crossing a couple of very minor ridges and to a large, grassy meadow where the trail may fade some. Re-enter a stretch of forest at N37° 43' 10.95" W107° 42' 01.90" and hike to another smaller meadow and on the left side of that meadow, begin the real ascending for the day.
Follow a large, grassy couloir up to a saddle north of Snowdon Peak and south of UN 12,628. This involves about 1,000 feet of gain. It's never particularly difficult. At the saddle, turn southward and follow the ridge SW to another saddle. The trail stays to the left side of the ridge across ledges. As the ridge levels, slabs of rock appear. Continue following a cairn-marked trail that will lead off the main ridge and onto the east side of the mountain. This is to avoid some more difficult obstacles farther up the ridge. Contour across the east face some, losing perhaps a little elevation and then contour a little more. Begin heading up with some serious ascending, at times on some very steep terrain of combined rock and tundra that requires some 3rd class scrambling. At this point, it's easy to get off any designated route and you may miss the intended access, but continue working upward. At one point, we followed a rubble-filled gully that had beautiful clumps of columbine. Either work back to the NE ridge either just below the summit or emerge onto the summit from the east side of the mountain, depending on route taken. It took us two hours from the lake to arrive at the summit and we found it to be a fairly large, flat area.
The views from this summit are impressive. The lone summit of Engineer Mtn. will certainly attract your attention, but to the east is the sea of summits that form the Needle Mountains. If you have good map reading and navigation skills, you can pick out any number of 13er summits. Once done admiring the view, either return as you came or continue on to UN13,046/N 2 to the south. We also call this South Snowdon.
The main obstacle in making a ridge traverse between Snowdon and UN13,046 (N 2) consists of three notches along the connecting ridge. When we attempted this, we had no information regarding the difficulty of these notches, so the route that follows avoids the first notch and involves a significant loss in elevation that some may wish to avoid. Additionally, this summit is climbed in sequence with Snowdon Peak, so the mileage and elevation gain estimates are measured from the Snowdon summit. It's one mile by our route between the two peaks and from N 2, it's another 3.0 miles to return to the TH.
From the relatively flat and rocky summit of Snowdon Peak, enjoy a brief stroll SW, heading for where the ridge narrows up. From a vantage point near the Snowdon summit, you can distinguish three notches in the ridge that could pose significant problems. What follows next is our written account of dealing with the notch problems:
We headed SW from the summit and followed the ridge to the first notch, (involved some Class 2+ down climbing) which was divided by two large couloirs. We crossed to the head of the second couloir and did not like what we saw and went back to the head of the first. At that second, lower couloir, we tried to descend on the east side of the ridge but encountered a short ledge that we felt was too risky to descend without some kind of protection, of which we had none and the rock was wet. While trying to decide what to do, another couple came along and we explained to them what we were finding. They were following some instructions in a guidebook we did not have that WAS FOR A CIRCUIT OF Snowdon Peak only. The guidebook instructed to descend west down one of the couloirs, which they proceeded to do. It was very steep, full of loose rock, but still manageable. We later on learned that you could descend about 600 feet down this way, then begin a traverse below the ridge on the west side toward UN13,046.
As for us, from the first couloir, we headed east and down a little and spotted something of a descending ramp that cut down and across the south face of Snowdon for several hundred feet. For the most part, the ramp was a grassy bench, never very wide, but easy to negotiate for quite a ways. Then it narrowed into a diagonal couloir filled with more outstanding columbine and led us to the head of a talus slope that we could descend south into the large basin between the two summits. We had descended to about 12,200 feet. Then, walking on mostly grassy terrain, we began contouring across the basin and next headed for a talus slope, cutting through some rock outcrops that led back up to the last notch in the main connecting ridge, just north of UN 13,046.
We continued hiking up the steep, loose, broken and now slick rock (because of rain) and boulders to the final notch. If coming along the ridge from Snowdon, we determined this notch to be a substantial obstacle along the ridge that would have been difficult to navigate. We felt it was definitely best that we had not continued along the ridge. From the head of the notch, it was an easy final walk to the summit. We arrived there about 2 hours after leaving Snowdon, delayed because of time consumed looking for the best route over.
Enjoy the expansive summit view. This peak sits almost directly west of the Grenadiers. Mount Garfield is clearly visible directly east across the valley and beyond it, you can spot the summits of Electric, Graystone, Arrow and Vestal.
To return to Andrews Lake, hike back down to the notch and then drop to the west down rocky slopes to a pleasant grassy area, dotted with small tarns and potentially nice campsites. Hike to the east side of the 12,450 foot outcrop and begin dropping north toward the meadow-filled basin from which you began your day. Pass another small tarn at 12,000 feet tucked away into a sheltered area and descend along grassy benches broken by small cliffs. This requires a little route finding but eventually will get you down. In the meadows below, regain the trail from the morning and follow it back to the Crater Lake trail and then back down to Andrews Lake.