UN 13,253 is the last summit in a sequence that begins with Virginia Peak, followed by West Virginia Pk., Sheep Rock Mountain and UN 13,235. The entire sequence comprises a long, ridge-walk day in the Sawatch Range near Winfield. This allows for the completion of five 13er summits in one day. The entire sequence is Class 2 with no particularly difficult sections. Access to the trailhead is best gained by 4WD or a higher clearance vehicle. Passenger vehicles may drive as far as Winfield. Beginning this sequenced hike from Winfield will add about 4 miles of additional hiking to the day.
From Leadville, drive south a little over 19 miles on HWY 24 to the turnoff for Clear Creek Reservoir (CR390) and head west. The turn is less than 2 miles south of "Granite." From Buena Vista, drive north just under 15 miles to the same turnoff. Drive west on graded dirt road 11.7 miles to Winfield. As the road approaches Winfield, it will become a little more narrow and likely to have some potholes. Because of heavy use, this road is often washboarded badly. At Winfield, turn south and cross the creek and continue south, then SW on CR390.2B. About 100 yards after crossing the creek, passenger cars may want to park because the road greatly deteriorates beyond there. Higher clearance vehicles may continue. 4WD is not really required for the remainder of the drive to the end of the road. At a little over .7 mile after crossing Clear Creek, just south of Winfield is the turnoff for the blocked road to Lulu Gulch, UN 13,462 A and Browns Peak. From Winfield it's about 2.25 miles to the end of the road and some limited parking. This trailhead is used for both Huron Peak and routes to the Apostles.
If using this general trailhead description for access to peaks up the Lake Fork of Clear Creek (Clohesy Lake), then do not drive all the way to Winfield. Instead, you'll need to turn left at 9.8 miles in from US24 and drive down through the few cabins that comprise "Rockdale," ford Clear Creek and drive to the Clohesy Lake trailhead with a starting elevation of 10,900 ft. 4WD required for this access, otherwise, walk it and enjoy the frigid and sometimes dangerous crossing of Clear Creek.
For the access to Huron and the Apostles, best camping opportunities are along the final two miles to the trailhead from Winfield. There are several at-large spots available. Camping before Winfield can be difficult because of private property and the large number of people coming to climb Belford, Oxford and Missouri.
There are good campsites for backpackers in the vicinity of "Hamilton" along the Huron Route and the trail up toward the Apostles. There are also good campsites in the meadow just north of the rock glacier at about 11,400 feet or a little lower.
If heading up the Lake Fork toward Clohesy Lake, there is at-large camping at the trailhead which is at a large, open meadow area that's relatively flat. Coordinates are: N 38° 57' 15.48" W 106° 24' 32.64"
Virginia Peak is sequenced with four other summits for a five-summit day. There are two ways this hike may be started.
1. From the vicinity of the Banker Mine, there is a single-lane vehicle track that heads SW down toward the creek, cutting through some willows. Cross the creek and pick up the trail on the other side. The trail makes two switchbacks up the hillside, then heads SW to cross the broad SE ridge of Virginia Peak down low, before gaining much elevation.
2. Drive to the end of the road and the trailhead parking. Walk about 100 yards south along the old roadbed/trail and look for an opening in the forest on the right (west). Depart the trail heading west and work through willows and marshy areas to cross the creek just below the confluence of the main branch and the SW fork coming in from Silver Basin. Once across, head NE some to intersect the trail mentioned in #1 above and from there, you should be on the broad SE ridge of Virginia Peak. This way of getting across the creek is more challenging with some willow-bashing involved.
Once you've located the broad SE ridge, pick one of two open slopes, filled with summer wildflowers that will lead up to the ridge proper. It's fairly steep initially. The hike up Virginia Peak offers one of the nicer views around. You can look south down the valley toward the Ice Mountain complex (or Three Apostles), poised in stunning array of rock and snow with a beautifully clear blue sky as backdrop. As you ascend the SE ridge on the grassy slopes, you may frequently stop for photos. We encountered some bench-like areas with diminutive trees that offered nice foregrounds. As we hiked higher, climbing out of the trees, we began to see numerous Old-Man-On-the-Mountain, all with their yellows heads turned toward the morning sun. Other summer flowers spotted the landscape as we ascended on diminishing tundra to the first summit of the day – Virginia Peak. From the township of Winfield, Winfield Peak is the more noticeable summit, but technically, it is not ranked and Virginia Peak is, being about 11 feet taller. Pause at this nice summit and enjoy the stunning view. In 2009, there was a register to sign. Enjoy the low, alpine flowers. Overall, reaching this summit is a pleasant hike of moderate steepness that can be completed in about 2.5 hours. Most of the terrain is grass & tundra with plenty of wildflowers, and increasing embedded rock and minor talus as you approach the summit.
West Virginia Peak is sequenced with Virginia Peak and followed by three more 13er summits. One way mileage and elevation gain to West Virginia are measured from the summit of Virginia Peak. Round-trip mileage and elevation gain assume completion of the entire five-summit sequence.
It's fairly easy hiking to the summit of Virginia Peak, walking up over grassy slopes that give way to tundra and rock. This pattern continues for the next mile as you follow the connecting ridge west to “West Virginia Peak.” It does not even require an hour to hike over, and the ridge walk affords nice views of the Ice Mountain group, Silver Basin to the south and below, and the North Fork of Clear Creek drainage below the north side of the ridge. There is one rocky window spot that offers a nicely framed view north for photographers. Otherwise, the trip is largely a mix of low tundra, embedded rocks and medium boulders. See photos.
Sheep Rock Mountain is sequenced with four other summits and is preceded in the sequence by Virginia Peak and West Virginia. One-way mileage and elevation gain are measured from the summit of West Virginia. Round-trip mileage and elevation gain assume completion of the entire sequence of five summits.
From the summit of West Virginia Peak, hike south along the ridge that connects to Sheep Rock Mountain. The amount of broken rock & medium boulders amid the tundra increases some, slowing progress a little, but the route remains at Class 2 and the traverse should be completed in well under and hour with only 435 feet of elevation gain. Our time was a little over a half hour.
UN 13,235 is sequenced with four other summits and is preceded in the sequence by Virginia Peak, West Virginia Pk., and Sheep Rock Mtn. One-way mileage and elevation gain are measured from the summit of Sheep Rock Mtn. Round-trip mileage and elevation gain assume completion of the entire sequence of five summits. Virginia Peak, followed by West Virginia, followed by Sheep Rock Mtn. will serve as the "approach" for UN 13,235.
From Sheep Rock, this next leg of the sequence will be the longest segment of the day with nearly 2 miles of high ridge hiking to cover. Continue ridge-walking, first heading west from Sheep Rock, then turning south as you follow the ridge as it encircles the entire Silver Basin west end. This next stretch will prove long and more tedious, with more broken rock mixed in with the tundra. It is nearly a two mile traverse to the next ranked summit and along the way, you will hike over the unranked summits of 13,100 ft., 13,115 and almost immediately, 13,100 again. By this point, with all the ups and downs, you may be beginning to weary, but the terrain is at least never difficult and you can walk at a decent pace. Nevertheless, it took nearly two hours for us to reach the 4th summit of the day. From Sheep Rock Mtn, elevation loss is about 235 ft. and then the gain to Pt. 13,100 is around 80 ft. From Pt. 13,100, drop 280 ft. then re-ascend 295 ft. to Pt. 13,115. A quick drop of 125 ft, then an ascent of 120 ft. will take you over the next point of 13,100 ft. From there, drop 240 ft. then gain the final 375 ft. to the summit of UN 13,235.
UN 13,253 is sequenced with four other summits and is preceded in the sequence by Virginia Peak, West Virginia Pk., Sheep Rock Mtn. and UN 13,235. One-way mileage and elevation gain are measured from the summit of UN 13,235. Round-trip mileage and elevation gain assume completion of the entire sequence of five summits. Virginia Peak, followed by West Virginia, followed by Sheep Rock Mtn., followed by UN 13,235 will serve as the "approach" for UN 13,253.
This last summit is the rockiest of the day as you approached from the northwest. The additional mile of ridge hiking took us about 45 minutes, slowed somewhat by the more tedious rock. Along the way, afternoon clouds were building and showers were showing up, especially west over the Taylor Park area, which we could clearly view. Fortunately, the showers never came directly over us and we were never threatened by lightening, but hikers should keep the weather in mind as they finish this last part of the sequence because it will likely be afternoon when you reach this section.
The ridge walk to the SE will begin with an immediate drop to another minor saddle, losing about 375 ft. Next, there will be a ridge section with at least a couple minor ups & downs followed by the final 275 ft. ascent to the last summit on rocky rubble. Enjoy the expansive view in all directions and savor this last summit.
From this final summit, we returned NW by way of the ridge to a saddle about ¾ mile back from the summit. Here, we turned east and began descending in Silver Basin, utilizing some of the snow to expedite progress. At about 12,300 feet, we found a small, pear-shaped little lake with wildflowers abounding all around, so we paused for photos. Below the lake, we continued to descend on grassy slopes into Silver Basin. We were now about to come to the best part of our day. This fairly remote and seldom visited basin was the abode of a nice herd of elk. Our descent path had led us to a location where at first, they had not spotted us or picked up our scent. So from about ¼ mile away, we stopped and watched them as they grazed and took numerous, fuzzy photos of them. There were many young among the females. Eventually, we had to continue on down valley and so our movement and closer approach sent them running away as we dropped to the creek and continued hiking down the open valley until reaching trees at about 11,600 ft.
Sometimes, forest can dramatically impede progress, but we had little difficulty with this particular area. So we were able to continue another two miles down stream and picked up the old pack trail along the west/north side of this SW Fork of Clear Creek and make our way back to the creek crossing we utilized in the morning. We arrived back at the pickup around 5:00 PM, well-worn out from the long day, but very satisfied to have added five ranked summits in one day with so little effort overall. Overall time without hurrying came to a little over 10 hours.
Another descent option: From the summit of UN 13,253, one could also find a descent route that would lead down toward the basin with the two larger, unnamed lakes located on Harrison Flat. From there, you could pick up the Lake Anne Trail #1462, follow it north back to Hamilton and continue on the trail back to the parking area at the end of the 4WD road. This too could offer a somewhat pristine and seldom-visited valley to explore, but would also add some more mileage.