"Wayah Peak" (13,284) is a Class 2 summit, easily sequenced with UN 13,212 for a nice, medium length day hike with classic Colorado peakbagging elements. The trailhead is accessible to passenger vehicles, though we would suggest something with a little extra ground clearance since reaching the trailhead requires nearly 7 miles of graded, dirt road driving. Our route utilizes a non-maintained old trail that goes up Marten Creek, so some bushwhacking is involved.
First of all, make your way to Basalt, CO from whatever direction you live. Most will likely be coming from the I-70 corridor and Glenwood Springs, but some may be coming from Independence Pass & Aspen. Either will use CO 82 to arrive at Basalt. Be sure and take the main exit off CO82 (there's a traffic light there) that leads into downtown Basalt. In Basalt, you will be taking the main street through downtown called “Midland Ave.” This then becomes CR104 and heads east toward Ruedi Reservoir. On Trails Illustrated, this is designated as CR 4 or "The Fryingpan River Road." This is a pleasant, shoulderless road with lots of curves so you have to keep your speed down. Continue on the winding road as it gains elevation around the north side of the reservoir, then drops back down to water level at the inlet on the east end. Once this road crosses the river at the inlet to the reservoir, it’s 4.1 miles to the turnoff for FR/CR501 (or 4B on Trails Illus.) to the left. Continue SE past there, remaining on the paved road. (On FS2016 maps, this road is becomes designated as FR105.) Next will be a turnoff for the Chapman Reservoir & Campground. Continue past that turnoff as well remaining on the paved road for another 4 miles to an intersection. The left fork heads for Hagerman Pass. Take the right fork which is FR 505. The road turns to graded gravel and swings west and south around a forested ridge before turning back to the SE. Follow the road 6.6 miles to where it dead ends at a gaging station. Parking here serves as the trailhead for both Lilypad Lake (off to the north) and The Fryingpan Lakes which are south. Though passenger vehicles can make it to here, we would suggest that you may feel a little more comfortable driving to here with a vehicle that has some extra ground clearance and can handle several miles of dirt road.
The nearest Forest Service campground is the one back at Chapman Reservoir. This campground is 29 miles east of Basalt. The drive will take nearly an hour because of the winding road up to and around Ruedi Reservoir. Sites may be reserved in advance but there are some walk/drive in sites available as well. The campground has vault toilets and drinking water. Last known fee was $25 per site. There are 78 sites for use.
There is also room at the trailhead for vehicle camping and possibly a few tent sites nearby, but there are no facilities so bring your own bucket. Since the 6 mile long FR505 road that takes hikers back here basically contours for that distance all along a mountainside, there are really no good places to camp until you arrive at the gaging station and trailhead.
Having studied the USGS maps beforehand, it appeared that climbing these two peaks from the west side was desirable for ease of ascent, but there was one detraction. The trail up Marten Creek had been closed by the Forest Service several years ago and we did not know how well we would be able to navigate it. As of this writing, we expect that this old trail is even less detectable. This trail shows on the 1960 Mt. Champion quad and also on the Trails Illustrated # 127 as the Marten Creek Trail." What follows below is largely our written report of this trail & route.
To locate the trail, we headed across to the west side of the creek on a bridge that crosses over below the station spillway and then hiked west before finding a fairly well-defined trail that headed southwest up the Marten Creek drainage. At first, the trail was easy to follow and marked by an occasional cairn, but that only lasted for about the first mile, and even then, we had to be careful when it crossed grassy meadows to pick it up on the far side. Eventually, we encountered a difficult willow section where the evil alpine willows had obscured the old trail and left us to bash our way through. (Through this section, the creek was just down below us forcing us into the willows and there was a steep, vegetated slope to our right that also kept us struggling through the willows.) Passing that difficult stretch, we still found a fainter trail on the other side and followed it as it skirted marsh and willow areas near the creek. For all this time, we were on the west bank of the creek until after about two miles until we came to a place where the trail crossed the creek. We had to construct some wobbly logs to make it across dry-shod. This was about ¾ mile past where the survey map says it crosses. Once on the east side, we proceeded a little further south to a place where the forest came in close to the creek on both sides, a little below the 10,600 ft. contour. After a short trek through the trees, we began to ascend on steep, grassy slopes toward the UN 13,212 summit which was directly above and east of us.
From this point on, it was a steep, seemingly endless, but fairly easy ascent for 2,300 feet to the saddle just south of the summit and north of the southern, false summit of 13,212. About 800 feet up, we came to a nice bench area with an interesting, burned out tree that granted opportunity for some interesting photos. In fact, there was evidence of an old fire here. From that bench, the ascending became even steeper. By this time of the summer, the flowers were beginning to decline, so not too many distracted us from our hiking. While it had taken nearly an hour to bushwhack up Marten Creek, it was even longer to ascend the 2,300 feet to the saddle requiring a good hour and a half. Most of this ascending was on grass/tundra slopes.
When we arrived at the saddle between the true northern summit and the false southern one, instead of heading directly from the saddle toward the true summit on the ridge, we dropped down a little on the west side and then followed a rocky ramp back north towards the summit block. This brought us out just below the large blocks of rock that form the summit. A little more scrambling got us to the uncomfortable top where we took turns clambering to the highest point of the great boulder and taking pictures. This did indeed turn out to be an interesting summit. We're not going to provide any more details about the summit block than this so you can enjoy finding your own way up. The final scramble can be held to Class 2+ but it's easy to get into some Class 3 briefly. The summit area is comprised of great blocks of rock. Soak in the Sawatch Range view with Mt. Oklahoma off to the east and peruse your possible visit to Wayah Peak, which lies south along the ridge.
"Wayah Peak" is sequenced with UN 13,212. One-way mileage and elevation gain are measured from the summit of UN 13,212. Round-trip mileage and elevation gain assume completion of the sequence.
Once you have concluded your summit activities on UN 13,212, descend by following the ridge south back to the saddle. The route to Wayah is not difficult even though it appears it might be, as it winds down through rocks and tundra shelves. From the saddle, walk over to the false, south summit and tag it just for the heck of it. It is an easy stroll over to Wayah Peak (13,284), and only requires about half an hour from the first summit. South of Wayah, along the same ridge, there are two more “soft-rank’ summits that would be nice to pick up, if you have the time, but it would make for a much longer day.
From this summit, it's probably easiest to just head back north to the connecting saddle with UN 13,212 and then drop west to reconnect with your earlier ascent path. Your descent route should eventually join in with your ascent route near the aforementioned bench at 11,400 ft. Continue on down and hopefully come back out on the faint valley trail very close to where you left it hours before. From here, it is an hour long bash back out, trying to follow the trail used in the morning. In the tall willow section, we lost it for a while again, but eventually regained it. Total hiking time came to about 7 hours.