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LoJ: Soft Ranked / 13,300' UN13300 "Middle Point"

Range › San Juan Range
Quadrangle › Ophir
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 37° 49' 49.74, W 107° 47' 34.03" (Not Field Checked)
Neighboring Peaks › Peak Icon South Lookout Peak Peak Icon V 2

Peak Summary

"Middle Point" is a "soft-rank" summit located on the west side of Clear Lake and south of the infamous South Lookout Peak. The summit can be easily mistaken as being South Lookout, but it is not. To reach this summit, there's a mostly Class 2 route with just a little bit of fun Class 3 work to find a route to the actual summit. It makes a nice addition to your South Lookout Peak day if weather permits. Access is by the Clear Lake Road up South Mineral Creek out of Silverton and a 4WD is required. 

Middle Pt. E. Couloir/North Ridge Route

Class 3
Short Day // A Wee Little Climb
RT From South Mineral CK. - Clear Lake: 2 mi / 1,340'
  • Trailhead
    • South Mineral CK. - Clear Lake Trailhead

      Use this trailhead description for climbing S. Lookout Peak; V.5 or possibly V. 2 as an alternate route. 

      From the Town of Silverton and the US 550 intersection on the west side of town, drive north on US 550 and in a little over 2 miles turn west onto FR585. If coming from Ouray, drive south on US 550 over Red Mountain Pass and watch for the FR585 turnoff on your right before reaching Silverton. Drive west on this graded dirt road to the campground and trailhead parking appx. 4.7 miles in. The last mile of road gets a little rougher but should still be navigable by passenger cars.

      To reach Clear Lake and the Clear Lake FR815, at 4.2 miles in on FR585 after turning off US550, there's a single-track road that veers off to the right at these coordinates: N 37° 48' 19.42"  W 107° 46' 25.33". Elevation is 9,795 ft. The road is best suited for 4WD with good clearance. This is known as the "Clear Lake Road" and actually continues all the way to Clear Lake. The road does not show on the USGS 1955 quad. The road has a lot of switchbacks. On the lower section, there are eight. #7 is not so much a switchback as it is a broader turn that still mostly reverses direction. Above these 8, when you break out of the forest, there are four more to gain the final elevation needed to reach Clear Lake. There is limited camping at switchbacks #6,7 & 8. Otherwise, go all the way to the lake at elevation 11,985 in the parking lot for a more frigid overnight stay. 


      Camping

      All along FR585, once you turn off US550, there are numerous at-large, primitive sites. Upon turning off US 550 and driving less than a mile, there's a large open area on the left with a vault toilet. There are usually a large number of RV's here. There is also the South Mineral Creek Campground and before arriving at the campground, you will see a number of other camp spots. Expect fierce competition on summer weekends for sites. This is a very popular area. There is no "allowed" camping at the trail head parking area. 
      Directions for South Mineral CG per San Juan NF: South Mineral Campground is accessed by turning off U.S. Highway 550, about 3 miles west of Silverton, onto Forest Rd. 585, which heads west along South Mineral Creek. The campground is 4 miles off the highway and has 26 mostly level sites. Several camping loops and well-spaced sites are mostly shaded, but some are sunny. A few are next to the creek, and some have large parking areas. The Ice Lake Basin Trail, a strenuous, steep, and popular hike, begins across the road from the campground. It leads up above timberline to high alpine lakes surrounded by meadows of wildflowers and rocky peaks. South Mineral Campground does not take reservations.  All sites are first come first served.  There are an assortment of designated areas along South Mineral Road where dispersed camping is allowed so there is plenty of camping in the canyon on all but the busiest days.
      Picnic tables, composting vault toilets, fire grates, trash disposal, potable water. No electricity. Operated by concessionaire. The campground has 26 sites that are mostly level, at 9,800 feet. Some sites are handicapped accessible. Several camping loops and well-spaced sites offer plenty of privacy. Spruce and fir give lots of shade, but there are some sunny sites. A few sites are along the creek, and some have large parking areas.
      Dispersed camping along Forest Rd. 585 is allowed only in designated camping areas. Please follow posted directions and instructions.

      Campsite Locations

      South Mineral › N 37° 48' 23.52', W 107° 46' 25.33"
      Elevation 9,855 ft.
    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info Middle Pt. E. Couloir/North Ridge

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 2013

    In 2013, we actually combined Middle Pt. with South Lookout Peak, having done S. Lookout first. So Middle Pt. could be easily sequenced with S. Lookout. However, since many may not be interested in doing this soft-ranked summit, we are treating it here as a separate climb with Clear Lake as the trailhead. 

    From either of the two parking areas on the east side of Clear Lake, follow the trail that leads off to the north like you were heading for S. Lookout. At about 12,200 feet elevation, veer off the trail heading more NW, then west, contouring over to a large couloir that separates the main summit of Middle Pt. from a false summit to the north. This is a very prominent and easily identifiable couloir that appears to offer some tundra for footing most of the way up. Contour just above a rocky outcrop to reach the couloir then begin the scramble upward. 

    If coming from a climb of S. Lookout, as you descend back to Clear Lake, lose about 700 feet in elevation before beginning your contour westward over at about 12,700 ft. This avoids most problems and keeps you largely on tundra until reaching the same couloir. 

    While the couloir looks easy enough from below, it's not as secure in footing as you might wish. Staying in the middle of the gully was tiring and the footing was difficult and very loose, so we eventually migrated over to the south wall that we could use for a handrail at times and where we found a little more secure footing. At the head of this gully, we had no clear idea of how we would continue to the summit. The top of the couloir/gully is the technical low point saddle between Middle Pt. and S. Lookout Pk. One quick look to the west side of the ridge proved that option to be ruled out – shear cliffs. So from the saddle, we hiked up a little to the south and then followed a ledge-like system back to the east that led us around an intervening knoll just north of the summit that on the map measures 13,180 ft. Rounding this next section, we entered another narrower couloir that briefly led us to another saddle/col. From here, an easily discernible route led us to the summit. It was almost all on fairly secure rock as we followed another ledge around to the west a little and then ascended on 2nd and mildly 3rd class rock to the summit. 

    From this sporting little summit, you'll enjoy a splendid view of Clear Lake below and the surrounding summits. Of most interest will likely be South Lookout, looking back to the north, followed by V.2 and V.5. Descend as you came. It will go quickly. From the lake, most reasonably strong groups could complete this summit in about 2.5 - 3 hours.


    Additional BETA

    Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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