LoJ: #225 (Pre-LiDAR #238) / 13,545' V 3

Range › San Juan Range
Quadrangle › Ophir
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 37° 49' 43.30", W 107° 48' 46.30" (Not Field Checked)

Peak Summary

A typical San Juan summit offering some brief 3rd to 4th class work, more interesting than U.S. Grant, less intimidating than South Lookout. Quickest access is from the west side of Ophir Pass. Pre-Lidar elevation was 13,528.

V3 Swamp Canyon Access Route

Class 4
Medium Day // Take a Lunch
RT From Ophir Pass - V3 Access: 5.5mi / 3,350'
  • Trailhead
    • Ophir Pass - V3 Access TH

      There are two possible access routes to the trailhead - one from the west side of Ophir Pass, the other from the east side.

      West side access: From "Society Junction" about 4 miles west of the town of Telluride on HWY 145, turn south and head up the hill and past the turnoff for the ski area. Continue south to the turnoff for Ophir. Drive east on FR630 to Ophir - which is mostly a collection of summer cabins.

      From Ophir, travel east for approximately 1.5 miles on Forest Road #630 to a gated road on the right (south) side of the road. Walk, horseback, or bike south down this gated road to the Swamp Canyon Trailhead. This approach can be completed in a passenger car. The trail number is 634. According to the Uncompahgre National Forest map, this trail eventually leads up the SSE fork of Swamp Canyon and crosses over to Clear Lake. Google Earth (GE) does not show it crossing over to Clear lake, but instead, it clearly shows crossing a pass east of U S Grant and descending to Island Lake in the Ice Lake Basin.

      For the east access, from Silverton, drive north on US 550 to the turnoff for the Ophir Pass Road #679. If coming from Ouray, drive south on US 550 over Red Mountain Pass and then take the turnoff. Head west over Ophir Pass. 4WD, high clearance recommended. From the summit of the pass, it will be a bout 2 miles down to the same trailhead turnoff described above. The old road into Swamp Canyon use to be drivable. Vehicle access is no longer allowed.


      Some primitive, at-large spots can be found along FR630 starting about one half mile east of Ophir and on up the pass road, east of the trailhead turnoff. Most of these are short roads that turn off the main. Be careful regarding private property postings.

    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info V3 Swamp Canyon Access

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 1999

    From FR 630, follow the road down toward Howard Fork as it contours across a dense stand of aspen, briefly opens and then re-enters more aspen before coming to an open area where you turn right to drop down and cross Howard Fork creek. This road is gated early on. Follow the old road bed as it begins to gain elevation through somewhat open conifer forest. At these coordinates (N 37°51' 00.79" W 107° 48' 35.20" appx.) an old roadbed turns off that keeps you lower down on the west bank above the creek at the bottom of Swamp Canyon. Stay on the upper trail here to continue to a basin north of V 3 and NE of Pt. 12,348. (From here, a route described by "Furthermore" on 13ers.com and LoJ can be taken to the summit.)

    If choosing to follow our route, keep following the trail/old roadbed near the bottom of Swamp Canyon as it crosses this basin and continues to contour SE now, crossing a talus field just above the last trees and below some cliffs. Eventually, this trail deposits you on a lushly vegetated bench at about 11,700 ft. below a great trough that divides the east face of V 3. Follow on the left side of the stream course that drains a very small lake above, identified on GE as Alta Reservoir Number 1, at 12,600 ft. There are a couple of minor cliff bands to work through and some more vegetated benches before the small lake. Enter the great trough on V.3 well below the lake at about 12,200 feet from one of the vegetated benches and begin the tedious, but not too difficult ascent for the next 800 - 900 feet. In summer months, the lush vegetation of the benches here will offer great wildflower viewing, but will also make finding a route through it all more difficult and secure footing hard to discern below the plants.

    As you work your way up through the trough, it will be mostly rubble with some opportunities to hike on tundra at times. Arrive at the saddle at 13,350 ft. and take a break. From the saddle, proceed west just a little and look for a fairly narrow gully that heads south and ends at a small saddle. (4th class) Drop down on the other side to access yet another gully and turn left to gain about 75 - 100 vertical feet and a broad, open, gravel-covered ridge. The few difficulties are now over. Contour around the east side of the summit blocks and then scramble up the last few feet to the summit. From this summit perch, you'll enjoy intimidating views of the north face of U S Grant and the connecting ridge from V 3, Pilot Knob to the SW and the west flanks of South Lookout Peak.

    For the descent, either retrace your ascent route or try this: Head south from the summit along the ridge that connects over to U S Grant. The descent will start out on small, loose scree, then about 100 feet down, the scree will overlay some solid rock making footing a little treacherous for about a 50 foot stretch. Beyond that, it eases up to the saddle. Turn east and descend on a loose, scree slope all the way down to the small lake at 12,600 ft. Most of this will be on scree and rubble but a little tundra may appear in places. In early season, this gully descent would offer a quick and fine glissade. From the small lake, continue down the sloping, vegetated benches until you can reconnect with the trail you used earlier to follow back to the trailhead. Round trip time about 6 hours.

    Additional BETA

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