Monday, November 25, 2013

Ten Mountains You Probably Haven't Climbed but Should

Mount Silverheels, Tenmile-Mosquito Range, Colorado
Tired of the crowds on overrun 14ers? Looking for less-known, less-traveled Colorado peaks just as, if not more, fun to climb than any of the 53 highest? This is a list of Colorado mountains that don't see nearly the number of signatures on their summit logs. All are worthy of earning a spot on your to-climb list.

"McReynolds Peak" (12,450 feet; class 5.9) (rank: #1034)
McReynolds Peak is a ranked 12er and, according to several seasoned Colorado mountaineers, one of the hardest peaks in the state above 12,000 feet. The good news is that all of the difficulties are crowded in one 15-foot boulder problem at the top. The bad news is that the mountain is flanked by private property and access is currently a sensitive issue.

Mount Silverheels (13,822 feet; class 1) (rank: #92)
Mount Silverheels is a popular and excellent easy-to-climb mountain in the Tenmile-Mosquito Range and one that should be on the list of any true aficionado of Colorado mountaineering. In good conditions, you can bring your whole family on the standard South Ridge route, which has a good trail all the way to an excellent and rewarding summit. A classic high-alpine hike that is less threatening than some.

McGregor Mountain (10,486 feet; class 5.2) (rank: #2043)
McGregor Mountain from Beaver Meadows
McGregor Mountain is a somewhat obscure peak with a very prominent position: towering over the Beaver Meadows entrance station to Rocky Mountain National Park. It stands like a shield over the busy highway below, not high enough to draw as much attention as other peaks in the park but far more accessible than most. McGregor offers several multipitch lines with great protection, excellent rock and plenty of room for variations. The best part? Most of the routes are easy to moderate, mostly rating in from 5.4 to 5.9, and all of the climbs are at least 3 long pitches.

Mount Powell (13,580 feet; class 2-3) (rank: #198)
Mount Powell is the highest peak in the elusive Gore Range, perhaps the most rugged and least traveled of Colorado's high mountain ranges. While Mount Powell is not a difficult peak in terms of technical terrain, it does require a long approach and has a more rugged and remote feel than more pedestrian class 2 routes in the state. Any journey into this amazing range is bound to bring adventure, and Powell is a worthy trek for those wondering what some of the more popular ranges were like a few decades ago. Adding to the appeal is Mount Powell's rank of 198 which barely sneaks it onto the "Bicentennial" list, or the 200 highest peaks of the state. The Bicentennial list is coveted and elusive milestone in Colorado mountaineering.

Mount Oso (13,684 feet; class 2) (rank: #157)
Mount Oso, or bear in Spansh, is a remote and obscure 13er deep in the heart of the San Juan mountains. It is known for its long approaches and hard-to-reach trailheads. Though Oso is on the Bicentennial list, for many of the above reasons it remains on the outside of most Colorado mountaineer's ticklists. But a journey to Oso takes you to a beautiful and less-trodden corner of arguably Colorado's most impressive range, and this bear of  mountain is worthy of being bumped to the top of you to-do list.

Sunlight Spire (13,995 feet; class 5.10d) (unranked)
Sunlight Spire is one of Colorado's most elusive summits. Based on the 1929 elevation datum, Sunlight Spire is just shy of the magical 14,000-foot mark. But in the revised 1988 datum, generally thought to be more accurate, it has been upgraded to exactly 14,000. However, with only 215 feet of topographical prominence Sunlight Spire is not an "official" peak and therefore not on most climbers' radars. This comes as a sigh of relief to most Colorado mountaineers who look at this peak's splitter-crack summit pitch in despair. It is easily one of the hardest summits to reach in the entire state. Having said this, however, bear in mind that both Thunderbolt Peak, with 223 feet of topographical prominence, and North Maroon Peak, with 234 feet, are both not ranked but are generally considered part of the standard 14er list of California and Colorado respectively.

Peak L ("Necklace Peak") (13,213 feet; class 4) (rank: #473)
Peak L is one of the true gems of the Gore Range, a range known for being tough and elusive. I debated heavily between including Peak Q and Peak L from this portion of the Gores, but settled ultimately on so-called "Necklace Peak" (Peak L) largely due to its overall rugged beauty and the foreboding nature of its easiest route. Reclusive Peak L boasts a knife edge that gives Capitol's more-famous knife a run for its money and an overall sense of adventure that easily makes it one of the least-touched summits of any major peak in the state.

Ice Mountain (13,951 feet; class 3) (rank: #59)
Ice Mountain and the Three Apostles
Ice Mountain from the summit of Mount Huron
Ice Mountain is one of the most interesting peaks in the Sawatch Range from a mountaineering perspective, and one of the most beautiful. In a range known for gentle giants like Mt. Elbert, Mt. Massive and Mt. Harvard whose challenge lies in simple, hamstring-powered vertical gain rather than technical mountaineering, Ice Mountain delivers a smorgasbord of excellent features, including loose rock, exposed scrambling and infamous snow couloirs.

Pigeon Peak (13, 972 feet; class 4) (rank: #57)
There are many worthy mountains in the San Juan range worthy of this list, but I was force to pick only a few. Pigeon Peak is located in one of the cores of Colorado mountaineering: the 10-square mile region of the Weminuche Wilderness Area south of Silverton and east of the Animas River. Rugged and dangerous, Pigeon is a next-door neighbor to the popular 14ers of the Chicago Basin. In fact, Pigeon is closer to and more visible from Highway 550 than any of those peaks. However, Pigeon's rough approaches are less-developed and time consuming, adding to this mountain's foreboding nature. Pigeon is an exposed and craggy 13er. It is one of the highest and most difficult of the so-called "Centennial" 13ers.

Jagged Mountain (13,824 feet; class 5.2) (rank: #94)
People could accuse me of tooting Jagged's horn a little too often, but I just can't say enough about this phenomenal San Juan 13er. With a burly, probably multi-day approach, and an exposed and technical standard route, this is a beautiful mountain that Colorado can be proud of.
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