Lone Cone P2K
Needle Rock Fail

Sep 6, 2019

With: Steve Sywyk
Eric Smith

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile


Lone Cone

Eric had had a pretty full day on Sunshine Mtn yesterday and decided on a rest day. With Steve still out of commission with only partially functioning hands, I was on my own today. I had made plans the night before to visit a trio of summits elsewhere in the county, but in the morning I changed my mind and decided to do Lone Cone instead, mainly because it was a shorter drive. 12,613ft Lone Cone is the most prominent summit in San Miguel County and a P2K. Its NE Ridge is featured in Dave Cooper's Colorado Scrambles, so it's been on my mind for the past few years. The drive was almost an hour and a half, some of that on SR145, but the last 20mi on dirt roads. The good news is the first 14mi of those are on good roads that can take speeds over 25mph. The bad news is those last 6mi are pretty rough, slow, and require high-clearance. Though I had left Telluride well before 6a, it wasn't until 7:15a that I had found the start of the Lone Cone Trail and was ready to head out.

The trail was a bit of a surprise. Dave's guidebook mentions some old logging roads and cow trails, but this was a bonafide trail, perhaps developed after the book's 2009 publishing date. It starts off using an old road, but becomes a good trail in short order, winding its way through forest for about a mile and quarter until treeline is reached at the base of the NE Ridge. The trail actually curves right to end at the moraine leading to the easier North Ridge, a route I would use for the descent. It's the NE Ridge scramble that is highlighted in the guidebook and it was this route I planned for the ascent. From the time I left the trail to the time I reached the summit, 45min was consumed, a decent amount of time for a scramble. There are two scrambling sections on the ridge. The lower one is a broken, not-quite knife-edge ridgeline with a narrow path to walk along at the top. The going is standard class 3 with steep drops off both sides that make it feel quite committing. This section can be bypassed with a talus traverse on the right (northwest) side of the ridge, but that would be missing out on half of the fun. Following a tame middle section, the ridge steepens with a second class 3 section, this one characterized by broken slabs that make for some fun scrambling as well. Easier ground can be found to the left, but I thought it good fun to stick to the very ridge (the right side drops off in extreme cliffs). The guidebook says, "this is a serious undertaking, sometimes turning back experienced scramblers." My take is, if it turns you back, you aren't an experienced scrambler. Good fun, this one, but hardly what I would term "serious."

The summit had a CMC register just over a month old, and already there were almost five pages and over a hundred entries. This one seems quite popular, though I don't know how many of those used the NE Ridge. The North Ridge is pretty tame by comparison, a heap of talus with a use trail of sorts running along much of its length. Near the bottom, the use trail becomes a bit steeper and sandier as it veers right to drop down to the moraine found on the north side of the peak. One needs to cross this boulder & talus field to get back to the trail to the east. The moraine is more settled than these things usually are and it takes about ten minutes to cross it. Once back on the trail, it took less than half an hour to find my way back to the TH, finishing up by 9:30a. The hike itself took about two and a quarter outings, making for the shortest effort in the past few weeks.

Needle Rock

I was back in Telluride by 11a where I eventually reconnected with Eric and Steve. We made plans to pay a visit to Needle Rock on the edge of the Telluride Ski Area around noon. I had imagined this as a very easy outing, riding the gondola to the top of Coonskin Mtn, then following cat tracks, ski runs or trails east to Needle Rock. Unfortunately, the last third of a mile has no such tracks or trails and required some traversing across steep slopes and down through a heavily forested ravine. This was complicated by having Steve join us, one of his hands still in a brace, unable to fully use it in the effort. There was much grunting, crying out and blood-letting along the way, but eventually we reached the conglomerate feature with Steve still breathing. Needle Rock is rated 5.9+ and I had no hope that we'd actually climb it, so this was really just an exploratory effort. Up close I could see no way that I could climb the thing, even if I was belayed by a rope from above. I will have to leave this as at least one summit in the Telluride area that I will never climb. We had a relaxing picnic lunch near the base of it before heading back. Upon leaving, we tried climbing higher on the ridge before traversing back west to the ski runs, but in the end it was probably more effort than the original route. And Steve's legs seemed to have taken the brunt of it with almost a dozen new cuts and scrapes. Oh well, as the saying goes, "It's not really fun until someone bleeds."


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