Peak 11,881ft P300
Telescope Mountain P500

Thu, Oct 5, 2023

With: Eric Smith

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile


Today's weather was the best we'd seen yet, not a cloud in the sky and temps in the low 60s at our summits today. We chose to do a pair of easy summits in the Rico Mountains on the west side of SR145. Our route from the north in the Barlow Creek drainage meant that we'd have more snow than we'd seen the previous few day, but at only a few inches, it was hardly even a bother. Forest Rd 59 switchbacks up the NE side of Peak 11,881ft, making for the shortest approach. Previous TRs indicated that the road was open to over 10,800ft, but we found it has now been closed off with large rocks another 1.5mi lower, around 10,300ft. It would add to our day, but not significantly so. We would end up putting in just shy of 7mi with 2,600ft of gain to collect the two summits over the course of five hours.

Starting out at 9a, we spent the first 40min plying the continuing road that others had reported driving in bygone days. Once at the old TH, we followed the road only a short distance before striking off cross-country on a traversing ascent to the southeast, aiming for Peak 11,881ft. The snow covered about half the ground on this shady slope, but was of no consequence. Downfall was the bigger factor, and our route was chosen specifically to try to minimize the amount of logs we had to step over. We finished by climbing the final 300ft along the indistinct SE Ridge, reaching the summit by 10:30a. Views are open in all directions with stunning vistas taking in the rugged San Juan Mtns. During our short summit stay, we left a register under a small cairn, wondering if it will get many visitors - Telescope Mtn seems to be the more popular of the two.

Telescope Mtn lies a mile and a quarter SE of Peak 11,881ft, and it was in that direction we left the first summit, descending more forested slopes on our way down to the saddle between the two peaks where I expected we'd pick up the trail described in other TRs. Eric and I got separated on the descent, choosing different routes that each of us thought better. Mine proved the better choice this time, as I handily him beat down to the saddle, having discovered the trail we were looking for. Eric was further to the west, wallowing around in a large section of downfall, starting to regret his choice some. We would periodically call out to each other, and eventually he found his way to the saddle about 10min later. We would spend the next hour together, ascending from the saddle through forest and meadow to Telescope Mtn. The trail was decent but short-lived, continuing only about a quarter mile past the saddle. Fortunately, the cross-country was not difficult and the meadows on the upper slopes opened views nicely to the east. It was close to noon when we reached Telescope's open summit where a large cairn held a register placed in 2020. We took a much longer break here, soaking in the views looking south to Rico and the Dolores River drainage, west to a collection of 12,000-foot summits, and east to a line of even higher 12Kers centered around Blackhawk Mtn.

We would spend the last three hours reversing the route back down Telescope, on the decent trail as it traverses the south side of Peak 11,881ft and then over the saddle on the SE side of the same peak. After reconnecting with the upper end of the road, we began cutting through the switchbacks for a more direct descent down that side of the mountain. After two such cuts, Eric decided to take it easier, following the road while I continued the more direct line. I ended up returning to the Jeep at 2p, about 15min ahead of Eric. He had decided to cut a few more switchbacks as well, tiring of the tedium of these very long switchbacks. We then drove back to Telluride to shower, relax some, and then sushi dinner in the early evening. More good times...


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