Three Needles P300
Bridal Peak P300

Mon, Jul 31, 2017
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile


Three Needles and Bridal Peak are two CO 13ers located on the crest between Telluride to the west and US550 to the east. They are part of the high peaks surrounding Blue Lake and East Basin to the southeast of Telluride. Neither is particularly difficult and the combination makes for a nice dayhike from the power station perched on the cliff above Bridal Veil Creek. Perhaps the most interesting part of the day was the unexpected visit to the Lewis Mine in Bridal Veil Basin. Steve and Eric were interested in an easier outing to Silver Lake Basin on the east side of Ballard Mtn, accessible from the same power station TH. The three of us drove up in Eric's Subaru to the gate at the power station and started from there around 8a.

With Leroy in the lead, we hiked together for less than a mile before the others needed to cross Bridal Veil Creek, stopping to take off their shoes in order to wade across. Alone, I continued up the trail on the east side of the creek before forking off onto a side trail to reach Blue Lake in about an hour and a half. Here the trail ends and the scree climbing begins, going almost directly up from Blue Lake to Three Needles' NW Ridge above. There are really nice views during the ascent of the Bridal Veil Creek drainage and Blue Lake, but there is little to recommend the poor quality scrambling up acres of scree and talus. Once on the ridge, I followed it to the southeast, moving left or (mostly) right to avoid difficulties. The highest towers of the peak are difficult to acccess from the NW Ridge directly, requiring some effort to traverse the west side of the peak in order to find a reasonable ascent route up from the south. The approach from the south is almost trivial, with a decent use trail coming up that way. Intercepting this route, I followed it over class 2 terrain to the highest point. The lower rock towers are much more technical affairs on what looks like some pretty crappy rock and I left those unexplored. The views were quite nice as one might expect, with alpine meadows in Porphyry Basin to the east and the slightly lower twin summits of T10 to the northeast. It was just after 10:30a, having taken 2.5hrs for the first summit and leaving plenty of time to tackle the second, Bridal Peak, a mile to the southwest.

My plan was fairly straightforward, even if a little cowardly. The "proper" way to get from one to the other would have been to follow the ridgeline connecting them, going over a couple of intermediate bumps, Peak 13,375ft and Peak 13,434ft which don't have enough prominence to qualify as ranked peaks on their own. I followed the fairly easy ridge section between Three Needles and Peak 13,375ft, but then dropped down to skirt the more difficult-looking Peak 13,434ft on its northwest side, before climbing back up to Bridal Peak. In all, I spent an hour and twenty minutes getting between the two, but probably would have taken another 40min to go over Peak 13,434ft. Unlike Three Needles, I found a register on Bridal Peak, left by the CMC. This summit seems to be far more popular - there were tons of entries in the register, none dating back very far - probably due to it's proximity to the Bridal Veil Trail that goes over the saddle found just SW of Bridal Peak. The SW Ridge is an easy hike with vestiges of a use trail running through the talus. I descended the SW Ridge nearly to the saddle, dropping off the west side to shortcut the distance to reach the trail I could see below switchbacking up through more talus. With more time I would probably have continued along the crest to T12, but continuing now would have left me well past our meet-up time back at the power station.

After dropping into the basin below, I made my way north, past the Lewis Lake dam and soon thereafter stumbling upon the Lewis Mine works. This impressive building, some 8-9 stories in height, was built upon the sloping west bank of Bridal Veil Creek in 1907 and used to process hardrock ore back in the day. The Idarado Mine Co transferred ownership to San Miguel County after which stabilization efforts were undertaken in 2001. Because of its remote location, the interior mine works were saved from metal salvage programs carried out during World War II. These have not been restored but are still present within the wooden structure. The stabilization and subsequent addition of new flooring and steps allow one to wander (mostly) safely inside the chasm of this huge building and be awed by its size, age and condition. A sign on the outside door says entry by unauthorized persons prohibited, but of course that's pretty much an invitation one can't pass up. I spent only about five minutes inside the building, but it was easily the best mine ruin I'd ever seen - it's definitely worth seeking out if you happen to find yourself in upper Bridal Veil Basin.

I spent the next hour and a half descending the Bridal Veil Creek drainage on the roads that originate from the power station. I had this immense basin practically to myself during that time as it seems few visitors wander more than a few miles south of the powerhouse. There was some lingering snow where I ran across a trail runner, a few marmots, fields of larkspur and other flowers in a wonderful alpine setting covering large acreage - such a different feel from how it must have looked and felt in the height of the mining booms here. I paused at the creek crossing where I'd left the others hours earlier, having only to wait a short time before I spotted them coming down the trail on the other side. They had made it up to Silver Lake but were unable to continue up to Ballard Mtn as hoped due to difficulties along Ballard's NE Ridge. The four of us returned to the powerhouse and our car around 2:30p, then returned to Telluride. Unlike the previous few days, the weather was never threatening today with a clearing trend in progress. Seems monsoon season might be ending just as we were getting ready to finish up our holiday here...


seano comments on 09/24/20:
Good call doing Three Needles from the west. I came at it from the north and east (exiting Porphyry Basin), and it was class 4-5 on outward-sloping crumbly dinner plates. Not fun! I felt like a chump when I finally reached the top and saw the easy slope down to Blue Lake.
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