OverviewThere's nothing really difficult about this particular route except for it being a long day. It does however, provide for a fairly efficient way to to accomplish McClellan Mountain, Mt. Edwards, UN 13449, Argentine Peak and Mount Wilcox.
Start at the Waldorf Mine (11,580ft) & by way of three different paths: Edwards' East Slopes, McClellan's East Shoulder or NE ridge, ascend to the summit of McClellan. If you choose to ascend McClellan directly, be aware that some serious elevation gain is achived quickly, around ~800 ft or so. from McClellans summit, it is only .4 mile SW to Mt. Edwards (13,850ft).
The path is pretty much straight-forward. From Mt. Edwards summit, stay on the ridge, which is fairly flat and broad as it descends SSE to Argentine pass. The ridge along this section is cairned quite well and easy to follow. Again, simply follow the ridge up to the summit of Argentine Peak (13,738ft) from Argentine Pass hitting UN 13,449 along the way. From Argentine Pass it is all "off-trail" and the cairns start to disappear.
Descend Argentine Peak's SE ridge to the saddle and make your way over to Mt. Wilcox (13,408ft).
Argentine Peak's Southeast facing shoulder can hold snow well into mid-summer. Be prepared for some post-holing if snow is present. If you actually stay to the ridge crest, it becomes steeper as it descends to the Square-Top saddle. The Wilcox-Argentine ridge turns to class 2 just above their saddle but the rock is fairly stable and NO scree.
When descending off Mt. Wilcox, it's pretty much a choice to either shoot down the steep, scree-covered west face or continue down its north shoulder (class 1) and gradually traverse down into the basin until you gain the valley floor.
Keep in mind, there is NO TRAIL traversing the willows to re-gain the mine. Follow the deer/elk paths for as long as you can then tough it up and plow through the willows which are 5-6ft high. For some of you, these willows will probably remind you of the willows over at Mt. Bierstadt before they put in that nice wooden walkway. Because of the beavers and their ponds, you'll have to find a narrow portion of the creek to cross. Don't wear shorts. You'll get scratched up all to hell. From any particular spot on this ridge, most of the peaks and ridge are visable. If inclement weather starts to move in, exit the ridge into Leavenworth basin. From almost any point on this ridge with the exception of Mt. Wilcox, it is fairly easy to get down without incident.
I believe the roundtrip mileage is about 7.5 miles and the total elevation gain is in the vicinity of 3,370ft.
Getting ThereAs per the other pages for Mt. Wilcox & Mt. Edwards, follow the Guanella Pass road south out of Georgetown for 2.7 miles. There will be a small sign for the Waldorf Mine on the right side of the road and ample place to park. This is actually the year-round TH. I believe the elevation here is 9,560ft. If you have a truck or Jeep, follow the road for an additional 6.0 miles to the Waldorf Mine. You can drive a car up into the Leavenworth Basin but I wouldn't try it. It would be one EXPENSIVE tow-bill if you tear up a tire or worse!
Extra credit!1.) For extra punishment, from the summit of Argentine Peak, descend south to the saddle (13,044ft) with Square Top Mountain. You'll have awesome views the whole time. From the saddle hike/climb 784ft to the summit of Square Top (13,794ft).
From Argentine Peak to the summit of Square Top and back, it is about 2.8 miles and an additional 1,500ft of elevation gain! The ascent to Square Top from the saddle is not as bad as it looks.
2.) In addition, from the summit of Mt. Edwards, Grays Peak (14,270ft) is easily attainable from here. The ridge connecting the two is only class 1+ with multiple sections of class 2. There is some exposure throughout the center of the ridge if you stay to the ridge crest. You can tack on an additional 3.7 miles RT if you choose this variation.
Essential GearNo climbing involved on this route. Just a leisurely day hiking at a decent altitude. Shorts would be nice for the ridge but I cannot stress enough, bring pants for the willows down below. An extra pair of shoes & socks left at the truck might be a good idea as the valley floor hides "soft and wet" spots in places. Because of these 'hidden' spots, bringing along a pair of poles would be a good idea.
The upper ridges are relitively flat and open. So most of the time, things will be windy.
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