OverviewPole Creek Mountain is a high 13er located deep within San Juan Mountains. It is a bicentennial peak - among the top 200 highest in Colorado. It combines nicely with "Northwest Pole".
Getting ThereCreede or from Silverton (I drove from Silverton over Stony Pass). If driving from Creede, travel west on State Hwy 149 for 19 miles. Turn left and travel west 24 miles on Forest Road 520. You need a high clearance 4WD vehicle to drive this road. The trailhead is not marked but easy to find, just before you cross Pole Creek itself there is a large meadow and the start of the trail.
Another approach would be via Cataract Gulch - this is a long way in, consider backpacking. How to get to Cataract Gulch? From Lake City take highway 149 south, 2.5 miles. Turn right onto the road to Lake San Cristobal. Follow the paved road approximately 4 miles, then continue on dirt road for about 8.3 miles. Turn left at the fork toward Sherman; go 1.4 miles. A sign marks the trailhead to the left of the road. Cataract Trail is scenic and this route is great if you plan backpacking and doing more peaks, e.g. centennial Half Peak (centennial means among the top 100 highest in Colorado).
The easiest and most commonly used is the North Ridge, class 2. Walk south around the west side of Cataract Lake. Climb a short slope southeast to a 12,380 foot pass southeast of the lake. Angle south-southeast across the gentle slopes of the upper drainage of Pole Creek. Pick up the north end of the broad grassy ridge that leads south to the 13,660' -Northwest Pole - summit. You can summit this peak or you can just continue southeast over rolling terrain to a broad grassy 12,820 saddle. Hike south up the ridge to the large flat summit of Pole Creek Mountain. On this ascent bypass a series of ridge spires by staying to the right on the west side of the ridge crest. Expect a lot of talus on the slopes of Pole Creek Mountain, but the summit is surprisingly grassy and huge. The actual summit is to your left marked with a summit cairn. You can access North Ridge even if hiking Pole Creek trail, follow the drainage mentioned below and hike up the drainage all the way around the mountain.
There was a cell phone reception on the summit.
Summit views from Pole Creek Mountain
Red TapeDriving 4WD roads, parking and hiking is free. There are free campsites at the Pole Creek trailhead and also at the other end - Cataract Gulch. You do need a 4WD vehicle to access Pole Creek and also high clearance since you will be crossing deep Pole Creek. You don't need 4WD if driving to Cataract Gulch TH, and Cataract Gulch is open year round. (There is good ice climbing there in the winter - The Sherman Climb).
When to ClimbSummer is the easiest - nice travel over high tundra. The road to Cataract Gulch is open year round (snow plowed in the winter), but the hike from Cataract Gulch is long and does pose avalanche danger in the winter. I snow shoed part of the route into Cataract Gulch after ice climbing in the area and it seem that people use this trail at least a short way year round.
The 4WD road to the start of Pole Creek Trail is closed during the winter, and usually does not open until late May, and closes typically by November (based on conditions).