Sultan Mountain as seen from the summit of Red Mountain #1
Silverton is a community of 500 people that sits at the bottom of a valley 9300 ft high on the banks of the Animas River in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado. It is surrounded by mountains: to the north, Tower Mountain (13552 ft) and a number of other 13ers, to the southeast, Kendall Mountain (13066 ft) and Kendall Peak (13451 ft) and to the southwest, Sultan Mountain (13368 ft).
US geologic survey maps reveal that the "Sultan Mountain Complex" encompasses a roughly circular area 3.5 miles in diameter that contains at least three distinct 13ers (Sultan Mountain, Grand Turk, 13165 ft and an unnamed 13087 ft peak) and a few unnamed 12ers. From Silveton, Sultan Mountain appears to have pine covered slopes that lead to alpine tundra and steep cliffs forming the summit.
It was the abundant mineral deposits and the promise of quick riches that brought scores of miners to this area in the late 1800s. Today, ghost towns and abandoned mines are scattered all over the mountains. U.S. Route 550 provides Silverton's only reliable access to the outside world. Other dirt roads lead to rough 4 wheel drive roads that crisscross the mountains. A touristy narrow gauge steam train connects Silverton to Durango (summer only).
I have not heard anything about the origin of the names "Sultan Mountain" and "Grand Turk". I suppose it would be reasonable to assume that the shape of the mountains reminded the 19th century miners of the headdresses worn by the Ottoman Turks.
The standard route for Sultan Mountain starts at the Little Molas Lake (10900 ft) on the west side of Route 550, seven miles south of Silverton (not to be confused with Molas Lake on the east side of the road). From the lake, follow a faint trail north to a saddle at 12400 ft between Peak 12849 ft (to the north and slightly west) and Peak 12734 ft (to the north and slightly east). Once on this saddle look to the northeast and head for a second saddle between Peak 12899 ft and Peak 13087 ft, then climb to the summit of Peak 13087 ft.
From the summit of Peak 13087 ft, you will have to descend to a third saddle at 12776 ft between the Grand Turk and Sultan (bypassing the Grand Turk) and then following a ridge up to the top of Sultan.
When To Climb
Click to the forecast for Silverton.