Thursday July 4, 2002
Kendall Mountain is a loose term that refers to a series of 13ers that rise near the town of Silverton. The highest of the 13ers is the 13451 ft Kendall Peak. While from Silverton, most of these peaks are not visible, Peak 13066 ft appears very prominently. The summit of Peak 13066 ft is only 1.7 miles to the southeast of Silverton's main street but it is 3748 ft higher. USGS maps refer to both Peak 13066 ft and its surrounding area (which includes other mountains) as "Kendall Mountain" (for the purposes of this trip report, Kendall Mountain will refer to Peak 13066 ft only). Last year, I had seen Kendall Mountain from Silverton when we were taking a joy ride on Route 550. My maps show a 4WD road that goes to near the top of the mountain so this mountain will really be a drive-up with a little bit of a hike at the very top. It will be a good "rest day" after a few days of more strenuous hiking.
It had been several days that we had been staying at a Bed & Breakfast in Silverton but we had always left before they served breakfast. Today, for the first time, we had signed up for the first breakfast serving at 7 a.m. We sat at a table with a younger couple who had hiked to the Ice Lake Basin. They talked about that and Handies Peak which they had climbed. Although the conversation was interesting, I did not want to sit there and talk. I just wanted to eat something quickly and get going.
It was cloudy and cool. I wanted it to be sunny but if we were going to have a rainy day, I was thinking that this would be a good day because we did not have to hike much. We finally got ready, took the Jeep we had rented before and went on Kendall Mountain Road which starts at the end of 14th street in Silverton (elevation 9318 ft).
It began to drizzle. The road was steep and narrow requiring four wheel drive from the very beginning. It headed south climbing the western slopes of Kendall Mountain through a forest of Pines and Aspens. The slopes went down to the bottom of the valley of Animas River which ran north-south. The Durango-Silverton narrow gauge railroad followed the river at the bottom of the valley. 0.6 miles to the west, Route 550 (south of Silverton) climbed the slopes of Sultan Mountain (13368 ft) and The Grand Turk (13165 ft) on its way to Molas Pass (10900 ft).
We saw a couple of vehicles near the beginning of the road but after that, we did not see any other vehicles until much later in the day. In a few places, we reached unsigned intersections and for a while we thought we were driving the wrong road. A lone hiker was on the road but he was unable to give us any useful information about the road. We later found out that we were on the right road after all.
At around 10400 ft, the road turned east going into a valley known as Kendall Gulch. We gradually went above the trees as it began to rain. The road was steep and muddy. We were getting concerned wondering if we were going to get stuck in mud.
We were up to 12200 ft when we reached an abandoned mine where the road split. I knew exactly where we were. My maps showed that one arm of the road continued up Kendall Gulch to dead end a few hundred feet below Kendall Peak while the other arm went to Kendall Mountain. The road seemed to become rougher after that so we decided to wait there to see if the weather was going to clear.
We sat in the Jeep for a good 90 minutes or so while it rained. Clouds filled the Kendall Gulch a couple of times making it very foggy. The slopes around us were covered with alpine tundra that contained tiny yellow, white and purple flowers. To the west, the summits of Sultan Mountain (13368 ft) and The Grand Turk (13165 ft) were only four miles away across the valley of the Animas River. I could see the tips of the West Needle Mountains and Snowdon Peak (13077 ft) 6.5 miles to the southwest. A forested plateau that was roughly three miles wide and 10500 ft high separated The Grand Turk from Snowdon Peak. Route 550 could be seen over the Plateau. With a band of cliffs half way up its slopes, the odd-shaped Engineer Mountain (12968 ft) appeared as a huge double hump 12 miles away just behind some of the sub-peaks of The Grand Turk. Potato Hill (11871 ft) stood alone above the plateau as a miniature version of Engineer Mountain.
I once went to check out the abandoned mine but it had a locked gate. I could not see the inside of the mine because it was pitch black but I could hear water dripping all over the place. There was a huge patch of snow at the entrance of the mine.
We then saw a couple of pickup truck going by. One of them had a Michigan license plate and we thought it was probably the same one we had seen yesterday at Clear Lake. The rain finally stopped but it remained cloudy. We then decided to hike the rest of the road.
We left the Jeep by the mine and began to hike the road. The road headed west going up the southern slopes of Kendall Mountain to reach a 12800 ft saddle at the base of the summit. It then went down in elevation a little and reached a place on the western slopes of the mountain where there were a couple of antennae. The two pickup trucks and their owners were there. They were in fact the same people we had seen yesterday but they soon left.
From there, I could not see Silverton but I could see Route 550 south of Silverton going up the slopes of Sultan Mountain. Motorcycles and other loud vehicles could be heard 3000 ft below. Molas Lake could now be seen on the forested plateau near Route 550.
To the northeast, I could see parts of Route 550 north of Silverton and the 13ers to the west of the road. The mountains around Vermilion Peak (13894 ft) were also in good view.
To the south, the jagged peaks of The Grenadier Range had come into view. The westernmost peak of this range, which I believe is the 13074 ft Mt. Garfield, had a very impressive wall. Arrow (13803) and Vestal (13864 ft) Peaks were so steep that they looked like cartoon mountains.
We then continued on the road but it turned into a two-track/trail that was covered with scree. Three Land Rovers came but there really was no road for them to drive on any more. With some difficulty, they managed to turn around and go back. Mary stayed there and I went up the last 200 ft or so to reach the summit where there was another antenna.
I could see Silverton 3750 ft below and I could even identify our Bed & Breakfast. The views to the south and west were the same as before but slightly better. To the north, I could see Route 110 and Tower Mountain (13552 ft). To the east, the higher 13ers of the Kendall Mountain Complex obstructed the view. I spoke to Mary with the walkie-talkie but I seemed to pick up the conversations of a few other people as well.
After a few minutes, I went back to Mary. We walked to the Jeep and began to drive back. We did run into other vehicles every now and then. It became mostly sunny. Once we reached the edge of a pine forest near timberline, I was suddenly struck by an absolutely magnificent view of Snowdon Peak. I stopped there and we sat by the road enjoying the view. The rest of the drive down the mountain was very pleasant and beautiful. The sun made the colors much more vibrant than they had been in the morning.