Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 37.66350°N / 107.54037°W
Additional Information County: San Juan
Activities Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Scrambling
Seasons Season: Summer, Fall
Additional Information Elevation: 13617 ft / 4150 m
Sign the Climber's Log


The GuardianThe Guardian as seen from Hunchback Mountain
Mt. Silex and The GuardianMt. Silex and The Guardian as seen from Peak One.

The Guardian is remote bicentennial 13er located in the Weminuche Wilderness. It is the endpoint of Grenadier Range and a peak you can spot from the top of Hunchback Pass. The Guardian looks really impressive. The peak offers nice scramble and solitude and is usually combined with nearby Mt. Silex, located about 0.65 miles west.

The Guide to Colorado Mountains with Robert Ormes provides only a brief mention of the peak: "The Guardian is often combined with Mount Silex by descending several hundred feet down to latter's south face before starting a tedious traverse on sloping ledges strewn with loose rock. Finish by ascending a gully to the northwest ridge and an easy finish".

Colorado Rank: 185

Quad: Storm King Peak

Parent Lineage: Mount Silex

Wilderness: Weminuche

Class: 2+ (some sources brief class 3)

Nearby Peaks:

  • Mount Silex             0.63 miles
  • Peak Nine                1.16 miles
  • Storm King Peak    1.38 miles
  • Peak Eight               1.55 miles
  • Vallecito Mnt.          1.69 miles
  • Peak Seven              1.85 miles
  • Mt. Nebo                  1.95 miles
  • Leviathan Peak       2.02 miles
  • UN 13230 A            2.45 miles
  • UN 13169               2.45 miles
  • East Trinity             2.47 miles
  • Peak Six                  2.47 miles
  • Peak One                2.52 miles
  • Trinity Peak            2.68 miles
  • Jagged Mnt.            2.69 miles
  • "P 1"                        2.69 miles
  • White Dome           2.83 miles
  • Hunchback Mnt.     2.93 miles
  • "P 2"                        2.98 miles

Getting There

Crossing Rio GrandeCrossing Rio Grande
Hunchback PassHunchback Pass and The Guardian peaking in the distance
Getting there is not easy. I chose to come from Beartown/Hunchback Pass Trail, which still requires about 7 miles hike in and this trailhead is very remote and requires high clearance 4 WD vehicle, but I believe that this is the shortest way in. 
Driving Directions to Beartown and Hunchback Pass TH (this section of the trail is also Continental Divide Trail): The road is in a pretty bad condition, especially close to the trailhead. Expect about 2.5 hrs drive from Silverton (some sections you will be driving only 1-2 miles per hour). 
From Silverton drive on County Road 2 to Howardsville and turn here onto FR 589 marked for Cunningham Gulch and Stony Pass. You have to options here: stay lower or take a higher road for the Old Mine Tour, it does not matter which road you take since they both connect later on. At the point where these 2 roads come together, take a left turn for Stony Pass - well marked.
The road climbs steeply and is narrow at some sections making travel difficult if vehicles coming from the opposite directions (often one car has to back up to spot wide enough where vehicles can pass). Stony Pass is a pretty area, lots of wildflower in the summer, and access to several 13ers. The descent from Stony Pass towards Pole Creek seems dragging, the crossing over the stream can be problematic early in the season. There are great campsites in this area. After crossing Pole Creek, the road goes steeply up and then splits with right fork heading towards Beartown/Kite Lake and left fork towards Creede - again well marked.
Soon, you will be crossing the Rio Grande - it is usually not much deeper than Pole Creek, but wider. It is an experience to drive your car through the Rio Grande River! Some people choose to drive from Creede side, but I think the road is tougher from the east side. 
From the Rio Grande crossing, continue on Beartown road for about 5.5 miles. The first section could be muddy with potholes and big puddles. Once you reach the Bear Creek crossing, the road becomes rougher, with lots of loose rocks and towards the end steep. If your vehicle is having trouble, park at the Bear Creek and walk the last mile on the road (I usually drive this section with a speed of 1 mile per hour anyway, so walking may be a better option). 
Hunchback Pass Trailhead is well marked, there is a parking spot for 2 cars right there and several more below and above. 
Beartown is just a site, there is nothing there! Buy all your supply prior to the trip. Beartown boomed in 1893 when a rich strike brought about 400 prospectors into the area, but it did not last long. They mined Sylvanite. 
Other options include longer backpacking approaches and combining different trails in the Weminuche Wilderness. You could cross over from Trinities and Vestal Peak, or from Jagged Mountain, etc. 
I chose a loop to investigate two different basins: Stormy Gulch along Trinity Creek (I have been there before and return via Leviathan Creek Basin, both basins eventually meet with Vallecito Creek Trail and higher up Continental Divide Trail, which takes you back to Hunchback Pass Trailhead. 


Traverse Mt. Silex to GuadianTraverse Mt. Silex to The Guardian
The GuardianThe Guardian the class 3 section

I chose to ascend the easiest route up since I had a long hike in and out. The better option would be a backpacking trip, but I was running short on time, therefore one huge day. I believe there are different ways to reach the summit, and I would like to explore other routes in the future if time and circumstances allow. 

I did Peak Seven, Mt. Silex, and The Guardian on this trip. The Guardian was my last summit of the day (3 bicentennial peaks = among 200 highest in Colorado). I chose to hike up via Stormy Gulch.

I would like to mention that this was my 2nd trip up Stormy Gulch and this time I was able to find a much better way in. The first time, I hiked on the south side of Trinity Creek and the trail was non-existent, covered with many fallen trees and going was tedious and slow. This time, I stayed on the north side of Trinity Creek and going was much easier, very few fallen trees and a small trail lead me to the basin below Mt. Silex and Storm King Peak.

The ascent towards Lake Silex is steep, but the western sides of slopes are grassy and relatively easy. The area around Lake Silex is rocky, not suitable for camping. The rest of the trail towards Storm King Peak - Peak Nine saddle is rocky. There were a few cairns here and there. I intercepted a small trail on the other side of the saddle and headed for the next saddle: Peak Eight and Peak Seven. This section was much easier, stable walking. I saw fresh bear tracks here in the snow but did not see a bear on this trip. After summiting Peak Seven via north ridge and descending the same way, I walked along a smaller unnamed lake below Peak Eight, then larger unnamed lake below Peaks Eight and Nine and headed for the southern basin between Mt. Silex and The Guardian. Mt. Silex was hiding behind southern extension/rib of Peak Nine and I had to descent much lower than I planned. 

The basin was filled in snow (we had a snow rich year in 2019) and walking on low angle snow slopes went fast just in my hiking boots. Higher up the slopes were snow-free, but still pretty easy to ascend. I headed for the SW ridge of Mt. Silex, which per description is class 4. The class 4 section was very short, most of it was class 2. After summiting Mt. Silex, I descended about 200 feet and was hoping to traverse high up towards The Guardian. 

The Guardian view The Guardian view

The Traverse: I guess if you descend way low you can find an easier passage, but I was pressed for time and stubborn, so I stayed pretty high. I did find sloping ledges covered with loose rock, exposed, but not too hard - probably some class 3 moves, but mostly class 2+. The ledges continued and if it appeared that the ledge got cliffed out during the traverse, I was always able to descend on a lower ledge and continue east towards the Guardian. The traverse took more time than I expected, and I did not see any cairns. I know these mountains are remote and not often summited, but the lack of any cairns did surprise me. It is possible that there is an easier route below the passage I chose. 

I reached the saddle between Mt. Silex and The Guardian and dropped slightly down to bypass and small mound on its south side. After this, the traversing got easier and I reached the gully leading up The Guardian. I chose a second gully, farther east and per some descriptions, this was rated as class 3. It was not too hard, a few class 3 moves, followed by much longer sections of class 2. The summit was spectacular. It was getting late, so I could not enjoy much time there. My goal was to reach Vallecito Trail before darkness. There was a cairn on the summit, and I left a plastic Tupperware container in a plastic bag. Please replace it. (I brought 4 glass jars on this trip and left those on other summits. I did Mt. Nebo group 13ers the day before). 

The descent: I used the same gully as I came up and then headed straight down towards Leviathan Creek drainage. I found a decent trail on the north side of Leviathan Creek and took this trail close to the Vallecito River, but here the trail turned south and I needed to head north. So, I decided to bushwhack towards the Vallecito Creek since I knew that nice Vallecito Trail is just across the creek. BUT this was not a great idea. Bushwhacking brought me to a gorge where Vallecito was roaring deep below me. It was getting dark, so I quickly moved along this mini gorge, through trees, fallen trees, bushes, etc. until I found a spot I could cross Vallecito and found the trail. 

Vallecito Trail is nice and easy to follow even when dark. I have hiked this trail several times before. Shortly, I reached the intersection with Rock Trail, and then it was totally dark for the rest of the trip. Other than seeing shining reflections of many deer eyes it was uneventful. I slept in my car at the trailhead. 

Red Tape

Mount Silex and The GuardianMount Silex and The Guardian as seen from Peak Seven
The peak is located within Weminuche Wilderness, so wilderness rules apply. Weminuche Wilderness is the largest Wilderness area in Colorado. 
Follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles while in the wilderness:
1) Plan Ahead and Prepare 
2) Travel and Camp on Durable surfaces
3) Dispose of Waste Properly
4) Leave what you Find
5) Minimize campfire impacts
6) Respect Wildlife
7) Be Considerable of Other Visitors. 
Wilderness Specific Regulations:
 Group size is limited to no more than 15 people per party. 
 Camping is prohibited within 100 feet of any water source. 
 Camping and all campfires are prohibited at the following locations: 
1. within 200 feet of Archuleta Lake, Fourmile Lake, and West Ute Lake 
2. within 1/2 mile of the north shore and 1/4 mile of other shores of Emerald Lake 
3. within 1/4 mile of Little Emerald Lake 
4. between the shore and Flint and La Osa Trails at Flint Lake; and within 200 feet of the west and north shores 
5. in Needle Creek drainage at Twin Lakes 
6. in the hot springs area at West Fork (Rainbow) 
 Campfires are also prohibited in all of Needle Creek Drainage (including Chicago Basin) and Vestal Basin. 
 Do not shortcut switchbacks. 
 Pets must be under verbal control or leashed at all times. 
 Disposal of human waste and wash water is prohibited within 100 feet of any water source. 
As with all designated Wilderness areas, mechanical transportation (including wagons, game carts, wheelbarrows, bicycles, or other vehicles) is prohibited.

When to Climb

This peak is very remote. Winter would mean a very long approach through avalanche-prone terrain. The best time to reach this peak is in summer and early fall. 


There is a plentitude of backpacking and camping in the wilderness. Nice campsites are along Vallecito Creek, in Stormy Gulch along Trinity Creek, along the unnamed lake just below Peak Seven, Balsam Lake on the west side of Peak Seven, or along Leviathan Creek below Mount Silex and The Guardian. 

There is also camping at the Hunchback Pass Trailhead and along the Beartown road on your drive in. 

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