is an interesting summit located in the west Mount Sneffels range. Most people combine this peak with other peaks along the ridge. I chose to combine it with
and the traverse in between those was a fun and loose scramble, over 1 mile long and rated as class 3. A much easier traverse would be from S 8.
The summit is not a very popular one, the approach is long and climbing is on loose scree. Expect over 15 miles distance if combining with Mears Peak. Some may consider it as an overnight trip. There is camping in the basin below the peaks. S 7 is seen from Colorado Hwy 62 when one drives from Ridgway to Telluride.
What's up with the name?
There are many summits that have unofficial names that have sprung up because of local usage or traditional agreement in the climbing community. Examples of these are some of the "T", "S", or "V" designation summits in the San Juans.
- unranked summit between T 0 and S 5
S 4 - ranked peak, on a ridge extending from S 5
S 5 - unranked peak
- on the same ridgeline, traverse from Mears to S 6 is complicated
S 7 - is really the main summit of Ruffner Mountain
and S 9
- accessible from Deep Creek drainage.
S 10 - a little complicated since List of John assigned this to Point 12,311
and Colorado 13ers assigns this name to a 13er west of S 9.
Class: 2-3 depending on your route
From State Highway 145 at “Society Junction”, 4 miles west of Telluride, drive on 145 just a little east past the junction and turn left (north) onto “Airport Road” = “the Last Dollar Road”, # 638.
Follow the road uphill and around a sharp turn at the head of a drainage. The road continues west past the Aldasoro Ranch entrance. Bear right when the Airport Road turns off for the Telluride airport. It becomes a good dirt road here - no need for 4 WD vehicles. Continue NW and in under a mile, park at the on the right in a trailhead parking area with a small corral. The Uncompahgre NR map indicates that this is the beginning for trail # 418. There is a sign for Deep Creek and Whipple Mountain Trails. There is some private property across from the trailhead parking.
Trail through aspen
Traverse from Mears Peak (in the photo) towards S 7
Traverse Mears Peak to S 7
S 7 summit
S 3 and Potosi Peak Approach into East Fork of Deep Creek
T 0 and Campbell Peak
S 8 and S 9
From the trailhead, follow trail # 418 marked as Deep Creek/Whipple Mountain Trail for a short distance on an open grassy slope. It then switchbacks briefly to the south and then back north to join an old roadbed beside a diversion ditch in an aspen forest. Follow this ditch for nearly a mile to where it crosses Sheep Creek. Past the creek, the trail turns west, still contouring, and then after about 200 yards, makes a sharp turn to the north. Continue along the ditch, ignoring a trail sign for a trail that heads down. After another half mile or so, the ditch intersects “Whipple Creek”. That is the name for the creek that drains the basin on the south flank of Mears and S 7. This name does not show on most maps. Cross over Whipple Creek on a bridge and pick up the trail on the other side. Hike for about 10 min as the trail follows the creek. The trail then makes a sudden turn to the left, goes up a little, then begins to head gently downhill, paralleling the creek. From that sharp left, hike about 10 minutes watching for an old grass-covered roadbed on the right that heads uphill. Follow it north. This becomes “Iron Mountain trail". Hike on up this trail for nearly another 2 miles until it terminates at an old mine site at 10,862 feet.
East Ridge from Mears Peak
: class 3
From Mears Peak descent west along the connecting ridge. The going is initially easy, the difficulties start about half way up the traverse. Try to stay as much as you can right on the ridge, but when forced off, traverse on the south side. The north side is extremely steep and loose. There are were no cairns, but going was relatively obvious. At some point, I did have to climb over a steep rock tower, class 3-4 moves, but luckily this section had a relatively stable rock and it was only 3-4 moves. There are several tiny summits along this ridge and the views are spectacular. Pay caution to your footing. And make sure the weather is good, there is no escape from this traverse.
Once you get past the ridge, start hiking up towards the summit of S7. I headed for the ridge here, but bypassed the first start of it. The terrain is loose and appears steep, but it went relatively fast. The views to the east and of the ridge you passed are very rewarding. I was happy I did Mears Peak first, I am not sure if I would be brave enough to traverse from S7 to Mears. The traverse appeared complicated from this site. The summit has a small cairn and a glass register. Someone has mentioned in the past registries a traverse from Campbell Peak all the way to North Pole!
Descent (could be an ascent too) I walked slightly eastward along the ridge from the summit and started descended into an large couloir. This couloir tumbles 2000 feet down to the valley floor and ends up right above the old mine ruins. It is filled with scree. I think I got diverted into some side smaller couloir first, but was able to down climb and traverse onto the next couloir. The descent was more annoying that difficult. The middle section had a few steeper steps, but nothing too hard or scary.
West Ridge from S 8 - I have not done this route, but have been on the summit of S 8 and most of this ridge is pretty straight forward walking. There is a short scramble right below the summit of S 7. Class 2/possibly short class 2+ right below the summit depending on route you choose.
Wildflowers below S 7
Terrain below Mears - S 7 traverse
There is no red tape. Hiking, parking at the trailhead, camping in the wilderness are for free.
Mount Sneffels Wilderness rules apply: The following are prohibited: Entering or being in the area with more than 15 people. Camping within 100 feet of any lake, stream, or National Forest System Trail. Building, maintaining or using a fire within 100 feet of any lake, or stream, or National Forest System Trail, above treeline. Storing equipment, personal property, or supplies for longer than seven days.
When to Climb
Summer is the easiest with a nice approach mostly on trails into the basin, higher up hiking is off trails. Winter poses a lot more difficulties with a long approach in a deep snow and travel through an avalanche prone terrain. Always check for Northern San Juan Avalanche forecast
prior venturing out there.
Trailhead for Deep Creek and Whipple Creek is slightly off Last Dollar Road. The parking lot is spacious. There are signs for no camping, but I would imagine that sleeping in the car would be pretty comfortable here. Camping is hard in the close vicinity of Telluride. The closest designated campgrounds are at the “Town Park” on the east end of Telluride and the “Sunshine” campground
south of Society Junction on SH 145. Click here
for more information on Telluride Camping.
Wilderness backpack camping is available in East Fork of Deep Creek Drainage.