South Ridge Route

Page Type
Trip Report
Colorado, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Aug 13, 2009
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South Ridge Route
Created On: Aug 16, 2009
Last Edited On: Aug 16, 2009

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Mt. Silverheels (13,822 ft.)
Palmer Peak (12,517 ft.)
Participants: cftbq, Cimarron
RT: 10.3 mi., 6 hrs., 40 min.
Vertical: 3,830 ft.


Unable to climb any 14ers, but not wanting to waste a week of good summer weather, I decided to pick an easy centennial that I'd been thinking about for a long time. I got my ultra-low clearance Honda Accord to the 2WD trailhead (the intersection of FS 659 and FS 184) just before 5:30 am. I had no qualms about hiking, instead of driving, the remaining mile to the 4WD trailhead, since I had only barely 3,000 feet to go to the summit of Silverheals.
It took a little doing to find a way across the creek (which vehicles simply ford) without getting my feet wet, but I did it. Cimarron, of course, just plodded through the water...
There were no vehicles at the upper trailhead, and I took off up the steep closed section of the road above there at a good pace. An hour of hiking got me to about 12,200 ft., where the 4WD tracks finally give out, to be replaced by a single track trail. I ate and drank a bit, and climbed a short distance onto the crest of the ridge proper.
The rest of the route is basically visible from this point. Without the road, the character of the hike changes to a mix of tundra interspersed with dinner plate talus(especially on ridge points). There are occasional cairns (a couple of them huge!), but I just tried for the line of least resistance near the ridge crest. I got to the fairly large stone windbreak on the summit 2 hours and 58 minutes after setting out.
Looking off to the east, I abandoned the idea of adding Little Baldy Mtn. to my day, because the valley on its west side, which I would have had to cross to avoid re-climbing Silverheels, looked very wet and possible boggy. Instead, I descended more or less directly to the saddle between Silverheels and Palmer Peak.
Numerous tracks which looked like they might be trails showed on the north side of Palmer, and I decided to see if they were. The most prominent one leads off to climber's left (east), and I soon found that it is, indeed, a decent and stable route which does a gently ascending traverse through the talus, winding clockwise around the summit. I was a bit concerned that the rockiness of this route might be hard on Cimarron, but I needn't have worried. As soon as I stopped to catch my own breath, she cruised on past me, not even appearing to work hard at it.
When the trail finally seemed to give out, I just beelined for what appeared to be the location of the summit. Barely 20 minutes after leaving the saddle, I came upon the large cairn marking the summit. Even better, it held a register! The sun had finally begun to warm things up somewhat, so I stayed a while there in the middle of the huge summit area and had a bit of lunch.
After descending more directly back to the saddle, I contoured west around one basin, over a minor ridge point (which also sported a strangely large cairn), and around a second basin, to a saddle, before re-joining my ascent route.
I hit Pt. 12,282 both on the way up and on the way back, even though it's "unnecessary." It has a huge stone windbreak.
Back below timberline, I was glad I had Cimarron along. The route comes to a junction which I had little noted on the way up. I almost followed the main road, which leads off to ones left (east), but Cimarron's nose led her to the right (west), along a fainter track, which is actually the correct route. In no time at all, we were back at the upper TH; still no vehicles. Farther down, almost back to the start, I finally saw the only other person I encountered on the whole route: one person riding an ATV up that last driveable mile. Even though it was more cloudy than sunny, the weather had held off, giving me an easy day to bag this nice centennial 13er.


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