|Lat/Lon:||37.66350°N / 107.54037°W|
|Activities:||Hiking, Mountaineering, Scrambling|
|Elevation:||13617 ft / 4150 m|
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
Class: 2+ (some sources brief class 3)
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 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.
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.