My plan to climb Capitol Peak fell through after I found that I had a mandatory scholarship banquet to attend on the same day as we planned to climb. So I decided to go out on the day before to get in a solo climb of some 13ers from Guanella Pass. What started at as a simple goal to get one or two peaks soon became a quest to get in five. But the strange weather patterns would either allow or deny it.
The Day Unfolds
I arrived at the Guanella Pass Trailhead at 8 a.m. just after a major storm had subsided and began my trek west towards Square Top Mountain. Soon after the constructed bridges over the mud on the main road-looking trail, there is a smaller trail that breaks north, I took this to gain the ridge towards ST. There were slight traces of gray clouds, but it was clear for the most part.
Square Top is quite a ways up on this ridge, but once you are on it you can make your way towards Argentine Peak with ease. Just head northeast from the summit along an easily seen ridge. Once atop Argentine, I saw my line of attack on Mount Edwards and McClellan Mountain. I also saw a number of rising clouds building over Greys and Torreys, so I took my time getting over to Edwards. By the time I got there, the clouds had dissipated, thanks in part to the fast winds that also threatened to blow me over near Argentine Pass- but the dark clouds would become a part of the routine, and required constant monitoring.
I talked with a guy on Edwards that was doing the Horseshoe loop, but he wasn't game for McClellan, so I went on alone again. On my way over I got my first signs of sleet, but still no signs of thunder, so I trucked on.
Rather than retrace my steps back up Edwards/Argentine, I decided to straight-line towards the ridge going up Mount Wilcox. This proved more difficult than I had imagined, as it turned quickly into large pieces of scree that slowed my progress. But I made it up the ridge, just as even more dark clouds moved in, and I had to wait out the passing storm for about ten minutes. Wilcox was quick once this passed though and I was soon making my way down towards the Murray and Silver Dollar lakes. It was about this time that I had run out of water, so it was great to have a source to replenish.
To gain the ridge once again and make my way back to the car I had to climb the steep scree field that rose about 1,500 feet. It wasn't exactly what I had in mind for the end to my day, but it was pretty much my only option (besides hiking out to the road below and trying to hitchhike).
Mileages and Climbing Elevations
Guanella to Square Top: 3.1 miles/2,339'
Square Top to Argentine: 1.5 miles/803'
Argentine to Edwards: 2.1 miles/868'
Edwards to McClellan: 4,148 feet/222'
McClellan to Wilcox: 3.6 miles/1,906'
Wilcox to Guanella: 3.9 miles/1,164'
Total: 15.1 miles/7302'
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