Due south of Sultan Mountain
and to the southwest of the Grand Turk
sits Spencer Peak. Unranked but lovely in its conical symmetry, Spencer Peak was officially named at end of the summer of 2008 in honor of Dr. Donald C. Spencer.
Regarded by peers as an innovative mathematician and pioneering researcher, this graduate of the University of Colorado and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was an award-winning leader in the field of mathematics. Those who saw the movie “A Beautiful Mind” may recognize Dr. Spencer as the mentor to the tragically schizophrenic genius John Nash. Though Dr. Spencer excelled in East Coast, Ivy League academics and research, he returned to his beloved Colorado Rocky Mountains in the late 1970’s for retirement. Dr. Spencer passed away 23 December 2001 in Durango, Colorado. This Boulder, Colorado-born man was loved deeply by his surviving family members, who honored his memory by having this peak officially named after him.
Source for Information on Dr. Donald C. Spencer: New York Times Obituary
Spencer Peak is on the right.
19 July 2008
Photo by ktimm
Spencer Peak makes a worthy outing in its own right, and a pleasant (albeit somewhat mandatory) addition en route to the Grand Turk and Sultan Mountain combo from Little Molas Lake. The small, pointed summit allows for unrestricted views of the surrounding peaks.
Trails Illustrated Map:
#141 (Telluride, Silverton, Ouray, Lake City)
Rank and Prominence Reference: Lists of John
Getting There and Route Overview
Spencer Peak resides about 6 miles southwest, as the crow flies, of Silverton, Colorado, in the San Juan Mountains.
|Route||Mileage||Elevation Gain||Special Note||Driving Directions|
|Molas Lake Direct||5 miles roundtrip||2,044 ft.||The shortest, most direct route with least elevation gain||From Silverton, Hwy 550 south to signed turnoff for Little Molas Lake (turn right/west-northwest). Continue 1 mile to lake parking.
|Bear Creek||9 miles roundtrip||3,474 ft.||Includes a loss of 150 feet; greatest overall elevation gain||From Silverton, Hwy 550 north about 1.5 miles to gauging station. Parking may be questionable.
|Via Lime-Bear Basin||9 miles roundtrip||2,246 ft.||Includes a loss of 521 feet en route; might make nice loop with Molas Direct||From Silverton, Hwy 550 south to signed turnoff for Little Molas Lake (turn right/west-northwest). Continue 1 mile to lake parking.
|Snowdon Peak as seen from Little Molas Lake.
Image by Brent D
Click on map for larger view
Camping & LodgingNational Forest Campgrounds
The South Mineral Campground
is about 6 miles from Silverton. The campground has 26 sites, available on a first-come, first-served basis. At 9,800 feet elevation, even summer nights will be chilly. To get there, drive two miles west of Silverton to Forest Road 585. Follow FR 585 west along the creek for four miles to the campground entrance. The facilities provide picnic tables, composting vault toilets, fire grates, trash disposal and potable water.
San Juan National Forest campground map
Silverton hosts at least three commercial campgrounds offering services such as RV hookup, snacks and showers. These include Silverton Lakes Camper Park, Silver Summit RV Park and Red Mountain RV Park. Additional RV parks can be found by visiting the Silverton Magazine
online lodging guide.
Cabins, Cottages, Hotels and Bed & Breakfasts
The lodging in and around Silverton could be described as “limited” and “eclectic”. Many are family owned and operated and tend toward the friendly and cozy, versus the sophisticated or luxurious. The Silverton Magazine
provides a good online lodging guide.
Leaving Little Molas Lake
18 July 2008
A hiker traverses the north side of Spencer Peak
Photo by ktimm
Weather & Seasons
Summer in the San Juans is heavenly, with warm sunny days and cool, crisp nights. As with the other mountainous areas of Colorado, the afternoon thunderstorms mean summertime hikers need to leave the summit by noon. The San Juans are well-known for thawing out later than other parts of Colorado; it is not uncommon for an ice axe to be required year-round on certain routes.
The town of Silverton and surrounding mountains receive massive amounts of snowfall in the winter months. Avalanche chutes abound in the area; in the summer, the wounds from the previous snow-season’s avalanche activity are evident. Exercise prudent snow sense in these mountains when snow cover is present.
Little or no red tape is involved in reaching the summit of Spencer Peak.
Spencer Peak from the southwest
slopes of Sultan Mountain
Photo by SarahThompson
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Spencer peak rises gently to the right of this panoramic photo by kane