| Friday the 13ers
Mt Wilcox(13,408 )
Argentine Pk(13,738 )
Square Top Mtn A(13,794)
Elevation Gain: 4300ft
When I saw a post looking to climb something on Friday the 13th, naturally 13ers popped in my head. I sent a message to Lauren(lafutura on 14ers) and asked her if she would be up for it and she replied immediately and excitedly, YES! She had not climbed a 13er before and I am thankful she let me pick the mountains and was excited to attempt 3 of them for her first time. I decided on Wilcox, Argentine, and Square Top. Even though I had already summited Argentine it was in the middle of the other two so a re-summit was in order. After convincing her I was not an axe murderer(which would have been too convenient given the date) she agreed to pick me up at the bus stop at 5:20am.
Light snow near Naylor Lake
Lauren pulled up right on time and after getting some coffee and bagels we were on our way to Georgetown and Guanella Pass. The standard winter closure is still in place just after the campground and the road to that point is clear and dry. Our trip started at the start of the Naylor Lake road. As mentioned many times lately, the wind event from last year really did a number on an isolated area at the beginning of the road. Literally hundreds of mature, healthy trees were knocked down covering the road in a maze of deadfall. Luckily we had heard to take the trench that avoids the mess by bypassing the road for a while to the south.
After the mess of trees was behind us, we rejoined the road and made it to Naylor Lake pretty quickly. Here we stashed our snowshoes as it became apparent we would be able to get away without them for the hike at least until we got back to the lake after the peaks. From the topo map I had noticed an avalanche gully that we could ascend that would avoid any bushwacking through trees and wallowing in deep snow.
Climbing avalanche gully
The base of the gully was full of avalanche debris that looked like whitecaps on a lake. Many trees were poking through the debris, bent over almost in half, truly showing the power that came down the gully earlier this winter. The gully itself was straightforward, the only difficulty being the inch of new snow that coated the rocks and made them extremely slippery.
Wilcox east slopes
Once we got to the top of the gully the rest of the hike to the summit of Wilcox was ahead of us. Simple hiking on the grassy east slopes led us to the false summit, with the true summit behind and a few hundred feet of vertical higher. The views from the summit of Argentine, Edwards, Grays and Torreys were great and we hung out for a while taking pictures. Wind was an issue at this point so we got off the summit and started down the ridge to Argentine.
The first part of the ridge is some class 2 talus hopping, but nothing too bad. The dusting of snow on the rock was the only thing that caused any difficulty, but the sun was melting that rather quickly. We passed under the power lines and both commented that the buzzing noise of untold volts of electricity right above our heads was kind of unsettling. From the low point of the saddle up to the summit of Argentine went by at a steady pace. A nice cornice was overhanging the east face which provided for some nice photos. As expected the views of Grays and Torreys improved as we got closer to them. One thing I have found I love about the 13ers is the different views of the 14ers you don’t get while climbing them.
The wind was still going strong so we didn’t linger very long on the summit before we started the slog over to Square Top. The day had been really nice weather-wise up to this point, but we could see the oncoming storm building strength to the west of us, and were hoping it would not become an issue, which it never did. Crossing up and over a few humps in the ridge we made quick work of the descent to the Argentine-Square Top saddle where the wind died down a little. From there we had only one more section of uphill to go before we were on top of the third peak of the day.
The summit of Square Top befits its name and is really flat and large. It reminded me of the summit of Longs Peak minus the hordes of people. One thing I found interesting is that the rock around the official highpoint of the summit was of a different, much lighter and marble like, variety then the rest of the summit, weird but cool. Here Lauren ate a celebratory bagel for an energy boost and we were on our way.
Descending Square Top
From the snowshoe stash earlier I had eyed a nice descent gully and had hoped it would provide for some nice, safe glissading. If the snow was not optimal we had the option of descending the ridge a little farther and surfing some scree back down. Fortunately the snow in the gully was perfect and we were able to glissade down almost 900 feet of vertical back to Naylor Lake in only about 10 minutes. The frozen butt and ridiculous wedgie were well worth it for the quick and fun descent.
The best way to travel
We walked across the well frozen lake and quickly were back at our snowshoe stash. The snow had softened up by this point and the postholing commenced. I gave up and put on the snowshoes while Lauren stuck it out and kept hers on her back for the time being. When we came upon all of the deadfall again and took the path to avoid it, the snow became deeper and after much swearing and going in up to her waist in snow, Lauren finally gave in and put her snowshoes on for the last little section to the car.
Getting back to the car just after 4 for a roundtrip time of just over 9 hours felt great and we were both happy to take off our wet boots. The drive back to Denver went by quick enough, I always love the hikes that are on the east side of the tunnel for a short drive home. Lauren, thanks for being a great hiking partner, I had a blast and hopefully we can get out and climb again soon!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):