| Silverheels, West Ridge (short version)
I've wanted to climb Mount Silverheels for a long time. I made two previous attempt, one from the north side of Hoosier Pass and over Beaver Ridge, and one from the top of Hoosier Pass and along the ridge. On both of these attempts, I had to turn around due to lack of time before I got on the mountain itself. Today, I started early and took the jeep road up Beaver Ridge to start at about 12,000 feet at the base of the west ridge.
This is the first centennial peak I've climbed for several years. Age, fat and lack of conditioning had put them out of reach. The low point came a few years ago on the southwest slope route on Mt. Massive. About halfway up, it became painfully apparent that my legs were not up to the task. At the time, a trail crew was working on rebuilding the trail. One of the trail crew members had sprained his ankle. He beat me down the mountain.
Last fall, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and got serious about improving my diet and losing weight. I'm about 20 pounds lighter than I was two years ago, and that has made a huge difference. I didn't set any speed records, and with an early start and perfect weather (except for the wind) I didn't try. It took me about 3:15 to climb 1800 feet, but I felt good the whole trip.
To get to this road start from the intersection of 4th Street and CO 9 on the nort end of the town of Fairplay. Turn east on 4th Street to Beaver Creek Lane and turn left (north). Pass the Fairplay Nordic Center on your left and continue to the junction with FS 413 after approximately 2 miles. Turn right onto FS 413 and pass the winter closure gate after 1/4 mile. Continue past this gate on FS 659 to the end of the road. This is is a fairly easy jeep road, that should be passable in a stock SUV, a two-wheel-drive pickup, and maybe some cars if driven very carefully. I drove it in a stock Jeep Liberty and encountered nothing at all difficult. There is a permanent Forest Service closure just a couple of hundred yards short of the end of the road at an old min (Labeled "Iron mine" on the Alma USGS topo). If you have a vehicle capable of handling the road, and you don't have your heart set on 3,000 feet of vertical, this road saves you the climb over Beaver Ridge from the standard west ridge trailhead, and the climb back over it on the way out.
I left Denver at 4:00 AM started the hike at 6:45 AM.
Start of the hike, looking at route up Silverheels
I contoured into the creek
Early morning ice
and started up the west ridge of Silverheels. It's about as easy a hike as you will find for a mountain this high. It's mostly tundra, some of it fairly steep, with a few sections of mild scree and talus. The views along the way and at the summit are more than worth the effort.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):