Peak(s):  Milwaukee Pk  -  13,522 feet
Date Posted:  07/10/2014
Modified:  07/11/2014
Date Climbed:   07/05/2014
Author:  metalmountain
 Milwaukee Peak - South East Spur  

Who needs a guidebook?!

After spending the previous weekend on Mount Bierstadt (I may have over shared that experience on the Facebook page) Kate and I were craving a little more solitude and a scrambling challenge to go along with it. Being that it was also the 4th of July we quickly moved away from the idea of 14ers to finding a group of 13ers that would fit the bill. After looking through Cooper's Colorado Scrambles Guidebook (which is awesome) we decided upon some mixture of Tijeras/Music/Milwaukee. Normally, we wouldn't bother with a trip report, but we felt that the route we ended up climbing was worth putting up since we could not find info about it anywhere. This route turned out to be awesome, so we wanted share it so other folks could enjoy it as well!

We hiked into Lower Sand Lake on Friday morning, and spent the day relaxing and fishing. It is quite the awesome place.

The view from the top of Music Pass is quite inspiring.

We got up early Saturday morning and started the hike up towards Upper Sand Lake. Its a mellow, very pretty hike and the nice trail and comfy temps made the 2.7 miles from the lower to upper lake fly by rather quickly.

On the way towards Upper Sand Lake

Here is where we should probably mention the impetus for this route. I was very proud of myself and copied all the route info for the North Ridge of Milwaukee, so that we would be fully prepared, and then promptly left it sitting on my coffee table. So, at this point in the morning we were still assuming that we were headed towards the North Ridge. We missed the Cottonwood pass trail (not so much missed but more ignored since we didn't realize that we should take it) and hiked all the way up to Upper Sand Lake. Once arriving at the lake we maybe should have pulled out the map, but we didn't.

When you reach the camping areas at the Upper Lake, there are some obvious conglomerate slabs to the north. This was still in an effort to get to the basin to the northeast of Milwaukee Peak. We bushwacked up to the area just north of Upper Sand Lake, which was actually a very pleasant scramble up great rock and no real bushwacking to speak of. We just stuck to the rocks on the east side of the drainage until there was an obvious weakness on the left that led us into the basin just north of the lake. We then started to realize that we might not be where we thought we should be, but we figured we would do a bit of exploring and see where it took us.

Rough idea of the route up the slabs.

Kate working her way up awesome conglomerate rock. Class 3 mostly, with a bit of easy and not scary class 4-5.

Top down view of the route. North is towards the top.

Looking at the route from a more SE direction to give some perspective.

Once we had reached the basin we headed S/SW towards an obvious grassy notch in the SE spur. If you are in the basin and look back towards the lake this notch is quite obvious. Unfortunately, we don't have a picture looking south towards the notch, but we have some that we took the next day from the East Ridge of Music.

Once we got to the notch we were faced with an imposing maze of rock. It looked quite intimidating to be honest. As we started to move up the ridge it began to reveal some weaknesses to us. We didn't get a ton of pictures of the route itself, unfortunately. We were so focused on route finding in class 4-5 terrain that neither of us really thought to pull our cameras out and lend themselves to great Kodak moments. The next few pics should hopefully layout our route well enough where it should make some sense though.

The google earth images above, and some pictures that I used my mad MS Paint skills on, you should be able to get a good idea of the route we took.

This is the notch viewed from the East Ridge of Music Mountain.

Red is Class 2 and yellow is class 3-5. The dashed line is where the route went on the opposite side of the ridge.

Red is Class 2 and yellow is class 3-5. The dashed line is where the route went on the opposite side of the ridge.

The basic route from the notch to the ridge consisted of climbing up and right while moving through obvious weakness in the cliffs. The rock in this section is nothing short of amazing, and blows the quality of the north ridge out of the water. It is pretty sustained class 4 with decent exposure the whole way. We encountered some class 5 sections as well, but they were short lived and seemed to be on less exposed sections. Again, the quality of the rock makes it feel very comfortable. Once you top out on the steeper scrambling portion you reach the mellow tundra and rocks as we approached the south ridge proper.

Kate exiting the hard portion of the ascent.

We trended up and to the right of this maze of rock to get up onto the crest of the SE Spur.

When we regained the crest of the SE Spur there was a little bit of mellow scrambling for a short section that serpentined along the the ridge several times. Approximately 500 feet below where the SE spur meets the south ridge proper we spied a goat path that dropped off the north side of the spur. This looked to cut off a good amount of needless elevation gain and the going looked easy. The path was easy class 2 and traversed/ascended under the crest of the spur for maybe a 100 yards or so. Sure enough we were on the south ridge proper in about 10 minutes and on the summit shortly there after.

For our descent we knew we had to head down the north ridge, the route we had originally intended on climbing. I am not going to lie, I was a bit apprehensive about down climbing it since we really had no idea where we were going. All in all the descent was relatively uneventful, and the route is pretty easy to down climb. It contained much less scrambling then our ascent did as well. Of course I puckered up a bit when we got to the infamous ledge, but once past that it was clear sailing all the way back to camp.

All in all this was a GREAT route. I really can't say enough about how awesome the scrambling was. The rock is so solid I almost couldn't believe it was real. We both found our ascent to be much more enjoyable than the "standard" north ridge. It involved much more scrambling and just seemed like a much more enjoyable ascent. It also avoids the trudge up to Milwaukee pass, since you start out scrambling at a significantly lower elevation. This route also enables you to complete the climb as a loop, which I know many of us are fans of.

I won't make a claim as to whether there have or have not been any up ascents until the day Kate and I set foot on it. I will say that we have been researching for days online and in guidebooks and have found literally no mention of this route or anyone climbing the SE spur. There were no cairns on route and no trails besides the goat trail we found. So, unless someone wants to offer some insight as to the FA, Kate and I are going to buy some whistles to toot.

It was an awesome day and an amazing way to climb the mountain. I highly recommend anyone that is heading up there give it a go and see what they think. I really think that if more people give it a try it could move up into the ranks of one of the better 13er scrambles in the state. It is definitely one of the better ones either of us have ever done.

Don't be afraid to explore, there are still some great things to discover in our amazing state! If anyone has any questions about the route just shoot me a message.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

 Comments or Questions
Love the Sand Creeks area!
07/10/2014 20:43
One of my favorite areas in Colorado. Great fishing; Tijeras is awesome etc.

07/12/2014 13:46
Good report and photos,


07/14/2014 15:45
You got a decent view of the lower part of Milwaukee's south ridge - the one that leads to Music's north ridge. Any thoughts on that traverse?


South Ridge
07/14/2014 17:00
It looked spicy haha. Descending the south ridge looked pretty trivial, but once it starts ascending towards Music it changes character a bit. I might have a decent picture of it though. I will check when I get home and I can shoot you a message.


Sweet route
07/22/2014 05:47
I know exactly where you began...very cool. I ventured up that way some years ago on an abbreviated trip that only got Tijeras, while my buddy hanged out by the lake. So cool to see you made a route out of it. Nice loop! The rock in that area is super solid.

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