Peak(s):  "Mountaineer Pk"  -  13,434 feet
Rhoda, Mt  -  13,402 feet
Whitehead Pk  -  13,259 feet
PT 13,109  -  13,109 feet
Tower Mtn  -  13,552 feet
Twin Sisters East  -  13,432 feet
Twin Sisters West  -  13,374 feet
Date Posted:  09/18/2016
Modified:  09/12/2018
Date Climbed:   09/03/2016
Author:  Mtnman200
 Tri, Tri Again (Silverton Area Tricentennials)  

Silverton is one of my favorite mountain towns, and not just because it has only one paved street and no shortage of nearby mountains to climb. Silverton has a vibe that is the complete opposite of what you find in towns like Aspen, so I'll never get tired of visiting the Silverton area.

I'd set up camp east of Silverton in Cunningham Gulch near the confluence of Spencer Creek and Royal Tiger Creek with plans to climb "Mountaineer Peak" (13,434'), Mt. Rhoda (13,402'), Whitehead Peak (13,259'), and Unnamed (UN) 13109, with high hopes for other peaks in the following days.

Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016
I headed uphill through the mining ruins above my campsite and intercepted the Spencer Creek Trail. Actually, it's still a road that I later realized I could have driven for a mile and saved myself about 800' of elevation gain. Oh well, I need the exercise.

It's already getting cloudy along the Spencer Creek Trail not long after the sun came up

At about 11,200', the road is closed to vehicular traffic. I continued up the trail to its end near an old mine at about 12,400'. Some 300 - 400 sheep were milling about on the hillsides around me, and I could see a large sheepherder's tent about 1/4 mile to the east. The noise of so many animals disrupted what would have otherwise been a very peaceful basin.

This is only a small fraction of the sheep in Spencer Basin (Photo taken on my way out in the early afternoon)

"Mountaineer Peak" (13,434') from near the trail's end at 12,400'

After leaving the trail, I headed up steep grassy/rocky slopes east of "Mountaineer Peak" (13,434'). Once on the ridge, I headed more or less directly up the ridge toward the summit.

Looking up Mountaineer Peak's east ridge toward its summit

Even though the sheep were at least a half mile away, it smelled like a barnyard along the ridge.

A steep couloir containing lots of crumbly rock took me just south of the summit of Mountaineer Peak

I didn't find a summit register on Mountaineer Peak, but I did find a rusty old can

The south ridge of Mountaineer Peak was much easier than its east ridge, and soon I was at the summit block of Mt. Rhoda, where there is a minor cliff band that was fun to scramble up.

The cliff band near Mt. Rhoda's summit is visible from Mountaineer Peak

Whitehead Peak is the next peak along the ridge, but it's rather nondescript. Whitehead's summit area was so grassy that it had no summit cairn.

Mt. Rhoda from Whitehead Peak

I continued west from Whitehead Peak toward UN 13109, which had a surprisingly narrow summit ridge.

UN 13109 from near the saddle between it and Whitehead Peak

I retraced my footsteps to Whitehead Peak and contemplated how to return to the trailhead. Originally, I'd planned to follow a trail that, according to my topo map, descended from the Rhoda - Whitehead saddle to Highland Mary Lakes. I hadn't seen anything resembling this trail, however, and decided to return over Mt. Rhoda instead. I contoured around Mountaineer Peak on its SE side until I reached its west ridge. From here, it was an easy descent into Spencer Basin, where I got back onto the Spencer Creek Trail and returned to my campsite.

Waterfalls along the Spencer Basin Trail

I relocated my campsite to the trailhead for tomorrow's planned climb of Tower Mountain (13,552') via the Boulder Gulch Trail. Access is via a road not shown on the topo map (or From the north end of Silverton, find a road just above/behind the cemetery that heads ENE near some power lines. The Boulder Gulch trailhead is at a locked gate at 9600'. It wasn't easy to find a level, non-rocky, non-muddy area for my tent, but I managed.

Friday, Sept. 2, 2016
Rain fell most of the night, which was definitely not a good sign. I followed the road for about 1/4 mile to Boulder Creek, where the road ended and a trail headed north up Boulder Gulch. It didn't take long for me to put on my rain gear. Above 11,400', some sections of the trail were difficult to follow, but a few well-placed cairns helped.

This is typical of today's weather: cloudy/foggy and wet

I continued following the trail to the East Storm - Tower Mtn. saddle and then left the trail and followed the ridge SE toward Tower Mtn. Winds were quite strong along the ridge, and I got pelted with hail during a (thankfully short-lived) hailstorm.

This is the best view I had of East Storm all day. A minute later, it vanished in the fog

I could vaguely see something sticking up in the distance and found to my surprise that Tower Mountain actually has a tower near its summit.

The tower of Tower Mountain

A climber with the same name as my wife signed the makeshift summit register but didn't indicate where she lives. That'll make it hard for me to send a letter insisting that the imposter change her name.

The register left by Mike Garratt on 7/23/2016

I returned to the East Storm - Tower Mtn. saddle and then took the trail down. By this time, I'd long since given up on taking photos and descended via my ascent route. As I descended the last mile to the trailhead, the sun actually came out and made things hot and muggy.

After a nice meal in Silverton, I drove a couple of miles west of South Mineral Campground and set up camp along the road to Bandora Mine. The trail to the basin north of tomorrow's goal (Twin Sisters East and West) starts about 20' before (east of) the Y intersection about 1/4 mile NE of Bandora Mine. There's a sizable cairn near the trail as well.

Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016
When I got up, skies were partly cloudy but became overcast by 6:30 AM. I followed the trail down to South Fork Mineral Creek, took off my boots, and waded across. (It's too wide to jump, and no logs or stepping stones are available.) The trail climbs SE to about 11,300' and then contours NE for about 1/2 mile before climbing SE again.

Looking across the basin toward Twin Sisters East (13,432'). I chose to climb the NE ridge (left)

Once I reached the basin NNE of Twin Sisters East, I left the trail and headed toward the NE ridge of Twin Sisters East. Some areas in the basin were a bit soggy but just enough to be annoying and not to the point that I felt I was in a swamp.

Looking up the SE ridge of Twin Sisters East (13,432'). This was all the blue sky I saw today

Nearing the summit of Twin Sisters East

The summit of Twin Sisters East. The views were somewhat less than impressive due to the fog that had moved in

Mike Garratt had left a makeshift register on Twin Sisters East on 8/29/07; only 13 signatures previously in 2016. I continued SW toward Twin Sisters West: an easy ridgewalk despite the fog.

Looking toward Twin Sisters West (13,374') from the summit of Twin Sisters East. I'm fairly sure there's a peak out there somewhere...

It took less than 40 minutes to reach the summit of Twin Sisters West, where I was surprised to find a CMC summit register containing eight signatures from 2016. I didn't bother taking any photos here because there was nothing to see except low-lying clouds/fog.

I climbed back over Twin Sisters East and descended by my ascent route. The hail/rain was kind enough to wait until I was back on the trail. I returned to South Fork Mineral Creek, took off my boots, and waded across just as hard rain began.

Heavy rain continued for much of the afternoon, accompanied by lots of lightning. Often, thunder would still be echoing in the valley when another round would start. The rainy weather continued the next morning and caused me to take a rest day. Even so, my time in this area was a success, despite needing to return in the future for the peaks I couldn't get this time. I certainly don't mind having another excuse to visit the Silverton area.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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