Peak(s):  Tijeras Pk  -  13,604 feet
Milwaukee Pk  -  13,522 feet
Pico Aislado  -  13,611 feet
Date Posted:  06/23/2020
Date Climbed:   06/20/2020
Author:  Mtnman200
Additional Members:   RandyMack
 Danger Is No Stranger  

When we left Music Pass after two days of climbing in this beautiful area of the Sangre de Cristos, I was in a good mood. My son, Randy, is working on Colorado's bicentennial (200 highest) peaks and had two left in the Sangre de Cristos: Tijeras Peak (13,604') and Pico Aislado (13,611'). Pico Aislado was his hardest remaining bicentennial, and to reach its summit we'd have to go over the summit of his hardest remaining tricentennial: Milwaukee Peak (13,522').

Thursday, June 18, 2020. Randy and I left our home in the late afternoon and drove to the Music Pass trailhead, prepared for a two-night backpack to the Sand Creek Lakes area. We grabbed our backpacks and a mile later reached Music Pass (11,380'), where we were greeted with a nice view of Tijeras Peak to the west. We continued to just west of a large meadow at about 11,000' and set up camp near the intersection with the trail to Lower Sand Creek Lake.

Tijeras Peak, Music Mountain, and Milwaukee Peak from Music Pass about 7:30 PM; surprisingly, we didn't get any rain this evening. (Photo Credit: All photos by Randy Mack)

Friday, June 19, 2020. Today's goals: Tijeras Peak and, if the weather holds, Music Mountain (13,355'). Given that the forecast included a 50% chance of rain beginning at 6 AM and an 80% chance of afternoon thunderstorms, we'd be happy if we could at least reach the summit of Tijeras Peak.

We followed the trail to the north side of Lower Sand Creek Lake and then took what turned out to be not the greatest route NNW through the willows and onto the slopes north of Tijeras Peak.

Lower Sand Creek Lake in the early morning light

We easily spotted the rocky ramp that climbs through a cliff band from lower right to upper left and headed to its base. We'd known there was snow at the ramp's base but thought we could bypass most of it. As it turns out, we couldn't.

Tijeras Peak has a long cliff band from 12,200' to 12,400'. The ramp we took is just left of center

Approaching the snow at the base of the ramp through the cliffs on Tijeras Peak

It took about 15 steps to reach the top of the snow and another 15 steps to get onto rock at the bottom of the ramp

Looking down the ramp...

...and up the ramp

At the top of the ramp, we made sure to note its location because from above it's hard to tell exactly where the ramp is. About 1100' of climbing up the rock/tundra brought us to Tijeras Peak's north ridge, and after another 350' up the rocky ridge we found ourselves on the summit.

Easy rock/tundra to the north ridge of Tijeras Peak

Almost to the ridge

Lower Sand Creek Lake from the same location as the previous photo

Music Mountain from the same location as the previous two photos

Tijeras Peak's north ridge

We found a summit register on Tijeras Peak, along with great views in all directions.

Looking west toward the San Luis Valley from the summit of Tijeras Peak

Looking south from the summit of Tijeras Peak

Looking north from the summit of Tijeras Peak. Music Mountain is obscured by clouds in the center.

Same view as the last photo, with fewer clouds.

We probably could have done the ridge traverse to Music Mountain but decided to play it safe rather than get caught in a thunderstorm without good bailout options. (The rain didn't start until mid-afternoon and there was less of it than expected.) Regardless, we headed back to our campsite, this time taking a better route back to Lower Sand Creek Lake.

After packing up, we backpacked to a new campsite just below Upper Sand Creek Lake and took much-needed and well-deserved naps in our tent for a couple of hours before cooking dinner.

Saturday, June 20, 2020. Knowing today was a good weather day, we slept in a bit later than we normally would have; no headlamps today. From Upper Sand Creek Lake, we climbed NW through the trees and onto a long ridge on the south side of the basin west of Marble Mountain.

Heading uphill through the trees north of Upper Sand Creek Lake

Looking back (south) at Upper Sand Creek Lake from the same location as the previous photo

We contoured NW toward the Milwaukee Peak - Marble Mountain saddle. The sidehilling wasn't bad because much of the way we could follow faint paths from others who'd taken the same route. A group of six below us in the basin west of Marble Mountain were also heading to the Milwaukee - Marble saddle.

Near the saddle, we took a break to let the other group catch up and learned they were heading to Milwaukee Peak, Pico Aislado, and Unnamed 13,020'.

A nice trail heads toward Milwaukee Peak from the Milwaukee - Marble Mtn. saddle

Approaching Milwaukee Peak

From the north, reaching Milwaukee's summit requires climbing south out of a notch at about 13,120' and onto a highly-exposed ledge on the east side of the summit block. After traversing south on the ledge, we climbed up a series of ramps and ledges and eventually reached the summit ridge a bit north of the summit. Fortunately, the conglomerate rock typical of this area is fairly stable and provides excellent traction.

Milwaukee Peak from its north ridge, with Pico Aislado at right. The exposed ledge is on the left (east) side of Milwaukee's summit block

Milwaukee Peak's north ridge from near its notch

Traversing the infamous ledge on Milwaukee Peak; hey, that morning sun is bright!

Upper Sand Creek Lake (right of center) from the ledge on Milwaukee Peak; it's a long way down, so I mostly focused on my feet and hands

We continued ahead (south) on the ledge to its end and then ascended ramps and ledges to the ridge. (Apologies for giving you the finger...)

After topping out on Milwaukee's summit ridge (right of center), the going is much easier/safer the rest of the way to Milwaukee Peak's summit

The final approach to Milwaukee Peak's summit (as seen from very close to the summit) involves some easy scrambling

Pico Aislado from Milwaukee Peak's summit

Before long, all eight of us were on Milwaukee Peak's summit. After taking a break and recharging with some food, Randy and I headed WSW along the tundra/rock ridge toward Pico Aislado.

Looking toward Music Pass from the summit of Milwaukee Peak

Looking south toward Music Mountain and Tijeras Peak from Milwaukee Peak's summit

Pico Aislado from the Milwaukee - Pico Aislado ridge. We traversed below the triangular snowfield (seen near the 13,420' saddle right of center) and then scrambled up

As we approached Pico Aislado, two climbers were ascending the steep rock on the peak's east side. To avoid crossing any snow, we traversed at about 13,300' until we were a bit south of the summit and then began scrambling up steep gullies, chimneys, and ledges. In California, the route likely would be considered 3rd class, but by Colorado standards there were definitely some 4th class moves required.

When we were about halfway to the summit ridge, we had a brief chat with the two climbers, who were now descending an adjacent gully. We later concluded that their route was more difficult (i.e., steeper) than the one we took.

The steepness of the slope eased as we got closer to the summit ridge on Pico Aislado

Humboldt Peak (left) and Milwaukee Peak (right) from Pico Aislado's summit

Looking north from Pico Aislado's summit

Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle, Broken Hand Peak, and Humboldt Peak from Pico Aislado's summit

We saw some familiar names in the Pico Aislado summit register. The group of six reached the summit not long before we headed down. For safety's sake, we descended via our ascent route.

Looking back at Pico Aislado as we returned along the ridge to Milwaukee Peak

For the most part, we stayed on top of the ridge until we returned to the summit of Milwaukee Peak.

Marble Mountain from the summit of Milwaukee Peak

Starting down from Milwaukee Peak's summit ridge

The well-constructed trail on Milwaukee Peak heads down to the Milwaukee Peak - Marble Mtn. saddle (seen from the 13,300-foot saddle just north of Milwaukee)

Another view of the trail with Humboldt Peak in the background

It felt good to return to the trail. Because it was still early when Randy and I returned to our campsite, we broke camp and backpacked out. This left us no alternative but to grab some tasty food at Chappy's in Westcliffe on the way home.

When my dad and I climbed Milwaukee Peak and Pico Aislado in August 1990, he called it "our finest double." Thirty years later, I still agree. Maybe I should schedule another repeat of these fine peaks for the summer of 2050.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions

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06/23/2020 15:38
For the 2050 repeat. Or maybe a bit sooner would be nice? Great work, those indeed look like fine peaks!


Nice to meet you
06/23/2020 18:47
I was part of the group of 6 that met up with you and your son on the saddle with Marble. By the end of the day we were wishing we had descended Pico - that escape gully after 13020 was really loose and nasty, especially with a larger group.


06/23/2020 21:48
Looks like an interesting itinerary, have to think about this one.
Great view of the Crestones from the summit!

Excellent report
06/24/2020 21:38
Thanks for a wonderful report on such a beautiful place.


Thanks, all
06/30/2020 10:23
Andrew: We'll be packing in on Friday, 7-29-2050, climb Tijeras and Music Mtn. on Saturday, and then Milwaukee and Pico Aislado on Sunday, 7-31-2050. I can't guarantee how fast I'll be in 30 years, though.
rhammond: Nice to meet you, too. Sounds like adding 13020 made it a big day, but I'm glad you reached all of your goals that day.
nyker: Definitely great views of the Crestones.
ItlFish: Thanks!

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