Peak(s):  Italian Mtn  -  13,378 feet
Lambertson Pk  -  13,209 feet
Date Posted:  02/28/2021
Modified:  03/02/2021
Date Climbed:   08/30/2020
Author:  CaptainSuburbia
 The Italian Job   

The Italian Job

Italian Mountain and Lambertson Peak Loop


Our weekend started with a quick climb up Ruby Mountain A. This was a fun peak with great views of Grays and Torreys. We then drove to Buena Vista for lunch at Chester's inside the Loves. After filling up on gas station chicken tenders, we headed west to the Elk Mountains over Cottonwood Pass to climb nearby Italian Mountain and Lambertson Peak.

Day of Climb: August 30th, 2020

Trailhead: Italian Creek

Peaks: Italian Mountain and Lambertson Peak

Mileage/Elevation Gain: ~6.5 miles and 2300 feet of gain.

This was my first time going over Cottonwood Pass and down to Taylor Park Reservoir. It was a beautiful drive with lots of great views and hardly any traffic. At the reservoir we headed NW on CO 742 which is a well maintained dirt road. This final portion of the drive from the reservoir to the trailhead took us much longer than expected.

At first, the miles went by quick as we passed dozens of campers and ATV's enjoying Taylor Park. At the 10 mile mark we turned left on CO 759 (Italian Creek Rd) and our progress slowed dramatically. These last 7 miles or so to the trailhead were brutal and took about an hour and 30 minutes. It wasn't too bad up to the 4WD only sign 2 miles in, but after that I rarely got above 5 to 10 MPH as I was constantly maneuvering around large rocks. We were several hours from a cell signal so breaking down was not an option. I think the road has deteriorated quite a bit in the last few years. Also, there was a constant stream of side by sides and dirt bikes trying to get around us as they headed to American Flag Mountain. We eventually made it and parked near the second switchback. This was just before the Star mine and the "public access through private property sign". There was very little room to pull off, but we found a spot and went to sleep under the stars.

We woke just before sunrise and started our climb heading north from 11,300 feet. We eventually turned west and curved around the Star Mine private property. This seems to be a working mine so probably best to steer clear of it. We then began angling towards the grassy rib that would lead us to Lambertson.

Took this grassy rib to the ridge

The grassy rib was easy to climb and it didn't take long to reach the ridge. That put us at 13,000 feet and just north of Lambertson with only a few hundred vertical feet left to climb and a couple false summits.

About half way up grassy rib
More rocky as we approached the ridge crest
On the ridge looking out at 13er Star and 14er Castle Peak

Once on the ridge we went south over mostly grassy terrain. There was a tremendous view of Castle and many other Elk peaks off to our right. We quickly covered the short distance to Lambertson and were on our first summit of the day by 8:00 in the morning. The view of Italian Mountain from here was really impressive. It was a very majestic looking peak and different from the other Elk peaks I had previously climbed.

Easy terrain
False summit
Castle Peak in the distance
Final approach to Lambertson
Italian Mountain
Elk Mountains

After a snack break we headed south to the connecting saddle with Italian. It wasn't far, probably not much more than 200 vertical feet down. We crossed the saddle and began climbing Italians north slope which would lead us to it's northwest ridge and then the summit. At a glance, it looked difficult, but our research from other trip reports said it went no harder than class 2 and I hoped this was true.

Descending Lambertson
The big saddle

The north slope was rocky but easy to climb as Leo led the way. We then began curling around to the backside of Italian and were greeted by a steep, slanted slope. We needed to climb this to bypass a difficult section and gain the ridge proper. So we stayed on the west side of the ridge, slightly below the crest where the terrain was very blocky and loose. It seemed like everything we stepped on teetered or shifted under our feet. We moved very cautiously and tested every step as we climbed not wanting to fall down the steep slopes to the west. I would rate this section 2+ or even easy class 3, and not the class 2 I've seen others mention.

Climbing the north slope of Italian
Looking back on Lambertson
Leo charging ahead
Steep drop to the west
Ridge proper. We bypassed this section.
Lots of shifting dinner plates here.
Leo wondering how we got up that?
Looking down ridge and back at Lambertson with Taylor and Star Peak in view.

We eventually hit the upper section of the northwest ridge and were able to stay on the ridge crest to the summit. After a short scrambly section the climbing became much more mellow and there was even a faint trail at times. We covered the last bit to the summit quickly and were on our second summit of the day in just a few short hours. Yay! With perfect weather we had amazing views in all directions.

Short scramble section
An easy stroll from here to the summit.
Less than 100 vertical feet to go
The final short push to the summit
Looking down the impressive northwest ridge.
The northwest ridge, Lambertson and the Elks.

We stayed on the summit for quite a long time enjoying the views and solitude. We lucked out with a near windless, bluebird day. There were no other climbers out today as expected. The remoteness of these peaks keeps them off the radar for most. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay forever and began descending south off the summit along a very nice trail before turning left down Italians mostly gentle east ridge. Eventually, we came to a saddle and made another left before beelining downhill northeast back to the road. We completed the loop with an enjoyable walk back to our truck, passing several old mining ruins and a restored log cabin.

Italians south ridge
Looking back at summit
East ridge
Leo leading the way as usual
Looking up east ridge
You can see the road going off to the right to American Flag Mountain.
Nice trail
Saddle is just beyond this knob
One last view of Italian
Large saddle where were turned left for the final descent back to the road.

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

02/28/2021 05:37
Neat seeing reports of the less common elk peaks.


02/28/2021 06:46
He should really have his own account on here!

Great pics!


Very nice!
02/28/2021 09:04
I really like this report...


02/28/2021 09:25
Good-looking dog along with you! A particular breed or simply Stellarlookingmutt?

"that's a spicy meatball"
02/28/2021 09:49
yes love the italian

i did this 5 years ago - but only did italian. I had to walk all the way down that 4 x 4 road because - as always - I was vehicularly challenged

car camping the night before was also cool. that back wall of the sawatches there is impressive - that's a 13-14 mile wall of mountain over there.


02/28/2021 12:04
Sbenfield - Thanks! I hadn't even heard of these peaks until a few days before going.

Will - Thanks! You need to meet Leo.

Jay521 - Thanks Jay! It was a fun trip.

greenonion - Thanks! He's a great climbing dog when he's not chasing squirrels. Just a Stellarlookingmutt haha. His DNA says he's mostly Jack Russell and feist which is a breed I'd never heard of, but I guess it's similar to a rat terrier. Also, a bit of Fox Terrier and Beagle mixed in.

Jibler - Italian is definitely a cool peak! That's a long walk. Did you go up the east ridge? I agree about that sawatch wall. It's a very impressive sight as you drive through Taylor Park.


02/28/2021 17:01
That's a great photo leading off your report!

Nice report
02/28/2021 21:25
I enjoyed this report, and the wonderful photographs.
The saddle between Lambertson and Italian immediately reminded me of a smaller version of the bears playground below crestone peak.


Opening pic
03/01/2021 10:40
Thanks d_baker! It's a spectacular looking peak from that angle.

ItIfish99 - Thank you! I've heard about bears playground, but haven't been there yet. On my list now.


Itty Bitty Italian
03/02/2021 20:01
Great report, Judd! Looks like a couple of interesting peaks, and of course pictures of Leo are always welcome!


03/02/2021 23:51
Thanks Ben! You'll enjoy them. I need to do more reports with Leo.

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