Mineral County Highpoint Trip Report

unnamed (13,895 ft)

Date: September 9, 2005
Author: Adam Helman

Note: All NAD27 UTM coordinates are in zone 13S.

This report addresses only items requiring additional documentation or that have simply not been described previously. The most salient points regard the exact manner of crossing the stream 1.8 miles into the climb, having started at the 2WD trailhead described in Dave Covill and John Mitchler's informative Colorado highpoints guidebook.

This effort was part of a larger journey collecting Colorado county highpoints in early September 2005.


I found that the 2WD approach can be extended 0.3 mile, so eliminating said amount of one-way hiking distance as well as about 300 feet of net elevation gain. Simply take the left road fork immediately after crossing the creek noted at mile 3.0 in Dave Covill and John Mitchler's book; and then drive north along this good road until a sharp hairpin turn left. Park at the hairpin and hike up the bermed 4WD road heading to your northeast.

I started the day from South Fork, having chosen to "motel camp" in the effort to relieve a head cold a la sore throat a la general sense of malaise. At the car I took Motrin to eliminate slight dizziness. After a bowl of Raisin Bran with milk ad libitum I walked the jeep road at 7:03 a.m.

I cannot imagine that most people would attempt to climb a Centennial peak the way I felt that morning. Perhaps if you too had driven several hundred road miles from San Diego your decision might have been similar.

Stream Crossing

I elaborate on the stream crossing located at mile 1.8 along the hiking route described in Dave and John's guidebook. The area concerned is a level, flat meadow. The dirt track "stock trail" one follows 0.4 mile has petered out, and the stream immediately south broadens to a slow-traveling morass covered with brush, aspens, and beaver dams. In short, it is not evident HOW to cross the stream - nor does the guidebook or any previous report hint as to the correct plan-of-action.

The trail continues east from the Forest Service kiosk, for perhaps 200 yards, with much blocking deadfall. It is no longer a two-track, rather, a narrow footpath that is hard to discern. The trail finally crosses the stream, from north to south, at GPS-derived UTM coordinates (333441 E, 4197899 N) and 10,592 feet elevation. Here cairns mark the route on both sides of the stream - and the cited coordinates correspond to one of the stream's narrower sections.

I learned this information only upon descent, having first attempted to cross the stream atop a beaver lodge only to find the going far too slick; and then successfully crossing farther east (yet west of the above coordinates) at a narrow spot that has a very steep, abandoned 4WD road heading straight upslope on the opposite, south shore.

Route Above Timberline

I elaborate on the optimal route from 12,000 feet (timberline) to the summit. Ascend the obvious north-south ridge to a relatively flat spot at 12,600 feet. A cloud deck obscured my view of everything above 13,000 feet. I headed due north, making an ascending traverse to the summit ridge just east of the unnamed county highpoint. This route entailed much scree as well as grassy slopes.

I recommend striking out directly for the summit from the 12,600 foot flat area on the ridge immediately above treeline. Do not head north from this flat area - go directly to the false summit. This path maximizes the fraction of grassy slopes at the expense of annoying and more troublesome scree. Once at the false summit the climb is level until reaching the obvious, large summit cairn a few hundred yards northwest.

I descended by such a straight line route, enjoying my summit food at the aforementioned flat area. The point was to be somewhat out of danger from any would-be thunder-generating cloud as compared with a prolonged siesta at the very summit.

It started to rain and thunder after I entered the forest - good timing for my sake from a staying alive viewpoint.


Mineral County was my fiftieth Colorado county highpoint - a milestone of sorts. Mineral County also realized my goal of completing 70% of the counties in the entire eleven state contiguous western United States by summer's end - 290 of 414 counties.


Hello out there! Does anybody want to climb a mountain without failing because of an untraversable stream crossing - and finish the day wearing dry boots? Then read this report, using the suggested directions and coordinates.