Peak(s):  "V 3" - 13,528 feet
Silver Mtn B - 13,470 feet
San Joaquin Ridge - 13,460 feet
Date Posted:  09/15/2018
Modified:  10/16/2018
Date Climbed:   09/09/2018
Author:  Mtnman200
 Worst. Scree. Ever. (But Worth It For The Views)   

Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. After finishing my climbs in the Silverton area, I drove across Ophir Pass to tackle three tricentennial peaks in the Ophir area. First up: San Joaquin Ridge and Silver Mountain. My first challenge was finding the road to the Carbonero Mine. My topo map and both show the Carbonero Mine road as originating in the town of Ophir, but this is not correct. One of the locals told me the start of the road has moved about a mile to the east.

For access to Carbonero Mine, look for a road that heads WNW from the Ophir Pass Road (Forest Road 630) at about 10,256', a few hundred feet east of the unnamed creek that crosses the Ophir Pass Road a little east of Iron Spring. The Carbonero Mine road continues WNW until it begins switchbacking up the hillside to a locked gate at about 10,650'. I found a decent place to set up my tent near the parking area here.

The end of vehicular travel on the road to Carbonero Mine. The parking area has room for several vehicles.

Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. I hiked up the steadily-climbing road to Carbonero Mine, where I left the road and headed north up a ridge toward San Joaquin Ridge. The footing isn't too bad but got worse the higher I went. I ended up climbing to the ridge further right (east) than intended, but that's okay because the true summit is not at the 13,446' point identified on the map but instead is about 1/3 mile to the east at 13,460'.

My route to the ridge crossed some old mine roads that aren't shown on the topo map.

Lots of loose rock on the way to the ridge

Lots more talus on the ridge

Reaching the 13,460' high point involves losing a couple hundred feet of elevation and getting through a minor cliff band near the summit.

For some reason, the summit register is on the 13,446' false summit. Not a lot of signatures over the past 11 months

Looking west toward Silver Mountain

Getting to Silver Mountain requires dropping 100 vertical feet to the north (right) to contour around a ridge obstacle.

I'd rather go around this ridge obstacle than try to climb over it

Once past the ridge obstacle, climbing back to the ridge went fairly quickly

Looking west toward Silver Mountain

The summit block of Silver Mountain

I'm not sure what this used to be, but it's on the ridge not too far below Silver Mountain's summit

I was surprised to find a CMC register on the summit of Silver Mountain (13,470'). To return to Carbonero Mine, I headed east along the ridge to a saddle where I could descend on scree to about 12,000'. From here, I did a descending contour, sometimes on a rustic trail, across Spring Gulch and the unnamed gulch east of Spring Gulch until I was above Carbonero Mine. Heading straight downhill brought me back to the mine.

Lots of loose scree on the contour back toward Carbonero Mine

Just below the Carbonero Mine entrance

Lots of water was flowing out of the (locked) Carbonero Mine entrance

Thanks for offering, but I think I'll get my water somewhere else

An old structure at the Carbonero Mine. Unlike many old mine buildings, this one included concrete.
Green = New(er) road to Carbonero Mine (the old road shown originating in Ophir is closed); blue = ascent route; red = descent route

From Carbonero Mine, it was an easy walk down the old mine road to my car. After having lunch, I drove down to the Ophir Pass Road and then a short distance past Iron Spring to the Swamp Canyon Trailhead. I found a decent place to set up my tent in the woods near the trailhead.

The locked gate at the Swamp Canyon Trailhead. The parking area has room for up to three vehicles.

Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018. Today's goal: V3, just down the ridge from U.S. Grant Peak. I'd heard that V3 has the Worst. Scree. Ever. and would soon find out if this was true.

Five minutes after leaving the Swamp Canyon Trailhead, don't follow the old doubletrack straight across the meadow. Instead, turn right...

...go past this gate, and immediately take a footbridge across a creek

Shortly after passing these cut logs and an up-and-down section of the old road, you'll come to an easy-to-miss trail intersection

The easy-to-miss trail intersection: At about 10,610', leave the doubletrack on the right at a small cairn (just above and slightly right of the photo's center). The UTM coordinates are: 13S 0253249; 4192623

Within 100' or so of leaving the doubletrack, you'll come to a trail that crosses the trail you're on. Ignore this trail and keep going straight on a good-quality trail to timberline. (Note: the trail continues much farther than shown on the topo map.)

A campsite with some old artifacts, shortly before the trail crosses the creek at 11,320'. You will leave the trail before the creek crossing

From where you leave the trail at timberline (11,320'), this is the view looking SSW up the valley toward the saddle between V3 and 12,348'. Don't follow the trail across the creek!!!

Almost all of the way from leaving the trail until reaching the V3 - 12,348' saddle is on tundra, and most of the willows can be easily bypassed.

V3 from near the saddle between V3 and 12,348' . V3's summit block is to the right with the sun rays highlighting it

Not much tundra is left before you have nothing but scree above you

V3 looks tantalizingly close. Soon, the tundra ends and 'enjoyment' of the scree begins

You've heard of "two steps up, one step down"? A couple of times, I took three steps up and didn't gain an inch of elevation. Yes, this scree really is that loose.

After a lot of tedious work and a few unprintable comments, I finally reached the entrance to a gully that allows access to V3's summit ridge.

Looking down from the entrance to the gully that leads to the summit ridge

The view up the gully. Every handhold and foothold is suspect and not to be trusted. I tried to stay on the more solid-looking rock where possible.

From the top of the gully, a scramble toward the summit ridge across hardpacked San Juan mud awaits

Once on the ridge, I headed to the summit block and climbed directly toward the summit. On the descent I realized I could have stepped east and bypassed the steepest part up the summit block. Regardless, V3's summit was now mine. I didn't find a summit register, but a jar's worth of broken glass indicated that there had once been one.

The view toward U.S. Grant Peak was sobering but worth the miserable scree I endured to reach V3's summit. I'm sure someone's done the U.S. Grant - V3 traverse, but it's bound to be a rarity. Given how rotten the rock is, I'll definitely pass.

The ridge from V3's summit to U.S. Grant Peak looks especially fierce. V4 is the peak at the right of the photo

The summit of V3 has great views in all directions

After enjoying the views of the Ice Lake basin peaks, South Lookout Peak, etc., I carefully retraced my footsteps. Descending the gully was more difficult and more nerve-wracking than the ascent, and I breathed a sigh of relief when I reached the top of the Worst. Scree. Ever. On the plus side, my descent of the scree was lightning-fast. Definitely faster than any descent that wasn't done as a glissade or on skis.

Once I reached the basin north of V3, it was a pleasant walk back to the trailhead. I'm glad to have climbed V3, but it's low on my list of peaks to repeat. Like Cathedral Peak and "Castleabra" (Unnamed 13,803'), V3 would make a good snow climb.

Route to V3 via the Swamp Canyon Trail

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
09/15/2018 17:18
Thanks for this report! I wonder if any young marmot children heard your unprintable words?

I'll put that one on my no list
09/18/2018 03:43
That scree looks awful! Glad you did it safely.

09/18/2018 13:30
Wombat: I didn't see any marmots, though I can't guarantee that some young impressionable pikas didn't hear my comments. BTW, thanks for your beta on getting from Sunlight Creek to Twin Lakes basin. That was very helpful last year when Randy and I did Peak Eleven from Sunlight Creek.

Andrew: I don't regret climbing V3, as the views were awesome. You might consider doing V3 as a spring snow climb.

Chicago Transplant
09/24/2018 10:08
Too bad the scree is so miserable, the Swamp Canyon hike was quite pleasant until the grass ended, and the view were great. If I ever did it again, it would be as a snow climb. Glad to know I am not alone in my assessment of the rock quality on that one.

09/24/2018 10:35
Mike: It sounds like you enjoyed the scree as much as I did. A snow climb of V3 is definitely the way to go.

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