Square Top Mountain from Guanella Pass
6.8 miles round trip
2,618ft of elevation gain
Hike time: 2hrs 23min
Square Top Mountain's summit rests at 13,794 feet. It is the 58th highest 13er out of 584 in Colorado. I was very stoked about Square Top. Not only is it massive, but it's also not a super popular mountain. This is because it's situated next to a handful of 14ers that are heavily trafficked during the summer. So it goes overlooked.
For many years, I have wanted to hike directly up a mountain- no trail, no switchbacks, no nothing. And a cool thing about Square Top is that once you get to the base of the mountain, the trail ends. Meaning you just go right up the tundra, blazing your own way. It's all above treeline, you can pick the exposure you'd like. There are ptarmigans, marmots and pikas. There is out of control elevation gain in a very, very short distance.
What I'm saying is, if you'd like a beautiful challenge, climb this mountain.
Jon and I left Mr. Bivy at home for this one, because it was forecasted to be very hot and giant breed puppies need to have rest days :) And we were so happy about that choice. Because trying to wrangle a puppy up a 45 degree slope that goes on and on and on would not have been fun.
The views were lovely and for a very long time, we didn't see anyone. We saw Square Top Lake and endless wildflowers. The Columbine were bursting with life and color. Before we knew it, we were off trail, ascending the side of the mountain. And with my fear of heights, I cannot lie; I was pretty uncomfortable any time I looked behind me. You never realize how steep of a hill you're on, until you turn around. I also made the choice to not bring trekking poles. That was a bad idea. I felt a little unstable because of it. Sometimes I wrestle with that when we're on a mountain that gains elevation rapidly. I want photos of it all, and that means no trekking poles. It's a trade off I am generally okay with. But on this one... poles would have been great. And after the third false summit, I traded my camera with Jon for his poles. Just for a bit! On the way back down (the steepest downhill I've ever done) we went dutch with the poles. And my camera went into the backpack.
The tundra was colorful and peaceful. All in all I believe we went over five false summits. By the third though, we just started to think that we would never summit. And everything we assumed was the top, would just be another false one. But we kept on, sitting at one point to eat a sandwich and chat. The mountain was just for us.
And then we made it. And the views were incredible, inspiring and overwhelming. The wind was low. We found a hikers log and signed our names. The third and fourth names of the year.
Square Top has excited me endlessly about what the rest of our peak-season has in store.