Peak(s):  Tijeras Peak  -  13,604 feet
Music Mountain  -  13,380 feet
Date Posted:  07/23/2013
Date Climbed:   07/23/2013
Author:  doggler
 Cheaper than a colonoscopy: Music's south ridge   

Tijeras Peak(north face) and Music Mountain(south ridge ascent, east ridge descent)

Date Climbed: 7/23/2013
Mileage: 11.4 miles per Garmin
Elevation: 4,805' per Garmin

A few years back, I ventured over to Milwaukee Peak on a long day that originated in the South Colony basin. I really enjoyed that day, and had been ready to come back to the Sand Lake drainage to climb Milwaukee's neighbors for quite some time. Things worked out, and I found myself ready for a loop around the basin.

My hope was to circle the basin clockwise and climb until either I got tired or weather threatened. In a perfect world, I wondered if I could go Tijeras, Music, Milwaukee, Pico Asilado, back to Milwaukee, Marble. Realistically, that plan was shot from the get-go with a 6:30 start.

Crestones' southerly neighbors

Music Pass, ridge of Marble Mountain in the background

The climb up Music Pass was somewhat runnable. It may have been moreso, but I brought my bigger pack, which I do when I'm expecting to be out more than 6 hours on technical routes.


Beautiful trail

Cooper describes the approach to Tijeras from Upper Sand Lake. I chose to apprach via Lower Sand Lake. I believe his reasoning is that most folks will set up camp and do Music Milwaukee etc over the course of a weekend, so a camp at the Upper Lake is centrally located. After today, I'm convinced that neither option is head and shoulders better than the other. Going to the Upper Lake may add distance, but it appeared to me that you could avoid a good amount of willow-bashing (summer postholing) and other bushwhacking by going around to the Upper Lake. One more thing - Upper and Lower are kind of a misnomer. The Upper lake does not feed the Lower lake, and is in fact only a couple hundred feet higher.

Left to lower, straight to upper, right to ? Milwaukee Pass?

The trail continued to be very mellow and switchbacky, making it possible to wog much of it. I got to Lower Sand Lake just as many of the campers were beginning to stir. Beautiful place!!!

Lower Sand Lake

I located a weak climber's trail at the far (northwest) corner of the lake and took it until it dumped me out in a bunch of willows. Thanks.

Climber's trail at NW edge of Lower Sand Lake

In lordhelmut's TR from a few years back, he refers to Tijeras as a puzzle. No doubt, it attempts to confound you early. Before the infamous "ramps", you have to persevere through a good amount of willowage. My shins weren't happy. A couple hundred feet of gruntwork, though, and I was face-to-face with the cliff. I was a little too far south of both ramps, and since both open to the north, they were hidden to me. A couple minutes of traversing north uncovered the left ramp, which by now had completely melted out.

Willows, clifflets and such



View of the two ramps

Another angle

Looking up the left ramp

Navigating through the cliff's weakness was the first class 3 of the day, and I came across a sling. Assumedly used in sketchier conditions.



For all of it's majesty when viewed at every other angle, Tijeras sure wasn't a looker from the base of its north face. I think I could see a double chin. After a bit of talus-hopping, I opted to aim for a shallow couloir on the north face. If you're a fan of garbage, then I highly recommend this route.

Shallow couloir

Looking down

near the summit of Tijeras

From atop Tijeras, I looked north at the rich set of "scrambler's mountains" before me. That south ridge of Music didn't actually go, did it? Cooper's book said it looked better the closer he got. I believe the words he uses to describe it are "a superb airy scramble on solid rock. Sustained class 4 or lower-class 5 scrambling that may require a rope for some sections." Furthermore's TR from June seemed to downplay the difficulties, saying that it was mostly class 3 interspersed with an occasional class 4. By this point, I was intrigued. Terrified. But intrigued. So down the ridge I went to get a closer look.

Looks pretty finny to me. Maybe if I get closer.

Hmmmm. Still looks pretty thin. Maybe I'm not close enough.


I sat at the base of the ridge for a few minutes, contemplating my future. I follow a simple rule: I don't go up something I can't go down. That eventually was the push I needed.


Right away, I found myself thinking, "Man, I would be screwed if not for that hold right there." I must have repeated that thought a good ten times as I ascended the ridge. Every time I looked up and convinced myself there was no possible way up or over or around a problem, *poof* the perfect rock would just be there! I definitely felt much of the initial climb was solidly in class 4 terrain, but as I said, the holds were bomber and the rock was solid! There were a couple of airy sections that caused my testicles to lodge in my throat, but......nah, there were a LOT of those airy sections. I found it to be quite intense, and by the time I gained the north summit, I was happy to be on a wider berth.


Images are rockier than they appear


I'm not gonna lie. The ascent of Music's south ridge rattled me a bit. When combined with the time, I found it easy to decide not to continue on down Music's north ridge to Milwaukee. Instead, I punted and began the journey back to the car via the much more tame east ridge.

The two sand lakes split by Music's east ridge

South ridge looks harmless from here, right?

I wasn't a fan of the east ridge. Seemed to be a lot of grassy steepness without much scrambling.




The further down I went, the more exhilarated I became over the ascent that I had just completed. I had underestimated Music, and it on more than one occasion nearly offered me a laxative effect. Kind of like when you're a kid and your older brother jumps out of the closet when you least expect it and scares the living #@$@# out of sucks when it happens, but something about that rush makes you smile when you look back.


Car to Music Pass: 0:20
Music Pass to Lower Sand Lake: 0:36(0:56)
Lower Sand Lake to Tijeras summit: 1:39(2:35)
Tijeras summit: 0:15(2:50)
Tijeras summit to Music Summit 1:45(4:35)
Music summit: 0:15(4:50)
Music summit to Lower Sand Lake: 1:22(6:12)
Lower Sand Lake to Music Pass: 0:32(6:44)
Music Pass to Car 0:14(6:58)

Thanks to those of you who provided previous excellent TRs, especially lordhelmut and furthermore. Appreciate it, guys.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Comments or Questions
Thanks for the Beta!
07/24/2013 02:05
Heading that way soon and this TR definitely helps. Nice job working through that traverse!

07/24/2013 02:10
Musics South Ridge was the first time I turned around simply because of fear, not weather, conditions, choss, or danger...just plain fear. Not that my resume is thick, but the class 3 and 4 I have done to date, didnt seem to compare to it at all. I will go back another day, and see if my courage can be more steadfast Nice report.

Music is a tune worth a replay
07/24/2013 12:52
I enjoyed both this report and your report of the traverse from Crestones to Broken Hand to Milwaukee. The south ridge is sweet - one of the scrambles in Cooper's book that lives up to the hype.

Fun language, fun report.
07/24/2013 15:34
These peaks are getting a lot of love, and deservedly so. Great pics and descriptions.

07/24/2013 16:46
Maybe I missed it but which ramp did you take? The larger, more northern one?

Nice work!
07/24/2013 16:49
Not a bad time too. I'm sort of mixed on the ridge. We stayed about as direct as it goes. For the most part, I think I'd go with exposed 3rd class but the 3-4 sections of airy 4th with maybe a single move of bomber-hold 5.0 are certainly attention grabbing. I do think Cooper exaggerates the difficulty a bit, considering his likely audience.

There's a notch downclimb on Music's N. Ridge headed over towards Milwaukee. I'd be curious to know how it goes.

nice sean
07/24/2013 17:48
Summer postholing, ramps, airy ridge and great views. What more can I ask for in a TR?

Been meaning to get back there for quite some time now and summer is quickly winding down!

You still haven't shown me how to incline correctly

Thanks guys
07/24/2013 21:31
sevenii, no shame in that decision. Had I not known it went, I wouldn't have attempted the ridge.

Bill, I ascended the south (left)ramp, as I got to the cliff band south of both.

Abe, by the looks of it you have to show ME a thing or two. Congrats to you, Ryan, and Mike on your Peru trip. So jealous.

Great report!
07/25/2013 12:53
The peaks in this area are on my short list this year. Don't know if I'll get there in 2013, but I'll definitely be checking out your report again when I do go.

07/31/2013 20:49
Two years ago I had envisioned doing some back country camping with the kids near one of the Sand Creek lakes, but pulled the plug because I thought they were too young (4 and 6 at the time). However, we did make it to the top of Music Pass for a glance over the other side, and boy- them's pretty mountains. I remember thinking that they looked like an awesome time, but a bit too gnarly for me given my current experience/confidence. Tijeras might be a go, but I'm one of those fellows who's a bit self-conscious of the way my voice sounds when the old gonads get up near my throat....

Anyway, a great story!


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