Peak(s):  Mt. Sopris - 12953
Date Posted:  08/14/2016
Modified:  06/03/2018
Date Climbed:   07/26/2016
Author:  MtnHub
Additional Members:   Brian Thomas, Jay521
 A Minor Gem in the Elks: Mt. Sopris   

A Minor Gem in the Elks: Mt. Sopris


July 26, 2016

Peak: Mt. Sopris (12,953')

Trailhead: Thomas Lakes, Standard TH (Dinkle Lake)
Elevation gain: 5,072'
RT Distance: 14.8 miles
(stats taken from James Dziezyndki's book)

Climbers: Jay521 (Jay), Brian Thomas (Brian), MtnHub (Doug)


Last year I climbed Pyramid Peak successfully. I did it as a day hike driving to Maroon Lake from a motel room in Glenwood Springs. After my ascent driving back to Glenwood Springs, I couldn't help but notice this fantastic dual-peaked mountain just off to the south of Highway 82. When I searched a map to identify it, I discovered it to be Mt. Sopris.

Unlike most of the mountains in Colorado, this mountain sits grandly by itself, towering above Carbondale and the surrounding countryside. It is an impressive sight to say the least.

Mt. Sopris was actually a back-up climb. I was originally planning to repeat Pyramid with Jay, who failed to make its summit last year. We were going to attempt it together this year but the weather forecast did not sound very encouraging. In order to safely climb through all the delicate and exposed areas of Pyramid, it is much preferred to have a day with a very low risk of thundershowers. Mt. Sopris became the perfect answer to this dilemma.

The Climb:

We started our hike just before dawn. The sky was very hazy with a thin film of clouds above us, but it provided a beautiful sunrise. The trail follows a well-established track initially through open meadow. We had to dodge a few cows and walk gingerly in a few places and it reminded me of the approach to Capitol Peak just to our south.
Dawn approaches.

Jay and Brian on the trail with Sopris towering above them.

It then leads into an aspen/spruce forest where it becomes more of a road. This is not used by vehicles, however, but is a route for snowmobiles in the winter.
Heading into the woods.

After walking in the trees for a while on fairly level terrain, the trail passes between the twin Thomas Lakes where ample good camping sites exist. It then climbs steeply in short switchbacks up a slope where it will occasionally open up to offer a few good views of the Lakes below and the mountain above.
The twin Thomas Lakes.

Our day's objective.

Brian and Jay on the move.

The valley to the east.

Our first peek at Mt. Daly and Capitol Peak to the south.

The trail continues to climb sharply and eventually reaches tree line. It follows the crest of the ridge which cliffs out dramatically on the left side.
Coming up to the ridge crest.

The dramatic eastern edge.

Looking back along the crest.

MtnHub and Brian on the crest. (Photo by Jay521)

Another great view of Capitol and Daly.

With Jay coming up beside him, Brian stops briefly before we start the first long slope up to a false summit.

The 'trail' now is easy to follow: stay on the crest and keep climbing. You hit a false summit at the end of the first long slope and then you head over to the next one leading to the East Summit. The ridge crest grants you excellent vantages of the rock glaciers Sopris is known for. A geologist's heyday!
Starting up the long slope.

Nice view of the valley and some of the rock glaciers Sopris is famous for.

A massive rock glacier.

Coming over to the final ascent to the East Summit.

At the East Summit, we take a longer break. Hidden within the rock shelter, Brian finds two different tubes. One includes the register log and we all sign our names. Another tube contains small tokens and little gifts that previous summiters have left: small bracelets, Chiclets, candy, half a cigar, and even a little weed.

Brian removes the cigar to smoke on the West Summit and replaces another token of his. I offer a handful of nuts; I'm not about to part with any of my valuable Snickers! I can't recall what Jay left.
Brian opening the booty tube.

Then we start the 1/2 mile jaunt over to tag the twin West Summit. Both peaks are supposed to be the same elevation, but to rightly claim Sopris you need to hit both.
The last lap to the West Summit.

At the West Summit we take another short break.
Brian attempts to light his cigar.

We can see evidence that there is rain around us to a slight degree, but the overcast clouds held for us all day. We return the way we came, descending the long rocky slopes once more.
Capitol Peak as seen between the Sopris summits.

MtnHub taking a short break on a high vista. (Photo by Jay521)

When we reach tree line again and pass through a couple of narrow meadows, we stop a few times to admire the wildflowers.

Jay posing with the Indian Paintbrush.

Black-tipped Senecio with Eastern Comma Butterfly


A little farther down the trail I spot a flower I am unfamiliar with. Its foliage has a very unusual hue, almost reddish in color and I don't find it in my flower book. I consult my good friend, sunny1, who identifies it for me. Thanks!

It has such an unusual name I had to include it:
Sickletop Lousewort, or Parrot's Beak (identified by sunny1).


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
Great Report
08/14/2016 21:11
Thanks, hope to get this one sometime

Fun day!
08/15/2016 12:47
Thanks for documenting this, Doug. VERY nice report. It was a fun day with you and Brian.

Brian Thomas
What Jay said
08/15/2016 14:08
Thanks for the invitation and for writing the TR! Nothing minor about this gem of a peak. And that's sunscreen, not mime makeup on my face. I warned the father of the family with small children that we passed on the descent not to let his kids open the summit register first, lest its contents all spill out and make for some awkward questions about what's in there LOL

08/15/2016 15:33
I thought you managed to put that in the cigar that you smoked and that's why you flew down the mountain so quickly?

Great day! Great company!
08/15/2016 17:23
Thanks guys! Enjoyed meeting you both and climbing this together!

08/17/2016 06:58
For the honorable mention! Happy to help.

Sopris is also on my list - so many mountains, too little time!
Hmmm - both Sopris and Fools are 12ers. Perhaps I should summon that 12ersRule guy.

A gem indeed
08/19/2016 10:44

Sopris is also a worthy snowflake, even though it's only a 12er
This is the same aspect as pic #13
Thank you for sharing.

Awesome view of capitol
10/14/2016 16:07
Image 12 is scary alluring. Awesome photos, the myriad of wildflowers remind me of Crested Butte's wildflower festival. Super pretty!

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