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Horseshoe Mountain - Elevation 13,898 Feet

Colorado 13er Trifecta: My Hike of Horseshoe Mountain, Peerless Mountain and Finnback Knob - July 4, 2010

Introduction To Horseshoe Mountain (13,898')
Horseshoe Mountain, CO
"With an elevation of 13,898 feet, Horseshoe Mountain ranks among the 100 highest peaks of Colorado. For many peak baggers, that's reason enough, and it sees frequent ascents. For those less inclined to play the numbers game, Horseshoe is a worthy goal because of its ease of access, the views it affords, and its magnificent glacial cirque.

Seen from the west, Horseshoe is merely a bump on the ridge that is the Mosquito Range, barely distinguishable from its neighbors. From the east, Horseshoe takes on a new character and becomes the peak by which all of its neighbors are defined. The namesake cirque on Horseshoe's east side is a beacon from much of the South Park area and is most likely the outstanding geographical feature of the Mosquito Range.

Horseshoe is usually climbed from the east side via a series of old mining roads originating from the Leavick site, southwest of Fairplay. Hikers of Mt. Sherman will be familiar with this trailhead. Other routes are possible on this gentle mountain. A ridge run north from Weston Pass looks to be a sure winner and there are several lines through the cirque itself that look feasible on spring snow."

Italicized quote is the property of SummitPost. Direct link to its Horseshoe Mountain page: http://www.summitpost.org/mountain/rock/152284/horseshoe-mountain.html.


The description above is so fitting that I chose to start this page with it. Horseshoe Mountain's enchanting cirque has always caught my eye during my times in this canyon. Today I made Horseshoe Mountain the grand prize of my hike ... and oh did she not disappoint.

-Steve Garufi in Buena Vista, Colorado - Twitter: @stevegarufi Facebook: /coloradoguycom

Horseshoe Mountain, CO

My Trip Report

Today I climbed Horseshoe Mountain (13,898') from the Fourmile side, and also visited two other nearby 13ers in Peerless Mountain (13,348') and Finnback Knob (13,409'). Only Horseshoe Mountain is considered a "ranked 13er" based on the 300' saddle rule. Still, it was gratifying to hit the 13er trifecta!

These mountains are located in the Mosquito Range, roughly between the towns of Leadville and Fairplay.

The adjacent photo is my first picture, taken as I traveled on Lake County Road 18 in the Fourmile Canyon.

Mt. Sheridan, CO I turned left onto Road 603, which travels way up to the saddle between Peerless Mountain and Horseshoe Mountain. A large patch of snow blocked the road approximately 0.5 miles from this spot, which is where I began my climb. I didn't want to drive too far up anyway... what is the point of a hike if you drive much of the distance?

Mt. Sheridan's pointed peak is on the right.

The spot where snow blocks passage for vehicles.
Horseshoe Mountain, CO

Horseshoe Mountain, Colorado

Two photos of Horseshoe Mountain from the same general area.

In the top photo, one can see the saddle between Horseshoe Mountain (left) and Peerless Mountain (right). The road switchbacks many times to reach the ridge.

Horseshoe Mountain Continuing upward.
Peerless Mountain, CO I cut through the road's switchbacks and grunted upward on mostly grassy tundra. Peerless Mountain is on the right.
Peerless Mountain On the ridge, Mt. Sheridan (left) is in view with Peerless Mountain (right).
Horseshoe Mountain, CO At the saddle, this was the grand view toward Horseshoe Mountain.
Finnback Knob, CO Looking across the Empire Ampitheater, my view of Finnback Knob.
Climbing up. My topographical map indiciates this is a modest ~150 foot ascent to Peerless Mountain. I love shots like these of rocky talus! :)
Summit of Peerless Mountain - Alt. 13,348 Feet

Ah the beautiful view of Mt. Sheridan (left), Dyer Mountain (center) and Mt. Sherman (right). Much of the standard hiking route for Mt. Sherman can be seen.

This is mountain has very pretty summit views, but soon I was motivated to continue to Horseshoe Mountain.

Onward on the ridge, my view toward Horseshoe Mountain. Note the circular mining holes on the left. Most are covered up, but I would not recommend climbing at night without proper lighting. Horseshoe Mountain, CO
I turned back to capture Peerless Mountain in the foreground, with some stunning Colorado mountain scenery behind. Colorado Rocky Mountains
Many remains of old mining structures and dwellings remain in this area. In the background, White Ridge (alt. 13,684') stands impressively. White Ridge, CO
Coming closer to the top. Horseshoe Mountain, Colorado
Summit of Horseshoe Mountain - Alt. 13,898'

The summit of Horseshoe Mountain was a broad and gentle slope. Amazingly, the wind seized while I was up there.

Horseshoe Mountain, Colorado
Obviously much of the cirque can not be seed from the summit. Adjacent is the view to the northeast. The rocky brown ledge is part of the cirque. Colorado Mountain Scenery
Facing east, the grand view of Horseshoe Gulch directly below and the Fourmile canyon with the town of Fairplay faintly noticeable on the left. The small body of water is known as Leavick Tarn.

Also, note Sheep Mountain (12,818') and Lamb Mountain (12,438') are situated on the right.

Colorado Scenery
Facing southeast. Colorado Mountain Scenery
To the south, 13ers Weston Peak, the Buffalo Peaks and Ptarmigan Peak are on the left. The low point in the valley (right) is the site of Weston Pass. Also, Mt. Princeton's lofty summit is on the far right. Weston Pass, CO Region
Another shot that includes the canyon leading to Weston Pass and the Sawatch Range. There's so much mountain scenery to take in... how could I not take numerous pictures? :) Colorado Scenery
I zoom-in of Twin Lakes with so many peaks in the background. I have climbed Quail Mountain and La Plata Peak, both in view. Twin Lakes, Colorado
Facing west, the grand view of the upper Arkansas River Valley with Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive in view. Colorado Mountains


Colorado Mountain Scenery Then I decided to make this a 13er trifecta. Finnback Knob (left of center) is located northwest or Horseshoe Mountain via a ridge. The slope was quite steep coming down.
Finnback Knob, CO Another view of Finnback Knob.
Mt. Sheridan, CO
Summit of Finnback Knob - Alt. 13,409 Feet

Among the great mountain scenery, the view of Mt. Sheridan and Mt. Sherman was probably the most striking. Note how steep Mt. Sheridan is from this side.

Empire Ampitheater This is the ridge, looking across the Empire Ampitheater. Peerless Mountain is the relative "bump" on the left of this ridge. Also, apparently a trail exists that climbs out of the ampitheater up to the ridge. Do you see the line? It is roughly shaped like a question mark.
Horseshoe Mountain, CO Looking back toward Horseshoe Mountain, the peak I had just hiked from.
Colorado Mountain Scenery More mountain views with grassy tundra and rocks.
Mountain Scenery I met a few climbers in this vicinity who began near the Empire Reservoir, west of this range.
Colorado Rocky Mountains A zoom-in of myriad peaks.
Steve A self-portrait.
Colorado Hike My ascent back up Horseshoe Mountain was quite a workout. This particular spot was the steepest part, and sometimes it requires using my hands for Class 2+ climbing.
Colorado Rocky Mountains Coming back around the ridge, oh what amazing Colorado Rocky Mountain views!

My other hiking and photography pages in this region:

  • Mt. Democrat, Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Bross
  • Mt. Sherman
  • Quandary Peak
  • Kite Lake
  • Hoosier Pass
  • Alma
  • Two Points (Park County)
  • Mountain Goat I was startled by the sound of movement above me. Then I noticed this beautiful mountain goat, who posed for about 30 seconds before scouting away. :)
    Snow in July Myself on a patch of snow that forgot to melt during our warm season. I sent my friends this photo to my friends in hot weather states ... snow on the Fourth of July!


    Video At Finnback Knob, Colorado

    My video skills are not the greatest, but enjoy the views on Finnback Knob. :)

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