Dallas Peak
(and the closure of Mill Creek Road)

4 Jul 2002 - by Douglas Cook

Mill Creek Road, which provides access to the Mill Creek TH, was chained and locked closed over the 4th of July weekend. No Trespassing signs were posted by the San Miguel Sheriff. The dirt road has previously been open to drive 1.7 miles/700' vertical to the Mill Creek TH which was the starting point for backpacking three miles to camp sites below Dallas Peak. When we called the Sheriff (970 728-3081), the explanation for the closure was to keep people from camping along the dirt road or at the TH, especially with the extreme fire danger. However, bikes and pedestrians were allowed provided they stayed on the road and did not trespass on private property on both sides of the road. This closure could be temporary or continue indefinitely. Without driving access to the TH, the hike to the campsites below Dallas Peak is about 5 miles each way and 3356 feet.

After dropping off our packs at the closure gate and parking our vehicles 1.5 miles away in Telluride at a public parking lot (there is no parking near the closure gate), Friday afternoon, July 5th, John Streeter, Bob Thompson, Kevin and Diana Craig, Meredith Lazaroff, Bryan Barnett, John Mars and I backpacked to campsites at 11,400. Saturday morning at 4:40 AM we departed to climb Dallas Peak. After scrambling up/sliding down endless scree over hardpan and picking our way up semi-stable rock in a rotten gully on the SE side of Dallas, we reached the first technical climbing section, a 40 foot pitch advertised as Class 4 but only safely climbed with a rope. We lead and climbed the couloir on belay, stepped around onto the North face, and lead climbed the 5.3 90-100 foot high couloir to the summit. After rappelling down the East side of the summit block (a doubled 60 M rope was perfect for the rappel) next to the couloir with the landmark car-sized chockstone, we rappelled one steep section in the upper rotten gully and then slid/hiked back down to the trail back to camp. With perfect weather, it was a 14.5 hour day tent to tent.

Although we intended to follow Gerry Roach's detailed trip description complemented by route details in Garrett and Martin, we found it confusing and near impossible to determine where we were on or off-route. I believe part of the confusion was from starting up the slopes toward Dallas off-route - it was difficult from the beginning to establish if we were following the route described. The topography of Dallas Peak is a series of gullies and ridges leading up to the intimidating summit block and it was difficult to decide on the approach which gully we were to stay on the right side of. The two technical pitches on Dallas were a lot of fun 5.0-5.3 climbing, and there was a lot of interesting 3rd and 4th class scrambling on the ascent. However, the routefinding, slippery scree over hardpan, and rotten rock make Dallas Peak indeed what is described as "the hardest peak in this book" (Roach - Colorado's Thirteeners) and "the hardest to climb of Colorado's highest summits" (Garrett and Martin).

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