A realm of possibilities for climbing, hiking Lizard Head

A realm of possibilities for climbing, hiking Lizard Head

Colorado’s most gripping, powerful wilderness area beckons since 1920 ascent
Lizard Head, a vertical pillar of exfoliating friable rock is Colorado’s most difficult and dangerous summit climb. This image was captured from the summit of Black Face under a brooding sky. Mount Wilson, Gladstone Peak and Wilson Peak frame the monolith.
Lizard Head is a multi-pitch technical climb starting at Class 5.8 in difficulty. Seth Marvin-Vanderryn alights on the platform after rappelling down a 115-foot chimney.
Ascend north on the Cross Mountain Trail. At the junction with the Lizard Head Trail, go northwest to intersect the west ridge of Lizard Head. Pitch up a climber’s trail to the base of the tower. Return to the trail junction and walk east to Black Face then down to Lizard Head Pass.
Travel basics

Travel: The trailhead for the Cross Mountain Trail is located on the west side of Colorado Highway 145, two miles south of Lizard Head Pass at mile marker 57.4. Watch for a Forest Service sign directing into the parking lot. No facilities, no water. If you are doing the thru-hike to Lizard Head Pass, drop a vehicle or bicycle at the trailhead located on the west side of the pass.


Distance and Elevation Gain: Lizard Head Platform roundtrip: 8.2 miles, 2,800 feet of climbing. Platform plus thru-hike over Black Face to Lizard Head Pass: 11.6 miles with 3,660 feet of climbing. Platform, Black Face and return to Cross Mountain Trailhead: 13.6 miles with 4,100 feet of vertical.


Total Time: 5 to 8 hours, depending on route


Difficulty: Primarily Class 1 trail; navigation moderate; mild exposure on the west ridge of Lizard Head; Class 2-plus scramble up the optional Black Face outcrop.


Maps: Mount Wilson, Colorado 7.5’ USGS Quad or, Trails Illustrated 141: Telluride, Silverton, Ouray, Lake City

A realm of possibilities for climbing, hiking Lizard Head

Lizard Head, a vertical pillar of exfoliating friable rock is Colorado’s most difficult and dangerous summit climb. This image was captured from the summit of Black Face under a brooding sky. Mount Wilson, Gladstone Peak and Wilson Peak frame the monolith.
Lizard Head is a multi-pitch technical climb starting at Class 5.8 in difficulty. Seth Marvin-Vanderryn alights on the platform after rappelling down a 115-foot chimney.
Ascend north on the Cross Mountain Trail. At the junction with the Lizard Head Trail, go northwest to intersect the west ridge of Lizard Head. Pitch up a climber’s trail to the base of the tower. Return to the trail junction and walk east to Black Face then down to Lizard Head Pass.

A realm of possibilities for climbing, hiking Lizard Head

Seth Marvin-Vanderryn and David Marvin, a father-son team from Durango, complete a successful Lizard Head climb on July 29.

A realm of possibilities for climbing, hiking Lizard Head

While descending the Black Face east ridge, Lyle Hancock extols the vivid colors and varied shapes of Pilot Knob, Golden Horn and Vermilion Peak.
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