Peak Review: Otter Mountain (Elevation 12,766-Feet)

Peak Review: Otter Mountain (Elevation 12,766-Feet)

I have wanted to climb Otter Mountain for years.  According to the Internet this Front Range peak is not popular.  I translate that as most people don’t know about it or even think to consider it for a hike.  For me it is simple: I saw it from a distance, it looked cool, I wanted to climb it. Plus, with easy access off of Guanella Pass Road, it’s a no-brainer. I like to seek out mountains I don’t have to hike a long distance just to start climbing. Otherwise, it makes for a very long day, and in the higher peaks, an overnight stay prior to an early start the next morning.

Easiest access to Otter Mountain begins at the Silver Dollar Lake trailhead. I have been to the lake a couple times, and it’s a nice hike, but for some reason I passed the pull off on my way there. This probably had a lot to do with the traffic jam at the summit of the pass due to a bike race and it continued nearly halfway down to Georgetown. I was coming from the other way and didn’t even see the pull off thru the thick line of slow moving vehicles. I eventually figured out I had gone too far, swung back around, and proceeded to get in line. I easily lost a half hour on my start time because of this. When I finally got to the pull off I noticed that the trailhead wasn’t even marked at the road.

From the trailhead you start hiking north, off trail.

This takes you parallel to willow choked wet lands fed with snow melt from the snow pack baking in the sun above treeline.

I had to cross many of these

As much as I am a tree-hugger, my favorite part of hiking is breaking through treeline.

My favorite flower, the very tiny Alpine Forget-Me-Not

At about this point I found a large mountain lion turd. I took a photo of it, but decided it wasn't worth posting

Another tiny beauty

So many mountains just look like large, virtually barren hills once you get close to the summit. Many times the trek up the side of the mountain at lower elevations can be the most tiring. Otter, in the background, was no exception. Once above treeline it was just a peaceful stroll up the gradual incline of alpine tundra.

13ers Square Top Mountain and Mt. Wilcox from the summit

There are five 14ers visible from the summit of Otter. This is Mt. Evans and Mt. Bierstadt connected by The Sawtooth ridge.

There was a steady 25 mile an hour wind up above treeline but this increased to about 45-55 on top.

Good thing my hat has a neck strap

I was surprised to find a hiking register in this summit pile of rocks for such an unpopular peak. Time-wise the entries were sparse, but one person had climbed it the day before. This is in contrast to the dozens of people that climb each of the 14ers every day in the summer.

I took this zoomed in, edge on photo of Silver Dollar Lake on the way down. Pluto, my recently departed 3-legged dog once hiked up to this in his younger, more robust years and I will always remember him swimming in it.

Finally, a much more attractive view of Otter coming down the other side.

I always love the powerful contrasts of ancient bristlecone pines against the sky

Finally, a decent shot of the entire mountain from the road. It wasn't the most spectacular peak, but after more than a year of not getting above treeline I realized how much I love and miss it. One more peak off my to-do list.