Go climb a peak! Cross Mountain offers adventure
A good beginner climb is Cross Mountain, accessible from Lizard Head Pass in the San Miguel range.
The ridge-type peak is a perfect introduction to basic mountaineering, featuring a little bit of route finding and some moderate exposure at the top.
The 12,703 foot mountain was apparently named after Charles Cross (1854-1949), who explored much of southwest Colorado during a 45-year career with the U.S. Geological Survey. He published new geologic science on the San Juan Mountains, covering more than 1,800 square miles on foot and horseback before roads were built.
From the Cross Mountain trailhead (three miles south of the Pass) hike through deep woods into the Lizard Head Wilderness Area. Cross Mountain is the rust-colored ridge above treeline to the left in the distance.
After 3.2 miles you will pass the junction with the Lizard Head trail. Continue on a half mile and begin climbing up the grassy slopes of the peak to the left. The fun begins!
Reach a small knoll and survey the route in front of you. Veer to the left away from the rock band, or Band of Rocks, which by the way is a good name for a rock 'n' roll group.
Weaving your way through the cliffs looks kind of inviting, and I'm sure your average gutsy climber can handle it. But alone on the mountain I found the route shaky with ample opportunity to slip on stone marbles and pitch off 5 to 10 foot mini-cliffs into jagged rocks.
To avoid that general misery, look for a faint climbers' trail visible up a steep scree slope to the left. It turns into an all-fours momentum scramble and tops out on the flanks of Cross Mountain.
Gain the ridge and walk to the summit being careful to avoid the sheer northern dropoff. It gets narrow, and then a little more narrow, and then it ends . . . the top. The point is deceptively exposed, and you feel like your on a pedestal. Dig for the registry in a pile of rocks and sign in, looking for folks you know on the pages of names.
The massive Mount Wilson dominates the view, and the iconic Lizard Head spire watches over everything on the return climb down to the Cross Mountain trail.
For an interesting, and much longer, return route, veer off onto the Lizard Head Trail, which traverses the top of Black Mountain on expansive high-altitude meadows before dropping down to Lizard Head pass proper. From here, walk the three miles down an old railroad grade paralleling Highway 145 back to the Cross Mountain trail.
Its nice to go climb a mountain and not have an impending sense of doom, and Cross Mountain is ideal for that. It's a fun and basic scramble/walk-up to an amazing mountain perch. A perfect combination. The climb is about 10 miles round trip. Allow four to six hours.