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Wilson Peak Access Restored! Telluride, CO

By Steve Johnson, Colorados West Slope Regional Coordinator

After several years of private landowner closure to public access through Silver Pick Basin, public access to Wilson Peak, a popular Fourteener located at the headwaters of the San Miguel and Dolores Rivers in southwestern Colorado, has been restored. In early November 2007, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced that it had closed on the purchase of 23 patented mining claims in Silver Pick Basin. These claims encompass several hundred mostly above-timberline acres, including hiking trails used to access the West Face and Southwest Ridge of Wilson Peak, and which extended near the summit. The acquisition of these claims also opens access from Silver Pick Basin into Navajo Basin, from which two additional 14'ers, Mt. Wilson and El Diente Peak, are often climbed.

The TPL is still seeking to raise $1.6 million of the $3 Million purchase price. Several large private and foundation grants were key to the purchase, including the Telluride Foundation, the Tishman family, and Coors Brewing, which features Wilson Peak on its beer cans and ads.

The landowner will retain several claims at the bottom of Silver Pick Basin and the Rock House area in mid-basin. TPL and the USFS Norwood Ranger District are studying a partial trail re-alignment to avoid these claims. This re-alignment may necessitate a new trailhead which could add approximately 400' vertical and a half mile of trail length for a new, more scenic approach exclusively over Forest Service lands.

Public access over the new trail is not expected to be opened until late summer/fall in 2008. The popular Southwest Ridge route from the Rock of Ages col to the summit of Wilson Peak can be approached in the meantime from Navajo and Bilk Creek Basins.

The Telluride Mountain Club, Colorado Mountain Club, Western Mining Action Project and Sheep Mountain Alliance were instrumental in opposing the closures and related development scenarios that could have included hard rock mining, unbalanced land exchange proposals, and public road modifications. These groups worked with the landowner and public agencies to obtain accurate surveys and explore closure alternatives before the TPL purchase occurred. The late Charlie Fowler was also active in this multi-year effort. For more information email steve@8750law.com

Date: 11/16/2007