Lizard Head is a very impressive mountain located in the San Juan mountain range near Telluride. The top 500 feet of Lizard Head is a near vertical pillar, the result of heavy erosion leaving just the neck of an ancient volcano. Known as possibly the most difficult mountain summit to reach in Colorado, the routes to the summit are loose and start at about 5.8 in difficulty. The summit itself is at 13,113 feet above sea level.
There are at least 3 established lines on the tower's south face. All the routes require testing every hold, as much loose rock exists. Routes are 3 to 4 pitches long, with one pitch in the middle being loose class 3. Bring 2 ropes for the rappel, and expect to do some downclimbing. Start early, as this would be a bad place to be in a thunderstorm.
From Telluride, drive south towards Lizard Head [Pass]. A trailhead is here for one optional approach. Probably a better approach is to continue south from the pass for about two miles. Turn right on a dirt road with signs for the Cross Mountain trailhead. Take a left at the almost immediate junction on the dirt road, cross a creek, and continue to a parking area for Cross Mountain.
Follow the well defined trail, taking a right at a junction a few minutes from the car (sign near reads 'Groundhog Stock Trail'). Continue up the trail for about 3 miles to a pass between Cross Mountain (~12,700 feet on the left), and Lizard Head on the right. Head up the grass shoulder which turns to scree higher up. This is pretty easy if you find the strong climber's trail that goes to the base. Head around the base to the right to find the south face routes.
On the south side of Lizard Head, look for a wide crack/chimney in a large corner. This pitch is easily identified by a large notch about 140 feet up - this is the first belay station.P1. Start up the wide crack system. An easier but probably looser variation climbs 5-10 feet right through the obvious weakness. Continue up either way for about half a rope length to a belay station with two pitons and rap rings. From this station, step left into the chimney, and look for two pitons in a crack...[more]Browse More Classics in CO
The small summet affords one of the best views you will ever see! Be extremely careful on the talus on top and middle section. A party was hit by rocks from careless people at the top the day we climbed it. They were roped up on loose talus, and their rope caused a large rockfall.
"It was apparent when we reached the Head that there was nasty work before us. A rottener mass of rock is inconceivable. The core may still be solid but the "surrounding tuffs" are seeking a lower level in large quantities. This far-advanced disintegration was our greatest obstacle. Absolutely the whole surface of the rock is loose and pebbles rain down from the sides as readily as needles from an aging Christmas tree." ALBERT L. ELLINGWOOD, November, 1921.
Rope soloed this one a few yrs ago after my partner bailed a few hundred feet from the start of the climb. He blamed the altitude, but I think it was lack of courage, haha. First pitch was VERY fun and solid. The 3rd class, scree scramble what the scariest part. I the 5.7, ledges variation to the summit was pretty easy to climb and downclimb. After looking at the anchors on the summit, I think I would have downclimbed even with a rope (I left it fixed at the first pitch).