California Peak north ridge

Colorado 13er peak questions, condition requests and other info.
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California Peak north ridge

Postby denvermikey » Sat Sep 21, 2013 2:20 pm

Going to attempt California Peak's north ridge route tomorrow. Not a ton of beta out there. Roach's book is pretty vague and says 'trail may be obscure in meadows'. Looked at a few trip reports that tend to agree. Anyone have any good advice or pictures on trail finding and/or possibly GPS tracks available?

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Re: California Peak north ridge

Postby Jay521 » Sat Sep 21, 2013 3:15 pm

Geojed has a nice trip report on it. There are a couple ways up to the ridge. When I did it, I started a ways shy of the Zapata trail (at a wilderness area sign of some sort) and followed some game trails. Coming down, I took the Zapata trail and it was in pretty good shape. Sorry - No GPS tracks. Only real bother about the mountain is all the false summits. But the views from the top are STELLAR!!!
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Re: California Peak north ridge

Postby I Man » Sat Sep 21, 2013 5:21 pm

I had the same concerns but found it to be very straightforward. Use the Zapata Falls TH and follow the well worn trail steeply up through the forest. Eventually you will see the pass. Cross a meadow with a faint trail and then pick it up again all the way to the pass. Head up left for a long while. Great views.
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Re: California Peak north ridge

Postby JosephG » Sat Sep 21, 2013 7:21 pm

The route is pretty straightforward. The only "challenge" is the first (and really only) meadow you cross after you exit the aspen forest. The trick here is to look to the far south end of the meadow if you can't find the trail. There is a large rock pile. If you lose the trail, just aim to that rock pile. On the right (west) side of the rock pile, there is a slightly larger rock, and the route trail reappears with definition just after it. There are a tall posts and small cairns in the meadow, too.

Alternatively, if you can't find the trail, you can just head up to the low point in the saddle. The trail stops there anyway. From the saddle, just contour up the many false summits to California's true summit.

Please note, if you're doing the north ridge, you're going to the Zapata Trail, which is the lower Huerfano TH (i.e., on the way to Lindsey). You are NOT going to the "Zapata Falls" TH, which is on the other side of the range.

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Re: California Peak north ridge

Postby powhound » Sat Sep 21, 2013 8:16 pm

Just did this 2 weeks ago. The Zapata trail - north ridge was, as others have said, very straightforward. The weather was great, so I decided to make a big loop out of it over to Lily Lake, and hike out through the Huerfano valley and tag a couple of extra 13ers along the way. From the California summit I was reversing Roaches route 18.2, while heading to Point 13,577. I added 18.2EC over to Point 13,660. That seemed 2+, maybe a few C3 moves if you seek them out. Decent rock where you need it to be. Between a lack of sleep, a long route in thin air above 13,000 ft, and re-climb back up to 13,577... I was getting pretty tired.

Here is where it got interesting. Roaches route 18.2 is described from being at Lily Lake looking up. I was going the opposite way. The slope down to the lake is more convex than concave, so you can't really get a good view from up top as it kind of rolls over out of sight. I went too far down the southeast ridge of Pt.13,577 before dropping down to the lake and found myself in some really nasty, steep, extremely loose talus gullies separated by rock ribs. I opted for the ribs which were more solid but eventually cliffed out, had to back track up a bit to find a short C4 downclimb into the gully I was trying to avoid. Not fun when solo and exhausted. Moral: if you do this loop, drop down to the lake sooner rather than later. Roach only rates it C2, so I had to have been off route. After reviewing my pics at home, you get a view of where you need to aim for heading down to Lily Lake when you are over on Pt.13,660 and I should have paid more attention. I can post this pic if interested in this loop.

Overall though, a great day! Nice mix of trail, off trail and some scrambling. Tons of wildlife...deer, elk, sheep, wild turkeys, ptarmigan...and zero humans. And as others have said...eye popping scenery.

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