| Circumnavigating San Luis
Baldy Chato (13,401' unranked)
Column Ridge (13,795' unranked)
Stewart Peak (13,983')
Baldy Alto (13,698')
Organ Mountain (13,801')
It's been a long time since I've written up a trip report and I'm not sure why I decided to write something up for this past trip... but nonetheless, here it goes...
We left Fort Collins around 2 pm on Friday and drove the annoyingly congested traffic through Denver and Colorado Springs. We seemed to make horrible time getting to the turn-off from Highway 114 to Cebolla Trailhead. And maybe we are idiots, but between Roach's directions and the 2 maps we had, nothing matched the actual roads that were needed to make it to the trailhead. With a little bit of luck, we finally pulled up to the trailhead at 9 pm, made quick work of sorting our gear and promptly fell asleep inside my Jeep.
Our 4 am wake-up time quickly turned into a 6 am wake-up time, which is typical of our early starts. Zion decided he'd had enough of us resetting the alarm and hitting the snooze button, so with enough of his prodding and whining, we got up and began our day.
The Cebolla trail had a gentle climb to treeline, where we left the trail, which by then was only marked by posts, and began our ascent up Baldy Chato. Zion was making the most out of stretching his legs and running free.
I apologize for some of my pictures. I scratched the lens dropping the camera into Maroon Creek a few years ago, and my attempt at fixing some of the pictures using iPhoto only screwed them up more. And if there is an "undo" button when editing, I haven't found it yet. So thanks to my photo-editing talent, this first picture shows what appears to be a spaceship bursting out of the ground.
Just above treeline
We made the summit of Baldy Chato in no time and Kiefer switched into cairn-building mode. There are some things in life that are guarantees: the sun setting in the west, taxes, tmathews making a post on 14ers.com, and Kiefer building cairns. (BTW Terry, no hate here, your posts are informative and entertaining )
View of Baldy Chato's gentle slopes from the south (Kiefer)
From Baldy Chato it was another easy tundra walk to Column Ridge and Stewart Peak.
Stewart Peak marked Kiefer's 90th centennial peak! He had been stuck at 89 for a while, and a combination of distractions from other lists (winter 14ers, quad points), work, school, and the occasional "we missed our exit 30 miles back, let's just do the next thing we come upon" kept that number stagnant for a while.
Stewart Peak (L) and Column Ridge (R) (Kiefer)
Looking south from the summit of Stewart (Kiefer)
After Stewart we headed south to the next 13er along the gentle ridge, Baldy Alto. My legs were starting to feel the effects of pacing a friend 60 miles of the Bighorn 100 the weekend before. But otherwise I felt great, especially after our 10 minute nap on top of Baldy Alto. Do not underestimate Baldy Alto and its class 2 south slopes though... I had a near fatal fall coming off the summit. And if it wasn't for Kiefer and his lightning quick response to rescue me I may not be here today. I'll never forget the look of worry on his face after seeing the small scratch on my hand.
Baldy Alto from the south (Kiefer)
Our next target for the day was Organ Peak. By now, Kiefer was not feeling so great. A combination of the intense sun and being at 13,000 feet for the first time since March were the most likely culprits. Our pace slowed along the ridge between San Luis and Organ, but we knew hitting it today would make the second day easier.
Organ Mountain and the connecting ridge to San Luis
Kiefer along ridge to Organ Mountain
Upon reaching the crux of the ridge, we found it would be too hard for Zion to downclimb into the notch and up the other side. Once again I neglected to do much reading up on how to keep the crux at class 3, all I knew was we had to drop down somewhere before reaching the notch. But vague directions such as this didn't help when we didn't know how early we needed to drop down. Kiefer wasn't feeling his usual exploratory-investigative self and I couldn't do much exploring either since Zion was playing my shadow on a loose and steep ridge.
Crux in ridge to Organ Mountain
We decided that Organ Mountain will have to wait for another time and instead we'll head back toward San Luis and descend into the western basin and set up camp as planned. However, by the time we got to the low point between Organ and San Luis, Kiefer really needed to get down and out of the sun. Our best option now was to descend the standard trail down into Stewart Creek. Just as we reached tree-line we started hunting for a good camping spot. Just a few feet off the trail we found a decent sheltered area that looked like it would work for the night. While Kiefer and Zion rested a bit, I went down the to creek and refilled our water bottles.
Not sure who is more tired?
With weather this nice, why bring a tent? I remember the last time I slept under the stars without a tent was out in Arches National Park. I don't think I've ever seen so many stars in my life, and it was a moment that will forever be remembered. That's what getting out into the wild is all about- not always protecting yourself from nature, but being a part of it. (Plus, neither of us felt like carrying a tent ) Like a couple of homeless people, we gathered some grass and layed it on the ground beneath the trees. We were quite surprised at how well the grass softened the ground and kept us directly out of the dirt. The worst part about the set-up was it wasn't completely level, so we kept sliding off our sleeping pads. We finally decided to sleep directly on the ground and just use the sleeping pads as walls to keep the wind from hitting us as hard. This seemed to work pretty well. Still, neither of us slept very well, and with Zion playing guard dog all night, he didn't sleep either.
Our home for the night
With no alarm set, we got up at a surprisingly late time of 7 am and packed up. With Organ Mountain defeating us the day before, and being so close to it, we opted to head back up it but this time taking the gentle northern slopes. Kiefer was feeling much better today and ended up setting a good pace all day.
Heading up Organ Mountain (a sweet photo taken and altered by Kiefer)
Summit of Organ (Kiefer)
We descended the south side of Organ Mountain and followed a small stream which led us straight to the CDT. The CDT would take us straight up the valley between Pt. 13,155 and San Luis.
CDT and valley to San Luis/Pt. 13,155 saddle (Kiefer)
It was along this valley we saw some of the most interesting beaver dam engineering we have ever seen. The beavers had actually built a terraced-like system of dams along Cochetopa Creek. Beavers are one of the coolest animals out there. And so are wolverines, but that's a whole different topic.
Heading up the valley
Anyway, we eventually made it to the pass, dropped a few things at the pass, and went up the slopes to hit Pt. 13,155. When we did San Luis last January, we passed just below the summit block on Pt. 13,155, but since we were running very low of daylight hours, we had to skip this peak. So it was great to be back and finally check this one off the list. There is one tricky class 4 move to reach the summit, and thankfully the rock was as solid as a... rock. Kiefer went up first, then my turn.
Pt. 13,155 (Kiefer)
Kiefer on summit of Pt. 13,155
Now all that's left is a long-a** hike out. We continued down the CDT until we reached the turn-off for Bondholder Trail. The "trail" was hard to follow at times, but we did a real good job of using the map to know which side of the creek we needed to be on. We followed Bondholder Trail until it connected with Cascade Creek Trail. This part of the trail had some of the most beautiful and interesting segments we have ever seen in Colorado. And by interesting we mean: remnants of an old airplane crash, hunting shacks, Forest Service cabins, abandoned mines, a large cow pasture, a female moose, and lots and lots of stream crossings. Thank goodness for the streams though, the heat was really starting to take a toll on Zion.
Descending the CTD to Bondholder Trail
Navigating Bondholder Trail (Kiefer)
Zion cooling off in a spring
Red Columbine (Kiefer)
If you ever get a chance to hike in this area do it. It's long, there's not always a trail to follow, and you'll get your feet wet, but being able to see so much beauty in one little area was more than worth it. That place would be a gem in the fall.
After Bondholder Meadows we diverted off the trail again and followed the primitive Cebolla Trail that would eventually take us back to my Jeep. Again, it was a long haul and poor Zion was needing more rest breaks. Our last big climb of the day would take us up the northwest side of Baldy Chato before dropping us back down to the Cebolla Trailhead. By now I was struggling with dehydration and sore feet, meanwhile Kiefer is as perky as a middle school chearleader, going on and on and on about another alien or something movie. I don't really remember anything other than people being tortured by hog-tying them and tossing them down the Pyramids. But God bless him for trying to keep me distracted from my own misery.
Well, we made it back to the trailhead a little before 9 pm. Zion was even able to race Kiefer those last hundred yards back to the car before collapsing from exhaustion. After 20 minutes of cleaning up a bit and packing things away we were off again for the long drive home. Thank goodness for the nachos at the gas station located at the HW 50/285 intersection. I've never had nachos taste so good in my life, and that is my new favorite gas station in Colorado. We pulled into Fort Collins at 3:30 am where I dropped Kiefer off at his car. The poor guy had to be at work by 5 am, so it was a very short night for him. Meanwhile, I drove back home with Zion, and we were passed out within seconds of hitting our respective pillows.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):