Our plan was to climb San Luis on Thurs, Uncompahgre on Friday, meet a friend Friday evening at Grizzly Gulch and climb Redcloud and Sunshine on Sat. I was going to call it “A Pint of San Juan!” after Dancesatmoonrise’s Cup of San Juan. It seemed like an achievable goal. I picked up my climbing partner in Colorado Springs, Jason, at 3:30am and we headed for the San Luis TH, Stewart Creek arriving about 8:20am and getting on the trail about 9:02 am.
Our initial view of the trail: Beautiful!
Our big shock was the amount of snowmelt in the area since we were in the area two weeks ago. The entire Stewart Creek area was clear of snow with the exception of the creek bed area. There were a few snow fields to step through, but they were past the ridge and on the final summit pitch after what I would call a false summit.
The forecast called for breezy with gusts to 25mph, I think. The breezy part was helpful before tree line keeping the mosquitoes from landing on you, but once out of the trees, the breeze picked up and the gusts were steady making them just plain high winds.
The tree line part of the adventure was the most beautiful I had seen in 25 peaks and all the flowers weren’t even out yet.
The trail was a nice gradual incline most of the time. The ridge ascent was probably the steepest segment. Bypassing the false summit was a nice touch. No sense in climbing it’s summit. The snow fields on the final segment were the most challenging part of the climb and normally wouldn’t there this time of year, except for the time I climb it.
This guy kept a eye on us for while.
Half way though the wooded trail on the way up, we drew the attention of a moose standing in a small pond. I took a picture of him as he examined our threat level. We must have succeeded because we appeared to bore him and he went back to drinking. On the way down we saw the largest beavers we’d ever seen in the same area as we saw the moose.
One of two beavers enjoying their private pool.
Still on the ascent, we finally noted some snow in the low lying areas
The river of solid snow provided a welcomed path uphill. No postholing issues here.
Nearing the saddle, here is a good shot of Organ Mt.
Although the path looked like it was going to take us over this false summit, it didn’t.
The path took us around and then provided a view of what was to come.
We managed to run into a nice sized snow field shortly before the summit and we were able to minimize traversing it.
There were several dry areas to use, but we did have to cross a snow field once or twice.
The final pitch to ever eluding summit.
Jason and I on the very windy summit.
Found the USGS marker.
On the way down and still above tree line, I lost all my energy and had to take a break. I tried assessing my condition as I had never felt that weak and decided it must be a food problem. I had been drinking plenty of water so I ruled that out. After eating an energy
bar and relaxing for a few minutes, I started feeling better and soon afterwards, I was back to my normal pace. Right after that, Jason noted another animal species that we could chalk up on this trip. There must have been 5-6 big horn sheep on the back side of Organ Mountain. I took a picture, but they’re so far away that you can hardly make them out.
The little white specks are Big Horn Sheep.
We tried glissading, but the snow wasn’t frozen enough and the terrain wasn’t steep enough.
On the snow fields, we usually traversed them stepping in foot steps already in place. It seems that once snow is compressed and then frozen, it doesn’t compress much further and make excellent paths.
On the way up and the treeline thinning willows becoming very prevalent, we lost the trail in a snow pack that covered the trail and the stream. It was easing going up, no post-holing and even easy on the descent with minimal post holing. The distance through the wooded path seemed twice as long coming down as it was going up, but that seems to be normal.
We got back to the car at 6:25 pm and decided that it was too late to head over to Uncompahgre’s TR much less hike to the summer TH. On our drive over to Lake City, which seemed quite long on dusty dirt roads with minimal signs, we decided to spend the night at a camp ground, get a shower and sleep on a lawn.
Roughing it on the lawn of the owner’s front yard.
This very cinnamon black bear was checking out the RV site until someone yelled, “Hey look! There’s a bear,” and he ran off.
The Elkhorn RV campground took us in and it was a great idea to stay there. We had also decided to take Friday as a down day and let our bodies relax before taking on Redcloud and Sunshine. On Friday, we slept in, casually broke camp, ate a Buffalo Burger at Poker Alice’s, which was great, by the way, and headed to check out the road and TH for Uncompahgre which is just a few minutes from Lake City before heading for Stewart Creek.
On the road to Uncompahgre.
A few rocks cluttered up the road, but probably gone by now.
As we approached the stream, another vehicle showed up on the other side so we moved over as far as we could and the other vehicle crossed the stream and stopped to chat for a minute about conditions. The TH was still not reachable and at that time in the afternoon, the stream was quite high and fast moving, so we elected to turn around and go on to the next TH for Redcloud and Sunshine.