Peak(s):  Humboldt Peak  -  14,064 feet
Post Date:  07/17/2011
Date Climbed:   07/14/2011
Posted By:  Ericjlindy


 Humboldt - East Ridge  

Tom, his 8 year old daughter Katie and I drove in from Denver the night before and camped at the South Colony Road / Rainbow trail intersection. Our goal was to follow Humboldt's east ridge in order to shave some distance from the standard route and not have to hike the road again (would have been 3rd time). However we contemplated decending the standard route to avoid bush-wacking through the trees despite the longer distance. More on that in a moment.
The next morning we started on the Rainbow trail at 5:45am until we spotted the orange tape marker that I read about in a trip report this marker indicates entrance to a short cut to gain the start of the ridge. I'm not sure how short it really is but it is not a defined route. It led us to our first bout of travel through dense trees and up a short steep pitch that gained the top of the ridge that is well marked by a carin.

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Pre hike shot of Tom and his daughter Katie.

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On Rainbow trail just before the bridge.

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Left turn off the Rainbow Trail. Note the orange tape on the fallen tree.

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Bush wacking on the short cut to find the ridge.

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Found the ridge. The carin marks the top of the short cut at the ridge.


The route on the ridge top is defined by several carins and easy to follow but is littered by dead branches. This goes on until the trail ends at roughly 10,600 ft just prior to the steep ascent through dense trees. We bush-wacked and bush-wacked for probably an hour but seemed like forever in a general west / northwest direction. Every now and then we'd hit another carin so we knew we were proceeding in the correct direction.

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On the ridge trail.

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On the ridge trail. Tom goes left and Katie goes right around a tree.

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Approaching 10,600 ft and at the end of the established trail.

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Start of the bush wacking on no trail.

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Bush wacking on the steep section. Every now and then we crossed into a meadow.


We finally broke through the thick stuff and then at 11,800 ft stopped for a snack near some funky wind shaped trees.

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Breaking through the trees.

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At tree line - 11,800 ft. The top of the 13,200 hump in view ahead.

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Snack break at tree line.

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Break spot at the funky trees.


Following our short break we pressed on to the next segment of the route up the steep grassy slope that leads to the 13,200 ft hump. This section reminded my alot of Culebra as there was no trail, no carins, minimal rocks and shrubs and mostly grass. About a 3rd of the way up we were treated to a piece of nature as an Elk herd crossed our path.

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Our exit point. This is where we should have paid more attention to the terrain for the descent.

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Ascending up the grassy slopes.

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Herd of elk that crossed our path. We probably spooked them.


An hour later we gained the hump where we finally could view Humboldt's summit and the rest of the route up the spiny ridge.

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Trudging up the steeper section just prior to gaining the 13,200 ft hump.

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At the top of the hump with Humboldt and the rest of the ridge in view.


As Middlebrook describes, the remaining route is easy to follow and gets modestly tougher near the top. Some rock hopping and mild scrambing was necessay in spots to get past many rock obstacles. In general it is possible to stay on the very top of the ridge comfortably away from the exposed drop offs. For me this was the most fun part of the route.

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Approaching an obstacle on the ridge.

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A look down the steep cliffs to North Colony Lake.

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On the ridge...doing well Katie!

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Next obstacle on the ridge.


We grinded our way up and in about an hour reached the summit block. Tom chose a route under and to the left of the small cliff bands. This led to some scrambling to gain the summit. In hind sight it was possible to go right of the cliff band and up more gradual but highly exposed terrain. No one way is quicker than the other.

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Approaching the summit block.

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Passing under the small cliff bands on the summit block. It is possible to go to the right and over the cliffs.

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Some rock hopping up the block to gain the top.


Once we hit the summit the dramatic views of the Crestones (which Tom and I polished off last year) came into view. All in all the ascent took about 4-1/2 hours which is a great speed with an 8 year old. This was Katie's 6th summit. She is a real strong hiker and never once complained on the whole hike - quite the trooper. We spent about 30 minutes on the top, grabbed lunch and snapped our summit photos before decending.

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On the summit approaching the western wind break to find the register. A clean view of the Crestones and Kit Carson.

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Summit shot.

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Katie's 6th signature!

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Heading back down the ridge.


After some discussion, we decided to skip the longer standard route as originally planned and return the way we came. For the most part it was straight forward to the trees. However, we got off track coming down the grassy slope. We ended up too far to the right (north) which put our entrance into the trees at the wrong location. We continued into a large meadow at tree line which turned out to be too far right of the ridge crest. As a result we entered the thick trees on the very steep terrain that exists south of the ridge. At one point we could see the road and the upper TH. At this point knew we were way off track. Decending this slope to the road was not an option so at roughly 10,600 ft we traversed and bushwacked hard to the left (almost due north) until the terrain leveled out and we eventually found the ridge trail. Definately an easy mistake to make without having GPS. It probably cost us 45 minutes to an hour trying to find the trail in the upper sections of the trees. We made it back to the car shortly before 3pm, picked up camp and drove back to Denver.

Some thoughts on this route:
1. Make sure you have GPS and try to load Middlebrook's GPX file before you hike. It will definately improve route finding especially in the trees and on the descent.
2. Since the the Forest Service closure of the old upper TH, the east ridge route offers a more direct way to the summit over the standard route. Seemingly the east ridge has now become the more preferred way to go for most. It would be nice if CFI could improve the route especially through the trees.
3. If you don't have GPS, TAKE NOTE of where you exit the trees on your ascent. This is key to finding the proper way back into the trees when you are decending the grassy slope. Keep looking back as you ascend to store visual snap shots in your mind of where you need to go.
4. This route beats hiking up the road any day and can easily be achieved in a single day's hike.



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
 


  • Comments or Questions
Taillon75


Excellent.
07/17/2011 19:21


sanchomurphy1


*
07/17/2011 20:46
Great report!



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