| San Luis...byways less traveled
Typical with most of my climbs, my passion is to find routes less traveled. In that regard, this trip was a complete success. As is often the case, my interest in this route was spurred from Roach’s description of it, however, I was extremely shocked when my web search for beta came up with nearly zilch. Only 1 trip report was found (not on this site) and that was from someone who was less than helpful. Because of this I wanted to post something that may help anyone else interested in this superb alternative to one of Colorado’s most remote 14ers. It is not so much a report of my experience but rather an attempt to document the route. I had complete solitude on one of the busiest climbing weekends in summer and saw no one until half way back to the trail head via the standard route. (topo map of route at end of report)
Photo 1: This first photo is a view of the saddle where I gained the first ridge. It was taken the evening before, looking east from where I parked. This initial climb is a steep 850 feet from the creek below. A great way to wake up the legs and lungs while racing the sunrise coming up the other side.
Photo 2: On the initial ridge at last. The sun and I agreed on a tie but there is no question which one of us looked the best after the race on this fine morning.
Photo 3: Taken from the far NE rim of point 13285, I get my first glimpse looking due north, of San Luis in the distance. The foreground gives a hint of the class 3-4 ridge that starts here and heads off to the NE. This spot is about 2.5 miles into the climb.
Photo 4: This is a shot of the final pitch on point 13,180. It is probably possible to keep this entire ridge at class 3 or 3+ but I couldn’t find it and so my route had several short class 4 zones in this area. The steepness however, produced welcoming shade as the hot sun was all ready melting this snow cornice at the top.
Photo 5: This is a view from the top of point 13,180 looking back on what is visible of my route so far. It is just over a quarter mile (crows fly) from where I took photo 3 at the beginning of this rougher section. I was able to keep the down-climb in this photo to class 3.
Photo 6: Taken from the same place as photo 5 but in the opposite direction, this shot shows what remains of my chosen ridge route. The class 4 had been more that I expected so this long gentle ridge was a welcome sight and was just what I needed to get a second wind for point 13,155 at the other end.
Photo 7: Looking back on my route so far, this was taken near the top of point 13,155 at the west base of its 40 foot pinnacle. This is about 4.5 miles into the climb. The rougher class 3+ ridge in the foreground can be kept to class 2+ by dropping below it on the north side.
Photo 8: This is standing at the north base of the pinnacle looking directly south. From here it is about a 40 foot class 3 and 4 climb to the top of point 13,155.
Photo 9: On point 13,155 looking due north at San Luis Peak, still a mile and a half away.
Photo 10: A parting southward view of point 13,155 as I make my way over the last leg of today’s climb. From here it is a 550 foot descent to the connecting saddle with San Luis below.
Photo 11: Around mile 6, taken at 13,800 just before the summit and looking due south. This shows most of my route up in red except for the first class 3-4 part which is just off the photo on the right side. It also shows the Continental divide trail in green going thru the east basin which is considered the standard route from west willow creek.
Photo 12: Looking SW from San Luis. This photo shows the Continental divide trail as it goes thru the west basin. The left side of the photo shows it crossing over the middle saddle into the east basin shown in photo 11. The right side shows where the standard west willow creek route splits off at. The ridge I ascended is all out of view to the left.
Photo 13: This was taken from the far west side of the west basin looking east at my ridge route as well as most of the Continental divide trail below.
The standard route from west willow creak is listed at 11 miles from the new higher trail head. This route that I took is a couple miles more than that and includes three 13ers plus the two class 3-4 areas that add substantial effort and elevation to the overall climb. The nice part about this ridge route, unlike many ridges, is that there are several places to bail should the weather turn bad or you decide it is too much. It is also a great way to get a couple ranked 13ers that are out of the way from either of the standard approaches. (I couldn’t download better quality maps so if anyone would like one or has questions on this route please feel free to PM me.) Most of all, be safe and have fun.
Topo of my route
NOTE: The trail head parking for the standard west willow creek route is at the end of the solid black road (on my map below) just below the mine property and above where I parked. Most people were parking another mile to 1.5 miles up the 4WD road, creating what is now becoming a new standard trail head.
Terrain shaded relief topo of my route for those who find this easier to read
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):