| Northern Sangre Satisfaction
Bushnell Peak 13105' (CO rank 565)
2405' prominence (CO rank 47)
Fremont County Highpoint
Twin Sisters North 13012' (CO rank 632)
(L-R) Twin Sisters N, Twin Sisters S, and Bushnell Peak
Every year, I make a list of peaks I'd like to summit, based on several lists I'm chasing, aesthetics, or other random factors. Bushnell Peak has been on the list for three years, owing to its place on three lists (13er, county HP, 2000' prominence) and the simple fact that I find the Sangres mesmerizing when driving either north or south on US 285. Sometimes, it's hard to keep my eyes on the road because my mind's imagining what it must be like to walk around on that airy Sangre ridgeline in the sky.
I picked up Kevin and we hit the road later than we'd have liked, so it was dark by the time we crossed Poncha Pass and found our turnoff, CR 57, which is 0.7 miles north of Villa Grove. This road is big, wide, and smooth, not unlike NN-14, which leads to San Luis Peak. After hikes of Bushnell and of Hunts Peak earlier this year, it seems one of the biggest challenges in hiking northern Sangre 13ers from the west is simply finding the TH. The fun begins at a T-intersection 4.4 miles from US 285. In the dark, this was tougher than I'd have liked, given the maze of faint "range roads," inconsistent signage, and unlocked, but fussy wire gates. The full moon did help, and we arrived at the TH/Sangre de Cristo Wilderness boundary (9300') in time for a short fire, some Stone IPAs, and campfire chat focused on highlights of the past week's stellar Phish shows in Commerce City, especially the mind-blowing cover of "Sabotage" by the Beasties. Under the full moon, a thick fog rolled in from the east, slowly engulfing our view, making for a surreal end to the night.
We awoke to a temperature of 31 degrees--the fall chill is here, folks--and found that the TH is marked by the biggest puffball I've ever seen.
Here's the beginning of the trail, which follows an old road to treeline and beyond.
No Wilderness sign here
I don't think that there was too much mining activity in the Sangres, so the presence of a vast network of roads is a bit puzzling, but it helps me out. The road provides a nice, mellow warm-up for the steepness that's to come. We:
Passed some old cabin ruins along the way:
Saw a harbinger of fall colors to come
Is it treeline yet?
Kept chugging up the road
Looked back at the San Luis Valley
And, 1.75 miles in, found a great spot to rest, snack, and sunscreen up at about 10,800ft.
Seating for 20 hikers
Kevin pointed out these rose hips almost glowing with vitamin C goodness:
After the break, we decided to ditch the road and begin an arduous ascent to the ridgeline. From here, we had only 0.8 miles, but 2300' left to the summit of Bushnell. South Maroon all over again! (not really) While the footing looked good from below--lots of grass and chunky talus--we soon found an almost invisible layer of verglass hidden by the fact that the sun hadn't yet spilled over into the western flanks of the Sangres. Every spot I'd usually rely on for traction was slicker than snot, making going slow, but steady.
Here's how it looked:
Trippy rock ice
Looking over at the Twin Sisters
Reaching the ridge, I felt exuberant. Despite the fog's complicating things, we had intermittent views of Bushnell's nearby summit and the rest of our path.
We reached the summit and lounged for a while, hoping the fog would clear a bit and allow us some views. It hung around most of the time, limiting photo ops, but not taking away the majesty of occasional peeks down to the San Luis and Wet Mountain valleys.
12er Mt. Otto (12865') looks higher than us
We decided to head over to Twin Sisters North, and I took one last look at Bushnell's summit.
The ridge looked like it might get spicy, but Kevin assured me it wasn't going to be a problem. Thankfully, the ridge had received more sun than our ascent route, and the verglass had mostly disappeared, so we made our way without issue. There was plenty of exposure to the east, but there was no need to get too close.
The eastern side of the range features some cool lakes. Here's one:
Since Twin Sisters South is an unranked 12er, we skipped its summit and sidehilled across some colorful rocks. In hindsight, this really didn't save us much effort.
Below us, the Bushnell lakes were blue as can be. The eastern approach to Bushnell features a backpack to them, and I hear it's worth the trip.
The fog lifted and I took a look back at our route from Bushnell, then a look ahead to our next destination, the summit of Twin Sisters North.
From the summit, we could finally see Hunts Peak hiding in shadow.
People always rave about the conglomerate rock found around the Crestones, and with good reason. Apparently, it's not the only species of cool, knobby rock in the Sangres. This looks like boba tea conglomerate to me.
Our descent route was no less steep than the ascent. However, there was far less grass to steady us. Since the verglass had melted, I was ok with this, but it was tedious. Here's how the surface looked for much of the way.
We dropped down into the grassy gully that begins near treeline at the bottom of this shot.
Most of our descent route pictured here
We followed the rocky/grassy gully until it intersected with the road, and hit the accelerator back to my truck and the IPAs waiting for us. What a great day!!!!
Stats: 6.46 miles r/t, 4352' gain
Colvill and Mitchler's Hiking Colorado's Summits has great directions to the TH and a decent route description of the western approach.
LoJ Bushnell Peak quad
SP Bushnell Peak page
There are several trip reports here and elsewhere for Bushnell, but these are all done in wintry conditions. I hope this gives some useful info to people like me who prefer to hike when it's warmer out. Thanks for reading.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):