| Stellar (Despite the Wind)
December 11, 2011
Hikers: Greg Iafeliece (sudnstop), Steve Tragesser, Bill Tarvin, Carson Black, & Darin Baker
Marble Mountain A (13,266’)
Sangre de Cristo Range
Trailhead: South Colony Lakes Rd @ 2wd parking lot
Route: NE ridge
Distance: ~9mi RT (summitpost page says ~12mi RT though?)
Elevation Gain: ~4400’
Difficulty: class 2 w/bushwack in deep snow, windswept ridgeline above treeline to summit – with sustained cold winds (~20mph)
View from the 2wd parking lot on S Colony Lakes Rd
Gear: daypack w/Essentials – including additional winter attire, snowshoes (mandatory given current snow depths)
Resources Used For Trip Planning: TOPO! mapping software, NOAA weather forecast
I put this trip in the activity schedule for the CMC (Colorado Mountain Club) as a “Leader’s Choice” trip. The reason for that distinction was to wait until the final week before the trip to decide which range had the best forecast and favorable conditions as well as the approach. As anyone that got out over the weekend can attest to, the weather forecast was optimal for this time of year.
After a trip to Little Horn Peak a few weeks ago, I thought another trip to the Sangres would be nice. With Marble Mountain’s proximity to the Crestones and other fine peaks to the W/SW, I thought it would be a guaranteed aesthetic hike!
Yeah, it was pretty sharp….
The five of us all live in the Colorado Springs area, so we set up a meeting time of 5:30am at the Tejon park ‘n ride. The quick drive to Westcliffe went quickly while enjoying the views of the range as we drove down Hwy 96. It’s going to be a good day!
Currently the S Colony Lakes Rd has a fair amount of snow on it. We didn’t bother trying to go beyond the 2wd parking area, in favor of knowing we had parking available to us at that point. Beyond the 2wd parking lot the broken track only goes maybe 1/4mi before stopping.
We were hiking up the road sometime around 7:30am, initially following the tire tracks up the road. Within the first 1/2 mile we were putting on snowshoes for the remainder of our hike to treeline.
Hiking up S Colony Lakes Rd with our objective above & beyond
Once we reached the Rainbow trail, we left the road to our S and started our bushwack through the trees.
In mid-November, Colorado experienced a wind event that blew down hundreds if not thousands of trees statewide. I had read reports and had seen evidence of this for the Sangre’s, but our hike was not hindered by blow downs. The Custer County SAR (Search & Rescue) team had recently been up S Colony Lakes road and had removed multiple trees from the road, which no doubt helped us! Thanks SAR!
Once off the road and in the forest, we went around or over a couple of down trees, but for the most part the only difficulties we would have was the snow depth.
Trenching in the trees
The storms that have hit the state thus far has certainly favored the Sangre de Cristo Range. With snowshoes on, we would sink boot deep and sometimes deeper as we made our way through the forest. I think without snowshoes, we would have been turning around, no doubt.
At times along the ridge, there was a faint trench from a storm or two back, but with the recent snow, it was all but filled in.
Regardless, fresh leg rotations were the norm for the first few hours until we reached treeline.
In the Trees Treat
Can you see the ice? ;)
What about this Humble ice?
About 4hrs after leaving the truck, we were finally breaking out of the trees, only to be greeted by more wonderful Sangre views. And wind – a cold wind kicked up.
A thermos of Bengal Spice tea was certainly the kick I needed for the rest of the windy & cold ascent!
Our windblown ascent line is on the horizon
Bill and Greg (l. to r.) just above treeline
We took a short break for snacks & drink, geared up for the wind, and then stashed our shoes to be picked up on our descent.
From our stash, we went out on the windswept portion of the ridge, and were met with steady ~20mph winds out of the NW. I was able to get by wearing my sunglasses, but facemask and hoods, hardshell jacket and mittens were absolutely necessary!
Around 12,000’ Greg decided he had had enough, and thought he should go down. The deep snow in the trees had worn on him, and the wind wasn’t much of a welcome either! Carson decided to accompany him on the way down so he wouldn’t be by himself.
We discussed the “plan” from there out: the three of us (Bill, Steve, & I) would continue to the summit, and Carson & Greg would go back to the shoe-cache and continue down our track. We would meet up with them either at the truck or we would catch up with them on the trail. With the new plan in place, we continued on.
Continuing on in the wind to the summit was tiring, and cold, therefore I didn’t stop for pictures! But I did have to stop to put chemical hand-warmers in my mitts.
The top was worth the efforts…..
Broken Hand Peak (13,573’)
Steve & Bill (l. to r.)
Crestone Needle (14,197’) w/parts of the Peak behind
Tijeras Peak (13,604’) center of photo with Music Mountain (13,380’) to the right
Bill & Steve again, with views to the S
Humboldt Peak (14,064’)
It’s Stellar up here, but it’s fricken windy and cold!
Time to go!
Descending the NE ridge
We made our way down, back to the snowshoe cache, and booked it back through the trench in the trees.
We caught up with Carson & Greg once we got back on the S Colony Lakes road and were back to the truck by 4:20pm or so.
What a day!
Thanks guys for coming along!
Thanks for reading,
Map and approximate route: