Mountain and Route: Humboldt East Ridge
RT Mileage: 12.53 mi
Vertical Gain: 5300ft
Party: Jason (jblyth17) and Karthik (theotherindian)
After seeing condition reports from last week for Humboldt east ridge, Jason and I decided to hit this up for the weekend. Little did we know the postholing fest that Humboldt had organised for us. Jason slept at the trailhead the previous night and I pulled up to the TH around 5:30 after recently 'normal' 150 minutes of Friday night sleep, which in retrospect was a bad idea for the drive back. Jason mentioned that he had met a group of Friday hikers who summitted Humboldt without taking the Rainbow trail (by the southeast flank route maybe?)
We started walking up the S. Colony road a little past 6 when the first rays were peeping out of the vast horizon and arrived at the Rainbow Trail Junction. I don't know why trees are being felled in such large numbers, but they almost made the Rainbow Trail look non existent. The fact that the road up S. Colony lakes has seen much more foot traffic didn't help us much either. After some deliberations, we decided to stick with the route from 14ers.com and navigated around, above and under the cut trees. Shortly thereafter, we crossed the creek and gained the lowest part of the ridge. At around 10,300, Jason was feeling queasy and we decided to rest for a while to see if he got better. As I had nothing better to do, I started fiddling around with twigs and stones and was happy drawing happy and sad troll faces in the snow.
When Jason's condition didn't get better, he asked to me go ahead and get the summit, while he would either wait it out or turn back. It was here that the postholing nightmare started. Any signs of a trench if it was there, was at best faint lines on either side with the trench itself covered in sugar. I went into this hike expecting a nice trench by the party up there last weekend, but according to my theory, the temperatures were so high last weekend that snow from above the trench, melted and filled the trench completely. To add to the misery, I veered off the trail for a bit and found myself in waist deep snow. I eventually found my way back to the trench, or whatever remained of it and continued along, postholing knee deep in many places. At about 11,200, I had almost given up on the summitting, sick of the postholing when Jason showed up, re-energized after a nap. We continued up and eventually reached the treeline and stashed our snowshoes. It took us about 2.5 hours to gain 1500 feet re-establishing the trench. The mountain above treeline was a completely different world, a world of grassy slopes, firm rocks - basically everything a nice summer hike would involve including the weather. Wind was non existent and so was the snow, except for a few patches here and there.
We started walking up the bump and then the long ridge walk. Jason summitted around 1:50pm and I got up around 2:15pm.
The false false summit
Humboldt comes into view
The summit ridge, looks 'cute', doesn't it? Jason is somewhere over there ..
After the summit photoshoot (we had the mighty Crestones for a prop this time!), we started heading back down and saw one other guy turning back a couple of hundred feet above the treeline.
I have no clue what mountain this is, but its cool
Everyone's favorite mountains - The Crestones
Almost the entire Blanca massif
Jason's first Sangres summit
Hey Cresties, who's taller now?
Looking down on the ridge
The trench was in much worse condition by this time. It turns out a couple of others had attempted the route without snowshoes and had terrible postholing experience. There was evidence of struggle all along the trail. We were no better with our snowshoes and slid, fell and post holed back our way to the creek and eventually reached the S. Colony road.
From the first rays to the last
Epilogue: The drive back was not so great. The town of Westcliffe sleeps well before 8pm, but the deer folk around it do not. I luckily missed hitting deer crossing the road by a few feet when I slowed down to check if a gas station was open. I had to wait another hour and half to get my Starbucks energy drink and drive a little safer.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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