Date: Saturday, October 6, 2012 Crew: moon stalker (Kelly), letsgocu (Kyle), and I Route: Southeast Face from Horn Creek TH Stats: 12.5 miles; 4,700’; 9hrs 35min RT
Ascent (red) and descent (blue) routes of Adams’ SE Face from Horn Lake:
Topo of the route:
We all wanted to get out this weekend but the forecast didn’t look so hot, and I ended up coming down with a cold. Did that stop us? No. After checking the weather again at more or less the “last minute”, Kelly, Kyle and I saw improvement in the Sangres and decided to give it a go. We arrived late to Horn Creek TH Friday night and went to sleep for a 6:30am alarm. We were on trail at 7:25am. After 0.3 miles, we reached an obvious sign where we turned right on the Horn Creek Trail (also the Rainbow Trail). Shortly after this first sign, we approached a second sign that directed us to Horn Creek Lakes and headed left here. Our morning was cloudy and chilly; my sickness prevented me from keeping up with these two. Albeit gentle, this approach is a long 5 miles.
The obvious sign 0.3mi from the TH (turn right):
Kelly and Kyle hike the gentle approach to Horn Lakes:
As we approached the lake, we looked back out towards the valley and saw some beautiful low clouds – above 11,000’ we had blue skies! At the lake, we chose our ascent route and hiked northwest above some small cliffs and up a steep slope climbers’ right on Adams’ Southeast Face to reach its’ Northeast Ridge at 13,150’.
Low-hanging clouds as we glance back out towards the Wet Mountain Valley:
Working our way up the steep slope above the small cliffs:
Kyle and Kelly climb the upper portion of the face to gain the NE Ridge:
Around 13,275’, we came to a small rock “out-cropping” (marked by the arrow below) and encountered our first snow of the day. Climbers’ right took us to the top, and from here we had a nice view of the remaining route. We chose to work the grassy ledge system to the summit rather than take the ridge proper. It wasn’t bad – either way would prove to be fine (as we found out on the descent) and both entailed class 2+/3 moves. We topped out at 1:00pm and took in the unique views of the Crestone Group Peaks.
The traverse across the NE Ridge (taken from 13,100’):
Kelly climbs up the small rock out-cropping:
Looking back down the ridge as Kelly and I make our way up to the ledges:
The grassy ledge system to the summit:
Science Geeks on top of Adams with the all-impressive Crestone Group behind (Humboldt shows far left):
A close-up of the Crestones, Kit Carson, and Challenger:
We dropped down out of the wind to eat and leave at 1:30pm. For the descent, we elected to take the ridge proper and then aim for a more direct line down a grassy slope on the face at 13,250’. The descent down the face was steep but went quick. And after a short bushwhack, we met back up with the approach trail near the lake.
Kyle and Kelly heading back down the ridge proper…
…and then down the steep grassy Southeast Face of Adams to Horn Lake (inset: looking back up the face while Kelly and I descend):
The 5-mile hike back out seemed to take forever – it’s definitely a slog. We finally arrived back to the cars at 5:00pm and decided it was best to cook dinner there before heading to the trailhead for the California Group 13ers the next day. After dinner, we packed up and drove to what we thought was the Lower Huerfano TH and camped at 10,200’…
We quickly converted the vehicles to homes and I must say I was excited for another luxurious night of car camping in Kelly’s truck.
Another fun road-trip night of friends, camping, laughing, climbing! Kelly’s cookin up her awesome grilled veggies (Horn Creek TH):
PT 13,577’, PT 13,660’, & California Peak
Date: Sunday, October 7, 2012 Crew: same as above Route: South Slopes to 13,577’ > PT 13,660’ via PT 13,577’ > South Ridge to California via 13,660’ > descent from 13,400’ on the North Ridge from Upper Huerfano TH Stats: 8.5 miles; 4,350’; 9 hrs RT
Topo of the route:
Alarms went off at 6:00am with an intended plan of staging Kyle’s car at the Upper Huerfano TH so we could descend California’s North Ridge down to Kelly’s truck at where we thought was the Lower Huerfano TH. It turns out that we were lower down from the bottom trailhead which would change up our descent plans. Oh well! After doing some homework and using the Finn’s California TR as some great info, we agreed that we preferred to ascend the loose slopes of 13,577’ rather than descend and therefore would make that our first goal. We started along the trail and after a mile, reached a trail junction near 10,750’ where we turned right and left the valley floor, staying on its west (right) side along the Lily Lake Trail. Shortly after this first sign (~0.3mi), there is another sign pointing you towards the lake.
Early morning alpenglow begins to show on Blanca as we begin our day:
Kyle and Kelly hike up to Lily Lake and towards the South Slopes of PT 13,577’:
We continued up to the beautiful Lily Lake at 12,350’ and surveyed our options from here. The best option was to climb straight up the steep, loose, endless South Slopes of PT 13,577’. We contoured Lily Lake’s west wall and traversed below most of the loose slopes closer to a shoulder on 13,577’. These slopes certainly were loose, steep, and seemed to never end. About halfway up, we found short sections of more stable (low class 3) rock to climb. The terrain angle mellowed as we reached and quickly left the summit of 13,577’ at 11:15am. And we confirmed that those slopes were ones that we did not want to descend.
The loose and steep South Slopes of PT 13,577’ from Lily Lake:
Hiking the steep slopes:
We had to keep moving to allow for time to get all 3 intended peaks and my sick body. PT 13,660’ to our southwest was 0.5 miles away and we knew we’d have some more class 2+/3 terrain to climb. The ridge from the saddle to the summit certainly is a scramble, airy in some spots, and having snow and/or ice would add some spice to it. Luckily the only element we had to fight were the winds. The scramble is pretty straight-forward – stay on or slightly to the right of the ridge. We summited PT 13,660’ 40 minutes at 12:00pm after leaving 13,577’ and left right away.
The connecting ridge from 13,577’ to 13,660’ (a bit trickier than it looks):
Climbing to PT 13,660’; PT 13,577 directly behind:
We re-grouped at the saddle and discussed previously seeing a faint trail that skirts the west side of unranked PT 13,420’ and taking us to California’s South Ridge. Although we were side-hilling, the rock was much more stable. We got to the PT 13,420’-California saddle and followed an easy line north straight up to California’s summit where we reached at 1:50pm. This summit reminded me of exactly how Mt. Lindsey’s summit is – you hike along the summit ridge for a bit before a short final pitch to the top. Once again, these 13ers provide some of the best vantage points of the surrounding 14ers and California’s views were nothing shy of that – especially the impressive views of the Sand Dunes.
Our route which contoured below PT 13,420’ to California’s South Ridge (taken from 13,577’-13,660’ saddle):
Another photo looking back at the route from 13,660’, traversing below PT 13,420:
The remaining South Ridge route of California after PT 13,420’:
The final walk to the summit:
Fish-eye shot of the Blanca Massif from the summit of California:
California provides an imposing view of the Sand Dunes:
Our descent route from California’s North Ridge (bailed near 13,400’):
We started back down California’s North Ridge at 2:15pm aiming for the low spot along the ridge to bail since our car-shuttle attempt failed. We bailed around 13,400’ through a short upper loose scree section before finding a grassy slope to continue down. We then contoured around the south (right) side of a large tree patch through some more boulder-field hopping and bushwhacking which eventually dumped us back on the standard trail. Our descent line was essentially a straight bee-line down from the ridge. Only another half mile and we returned to the car at the upper trailhead 2 hours later (4:15pm) satisfied with the work done that weekend. What another solid weekend with great friends and climbing partners, camping and climbing on a nice fall weekend! And thanks to Kelly and Kyle for waiting up for my sick self to catch up what seemed like all the time!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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