| Back in the Saddle
Back in the Saddle
Wildhorse Peak (13,266’)
Blackwall Mountain (13,073’)
San Juan Range
Wildhorse Peak and Blackwall Mountain (highest points l. to r.) from the N ridge of Handies Peak (picture taken the next day)
Hikers: Me and my friends
(l. to r., Terri Horvath, Darin Baker, Denise Snow, & Carson Black)
Trailhead: Horsethief Trail, No. 215 (accessed from mile marker 17 on E side of Engineer Pass)
Note: We drove a Nissan Xterra to the TH, and after the drive, Carson mentioned he would have been comfortable driving his Subaru Forrester to the TH.
Route: see map at the end of the report
Distance: ~9.5mi’s RT
Elevation Gain: ~2500’ (to a flatlander, this felt like 25,000’ of gain!)
Difficulty: Class 2 hiking without a constant trail while on a lot of tundra; easy route finding
Denise and Terri crossing American Flats en route to Wildhorse Peak (prominent peak in photo)
Gear: daypacks w/Essentials
Resources Used For Trip Planning: Above+Beyond’s trip report from earlier this summer; TOPO!; weather forecast (NOAA); Trails Illustrated Map #141
Pining my time in the lowlands of Louisiana while on a work project – six months strong. Still not done, but f*ck it. I’m going on vacation!
This area of the San Juan Range has been a long time favorite since the beginning of my Colorado mountain travels. These peaks caught my attention last fall while on a hike of Sunshine Mountain (13,321’). Then a report earlier this summer (noted above) sealed the deal for me: I will hike them while I’m home for vacation!
Finding a few friends to tag along was not hard. Thank you Terri, Carson, & Denise for a fine day in the hills! It’s always a pleasure to share a trail and a story with plenty of laughs with each of you!
We met up the night before our hike and car-camped just past the Capitol City “for sale” sign on the Henson Creek Rd. On the Trails Illustrated map, one can see a sheep corral with a notation about a bathroom….well there’s no bathroom. But there is a corral. There’s also a sign suggesting to people not to recreate in the area. Our recreation was elsewhere, so we didn’t have any concerns.
The morning came and we made the drive up to Engineer Pass in search of the trail head. Thanks to Above+Beyond’s detailed report, our search was not hard.
Now – onto the report for which the pictures will tell most of the story. I hope you’ll enjoy them. And might I suggest you take a walk in this part of our fine state, you won’t regret it.
Back in the Saddle….
We got to the trail head sometime just before this…..
You don’t see a sunrise like that in Louisiana!
Starting from the Horsethief TH, we walked up an old stock road which eventually flattens out and the views open up to the N/NE with the sights of Coxcomb, Redcliff, Wetterhorn, and Uncompahgre dominating the expansive scenery. Of course, our first goal (Wildhorse Pk) was clearly seen right away.
Wildhorse Peak (13,266’ and its S slopes)
In the above photo, we ascended the SE ridge as can be seen on the sky line on the right side.
Also in the photo you can see a cluster of white specks on the shadow line of the S slopes. That was a herd of sheep with sheep herders (i.e., dogs) in tow! Quite the scene and it made for an interesting ascent with the blats and barks of our fellow 4-legged mountain travelers.
Watch Dog with Mt Sneffels and Teakettle Mountain beyond
Looking up the S slopes
Denise and Carson near the edge of the SE ridge of Wildhorse
Darin coming up the ridge with American Lake below
Photo by Terri
The view from the ridge
Denise waits on the summit while the rest of us approach
Photo by Terri
On the summit of Wildhorse
Our next goal, front and center: Blackwall Mountain
For our descent, we chose a gully option off the E side for a quick and painless way down. The gully is mostly fine scree to a mix of tundra and rock farther down.
Denise and Carson starting the descent
Photo by Terri
Looking down at the base of the descent gully
Looking up at the descent gully off of Wildhorse’s E side
Dragons Back (12,968’)
Denise to the E of 12,913’ before dropping down on the approach to the base of the SE slopes of Blackwall Mtn
The approach to SE slopes of Blackwall. Our goal was to round the corner of the rock spine and cross the talus to ascend tundra slopes.
Looking back along the approach
Denise and Carson patiently waiting for the flatlander to ascend the SE slopes
Photo by Terri
Terri crossing the last section of ridge to the summit of Blackwall Mountain (Grenadiers beyond)
Get the funk out
We spent some time enjoying the views but we knew the clouds forming overhead wouldn’t allow us to stay too long. We descended the way we came, and made our way back to American Flats. By that time, I was slowing down and feeling the effects of being away from the high country. I wasn’t sick or anything, but I did feel a little low on energy. This hike is above treeline for a long time.
However, a reminder from the clouds shot a quick boost of energy into my system and I was able to pick up the pace! That reminder was an instant flash/bang! There was thunder in the distance as we re-crossed the Flats, but this one strike nearby was enough to make all of us a bit nervous!
I didn’t have hair standing on my arms nor did I hear ringing in my poles, but that was my closest encounter with such an immediate loud flash/bang. I think our friend Steve was playing games with us! We miss you Steve.
A round of hail, anyone?
This was a great day in the hills, and a great way to start my vacation!
Thanks for reading,
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):