Peak(s):  California Pk  -  13,849 feet
PT 13,660 A  -  13,660 feet
PT 13,577  -  13,577 feet
Post Date:  10/01/2013
Date Climbed:   09/28/2013
Posted By:  bergsteigen

 California dreaming on such a winters day     

Pt 13577, Pt 13660 A, California Peak

Trailhead: Lilly Lake
Mileage: 8.55
Elevation Gain: 4,180'
Partner: Solo

With the recent snows and trying to plan a trip with a new partner (on Sunday), I hoped the southern Sangres would have less snow, and have great views. So up the long dirt road I went. Soon I began to see a dusting of snow on the road, then it became thicker the higher I went. Once beyond the lower 2WD trailhead, I ended up putting my truck into 4WD just so I wouldn't slide around as much. I was the only tracks this far up, at this point. With all the icy mud puddles, I was having fun. I like to see if I can get the water over the roof of my lifted truck. Based on having to run my wipers a lot, I'd say I was successful!

Once at the trailhead, I hunkered down for the cold and very windy night. I had to grill my dinner inside my truck, with only the windows cracked, because of the wind, cold and snow. The grill warmed up the back of my truck nicely, though it did make it kinda smokey. All night long the wind gusts would rock my truck around, but I managed to get a decent rest. I woke up to find 2 other vehicles at the trailhead, with one of them being a partner from a few years back. Small world!

Started after sunrise, since it was going to be a relatively short but very cold day. Wish I had packed my thicker gloves, but made do with what I had. The trail started off snowy, but not deep enough to need gaiters. With the falling leaves, the lower trail was rather pretty, as I started on my way to the Lilly Lake trail split.

Start of snowy trail

First view of nearby peaks

Blanca and Ellingwood Pt

Leaves on a snowy trail

After the trail split, the snow got deeper in places the higher I went. The deepest being right below Lilly Lake on the switchbacks in the meadow. Being lazy, and not wanting to put on my gaiters, I rock hopped and managed to stay dry. The views of Blanca and Ellingwood Pt were absolutely spectacular all morning, and I found myself frequently stopping to take photos.

Snowy creek crossing

Snow brings out the contrasts

Icy stream

Once up at Lilly Lake, I take a short break to take in the views and to spy my route. I had wanted to go up Pt 13,660 A first, instead of going up and over Pt 13,577 twice, but the terrain wasn't looking good yet. It looked like a nasty scree slope to ascend. Scree is ok to go down, but I hate 1 step up, to only slide most of the way back down again. So I figured I would traverse along, and see if I could find a better option.

Pt 13,660 A in distance

Slope up to Pt 13,577 - I took slope up on the left side

Lilly Lake

Lilly Lake

Once I was between the 2 lakes, I decided to go up Pt 13,577 first and not deal with the scree and talus hopping. A little bit of extra elevation gain would be easier than crossing and ascending that terrain! So I went up a moderately loose slope up to the summit of Pt 13,577.

Slope up Pt 13,660 A looks... scree-eee

Pano from Pt 13,577


Ridge to Pt 13,660 A

Huerfano, Lindsey and Huerfanito

After a short break to admire the views, I head over to Pt 13,660 A on mostly class 2 slopes. Only the very upper section of Pt 13,660 A gave me slight pause with the snow. I would call it minor class 2+, mostly due to snow covering easier options.

Ridge up Pt 13,660 A

Pano from Pt 13,660 A


Twin Peaks

Thankfully the snow filled in a traverse (so that I could spot it), that would allow me to skip re-summitting Pt 13,577. It was stable talus hopping and a not too steep slope with no extra elevation gain. Once on the Pt 13,577 - California saddle, it was an easy stroll to the final summit. I sat up top for quite a while, despite the chilly wind, just looking at the frosty peaks around me. Snow always makes things look so much more beautiful and interesting!

Looking down the ridge off Pt 13,660 A - some minor class 2+

Ridge to California

Pano from California

Blanca group and Twin Peaks

Crestones and Sand Dunes

Finally tearing myself away from the summit, I make my way down the north ridge. I knew there was a trail way way down the ridge that takes you back to the 2WD trailhead, but that was out of my way. So I was hoping to spot a better way down. I was thinking of hitting the ridge bump and then taking that slope down, till I saw a WROD. Hmmm, could I plunge step it? Yes I could! So a very quick descent of some elevation had me traversing over to the final slope down to the trail below, where I found an intermittent stream gully that went without cliffing out. It places me back at the first meadow you come to on the trail, a mere 0.2mi from the trailhead. Lots of melting had occurred in the sun, and much of the trail was now dry.

Looking back up at the north ridge of California

Looking down the north ridge, spying a way down to the upper TH

WROD! Plunge stepping never felt so good

Looking back at my descent off California

Meadow in the afternoon - lots of melting

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Download GPX file cannot be downloaded (per author)

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

Great Trio o' peaks     10/01/2013 20:42
Beautiful pics! Nice TR. I especially like the title...


Arghh     04/02/2015 19:45
I wish you'd said something! Cali + friends have been on my list for a while - almost did it 3 weeks ago with Huerfano (just so not to drive that never-ending road again ), but didn't have a partner. Looks cold and snowy! Indeed, the Blanca group looked plastered from our vantage point on Sunday. Well, thanks for the beta anyways


Smashing...     10/01/2013 21:38 - the frost and lighting are begging for more B and W photos. Pt. 13,660's east slopes do look nasty. Nice route finding to make a loop of it.


Your trip reports     10/02/2013 00:13
are amazing. You have such an eye for taking photos. Looks like it was a beautiful day. Grilling in your car!!!! That made me laugh.


What a difference a week makes     10/02/2013 00:34
I was in that area the week before and there was no snow. Quite a bit more wintry for your outing, but such is the way of it in fall. Good work climbing some cool peaks.

I Man

I want royalties...     10/02/2013 00:45
...for the TR title...though I am glad you didn't use your original choice!

Oh yea...nice job 8)


Sweet     10/02/2013 14:31
Looks like a great day! Nice route


Nice!     10/02/2013 14:56
I was up on Huerfano that day and think I encountered your Sunday climbing partner on the road out (german accent in a camper?). We met on a narrow stretch, and I had to back up a bit for us to get by each other. She asked if I'd seen a woman in a green truck at the trailhead. It dawned on me after seeing your report.

So do you think the slopes up to 13,577 would be better as a snow climb? I've been thinking of going up there, but everything I've heard tells me not to go up that scree. And your images 8&9 make it look nasty. So I was thinking either wait for spring snow conditions or look into a western approach. Didn't sound like you held a grudge, though. Thoughts?


Thanks!     10/02/2013 20:58
Jed - Was singing that song all day... Was windy when I was there too!

Natalie - I sometimes forget to get partners, coordinating is tricky!

rajz06 - Loops are preferred, just not always possible. I don't typically do B&W, but that view just called for it!

goingup - A hungry gal will do what is needed to get my # of meat to my face! I'm glad it was my truck, as I can wash the back out easily!

Tornadoman - Winter conditions come quickly in September! Not great for alpine climbing, but great for hiking routes.

Matt - Ha! That's what you get for putting the song in my head before I went! No one would get the original choice

druid2112 - It was an amazing bluebird day with frosted peaks. Nothing better IMO!

CarpeDM - Yep, you ran into Ute. If I knew that road better (it's been 4 years) I would have told her to not bring the big truck! Hmmm, 13,577 as a snow climb - not sure which side would hold snow the best. It was not the worst slope I've ascended. Just a few spots where nothing stayed put. Didn't set of any geology alarms, but still annoying. The east face of 13,660 would be the better snow climb for sure. That face will wind load, and in spring after it sets up, would be great. I'd ski it.

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