| Culebra Peak/Red Mountain - Northwest Ridge
Alonzo, the ranch hand arrived around 5:45am and let us into the gate at 6. We finished our oatmeal and hot chocolate on the way to the headquarters. The other 8 hikers were very friendly, and after we had paid we caught a ride with two of them up the steep road through dense aspen groves to 10,990 feet, saving us about 2.5 miles. We thanked them and started hiking.
Right away we saw a large elk in the road around a forested bend. After hiking on the well maintained road for a few miles, we reached Culebras lower west slopes. The isolation of the area was strong, and the new views were nice. We saw a large herd of big horn sheep on the Northwest ridge above and a half dozen elk running just above tree line over grassy slopes. The day had started well.
Two guys passed us and we would remain shortly behind them to the top. After gaining the ridge, the view of Culebras false summit appeared, which was surprising to me. I expected a gentler mountain, but Culebra has surprisingly steep slopes off either side of the long, snakelike Northwest ridge. A very large cairn added to the view:
A large cornice still held on, and was obviouisly a monster in the winter. It stretched all around the ridges saddle. We made the descent to the saddle and hiked up to the false summit on a faint trail through talus. Culebras final ridge section presented a unique walk up solid black rock. Before long we were on top enjoying the company of the other two hikers. Soon afterward three others arrived and after chatting a while, Debbie and I decided to head over to Red mountain, a ranked 13er.
We were the only ones on the day to make the extended trip. The saddle over to red dropped about 600 feet to a minor false peak and then up to the 13,908 foot summit. The last people to sign the Red register were from the week before and then the previous fall. I noticed several names from 14ers.com and other sites forums.
The clouds had built some elevation so we began to make our way back. We decided to cut a traverse across Culebras southern slopes to avoid the unnecessary elevation gain back to the summit. This was barely a wise move, but turned out to be okay. The large talus was stable for the most part and we regained the Northwest ridge route again just east of the false summit. The remainder of the hike back was relaxing over grassy slopes.
We were fast enough to make it back to 11,000 feet before the other groups left with their cars, so we hitched a ride back down to the headquarters. We paid the extra $50 each for Red for good karma (he had no idea we went over there) and got in the car and headed for Emmas Mexican restaurant in San Luis with six of the other hikers. After lunch, we began the drive up the San Luis valley to hike San Luis Peak and Organ Mountain the next day. Fun times, nice views and good wildlife.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):