| Colony Baldy - Humboldt‘s neighbor
Colony Baldy (13,705)
From: Horn Creek TH
Approx. 12.3 mi, 4700 ft
Partners: Dominic, Hermann
Since un-acclimated Hermann had proven himself on Saturday's climb of "Lackawanna", it was time to execute step two of the plan: Colony Baldy on Sunday. Kane's trip report from last week indicating favorable snow conditions were enough to make me quit pondering Colony Baldy and finally go for it. Thanks Kane! The Colony Baldy approach is longer than it needs to be – the private property to its east prevents easy access and necessitates a long trail hike in from much further north.
We made the short drive from Salida to Westcliffe on Sunday morning. Once again, the weather was looking questionable – it was snowing lightly and when the sun began to rise we saw that it was very cloudy. We started hiking shortly after 7, telling ourselves that the sun would quickly burn the clouds away. From the parking lot we followed the signed 4X4 road/trail for about half of a mile to its intersection with the Rainbow Trail. We then headed left (south) on the Rainbow Trail and continued for about 2.5 miles to the Macey Lake turnoff. The trail was a mix of bare spots and well consolidated snow.
About 0.2 miles past the Macey Lake turnoff at a sharp bend in the trail we started looking around for Kane's footprints which would indicate a nice spot to start climbing up to Colony Baldy's northeast ridge. Although they were very obscured, we found them and began the short, steep ascent to gain the ridge proper. Snowshoes were very useful, if not necessary, for this off-trail section in the trees. Once on top, the going was very easy – gentle terrain, very consolidated snow, not too much bushwhacking. The last few hundred feet to treeline were a little more difficult as the snow was more sugary. We could hear the wind warning us from above that the remainder of the ascent wasn't going to be easy.
At treeline we stashed our snowshoes and geared up for the wind. The sun was still teasing us, poking out very once in a while. 1.5 miles to go on a very windy ridge. How was Hermann going to take it? As we made our way up the sun disappeared and it began snowing – the icy kind that stings like heck when the wind whips it in your face. The wind and blowing snow became pretty intense, even for a seasoned Colorado hiker. I was feeling bad for exposing Hermann to my masochistic idea of a fun time and I was thinking that surely he thinks Dominic and I are completely insane for continuing on in such madness. He kept plodding on though and didn't complain. Finally we stopped to break out the face masks and goggles. Shortly before the summit Hermann needed some hand warmers. At about 12:30 we summitted. I'm pretty sure we had better views than Kane did last week (yes I'm being sarcastic). Visibility was on the order of 10's of feet. No hope in hell for catching a glimpse of Humboldt or the Crestones. In fact, just turning your face that way hurt pretty badly. While we took a very short rest on the summit, I somehow managed to sign the summit register.
We were all happy to get out of there! The descent back to treeline went pretty quickly and we got more and more relief from the wind and snow the further down we went. We strapped our snowshoes back on and made quick work of the ridge through the trees. I guess it had warmed up slightly down there because the snow was in worse shape than when we had come up. The top several inches were getting slushy.
We popped back out on the Rainbow Trail, strapped our snowshoes to our packs, and prepared for the 3+ mile trek back to the TH. Hermann wasn't feeling so good again. It seems to be the descent that makes him sick. This time he really did throw up. I felt really bad for him. He was still in a good mood though and set a mad pace back to the TH. The snow was pretty mushy, but the only problem it posed was wet boots. We arrived back at the car after 9 hours of hiking.
It's a shame we didn't get to see anything up there, but so goes it. Hermann actually understood some of the appeal of hiking in such conditions and was glad we gave him the chance to experience it. What a relief! His only experience with climbing mountains was some high peaks in Bolivia and he said that even though he was sick most of the time, he never experienced anything even close to what we went through on Colony Baldy. He might even come back to visit again!
pictures & route map: