| Humboldt Peak (To David)- East Ridge from South Colony Lakes TH
Date: Saturday, May 5, 2007
Group: USAKeller and TalusMonkey
Route: East Ridge from South Colony Lakes TH
Total elevation gain: ~4,365ft.
This trip report will sound atypical of my standard reports with stats; rather, it's a story of my last day with David. Please live vicariously through our climb of Humboldt Peak.
For quite some time now, two things I have always wanted to do on a 14er were to camp overnight on the summit and watch the sunrise from the summit. With these same desires, David wanted very much to be the one to satisfy my interests and be there with me for this experience. Humboldt Peak it was. We found little information on the East Ridge, but used Dawson's book as the primary resource for our climb.
I met David in Lakewood at 8:00am so we could divide up the tent and make one last gear check. On the road at 8:50am, we arrived at our parking area at 9,700ft. on the South Colony Lakes road at noon. The road conditions were completely dry at the lower 2WD parking area. At around 9,200ft. smaller snow drifts began to show and gradually covered more of the road, but it was no problem for my Durango. The photo below shows the area where we parked. You can also see how snow drifts cover much of the road but by having one side of the vehicle on the mud allowed for sufficient traction to drive through the drifts. David was surprised how far we got up this road.
The turn-around area where we parked (taken from 9,700ft.). A drift (not shown) prevented us from driving any farther:
We started up the road at 12:45pm- I was planning on attempting a summit ski descent so this was my first time climbing in AT boots. For at least a mile up the road, we didn't have any need for flotation. At the first major stream crossing (around 10,000ft.), I slipped on a log and fell in the stream, and, after ringing out my boot liner, I climbed up the mountain with a wet foot! (*EDIT: I did have a fresh pair of socks I put on, but it was the boot liner that was a little wet).
**It's not my intention to add many photos of myself, but David always loved to take action shots of me. He was eager to write this trip report (actually, I was too- we playfully argued who was going to write it!), so some of the following photos are photos I recovered from his camera that I presume he would put in this report.**
Crossing the stream right before I fell in!
We put on skis/snowshoes somewhere near 11,400ft. There is no defined trail on this route- Dawson suggests leaving the road at 10,800ft. and bushwacking straight up through the trees to hit the broad ridge. We left the road after 2 miles and it was a steep climb up in skis- too steep because I kept sliding backwards and falling into the trees- David got an absolute kick out of this! But I had to take them off to climb any farther, mostly because of the steepness, but also because it was hard to travel through this terrain with them on.
Here I am skinning through the trees. The snow was falling lightly at this point and we could hear the wind whistling up high:
David also told me right after he took this photo that he wanted
to put it in the trip report and get it framed. It made me smile:
The East Ridge route is short and steep- generally not a place where you would climb with 20lb.+ overnight backpacks. At this point, my body was getting extremely fatigued and I had to make a decision whether I wanted to stash the skis with David's snowshoes or continue up with them for my first ski descent. At the rate I was going, we both left our flotation just shy of treeline (around 11,800ft.).
Hiking up the ridge- the wind from here until morning never dropped below a sustained 30mph:
I was really getting fatigued. Every time I would catch up to David, he would tell me he couldn't believe how unusually slow I was climbing and how much I wobbled from the wind. I'm blaming most of this on the unfamiliarity of hiking in those boots. He felt really strong that day though. The ridge was just a relatively steep grind up to the summit.
Looking at our route up the ridge (red), our descent route (blue), and the rest of my solo descent (green) (taken from 11,225ft.). The summit is not seen from here:
Above 13,000ft., I stopped more frequently. I was in a bad mood and had David said he didn't want to continue on because of the conditions, I felt at that time I would have been ok turning back. On our drive down there, I played a song by Shaggy called "Hope"- it's about never giving up when times are tough. He told me: "Caroline, remember that song you played for me in the car about never giving up? I brought you here to challenge you- don't give up; we will get to the summit." I climbed on. I found it easier to stay on the snowy areas and kicking steps in whereas David, being the TalusMonkey, climbed up the talus. As we gained more elevation, I got more frustrated from lack of energy. One of my expedition mitts took off with the wind when I stopped to get my headlamp and all I had was a fleece liner glove. The thought of getting in a warm sleeping bag and quickly falling asleep prevailed.
David reached the summit well before me and scouted a place to set up the tent. He would frequently flash his light my way so I could see where he was. I summited about 30min. after him at 9:15pm (when would you ever be able to do this during the summer?!). I fell to my knees and cried because I was so happy to be up there. David fell to his knees too, facing me. He grabbed my shoulders and said, "Do you remember our first climb up Handies Peak together? I know I didn't know you at all, but when we were on the summit, I told you that there was nobody else I would rather be here with than you. That's exactly how I feel right now." I smiled again.
Now, setting up the tent was a huge ordeal in itself to do this in the dark with 35mph+ winds howling across us. I would kneel on the footprint to keep it from blowing away while he attempted to put the steaks in the snow. We found that, combined with the wind, the snow was too soft to hold them in place. But, we unloaded some gear into the tent to keep it in place. However, neither of us realized that a tent pole completely blew off the summit! He looked for it but was unsuccessful, so we were forced to sleep in an un-erected tent. I was starting to feel my extremities freeze, and he ordered me to get into my bag to warm up. David came back and told me he decided he wanted to move the tent to the wind shelter where it was less windy laying on the ground. We moved it and I got in; David following shortly after. I spent most of the night awake- I'm not sure if that had to do with sleeping at altitude or not. David said he got about 3 hours.
Throughout the night, the winds progressively died down to where they were non-existent when we woke up (relatively speaking!) in the morning. We were able to watch the sunrise on a clear, windless, and quiet morning in the Crestones. It was a beautiful moment. We didn't want it to end.
The sun beginning to rise:
First light on the Crestones:
A photo at our "camp" on the summit with Crestone Needle (left) and Crestone Peak (right):
And, perhaps the most important, memorable, and personal favorite photo- USAKeller and TalusMonkey on the summit of Humboldt Peak:
We broke down and packed up camp. We decided to avoid going back down the rocky ridge and take one of the couloirs on the south face where we would be able to heel-step down.
David descending Humboldt Peak:
For obvious and appropriate reasons, I will stop there.
David, I was thrilled to climb with you again. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for fulfilling a dream I had of camping and watching a sunrise from the summit of one of Colorado's Fourteeners. I couldn't have imagined any better of a place to do this than in the Crestones with anyone else other than you. It will be an experience I will never forget. I hope you enjoy my trip report.
*Ski descent information: you can definitely ski from the summit. There are a few rocky areas near the top, but both of the couloirs (especially the one we began our descent in) looked like a great ski.
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Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):