| Humboldt Peak, in memory of the TalusMonkey
Route: Standard, West Ridge
Distance: Appx. 9 miles for most of us
Gain: Appx. 3,340 feet
Starting Temp: 37 degrees
Summit Temp: 46 degrees with 10 to 20 mph wind
Participants (taken from jamienellis's list): USAKeller, sdkeil, jamienellis, shanahan96, skasgaard, kurtyB, swturner, ChrisP, stevevets689, del_sur, highmountaindrifter, Rockymtnhigh69, KirkT, Jeff_F, goatgirl, denalibound & Kevin, Scott Patterson & Kessler, guitmo223 & Scott, Merlin6803, roozers42, TK and Bob, shad, danielsb, CODave & Kate, tragal + Susanne, astrobassman, Christine, Jon, Pete, Mots010, Alex, James Scott, and Mr. Sketchy McSketcherson (whoever you are, give us a shout!)
I am writing this in the memory of our beloved TalusMonkey. Though I never personally knew him, I have the honor of writing the report of his tribute climb. I hope I do it justice.
Planning for this hike began in May, shortly after the passing of TalusMonkey, a.k.a. David Worthington. We wanted to climb a peak in his honor. Which peak was obvious; it seemed only fitting that we climbed the peak on which he lost his life. The day was planned to be the weekend that his birthday came on. That said, our plan was to camp in the South Colony Lakes area on Saturday and make our ascent of Humboldt Peak the next day, June 17th.
Friday night consisted in some last minute planning and packing. I checked the route again on 14ers.com to make sure I knew what we were doing. I also checked the route in Garry Roach's book to double check. I packed up, preparing for snow and postholing, though not expecting much of it. The next morning I got up at around 0900 and got my things together. Caroline (USAKeller) and I met at her fitness center, loaded her things in my car and were headed for Denver at around 1015. We then met Shawn (sdkeil) at his place, loaded our things into his car and were off to Westcliffe. But for a few annoying slow drivers, we had an uneventful journey and arrived at the pizza place in Westcliffe, arriving right on time. Slowly, our little 14ers group grew to take up two sets of tables, and we all had good times eating pizza, drinking beer (or at least those old enough to buy it), making fun of Kiefer (Skasgaard), and trying to discover just how many blondes it takes to figure out the radios. With two, they did manage to get them working as far as a 10 foot distance!
Caroline and Jamie attempting to figure out the radios
About halfway through our pizza madness, we noticed that it was raining pretty hard outside. Luckily it did basically stop by the time we were done, but higher up the rain was already working its devious plan against us. We all met at the lower trailhead and grouped up in the 4wd vehicles; Shawn, Caroline and I got into Vince's (Rockymtnhigh69) brand new Jeep Liberty. The first mile or so of the road went pretty smoothly, but soon we started running into problems. The road was very wet and had small running streams here and there, so we had to put up with the jeep sliding off rocks and other such scary discomforts. Kiefer did a good job of leading the way up the road, his head sometimes sticking out of his truck's window.
Kiefer's Toyota contorted on South Colony Lakes Road
Amazingly, with the help of Kiefer and Shawn (our expert spotters) the jeep made it all the way past the crux. We did have to stop a little under a mile from the upper TH, but it was definitely better than hiking the entire road. Kiefer was to continue to the upper TH, so the rest of us offloaded our gear into his Toyota Tacoma "Sherpa Edition," and while he drove the rest of the way, we started walking.
The Toyota Tacoma "Sherpa Edition" loaded with packs
Bear in mind that it was still pretty humid and wet. We were pretty much in a cloud. When we did finally spot Crestone Needle through the trees, it was hardly more than an outline, but it was still magnificent. Shortly before the upper TH, I was taking pictures of the surroundings and turned to my right. "There's Humboldt." I said. Caroline, Shawn and Pete (Shawn's friend) looked up, and at the same time we all realized that we were looking at the same area that David's search and rescue mission took place. For a few minutes, we just stood there in silence. It was a very emotional moment, especially for Caroline. After a while we continued on.
Humboldt's South slopes. David fell in the left gully when there was more snow
After a little bit more walking we arrived at the upper TH and encountered a bunch of other 14ers.com members. A lot of introductions were made, and though a few of us were considering marching up to the lower lake to camp we decided it would be better to camp at the upper TH.
Shawn, Caroline, Pete and I headed across the creek and set up our camp, then returned to the TH for chatting, Colt 45, and in my case dinner. We talked a lot about David and his five-year-in-advance planning, first encounters and impressions, etc. When it started to get dark, we decided on a 0500 start, returned to our tents, stowed our grub in a tree (and yes, there has been a bear sighting up there recently) and crawled into our sleeping bags. For backpacking I slept pretty well. I was plenty warm enough in my 20 degree bag and my 20 dollar tent. Apparently there were a series of gunshots coming from the lake, but I only heard one of them somehow.
At 0415 my alarm went off. I got some warm clothes on and started filling some water bottles. While filling them, I noticed a light coming down the hill near our campsite. I stared into it for a while, wondering what (or who) it could be. Finally, I heard a very disturbing noise… "Get up Craka' Steve!!!" It was Jamie (shanahan96) and his teddy bear hiking buddy, Crestone. I made sure they knew I was awake and they went to go wake up Caroline, Shawn and Pete. We got off to a bit of a late start, as it was about 0530 when we were at the registration booth. At any rate, off we went.
The 14ers.com team starting on the trail
The trail to the lake is in pretty good shape. There are a few muddy patches, plus a few snowfields that have to be crossed. The snow had footprints in it but some of them were pretty icy and the reassurance of trekking poles would be nice. We basically hiked in single file, watching the glow as the sun poked through the valley we came up. We did lose the trail at one point but found it again pretty quickly.
The sun rising over South Colony drainage
We went by a sign that pointed the way to Broken Hand Pass, "Crestone Needle Standard Route" and couldn't help but look at the snowy pass, wondering at how steep it is. Supposedly it's not as steep as it looks, but it would definitely need an ax and crampons still. Soon we came across the creek crossing, which goes fairly well right now. The opposite bank has snow which reaches out over the creek, and it proved strong enough to hold us one by one. Be careful here though, as it won't stay that strong forever.
After the crossing, it's just a trail, with a tiny bit of snow here and there. Eventually the upper lake came into view, with an interesting shape of ice that looks like a paw print. The Crestones look absolutely incredible from this angle; a huge, seemingly impregnable wall with deep, snow filled gullies and topped with a jagged ridge. The Needle is to the left, Peak to the right.
The trail switchbacks up some 800 vertical feet to the saddle between Humboldt and Point 13,290. From here it's steeper and rockier, but still not that bad. A bit of rock hopping is the hardest it gets, and it's nearly impossible to get off-route. One must only follow the cairns, and if you can't see one, well the ridge is a pretty good guide, too.
Humboldt's West Ridge
At this point, my stevevets syndrome was kicking in (this means I slowed down a lot) so I had fallen behind most of the group. After a while, Jeff (Jeff_F) caught up to me and up we went together. Upon approaching the false summit, I saw someone waving on top of it. At first I thought they were just waving, but after a bit I realized they were directing us to the right. So, I don't know what's to the left but apparently the right side is better. We encountered Vince and his dog, Jeter, on their way down. He told us that most of everyone else were still on the summit but they had run out of Cap'n *tear*.
Humboldt's summit ridge
A little bit of scrambling later, Jeff and I were on the summit with everyone else. We had missed most of the party by then but Jamie (jamienellis) still had some brownies and birthday candles and hats left over, so we didn't feel entirely left out. I sat down and ate my brownie with relish, enjoying the fact that I had just doubled my 14er list! Next time I'll have to climb two at once so I get to double my list twice.
Some of the 14ers.com team on the summit with the Crestones behind
Zoomed in image of the Blanca group from the summit
Kit Carson Mountain from the summit
The view to the North from the summit
Crestone Needle (left) and Crestone Peak (right) from the summit
We hung out on the summit for a while, took a bunch of pictures, and then Shawn, Caroline, Pete and I started down. On the way down we went by the youngest in the group, five-year-old Kessler, and his dad, Scott Patterson (Scott Patterson). I still think it's amazing that a kid that age can do what he can. I always thought that when you hear about these little guys doing the things they do, their parents carry them. I don't know about the rest of them, but this is not the case with Kessler!
Shawn, Caroline, Pete, and Chris (Chris_P) descending from the summit
Down, down down… we found Dave (CODave), Kate (Kate) and Jamie (jamienellis) at the saddle. We took a quick rest and continued on down the switchbacks. We got down to the Upper Lake where shanahan96 was waiting for us and took another quick rest while the Jamies were reunited, Kiefer scared a marmot away from his pack, and other festivities took place. Soon it was Caroline, Shawn, Pete, Kiefer and I headed down the trail… wait, which trail? Oh look, we're on the "direct route" back to the upper TH. You can see this route on the map as the trail without the big turn in it under Broken Hand Peak. It is pretty direct for sure, but not well maintained at all. At least in the areas where the trail dies, there are orange and black ribbons to guide the way.
The trail dropped us off right near our camp. We tiredly packed up our gear, said goodbye to friends, and headed out. Vince, Shawn, Caroline and I walked down the road (now quite dry) and eventually caught up to the Jeep. We loaded up and started down. Shawn's excellent spotter skills were put to the test yet again as we encountered obstacle after obstacle. Poor Vince was not liking this road one bit, and neither did we. We were all glad to be past all the major problems and going down the road smoothly again. Once we arrived at the lower TH, however, we were greeted by a surprise… Shawn had a flat tire. We got plenty of sympathetic cars stopping by on their way out, and once the doughnut was on we were off. Devine intervention kicked in, however, and Shawn noticed a building that had tires nearby and was open. $12 and a few minutes later the tire was fixed! If a flat ever happens to you, find this garage on the way out of town, they are downright awesome.
I don't know about anyone else, but I'm pretty sure that David Worthington was smiling down on us as we celebrated his birthday. A better party idea would not be possible in this case. I'm so glad that I was able to attend. The day was perfect despite the little holdups. I for one had a moment on the way up while I was feeling the sapping symptoms of stevevets syndrome when I wasn't thinking very positively, and I thought I was going to turn back. A moment later, my feelings reversed. This usually isn't such an easy thing to do, and I am positive that there was a certain someone nudging me on to the summit. Thanks for the climb, David. We all love you.
I'd also like to send out a big thank you to Jamie (jamienellis) for organizing the climb, Vince for driving us up and down that god forsaken road, to Dave (CODave) for putting together talusmonkey.com and making a page for all our photos, and to all who attended for your support and company. We are a family, more close-knit than many would expect.
Please visit my homepage for my photo album of this hike: http://picasaweb.google.com/coloradoclimberguy
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):