| Culebra Peak
After a hard two days on the Crestones and a heavy night of sleep in our Trinidad cockroach motel, Jen and I spent a leisurely day of rest touring around northern New Mexico. We drove up a dormant volcano (Capulin Mountain); we bought some beer at a liquor store in the sleepy town of Raton; and then we drove on some scenic roads. I must not have gotten the memo that it was National Drive-Like-An-Ass Day. For a good two hours, I don't think I was ever able to break the speed limit. For the most part, we were traveling 20 mph under the speed limit. But at least we weren't in a hurry to get anywhere, so I didn't let it bother me too much.
On our way to San Luis, via the long route, we decided to stop in the charming little ski town of Cuchara for lunch. Apparently, that little town is mighty popular with Texans, Oklahomans and Arkansans.
Later on that afternoon we rolled into San Luis, which is the oldest town in Colorado, by the way. When in that town – or passing through it – you'll be constantly reminded of that. Seems they're rather proud about that fact.
Shortly after checking into the San Luis Inn, we were drinking beers with other members of our group.
Around 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, July 8, our caravan of cars rolled out of the parking lot. Bill and John lagged behind. About 20 minutes later, Carlos (I think that's his name) was directing us through the gate while talking to a solo climber. The climber was asking if he could get in, but he was denied access because he wasn't on the list (i.e., didn't have a reservation). Lesson learned: If you don't have a reservation, don't hang out at the gate hoping to get in. Even if they have open slots, they won't take you.
After paying our fees (felt like pimps with all the $100 bills floating around) and turning in our waivers, we took the 4x4 road up to Four Way. Speaking of the road, it's not that rough but it was quite steep. Gave the engine a little rev.
Here's our climbing posse at Four Way (Left to Right: Mike Sr., Amy, Hannah, Jen, Mike Jr., Aubrey, Ryan, Bill and John):
At 6:30 a.m., like a scene from Reservoir Dogs, we all headed up the road toward the southernmost 14er in Colorado. The road had a gentle grade and it was a good warm-up.
At the upper 4WD parking area we started up a faint trail/road toward the ridge, which was far up and away from us. Within minutes our group had spread out across the grassy tundra. There's no real trail in this section. For some reason we gravitated to the left.
Here's a shot of Mike and Amy, looking back down the valley:
While the hiking was easy, the slope was steep, and it just kept going on and on and … I kind of wished I had brought my poles.
As we got higher, we found a faint road that switchbacked up the slope. It sort of made things a little easier.
Jen ascending the slope:
At the time I was kind of in the middle of the pack, and I just followed the leaders as they made their way toward the high point on the ridge. Unfortunately, we didn't really need to climb that high. Had I known, we should've started skirting toward the right.
Looking up toward the high point on the ridge:
Once we gained the ridge, it was pretty straightforward from there. We just followed its spine all the way around and to the false summit above us. There were some pretty large, phallic cairns up there as well, so it'd be hard (no pun intended) to get lost.
Here's a look back at the first ridge section (we climbed almost all the way up to the high point on the far right, which wasn't really necessary):
Some parts of the ridge were a little rocky, but nothing exceeded easy class 2. There were even some wide grassy knolls up there.
After we passed over the false summit (er, more or less skirted to the right and just below it), it was just a rocky scamper over to the true summit. One section had some interesting shale that looked kind of like lava rock.
Within two to two-and-a-half hours of starting, everyone in our party made the summit.
This was a special day for our friend John Tayer, as this was his FINAL 14er! Ryan carried up the celebratory beverage and we all passed it around, whincing with each swallow.
Here's a shot of the group on the summit, with Bill long-arming the camera to get us all in:
The Spanish Peaks to the northeast:
A view toward the south, with New Mexico in the background:
On the way back down into the lower valley, we decided to descend the slope on the other side. It was steeper but shorter than the way we went up. That side of the slope still held some snow, but it was easy to avoid.
Post-climb hunger set in but we couldn't find anywhere to eat in San Luis, so we went on to Fort Garland and stopped at Del's Diner for some good ol' burgers and fries. They were out of chocolate malts, though.
Our group in the Del's Diner parking lot, with the Blanca group in the background:
In the lower valley, here are the routes we took (going up in yellow; coming down in orange):
Overall it was a pretty fun-filled day on the snake!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):