| My First 14er
All my life I've wanted to climb to the top of one of those 14,000 foot mountains in Colorado, but never could fit it in. Sometime around my 56th birthday, I decided that I had waited long enough. Like my dad used to say, I wasn't going to do it any younger. So, when I saw on the 14ers.com website that a group was getting together to climb Culebra Peak, I jumped at the opportunity. Culebra was on the list of
"easier" climbs (more about "easier" later), and I would be with a group, which my wife Beverly insisted on for safety reasons.
So, on Saturday, July 14 Beverly and I arrived in the tiny town of San Luis, CO for the "Culebra II" group climb. We had spent the previous night in Salida to get a little acclimatization in, and because we like Salida. On Saturday afternoon we met with some of the group, and drove out to the ranch gate to make sure we could find it. (Culebra is the only 14er on private property). Here is a view of Culebra from
the dirt road to the ranch:
On Saturday night we had dinner with other members of the group, then went to bed early. Come Sunday morning the group was up at 5:00 a.m., on the road to the ranch at 5:30, at the ranch gate when it opened at 6:00, finished with the check in procedures by 6:30, and at the upper trailhead around 7:00. Here is a view of the initial slope upward from the trailhead:
Once you reach the ridge at the top of the initial slope, you turn right and follow the ridge toward a rock cairn that marks the route. Here's a close up view of the cairn, with the summit in the background:
From the cairn, the route is clear: Stay on the ridge as it winds its way toward the summit. But when you think that the end is in sight, it's not. What you are actually seeing is a false summit, with the real summit hidden from view. Here's the false summit:
It is actually not necessary to go over the top of the false summit; you can make your way around it. A lot of rock hopping and a little scrambling are necessary. After getting over or around the false summit, the real summit comes into view:
And, what you've been waiting for, here are views from the summit facing four different directions:
Being a 56-year-old rookie flatlander, I was the last of our group to reach the summit. I reached the summit around noon. And, of course I was the last one back, reaching the trailhead around 4:30, about an hour behind the guy that I was riding with. (Sorry to keep you waiting, Jay). We were back at the ranch headquarters at
5:00, well before the 6:00 check-out deadline. And my wonderful wife was waiting at the ranch gate with a couple of cold bottles of water for me.
I trained very hard to get in shape to climb my first 14er. And I thought that I was in shape. But although Culebra is on the list of "easier" 14ers, there was nothing easy about it. Even the experienced climbers said that it was more difficult than expected. It was, without question, the hardest thing physically that I have ever done.
OK, I've got this thing about climbing a 14er out of my system now. On the flight back I let Beverly take the yoke of the Mooney for a while so I could rest. But I found myself looking at the Denver aeronautical chart, locating other 14ers, and finding the closest nearby airport.
(Note: This trip report is a supplement to the group trip report prepared by karadiamond. I wanted to add my own perspective as a rookie flatlander. Thanks to everybody in the "Culebra II" group for your encouragement and for sharing this adventure with me).
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):