| San Luis Peak (South Ridge) and Organ Mtn- West Willow Creek TH
Date: November 16, 2007
Team: USAKeller and comin2getcha
Route: East Slopes from Eddiesville TH
Total mileage: ~11.2 miles (including part of the traverse to San Luis Peak)
Total elevation gain: ~3,460ft. (including part of the climb back up from the traverse)
Total time out (including stop time): ~8hrs. 15min.
Lance and I drove down Thursday night and slept off of Forest Service 790. We didn't set an alarm - woke up at 7:15am, got ready, and drove to the Eddiesville TH. This trailhead is just east of the popular Stewart Creek TH. For the East Slopes route on Organ Mtn, turn south (right) and there will be a locked gate with a small parking area here. We started briefly along the Colorado Trail at 9:30am (temperature: 45 deg.), and headed west through some grass about 150ft. from the Skyline Trail/Continental Divide Trail (N38deg 1m19.6s, W106deg 50m,13.2s; elevation: ~10,470ft.) towards the unmarked Cañon Hondo Trail a few hundred feet from the CDT. We were able to find this without any problem. The trail through the trees is well-defined for the first 1.5 miles, but, as Roach describes, does fade in and out (near N38deg 0m39.9s, W106deg 51m,27.9s; elevation: 11,240ft.). By the way, Roach's route description for this route is very accurate. comin2getcha did a great job navigating through the forest! After 2.5 miles hiking in the trees, we came to the end of Cañon Hondo and left treeline making an ascending traverse (on no trail) towards a steep ridge to the west (Organ Mtn's northeast ridge). At the top of the ridge, we were finally able to see the summit. We had to cross a small plateau around 13,000ft. before reaching the gentle upper east ridge on Organ (second photo below).
At the end of the Cañon Hondo Trail, turn right (west) and head towards the large
ridge in the upper right portion of the photo (Organ Mtn cannot be seen in this photo):
The remaining route to Organ Mtn from the lower ridge:
We summited in 3.5hrs. at 1:10pm (temperature: 40 deg.) and enjoyed a calm and sunny, short break. We had intentions of traversing over to San Luis via Organ's West Ridge but it was already late in the afternoon. We decided to try it and picked a bail point as the standard Stewart Creek trail to head down if we weren't making great time (as it turns out, that was later the case). We first started down some "organ pipes" on surprisingly solid rock (on climber's left).
The "organ pipes" (a steep but solid rock gully just before the summit):
Lance had read that the crux of the traverse required dropping a few hundred feet below a narrow, deep gully on the south side of the ridge. Trying to figure out where exactly to cross the gully once we dropped down took more time than we thought, and we turned around to head back towards a saddle north of Organ and then back down to the Cañon Hondo Trail.
The gully (crux of the route) along the traverse from Organ Mtn to San Luis. The route in green that crosses the gully is the recommended
way to cross the gully to avoid the cliff bands (photo taken during the hike to San Luis):
As it always seems, the trail back down seemed easier to find and stay on. Back to the truck at 5:45pm and tired, we decided to stay in Gunnison that night before heading to Creede to hit San Luis from the south on Saturday.
Date: November 17, 2007
Route: South Ridge (non-standard) from West Willow Creek TH
Total mileage: 11.6 miles
Total elevation gain: 3,720ft.
Total time out (including stop time): 7hrs.
We woke up at 6:30am (knowing we were in for another late start), quickly got ready and drove to Creede via Slumgullion Pass (really neat views of Uncompahgre Peak from here). We arrived at the trailhead and started heading northeast up an easy-to-follow old 4WD road at 10:15am to the 12,360ft. saddle east of Point 12,540. From the saddle, first views of San Luis Peak appear.
The unmarked trailhead (Forest Service 503 does continue up towards San Luis Pass).
There is a very small parking area on the right side of the road:
Taken from higher up on Forest Service 503, this photo shows the route to the 12,300ft. saddle:
We dropped 150ft. to meet up with the excellent Colorado Trail, which took us down through the trees another few hundred feet to a low-point of about 11,860ft. Before we knew where the low-point was, we could see the trail leading back up to the second saddle from across the basin. At first, we weren't terribly excited to drop that low into the basin, however, we were happier to see that the CT contours around the basin.
From this vantage point (12,300ft. saddle), San Luis (upper left part of the photo) looks
deceivingly close. The well-defined Colorado Trail leads down through trees on the south
side of the basin (this particular section cannot be seen in the photo):
The majority of the route leading up to the second saddle in the upper Spring Creek drainage (12,360ft.):
It wasn't until treeline at the start of the basin where we saw the most snow we've seen this season thus far. Snow (mixed hardpack and powder) covered almost the entire trail until we turned left heading northwest up to the second saddle. While the use of gaiters wouldn't have necessarily helped, we were still sinking a few inches trudging through the snow.
The rest of the route (still on the CT) contours around the basin, leading up to our next
vantage point (the 12,360ft. saddle):
About half way around the basin, a sign marked "Bondholder Meadows" sits there marking a few campsites to camp at (probably for CT travelers). It would be a neat place to camp despite the lack of shelter. Once at the 12,360ft. saddle, we could see the entire route we took from the first saddle, and estimated the trip around the basin to be about 1 mile (it took us about 45min. to travel through the trees to the second saddle). The photo below shows this route.
A look back at most of the route from the 12,300ft. saddle (taken from upper Spring Creek drainage at 12,360ft.):
From this second saddle, we could see we had another basin to contour around, the same way we did with the first, along with a long trek through the snow along the south and east sides of the basin to our next objective: the 12,600ft. saddle between San Luis and Point 13,155. The second basin drops about 150ft. (if that), and we estimated this basin to be another mile to get around. The two photos below show this route.
Looking back at the first half of the route around the second basin (left photo, taken from the saddle) and the last half of the route up to the 12,600ft. saddle (right photo):
From this saddle, the rest of the route is still class 1, and an easy walk-up over a few false summits (a little over a mile) to the summit (seen in the photo below). Along this ridge, a few snow flurries came, but nothing that accumulated or lasted. We reached the summit in 3hrs. 50min at 2:05pm (temperature: 30 deg.). The standard route from Stewart Creek looked very dry.
The remaining route to the summit (not seen in the photo) from the 12,600ft. saddle:
We stayed on the summit for 15 minutes (it was cold and windy) and headed back down quickly, hoping to be at the end of the first basin before dark. We hauled back down the ridge, and through the snow in both basins, making excellent time. We found ourselves having to hike back up 400ft. to the first saddle just southeast of Point 12,540. Although we weren't looking forward to it, the ascent back up was not bad at all after the mileage and elevation gain we had that day and the previous day. We had 1 mile left to go back down the old 4WD road to the car, which we could see the entire way back down, and arrived to at 5:10pm (2hrs. 50min. descent from the summit of San Luis). It felt great to be off our feet. After returning back to Boulder late Saturday night, we were quite pleased with being in the San Juans enjoying nice fall hikes!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):