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Peak(s):  Humboldt Peak  -  14,064 feet
Post Date:  07/15/2008
Modified:  07/16/2008
Date Climbed:   07/12/2008
Posted By:  KeithK


 Mmm... Sangre-licious!!!   

Humboldt Peak (14,064')
July 12, 2008
West Ridge (Standard)
Round Trip: ~7 miles
Elevation Gain: 3100'
Adam(avs88fan), Aaron(CUAaron25), KeithK


Sometimes words just can't describe an experience adequately enough, and describing this trip is proving difficult for me. Even though this would be my 2nd trip into the Sangre de Cristo mountains, it would prove to be one of the most satisfying days of my modest 14er quest. There is something magical, perhaps mystical, about these mountains, and having the opportunity to finally get my feet wet, so to speak, was one that I won't soon forget.

I had been kicking around potential hikes, toying with my first trip up to South Colony Lakes, when I noticed a post by Adam, looking for someone to join him on a journey down south. Aaron jumped on board, and the three of us met at 2 a.m. at the Lincoln Station Light Rail parking garage, loaded into Adam's Xterra, and set off into the deep, dark night. At least traveling south on I-25 is a welcome change from the usual slog westbound, and we seemed to make good time through the Springs, down to Florence and on to Westcliffe. Of course, these are all paved highways, so it's important to savor every mile up to Colfax Lane, because as Gerry Roach might say, the introduction is over! This was a maiden voyage for all three of us, and the South Colony Lakes road had our attention early and often. Adam did a solid job of keeping his Xterra intact, and after nearly an hour of bobble-headed nausea, we reached the "lower" parking area before the second stream crossing. Awe-inspiring outlines of famous peaks were becoming visible in the dawning day, and I literally felt chills as I began to consume the surroundings. We basically slid into the last space available, as there were already 10 or 12 vehicles in the lot. I guess people didn't want to deal with the stream crossing, even though it really didn't look deep enough to pose any real issues, at least in daylight. Darkness was a different story. For all of its challenge, though, there were still brave drivers up there, including a Subaru Forester, Toyota Highlander, and Volvo SUV. Those folks are certainly braver than I. We munched on some breakfast, donned our layers and packs, and set off down the road, the chill, damp mountain air providing welcome relief from the roller coaster ride we had just survived.

Our destination towering over the valley, truly a sentinel guarding a special place...


The first half mile or so of the standard trail traverses the majority of the lingering snow, and there is a solid boot pack through the three snowfields that are at all worth mentioning.

Snow in July! Ick.






As we reached the end of the "road", where it becomes trail, I noticed Adam seeming to wobble a little bit. A minute later, he was leaning on his trekking poles, and I assumed he was just getting warmed up, as the first 15 minutes of every hike prove to be a grind for me. He said he wasn't feeling good, so we stopped for a break. I decided to take off my fleece and apply some sunscreen, when I heard a crash. Turning around, Adam was laying on the ground, face down, having just feinted! I don't think we were expecting that... Picking himself up, he sat down for a snack and some fluids, as a couple and their young boy caught up to us. We chatted for a bit, and I asked the youngster how old he was. "Eleven," was the reply. "Where are you headed?" "Crestone Needle," he said. Wow! I was impressed. Turns out this was his 45th fourteener, with Little Bear on the agenda for next weekend. We bid them good luck, rested for a couple more minutes, and Adam decided to continue.

A look ahead at the trail...


Humboldt Peak from the elbow of the basin...


Another view of the route ahead...


By now Aaron was well ahead, and we wouldn't see him again until the summit. The guy can definitely cover some ground in a hurry! A pleasant and short while later, we gazed upon the splendor of the South Colony basin. The Needle absolutely dominates the area, and commands one's attention.

Crestone Needle, are you freakin' kidding?


Aaron captured a couple of great shots from the stream crossing...




The stream crossing; not an easy challenge for a one-armed hiker...


A look up at Broken Hand Pass...


The trail winds through the brush along the east side of the lower lake, before climbing gently up to the upper lake. The Needle is as close as it will be on the entire hike at this point, and suddenly the eastern summit of the Peak creates an ominous skyline.

The mighty Crestones!


A look at the Ellingwood Arete; we could hear climbers up there...


A view of the upper basin, where the switchbacks take over...


Forging ahead, the real ascent begins, as the trail begins to switchback up the slope towards the saddle and Humboldt's west ridge. The trail is in excellent condition, and the CFI did a great job building rock steps and filling in erosion troughs. The wildflowers added hues of blue, red and yellow against the lush green backdrop of the hillside, and it was a truly beautiful day to be in such an amazing place.

A lonely Columbine, precariously perched underneath one of the uncountable rock steps...


Looking up at the saddle...


As we climbed, I heard sporadic yelling across the basin, coming from the Arete. I kept trying to see who was calling out "belay on!" every so often, but I never did see any climbers. The scale of this place is absolutely spectacular, and it will make a person feel very, very small. Gaining the saddle seemed like a small victory, until I looked up at the ridge in front of me! It seemed like the summit was a long, long ways away. The air was still very cool, and it was hard to determine just what the weather might do. Of course, the infamous Sangre mist was beginning to envelope the surroundings, and it was quite exciting to see it in person.

South Colony Lakes from below the saddle...


A look up at the route from just below the saddle...


North Colony Lakes from the saddle, with the mist beginning to creep up the valley...


Looking back over South Colony Lakes from the saddle...


Starting up the ridge; the hiking is still fairly easy and not too steep, yet...


North Colony Lakes used to be down there somewhere!


One of my favorite pictures from the entire trip...


Farther up the ridge, Aaron captured this...


By now I was feeling the effects of upward movement, and slowing down a bit. The breeze was picking up, and I donned my fleece again just to keep the chill away. The trail steepens on the ridge, and is still easy to follow up until a talus field blocks simple passage. Cairns are well placed and plentiful, though, and route finding is elementary. Stopping numerous times to catch my breath, I noticed some more remarkable scenery.

Bench Lake, nestled below the Bear's Playground and Obstruction Peak...


Kit Carson and Bear's Playground...


Milwaukee Peak and Broken Hand Peak, with a very faint outline of the Blanca group in the background...


A look at the rocky slope ahead; keep looking for cairns...




Skirting to the south of the false summit...


A few hikers caught up to us, and at this point, about half way up the ridge, Adam proceeded at his own comfortable pace while I continued to pick my way through and over the talus. Having only one good arm, I found it easier to finally stow my trekking pole, and use my good hand to assist in the climbing. A descending hiker assured me that I could make it without serious risk, and offered a tip or two for the final summit pitch. From cairn to cairn, it was a challenging, enjoyable day, and I knew that I would make it to the summit; a great feeling on any fourteener, but especially exciting for me on this day.

Hey, that's no cairn, that's a marmot!!!


A look over the Wet Mountain Valley, shrouded in cloud...


Circling past the false summit, the final stretch to the real summit presents itself...


I crossed the easy ground before the summit, catching glimpses of the nearly vertical north face as I prepared myself for one last little scramble up the ledges that guard the summit. There was a difficult move or two, and then I found a natural ramp that I could tightrope along the ledge and onto the summit! I think Aaron and Adam were napping by now, but they were also keeping some pesky critters company.

Marmots like Aaron; this particular one was hungry for his "soles" ( )...


A pika lurking in the wind break...


Aaron's proof of purchase...


My first Sangre summit!


Looking out over the east ridge, an interesting optical illusion...


Mount Adams, Little Baldy, Fluted Peak, Horn Peak and Colony Baldy make up the nearest view to the north...


Tijeras Peak, with Milwaukee Peak in the foreground...


Still one of my big goals for this year, Kit Carson Peak...


It was a perfect day, with no wind to speak of on the summit, and comfortably warm but not hot. Still, it was time to start the downclimb, and more one-armed fun as I deliberately and carefully lowered myself down the ledges from the summit. Not exactly the fastest descent ever, but we worked our way down the ridge without incident, and could see triumphant souls on the summit of the Needle as we descended. Back down in the basin, I had to have some parting shots.

Another look at that big hunk of rock...


Glancing back from whence we came...


I had mentioned to Adam a pack trail that was being discussed on the 14ers.com forums the day before, and we talked about whether it would save enough time or distance to care. As we made our way down to the lower lake, I had all but forgotten about it, when we looked over and saw the stream crossing to our right; we had obviously taken the wrong trail without even trying. I don't have any pictures of this "shortcut", but it's on the topo map, labeled as "Pack Trail", and is in great shape, and obviously maintained fairly recently. A pleasant but steep hike led us down into the forest, and straight back to the parking lot! We actually managed to beat Aaron and another group of climbers that had passed us up by the upper lake. I'd say this shortcut is well worth considering, at least on the way down. It's pretty steep, so I'd stick to the standard trail going up, plus you would miss the sign for the Needle, one of my favorite sites on any hike.

Loading our gear into the truck, I think we all felt satisfied, if not elated, to have made this trip. Now, only 5.5 miles of brutal rock, dirt and water was left to round out the adventure.

A shot of the road just below the parking lot...


We bounced and jangled down the steep, unrelenting track, holding onto the belief that it would be over soon enough. Not nearly soon enough! Eventually we hit the asphalt, Aaron and I cracked open an ice cold can of Fat Tire, and driving back through Florence, we learned a valuable lesson for the next time. Turn RIGHT onto 115, not left. Left takes you to Canon City, which is the wrong way. Unless you want to go to Canon City. We didn't. Oh well!

Finally on pavement, a nice look back at the day's achievement...


Humboldt Peak was a great official introduction to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains; one I will certainly remember forever. Spectacular is not an overstatement, and the South Colony Lakes basin is incredible. Without a doubt, this was one of the most enjoyable hikes I've done, and I can't wait to go back for the other peaks in the area!

If that's not enough, check out the guys that were making all that "noise" across the basin...

 


  • Comments or Questions
KirkT


Congratulations...     02/05/2011 00:22
on your first Sangre Summit! I have to agree of the three times I‘ve been there, it always takes your breath away staring up at the Needle. You‘ll love climbing that mountain. Hope your gearing up for Snowmass!

Kirk


covfrrider


My first Sangre summit...     07/16/2008 03:20
was also Humboldt... a bit more more snow (12 feet or so) there in May though... Good job on the one armed bandit climbing, that‘s 2 now!

I also noticed the gray 14ers.com shirt... I also had my gray one on for Castle.



CUaaron25


This was one heck of a way     07/16/2008 14:15
to spend a Saturday. Negotiating the upper part of that ridge before it levels off is a ton of fun! Nice TR Keith. I also read your Longs one as well nice pics in that! I think I‘m gonna do that tomorrow, that should slow me down a little ehh


Joygo

Very Inspiring!     07/16/2008 14:22
Thanks for the great report! My husband and I are headed for Humboldt and our first Sangre summit (we hope!) this Thursday.


SarahT


Green!     11/30/2010 17:28
Keith, excellent TR and pics. I can't believe how GREEN it is there - the greenest I've ever seen by far! I guess all that snow was good for something. Congrats on your first Sangre 14er... the Sangres are a special place indeed.


rsincavage


it was a great day     07/16/2008 16:25
KeithK- I spoke with you briefly on my way down and the others while on the summit. I also started down that ”shortcut” pack trail at the bottom by accident. I thought it would be quicker that way, but decided to backtrack and stick to the main trail instead.


avs88fan


Nice pics     07/16/2008 18:13
Sweet Report Keith. I couldn‘t have told it any better. It was nice hiking with you.


KeithK


Yes, very green!     07/16/2008 21:08
Kirk, when IS this fabled Snowmass trip? I have 2 more weeks in the cast, then at least a couple of weeks before I suspect I‘d be able to attempt anything remotely difficult. I‘ll do my best, and hopefully it will work out that I can join you.
Sarah, thanks! It was really green, gorgeous in every way. I love July, and I‘m glad I could get in this trip.
Joygo, I hope you have a great hike!
Ryan, it was nice to meet you; that shortcut was pretty nice, and I definitely think it probably saved about 3/4 of a mile.
Adam and Aaron, it was nice hiking with you guys. Hope we can get out again this summer!


ldreher13


Wonderful!     07/16/2008 22:23
Great report! Reading it (and the excitement in your descriptions) gave me goosebumps. Now I am even more excited for Humboldt next week which will also be my first Sangre 14er.



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