| A San Juan Introduction, and Preview of Coming Attractions
Peak: San Luis
Route: Standard, Stewart Creek Trail
RT Distance: 13 Miles
Elevation Gain: 3,600 Feet
Participants: stevevets689, Kim
This preview has been approved for general audiences
Their goal? To stop erosion on Broken Hand Pass in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Crestone Needle looms, with the dream of climbing it ever present.
Will hail, lightening, rock fall, and 30 days of hard work thwart their plans?
Find out… in my next trip report!
Coming soon (hopefully)
And now, for our feature presentation
Two years after climbing my first 14er, my original climbing partner was back in town. My sister, Kim, works in the Czech Republic and is an excellent hiker, and she was ready for business when I came back from my 30 day adventure in the Sangres. She didn't think I would want to go back to the mountains so soon, but only five days after returning to civilization I was once again setting up camp in the wilderness, this time to hike San Luis Peak.
As with my previous trip with my sister, our day started with a not-so-alpine start. We got up at around 7:30 and were on the trail by 8. Stewart Creek enraptured us as we hiked along the easy trail, going by dam after dam built by beavers long ago. Each dam had vegetation well established on it. We talked away the miles, thinking about how this would be a good trail for our parents to check out and start hiking again.
After not quite an hour, we passed by the old log building that Bill speaks of in his route description. This made me realize we were exceeding a whole two miles per hour up the trail! Chuck Yeager would be proud. We continued on the great trail.
About an hour later we started walking through the highest limits of the trees and into the Alpine. I started noticing all the flora that I had learned about in the last month, including an abundance of alpine sorrel, the only edible plant I know how to identify above treeline. I munched on a few of the leaves as we cruised up the slopes towards the 13,090 foot saddle between San Luis Peak and Organ Mountain. The trail remains excellent, though a little slick with small grained basalt pebbles.
We reached the saddle and started the traverse around the lower part of San Luis' Northeast ridge. This gigantic talus field has somehow accommodated a road-like trail all the way until it reaches the ridge again. San Luis appears very large, but it's smaller and closer than it looks.
At 11:20, we reached the smaller than expected summit. We were just in time to meet a couple hiking up from the town of Creede. I looked around, and realized that more than 180 degrees of my view was all San Juan vastness, and this is only the outskirts! Nearby, to the North and South, are two more of Colorado's top 100. Off in the distance stood mighty Uncompahgre Peak and its sharper neighbor, Wetterhorn Peak. Further to the south are the Vestal Group and the Needles, and finally Rio Grande Pyramid.
Twenty minutes later it was getting a little too windy and chilly for comfort so we started our descent. We couldn't exactly blaze down the trail due to the slippery nature of the dirt coming down from the saddle, but we kept a pretty good pace. We reentered the forest and realized that we were hiking by bristlecone pines, some of the oldest living organisms on the planet. But the scale of these trees is still dwarfed by the processes that created the nearby peaks. What's 700 to 2,000 years compared to the great eruptions that shaped the landscape 10 to 20 million years ago?
Now that we were back in the trees, our fast pace resumed. We admired the endless beaver dams once again en route to the car, which we reached at 2:30. We were very happy about our time, and realized that even though we kept a good pace, we were still able to soak in a fantastic experience in the La Garita Wilderness. It was a very, very gentle introduction to the San Juans. Somehow, I think it was more like nodding in acknowledgment to a worthy opponent before entering the ring with them.