| The winds won
In the Sangre de Cristos shooting for Lucky 7 for the year. Handies Peak was our 6th last Monday 9/29.
We had stayed in a B & B (that served no breakfast – go figure!?) in Westcliffe and left the comforts of the inn at 5:30. It was a short easy drive to the 2WD parking lot…and then the real drive began. We were a little nervous about the drive after reading and hearing how bad the 4WD road was. So throwing caution aside, we drove very slowly.
About 1-1/2 miles in, we saw a hiker's headlamp off to the side so we stopped to pick up Derrick from Madison, WI who parked his Subaru after deciding the road got a little hairy. He was heading up to do Crestone Needle. He was good company for the remaining 4.5 miles as we bumped and bounced our way up. We pulled over to let 2 "speeders" (a CRV & a Jeep) pass. We valued our oil pan so we slowly crept on. The final 5.5 miles took forever and we hit the TH at 7:15. Just as we parked, a pickup roared in with two college aged kids in the cab and two standing in the bed hanging onto the cab. And we thought we had a ride!!!
It was a cool 34 degrees with a brisk wind moving the clouds quickly overhead. We said "Good luck" to Derrick who quickly headed up trail to the Needle (solo). We took photos of the 4 "truckers" and they returned the favor with Humboldt as the backdrop.
They took off energetically and the uphill queen, Jo, set our measured pace. The trail was well defined and scenic. The Crestones are magnificent and we watched the clouds blast past, envelope the peaks and then move away.
The wind was more noticeable as we hit lower South Colony Lake.
The clouds became a thick, high blanket but not threatening. We fought the wind blowing straight in our faces but thought it might be better when we got above valley. Boy, were we wrong. I was blown off the trail by a gust when we were on the trail paralleling upper South Colony Lake and we hadn't cleared the ridge to the saddle.
When we hit the saddle at 12,850' the wind was between 40 to 60+ mph and we were almost crawling from rock to rock keeping as low as possible. Decision time! Jo, the uphill queen, was watching the 4 college kids who were well up the ridge and around the false summit. She thought it very unusual they (with all their youth and energy) were moving so slowly and attributed it to being even more windy up there.
So at around 12,900+' and a mile from the top, we opted to turn around. Disappointed, yes! but satisfied with our decision! Humboldt will be there in the future. The trucking foursome was coming down too and we assumed they made the summit.
At the sign-in sheet, we were relieved to see Derrick had signed "OUT!" and was down and safe, as we had worried about him hiking alone given the winds and weather.
The foursome was scurrying down quickly and caught us back in the parking lot. We were curious as to how windy it was on top…but they never made the top either. They stopped short around the false summit because the winds were a sustained 60 mph or more. They put on every piece of clothing but the wind still penetrated their Gortex. They felt "scrubbed" and "burned" by the wind. So they too opted to turn back – making us feel much better about our decision. They were headed back to Colorado Springs the way they came in – two standing and whooping it up as they bounced away, the truck splashing through the creek crossing.
Ah! the joys of youth!!!
We, of course, preserved the integrity of our 8 year old Inifiniti QX4, and slowly crawled our way back to Westcliffe for a well deserved pizza, beer and relaxation.
"Lucky 7" never proved lucky but 6-3/4 14ers ain't bad either for the year.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):