| Brutal day in the Sangres stomping up Hunts Peak
Hunts Peak (13,071')
Partner(s): Susan Paul
Trailhead: North Rock Creek
Distance: Approx. 7.0 miles
Elevation Gain: Approx. 3,600'
The weather forecast wasn't good for the 14ers we were originally looking at doing, however the Sangre de Cristo Range looked alright so we set our sights on Hunts Peak, the most northern 13er in the Sangre Range.
We left Colorado Springs and took Hwy 24 west to Hwy 285, then south through Poncha Springs to the top of Poncha Pass. From the pass we drove approximately 4 ¾ miles south to an unmarked dirt road with a cattle guard where we turned left to head east towards the mountains. The crux of the drive was the fairly deep water crossing the San Luis Creek, probably from the snow melting from the last storm, so I was happy to be driving the truck otherwise we would have had a very long hike just to get to the trail.
There are many social (and Jeep) trails but if you stay on the main dirt road you will be fine. At the junction of a sign for Rock Creek we took a left and headed up to North Rock Creek instead to shave some elevation gain from the hike. Due to patches of deep snow and a fallen tree on the trail we parked at the end of North Rock Creek and started hiking from there.
We hiked south on a Jeep trail and crossed South Rock Creek to connect with the South Rock Creek Trail and headed northeast up the drainage. We started post-holing quite a bit so we put on snowshoes and the snow held us very well, at least at first. Our objective was to catch the northwest ridge of Hunts Peak as that was the least steep way to the summit. Once we left the trail to head up the northwest ridge the post-holing fest began, and we were up to our hips in unconsolidated snow. I let Susan break in a nice trench for me, thanks Susan .
At this point we knew we had a very long day ahead of us. I took over trail-breaking responsibilities after the first pitch, and we took turns from there.
Eventually we broke tree line and took a brief break to enjoy the views of the summit above.
Our first views of the peak.
Looking back at Mount Ouray.
Still post-holing .
After our break we continued to follow the ridge towards the summit, which was pretty straight-forward.
We can see the rest of our route from here.
Looking south at the spine of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
There's our peak – only 1,000 vertical feet to go!!
It started off sunny, mellow, and breezy.
The darkening clouds caused a little alarm since the forecast was calling for a 30% chance of thunderstorms on this day. The last 500 feet or so to the summit became very brutal as the wind was blowing at 50-60 mph at least; it was knocking us around and sandblasted us with frozen chunks of ice and snow, making the last stretch to the summit very brutal and difficult. The only good thing was that the wind was blowing from the southwest-west, actually pushing us up the slope at times.
It got a lot steeper and windier the higher we went up.
The summit stretch was also interesting as there was a cornice on one side of the ridge and a steep, loaded, avalanche-prone snow slope on the other.
Cornice to the left and avalanche slope to the right - summit still ahead!
We probed the ridge vigorously with our poles and axes to make sure we weren't stepping out onto the cornice, and made our way to the summit.
Probing our way along the final summit ridge.
Me on the summit.
With the wind whipping so hard we stayed just long enough to take pictures and get our butts back down. The views from the summit were amazing as we could see all the way out into the Sawatch Range to the north as well as down the spine of the Sangre Range to the south. It looked like Mount Princeton was getting a bit of weather as well! Too bad it wasn't nice enough out to enjoy a long stay up there.
Looking south down the spine of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain with Red Mountain (12,994‘ - center) and Twin Sisters (behind Red).
Looking southwest down into the San Luis Valley.
Looking northwest at Mount Ouray (13,971‘ - far left), Point 13,472 (just right of Ouray), and the Sawatch Mountain on far right.
Looking north at the Sawatch Mountains.
It looks sunny down there, but the wind was still battering us for another good hour.
The trip down was even windier, and this time we got the full brunt of it in our faces. Susan kept getting knocked to the ground, and just couldn't make any forward progress. She finally gave up and sat down, then skittered down the slope on all fours, like a crab. I thought that looked like a good idea, so I did the same thing. This was the second windiest day we have ever experienced on a peak.
Finally putting that nasty weather behind us.
It was a great relief to finally get below tree line, pull up a rock, and enjoy a nice lunch of turkey and Swiss cheese bagel sandwiches, hot chocolate, black grapes and blackberries, before our steep plunge-step back to the truck.
Looking back as the clouds break – that just isn't right.
Thanks again Susan for joining me on yet another trip since I greatly enjoyed your company and looking forward to the next outing, hopefully soon .
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