| La Garita weekend
Who: scotthsu and Nice Axe
Day 1 (7/11/09) itinerary: Cebolla TH (11500') to Stewart Peak (13983') to Baldy Alto (13698') back to TH, ~10 miles RT, ~4000' climbed, car-to-car time 6.25 hours
Day 2 (7/12/09) itinerary: Eddiesville TH (10320') to Organ Mtn (13801') and back, ~8.4 miles RT, ~3500' climbed, car-to-car time ~5 hours
Other than hiking San Luis Peak many years ago, we hadn't spent any time in the La Garitas. Add in two Roach classic routes, and this turned out to be a wonderful weekend exploring an area new to us with the bonus of three new summits! (Roach's 13ers guide is a good reference for these hikes.)
On Friday afternoon (7/10/09), we drove from Los Alamos, NM to the Cebolla TH (via Alamosa, Monte Vista, Saguache, and finally miles of gentle but beautiful dirt roads). We found a nice meadow a few minutes east of the TH on forest road 790 and parked there for the night. Mosquitoes were active so we hid in the car watching a DVD for awhile before turning in.
Day 1 (7/11/09):
It was a clear night and we didn't get up until 6:30am. We drove to the TH and were hiking just before 7am. There's a sign-in register a few feet from the road, and the obvious trail starts zig-zagging immediately up the slope on the east side of the creek. The trail was easy to follow, and we reached tree-line (~12000') in under 30 minutes. In front of us was a vast sea of willows with wooden poles marking the way through. Unranked Baldy Chato (13401') is visible from here. It was a long walk up through the willows and then onto the NE shoulder of Baldy Chato. Amy looking back at the sea of willows and treeline far below:
Soon we crested the NE ridge of Baldy Chato and got our first view of Stewart:
Shortly, we ran into a solo woman hiker from Grand Junction also on her way to Stewart Pk. She was taking her time enjoying the views and spotting wildlife in the amazing escarpment to the east. Here's Amy looking down the escarpment (remnants of a volcanic caldera, according to the solo woman hiker), with Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre visible in the distance:
From here it was an easy walk on grassy slopes toward the 13540' saddle west of Stewart Pk. We heard squawking in the distance and saw a HUGE herd of elk, but they were too far for good pictures. Amy walking the grassy slopes toward the 13540' saddle west of Stewart Pk:
From the saddle, it was steeper but still easy hiking to the summit. View of Organ Mtn (13801'), Phoenix Pk (13895'), and Baldy Alto (13698') from just west of the summit of Stewart Pk (13983'):
We arrived on the summit of Stewart Pk at 9:25am. On the summit of Stewart (thanks to 14ers.com member summitwolf for taking the photo!):
We had a quick snack on the summit, chatted with summitwolf, and then headed back down so we could summit Baldy Alto before the clouds started to threaten. From the 13540' saddle, it was more easy walking across grass and then some talus hopping. Amy in front of Column Ridge:
Shortly, we descended a steep slope (class 1+) to the ~13100' saddle between Stewart and Baldy Alto. Looking up the ridge toward Baldy Alto:
We arrived at the summit of Baldy Alto at 10:40am:
We saw some sheep on the way down:
These flowers were all over the place:
We pressed on to the 13540' saddle and kept going since clouds were starting to build. View of Baldy Chato:
We skipped Baldy Chato due to the dark clouds and hurried back down through the willows to treeline as lightning flashed 2-3 miles away. Amy about to reach the safety of treeline:
We were soon back to the car around 1:15pm, and rain drops started falling as we drove away. This was a really pleasant hike that stayed above 13000' for most of the trip. We both thought that the Roach classic rating was well-deserved.
We drove over to the Eddiesville TH and found a nearby spot next to the road overlooking Stewart Creek to camp for the night. We spent an hour intermittently sitting out on our camp chairs swatting mosquitoes and diving into the car due to passing showers. Finally, we got sick of the mosquitoes and passing showers and hid in the car to watch another DVD, sweating our asses off when the sun would come out. We both thought that we needed to spend more time hiking that day instead of sitting around all afternoon. After some dinner and a few more Battlestar Galactica episodes, we finally turned in around 9:40pm. It rained on and off all night. I woke up several times to the rain patter on the roof of the car.
Day 2 (7/12/09):
The alarm went off at 6am, but it was rainy and overcast, so we kept sleeping. Finally a little before 7am, the clouds started to part and we got motivated, getting on the trail at 7:23am. Following Roach‘s description, we found the start of the Canon Hondo trail (~50‘ to the north of the creek), which is the key to an easy ascent up this valley. We got to treeline around 11900' in about 1.25 hours and then headed up the slope toward the ridge:
Soon we saw this herd of elk making time up toward the ridge that is N-NE from Organ Mtn:
We would later descend the same grassy slope on the way down. The elk made it up that slope (~700') in ~5 minutes! This would give Jason Halladay a run for his money
When we got to the top of the ridge, the elk were nowhere in sight but we had a nice view of Organ Mtn:
From here it was easy pleasant walking to the summit, which we reached at 9:50am making for a ~2.5 hour ascent. View of Baldy Alto and Stewart Pk from the summit:
After snacking and relaxing on the summit for 30 minutes, we started heading down, but not before scrambling on top of and peering over into the impressive "organ pipes":
We walked back down the NE ridge of Organ and then descended the long grassy slope (on which we saw the elk earlier). We found the trail with no problem (around 12000') and started making time back to the car. Amy found this cool jaw bone with teeth and all:
We were back at the car around 12:15pm and got the hell out of dodge before the mosquitoes could feast on us any further. Another nice hike and summit, although we both felt this Organ east slopes route was slightly less deserving of the Roach classic rating than the Stewart north slopes route.
A view of Organ (left) and Stewart (right) during the drive out:
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):