| Winter Ascent of Culebra Peak
Culebra Peak, Winter 2010
Route: Standard Route, starting from gate 1.9 miles below ranch.
Length: 18 miles RT
Vertical: 5400 feet
Ascent Party: 16 total.
Immediate group: Ken, Sarah T, Dominic, Dan (CVV 15er), Michael (Boggy B), Jim (Dancesatmoonrise)
Ten down, two to go, it's been a great winter. I'm looking at over 20,000 verts for the week. Cool. So…what's on for the weekend? Sarah doesn't think their plans will work for me at this point in my "career" as she calls it. : ) What are they up to? Don't know, doesn't matter, she's getting to know me pretty well, and I totally trust her and Dominic…though admit to being curious. Antero has been on the winter list for a while; their team did it two weeks ago, Kirk did it last week, so it's open for a scoot – though I'm a little sketchy on that summit ridge from Kevin's photos. No matter, I'm learning it's all just one step at a time, and seeing it with your own eyes. OK, Antero it is. Then Steve comes along and wants to do La Plata – we'd wanted to do that together a few weeks ago, OK, La Plata it is. I'm all packed, ready to go.
I get home on from my bike ride on Thursday and check messages: Carole says they're opening up Culebra this Saturday. Really? Thirty-six hours notice? Gee, I don't know… I call her back, Carlos is clearing a track to Four-Way tomorrow. They're not letting anyone drive past the gate. Meet at 6:00 am. Eighteen miles RT… Sounds like my style.
I put the word out. To my surprise, there is a big response. Sarah, Dominic, and Ken are in. Perfect! Dan wants to go. I really enjoyed hiking with Dan on Princeton on January 30. Great guy, and pretty fast. He needs a ride from Denver, but hooks up with Michael. This is even better; Michael was on Princeton as well, and really showed his mettle on Antero last November in white-out conditions so bad that I was turned around before even getting to the TH. This is beginning to sound good.
Meanwhile the list continues to grow.
Carlos arranges for Colorado bluebird skies. At 6:00 am on Saturday morning the 6th of March, it's butt-cold before sunrise, but in the pre-dawn light, it's a festive atmosphere. Hikers, snowshoers, skiers, and even a snow cat commence from the parking lot. I'm on snow with Nordic gear at 6:51 am.
Carlos is working hard on the snowmobile to pick up folks from the back of the line and run them up the hill. You can tell this guy loves his job, and really enjoys seeing the rare winter climb on the ranch! While being hosted on a 14er is a new experience, I find Carlos is handy when needed, but unobtrusive when climbing. It works out really well, and my apprehensions are easily allayed. He hands out water at Four-way on the descent. I wonder if he'd like to do some other 14ers with us?
The kids in the snowcat are up at Four-way first, as expected. Our crew of six arrives next. I change out from Nordic gear to boots and snowshoes, while Dan waits for Michael. Meanwhile, Sarah, Dominic, and Ken go on to explore the safest route up the bowl. We don't have to wait long for Michael, and soon we're following a faint ridge with some exposed talus up the right side of the bowl.
Meanwhile, Sarah opens up the afterburners and slips between the cracks of human consciousness, leaving our unknown counterparts behind so as not to arouse any notion to follow, as she makes her way back while Dominic and I crest the summit ridge. Ken soon joins the summit party, along with Dan and Michael. It's a gorgeous day; we can see into New Mexico, out West into the San Luis Valley and the distant peaks beyond, and gain a unique perspective on the Blanca group, as well as a southerly view of the Spanish Peaks.
Lance and Caroline meet us near the summit on skis; Mike is not far behind. The other Mike has been long gone (there are four Mikes on the trip.)
Sarah and Dominic are fast on the descent with Michael and Dan. We get to Four-way, where I change back to Nordic gear. Carlos is in a talkative mood, and we enjoy a little socializing before I take off on the boards. The hill is about at the limit of slope angle for my Nordic tastes, but gets me down in a hurry. At the bunkhouse, we sign out and relax with some refreshments. Next year, we're going to order pizza and beer and ask that it be put on the tab. Yes, there are bunk beds just in case.
The crew heads down the road while I chat with Carlos a bit more, asking him to please let Bobby and Carole know we had a great time and all went well. I ride by my slogging friends, and commiserate, "Brutal, isn't it?" as the boards gently carry me off to the car at 10 mph. I feel like George Jettson with the spaceship in my briefcase.
It doesn't take long for my younger peers to reach the cars, though, where to their dismay the old guy once again bails on restaurant food and beers for the comfort of getting home early and resting the sore bones. We decide that maybe on one of these trips we can do something less than a 12 hour day, and maybe have a little more time for dinner and beers.
Winter is the way to go on this peak; The proprietorship has a much more relaxed attitude about things in winter. Carole had asked that everyone in our group be experienced in winter mountaineering; I understand what she was getting at, and as long as we can keep it like that, I think we will continue to be welcomed on this 77,000 acre ranch that contains a few high points of interest to many of us.
Thanks again to all for a really fun outing!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):