| Wrapping Up Some Unfinished Business
After failing to get the remaining two 13'ers in this valley a couple of weeks ago, we found ourselves packing to go back in again and get 'em. My husband and I took off Thursday after work loaded down with burgers and fries, and camped along the road to the Shavano trailhead. The lack of snow, compared to two weeks ago, was evident and gave us confidence that we would have success on this trip.
Friday morning saw us opening up the Patio Pancake Place in Salida, and then driving down to the all-too-familiar parking area for the Rito Alto Trailhead. We packed our packs and were soon on our way. The "obstacle course" that we had encountered before had changed a bit … the boot-sucking-mud had dried up for the most part and "the river the trail" was almost nonexistent. However, the mosquitoes were out in full force (at least until about 2/3 of the way in on the trail), so applying the bug stuff was helpful.
After a couple of miles, we both slipped into our rhythm and mentally adopted the "pack mule for a day" mentality. I swear I have this trail memorized and we passed many landmarks on the way to our previous campsite below Unnamed 13,062. We opted to continue on the trail, past the Cotton Pass trail junction, ford the creek and to a camp near a beautiful meadow with views of Unnamed 13,028 (our second objective for tomorrow).
Unnamed 13,028 From Camp
Camp was set up, water filtered, DPA's consumed, firewood gathered, dinner eaten, and bedtime upon us. I had packed in "Alone in the Wilderness", a book by a man who lived in the Alaskan outback … he built his own cabin, along with furniture, grew his own garden, hunted for food, and stayed through a winter. This is a wonderful story, and I took the time to read a chapter aloud before both of us fell into a slumber.
We knew the weather was supposed to be questionable this weekend throughout the state, but hoped that we could get our two peaks in before the front came through. On Saturday, we awoke to the pitter patter of rain on the tent, and a very low ceiling of dark clouds. Not a good sign … but, we shouldered our packs and headed up the valley. There had been so much snowmelt go on in the past two weeks that we never used our snowshoes and were able to pick our way up to the lake (including an intense creek jumping). I'm not really the "creek jumping" type … short people usually aren't, but I survived even though images of submerging myself at the beginning of the day ran through my mind.
Once at the lake, we were familiar with our route and followed the creek that flows from Mas Altos Lake up into the high basin. We ascended some snow to an area just above the small lakelet below Mas Altos … we had a great view of the east face of Unnamed 13,060 and noticed a fairly direct route up to the ridge of the peak. It was a nice path on grass and dirt. The weather, which had been disconcerting, became even more so the higher we got. Just before we got to the ridge, the wind kicked up and the snow began to fall. Actually, snow falling would have been nicer … we had blowing, biting snow that was driven into your body from whatever direction the wind happened to be blowing.
We hit the ridge in a mini blizzard with no visibility around us. We turned right and headed up to the summit, making sure to not go too close to the edge for fear of being blown over the side. The wind was, at this point, consistently coming at us from the west and there was no escaping it. Soon, we were on the summit … the register jar was broken and the rusted cap by the side … no signing in for us on this one. But, we didn't mind as we just wanted to escape the maelstrom that was beating us about. Down the ridge we went, with every intention of continuing along the undulating ridge eventually to Unnamed 13,028. By the time we descended to the place where we had first joined the ridge, both of us were coated with wet snow (only on the side of our body facing the wind), and elected to drop off the ridge to our ascent route to get out of the wind for awhile. Snow would have been okay … wind would have been okay … dealing with the two of them together was exhausting.
We had not had a food break and decided to descend a couple of hundred feet to see if we could escape the wind, at least, and have a bite or two and some water. It became apparent as the front was moving through that we would continue to be the victim of its wrath, and so we descended a bit farther to a more hospitable location. After a bit of discussion (now that we could hear each other and communicate like normal human beings), we opted to hunker down and wait out the weather. Sitting there on our perch revealed to us that we could drop down to the lakelet and follow a snow route up the valley bottom to Mas Altos Lake and, possibly, be out of the wind. And, so, that's just what we did.
As we contoured around the lakelet, the snow stopped, the wind died down, and a beautiful blue sky opened up and the sun came out. What a blessing it was to be out of the wind and snow tunnel that we had experienced for the past hour. We stripped down some clothing and took a real break by Mas Altos Lake, and opted to hike up to the north ridge and follow it to the summit. Once we hit that north ridge, we saw that we were in a "nice weather window" that was all our own because to the south (Crestones, Blanca), to the east (Rito Alto, Hermit), and to the north (Mt. Owen, Spread Eagle) everything was cloaked in clouds and fog. The views to the west were great and we could see the San Luis Valley and the dunes, but the veiling of all other directions would stay that way the remainder of our climb and descent.
Looking Towards Hermit Pass
The summit came soon and though it was windy, the sun remained and we stayed on the top for quite awhile. The register was intact in its little jar and had many familiar names … Jennifer and Gerry Roach, Kevin Baker, Steve Knapp, Gary Swing, Ryan Schilling, etc. … another "who's who" list that we added our names to.
Unnamed 13,060 and Unnamed 13,062
We made our way down our ascent route, taking our time and filtering water at a beautiful small waterfall. When we got to Rito Alto Lake, we were surprised to see 5 horses and 4 people … it's amazing those horses could make it around the downed timber we negotiated on our way up the Rito Alto trail. After wading the outlet of the lake, we lounged around in the sun for an hour watching about seven brookies darting about in the water.
Rito Alto Lake
Camp was a welcome sight after a day of much elevation gain and loss (my knees were feeling it), and we switched into our tevas and relaxed for the remainder of the day. It was a good feeling to get those peaks done after so many trips into this valley. I don't know that we'll return, but I highly recommend this area to backpackers, climbers and fishermen.
Sunday morning greeted us with overcast skies and we began to pack up under snow showers. This trip surely gave us a mix of weather … all four seasons in one weekend. By the time we'd descended a couple of miles, the sun was out, the shorts were on and the desert awaited our return. Until next time my friends, Happy Trails!
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