| Humboldt Peak - Up the west and down the east ridge
(I managed to drop my point and shoot camera into South Colony creek, so all pictures are courtesy of Anthony Arroyo and his Canon 7D.)
After trying to schedule a 14er climb into our schedules for the past 2 years, the stars finally aligned for me and my buddy Ethan, who still had yet to climb a 14er, to do one before he left for school in Cali. Our friend Anthony also said he'd be up for it and agreed to accompany us. We left Colorado Springs at 3am, passing through the sleepy towns of Wetmore and Westcliffe. The only ones awake were the hoards of deer along the roadside. We arrived at the upper trailhead around 5:10am and were headed up the road by 5:15am. While many complain about the added length due to the new closure, I've never had a vehicle that could make the entire journey to the upper lot, so I've never known anything different. I actually don't mind the slog and appreciate the warm-up.
As we marched on daylight broke revealing a low ceiling of patchy clouds approaching from the west. There were several moments when the sun burst through to illuminate the peaks in front of us.
We were to the old "upper" trailhead by 6:30am, and proceeded on to the lakes. The lower lake appeared a little murky yet from all the washouts from the previous storms. The upper lake was quite pristine. Here Anthony and Ethan started realizing they had hoofed it too quick up the road, and they starting sucking air. After a brief rest, we headed for the west ridge. As we approached the saddle, we met another party, the first of many we would see that day.
At the saddle the King Marmot collected his duties and sniffed around our stuff.
By now the clouds were rolling into the peak, shedding a bit of rain on us as they slid by. As we headed up the west ridge, Crestone Needle and Crestone Peak became socked in. We could see bright sunlight out in the San Luis Valley though, so we knew we still had some time before the afternoon T-storms rolled in. The climb up the west ridge was slightly cold, but enjoyable. We took our time as the guys got pretty tired but we still managed to top out topped out around 10:20am. We shared the summit with several other groups and enjoyed the light/cloud show. It was taking us longer than I would have liked but the clouds were fairly tame and it looked like we would have decent weather until early afternoon.
A short walk east gave us a view down the east ridge, which looked quite inviting. Maybe its the way the suns rays were shining on it, but we talked about how it would be to complete the traverse. Not only did it look nice, but shaving a couple miles of the return trip sounded great as well. A few minutes later, we were all alone, walking along the gentle east ridge. Near the first "bump" on the way down, the sun came out, and I looked back to see the guys taking a break. Next thing I know they are taking a nap! They snoozed for 15 minutes before we continued on our way. We had a map of the east ridge route from 14ers.com on Anthony's phone, so we picked out our route along the trail-less ridge. After an hour and a half, we heard some deep rumbling out near the Spanish Peaks. We were near treeline, and we hadn't heard any thunder until this point, but that motivated us to keep pushing on with a quickness. We couldn't really tell what weather was coming at us from the southwest in the San Luis valley. Eastward, in the Wet Mountain Valley, several thunderheads lazily rolled across the fields, nearly level with us on the ridge. By now the guys were pretty wiped out and we decided to diverge from the recommended route, and pick a more direct line to the car, rather than connect to Rainbow Trail and backtrack to the car. I knew we were in for a steep bushwhack, but it seemed like a good idea at the time, especially with darkening clouds. Needless to say, it was exactly that - a STEEP BUSHWHACK. We could see point 10,725 (on Marble Mountain's flank) across from us as we descended, and knew it would put us on track for the car. We crossed countless game trails and deadfall as we rapidly descended. After an hour or so of suffering, things leveled out and we stumbled onto a rough section of South Colony Road.
Around 1:30pm, and a quarter mile later we were at the new upper trailhead, thrashed and tired. As we drove to Westcliffe for cheap mexican food at Edwardo's(sp?), we looked back a dark storm clouds enveloping Humboldt and we were happy not to be in the midst of our descent
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):