Pt 13,524 - Peak of the Clouds ranked Tri-Centennial Peak at 239th highest peak
Spread Eagle Peak - 13,423 feet ranked 305th highest peak
8 miles roundtrip
5200 vertical feet (with return over Spead Eagle Peak)
8 1/2 hours roundtrip
The Sangre de Cristos are still looking good so far as we head into calendar winter. This is a picture of Spead Eagle Peak with PT 13,524 in back and Rito Alto to the left.
I decided to make a direct assault on the east slopes up to Spread Eagle Peak. The standard route from the east would be to park at the Gibson Creek Trailhead and head north along the Rainbow Trail to the Swift Trail and then past the Lakes of the Clouds to the saddle between Spread Eagle Peak and PT 13,524. Reports I read indicate that it is a steep climb from the saddle to Spread Eagle Peak via the standard route, but that did not seem to be the case to me. If you want steep take the east slopes. There was not any reports from anyone taking this approach. No doubt someone has gone this way but since I did not see any mention of this I thought I would offer up this trip report. It appears to me this may be a good winter route despite the possibility of a lot of snow if you do not go all the way up the creek drainage.
The Gibson Creek Trailhead is west out of Westcliffe on Hermit Road. After about 6 miles the road forks where you will take the right fork (CR 172). The road switches back and forth a few times until it runs into the North Taylor Road. Take a left and follow the road straight through and past the forest service signs. Go past a small parking area and road on your left as you head west another 0.2 miles to the signed parking area.
The trail you want is to the left and west. You will go a few tenths of a mile to a sign that you will want to go just to the left and continue west. This is the Gibson Creek Trail which as you would suppose follows Gibson Creek.
There is a good trail for a ways, which starts to get fainter as you go. You will cross from the north side to the south side of the creek several times at 9800 feet and 10,000 feet.
The first mile or so is a gradual gain in elevation until you get to the end of the trail. Here you have a choice of following the creek or as I did leave the creek and start the steep climb up through the trees up and to the south of the creek drainage. There is less than two miles to go to Spread Eagle Peak and still 3200 vertical feet to go.
After slogging up through 12-18" of sugar snow (step, sink, slip a little, step, sink, slip a little) we started to clear the trees. This is at treeline, 11,700 feet and looking up the slopes to the left.
This is looking up the slope. The wind is really pushing the clouds east. I had read the weather report calling for high winds and I was anticipating that it would be blowing pretty good up there.
First look at the peaks to the southwest. The wind has to be gusting to 50 mph as my knock me over limit has been exceeded.
More steep slopes.
A brief moderation of the slope and a brief respite for Merlin.
Rito Alto and Hermit Peaks (left) and Hermit Pass Road left of center.
Spread Eagle Peak and the east ridge.
The last stretch to the summit.
This picture is taken on the summit looking at PT 13,524 (Peak of the Clouds on the right), Rito Alto and Hermit.
I don't think you can beat these views.
The middle and lower Lakes of the Clouds.
Mom I know you are watching from up there and I am doing just fine at this moment in time.
Okay now is decision time. The wind is howling like a jet engine and it is a mile or so to PT 13,524. WWKND? So off we go to 13,524.
This is look back at the ridge coming down from Spread Eagle Peak to the saddle.
The wind was really screaming now and I was barely able to stand on the ridge, which does get a little narrow in spots. I had read a report saying that this was Class 2 with some exposure. I did not really feel the exposure but getting blown off along here would not have been good. I dropped off the ridge on this slope below the notch left side of the picture. Some loose Class 3 or so but not as windy. I then contoured across to the saddle and west of 13,165.
I would also mention that it looks as though you could go on the east side of the ridge and avoid the rock. I noticed this on the way back over to Spread Eagle Peak.
This is looking up from below the notch.
This is the saddle that would come up from the Lakes of the Clouds and PT 13,524 ahead. The connecting traverse has a few ups and downs along the way. Rito Alto to the left, the peak in the cloud.
The roughest part of the ridge to PT 13,524.
This is looking back at Spread Eagle Peak.
This is another fine view of the Crestones.
This is looking northwest.
The Lakes of the Clouds.
Summit of the Peak of the Clouds, PT 13,524.
This is looking down the ridge before and below Spread Eagle Peak on the way back up and over.
You don't have to be a weather man to know which way the wind is blowing (just look at the ears).
All in all a good day.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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