| Eagle Peak, A Winter Delight
Eagle Peak A (13,205’)
Northern Sangre de Cristo Mountains
Crew: astrobassman (Colin), Monster5 (Ryan), globreal (Britt)
Climb date: Sunday, December 26, 2010
Start Time: 7:00am
End Time: 2:30pm
Total Time: 7.5 hours (total hiking/climbing/summit time)
Trip Length: 7 miles (according to GPS)
Elevation Gain: 3,400 feet (according to Google Maps)
Eagle Peak from Hwy 69
The 14er thread posted was: “13ers in the Coming Weeks.” astrobassman (Colin) listed some dates he was looking to climb. Having spent some great family time on Christmas Day and the days leading up to Christmas, I felt fine about leaving the family for the day after Christmas. (I don't ever want my family to feel that the mountains are a priority over them. Does anyone else grapple with this issue?)
Having climbed all “58” 14ers, I now have a new goal… to finish off those unranked 14ers…and possibly even the Centennials. However, after the 4-6 feet of snow that dumped across the rest of the state during the 3rd week of December, this peak Colin suggested in the Northern Sangres looked really good. I’ll just have to get back to my goals/lists later.
Eagle Peak is an obscure little 13er in the Northern Sangres. It is about 13 miles (as the crow flies) north-west of Westcliffe, CO. This little gem of a peak appears to be a really, avalanche-safe mountain, if you climb the north-east ridge. So, if the whole of Colorado is in an “Extreme” avalanche state, you know, when the avy roses are all red, thenEagle Peak A may still be an option if you are getting cabin fever and need to get out and climb something!
We decided to meet at my house here in Monument at 4am. From here we drove Hwy. 115 to Canon City, up the Arkansas River valley on Hwy. 50, and then took the south turn-off at Texas Creek on Hwy. 69. From there it’s a easy drive down to the the little dot on the map called, Hillside. . (Note: there’s not much more than a sign in Hillside!) Just south of Hillside and just south of the Fremont/Custer country line is the right (west) turn onto Custer CO Rd 198.
There was a trip report on Summit Post which stated that the winter road closure was at the Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp at 8,300’ (just a little over 3 miles west of Hwy. 69). However, the low snow conditions allowed us to drive on past the camp up to Balman Reservoir at 9,400’. This actually saved us about 5 RT miles of road travel and 1,100’ of elevation. I was okay with that!
Note: you can’t see Balman Reservoir from the 198 road as it’s down in the trees, but there is a very obvious pull-off with a big open area to park in.
From where we parked, we then hiked on up the road for another ¾ mile. It’s here at 9,800 feet where the road has it’s next sharp turn to the north. It’s at this bend where we bailed from the road and turn south-west into the trees.
Heading off road from CR 198
The forest here is actually quite open…not very dense, and is enjoyable hiking. Nothing like a real bush-whack!
Ryan in the enchanted forest
After about 600’ of elevation gain, the hill did become thicker in tree cover, steeper in terrain, and deeper in snow. So, we rotated as trail breakers.
A little higher up we entered a small clearing where we got a peek at our objective. (The brown cone is a false summit and Eagle Peak is the white point off to the left there.)
We got another opening where we were treated to nice view (back to the north-west) of Pikes Peak.
Before coming out of the trees, we stopped to put on our hard shells as we could hear the wind howling! I was thinking….”okay, here it comes!” It was a little higher up an elevation of 11,370’ where we came out of the trees. I was surprised to find this big carin as I didn’t think there were any trails to this peak. Seeing the windswept ridge above, we stashed our snow shoes here.
Carin at 11,370' Eagle Peak beyond
Looking down to the right (north) we were directly above Rainbow Lake.
Rainbow Lake at 10,400'
After hiking for just a moment, we looked up and saw this….more trees. We thought “crap! We’ve got more trees we’re gonna post hole like crazy without our snowshoes!” As it turned out, we could circumvent the trees and skirt around them to the right.
More trees! No shoes!
Once beyond the trees, we were treated to this nice view of the up the North Lake Creek drainage.
North Lake Creek drainage
Hiking on this open, windswept tundra turned out to be a delight after the semi-deep snow in the trees.
Ryan heading up the ridge
While the walking was easier, the wind was persistent in it’s quest to knock us over! The forecast was 15-25 mph with gusts to 35mph. Ryan followed then Colin…making their way in the wind.
Ryan & Colin braving the winds
Colin mentioned that he regretted not bringing his trekking poles to use as wind stabilizers!
Blown by the wind!
Higher up we were able to peer over the Wulsten Baldy ridgeline to the north-west to see Mt. Ouray across the northern San Luis Valley.
First ridge view & Mt. Ouray
Ryan and Colin taking in our new views.
astrobassman (L), Monster5 (R)
At the base of that false summit, the slope turns from a gentle Class 1 hike to a Class 2 climb. Still, it’s not anything where you need to use your hands to climb, as it’s just a mild talus-hoping hike. But, I was glad to have my trekking poles.
Looking up the talus of the false summit
Instead of going straight up and over the false summit, we decided to stay low and to the left to stay out the winds. Now we are treated to close-up view of our final destination.
Skirting the false summit around to Eagle
Ryan is just making it up to the top of the ridgeline and Colin is down in the lower right corner of this photo.
Ryan reaching the ridge, Colin lower right
Colin is still making his way around the false summit. Did I say….to avoid the winds? Well, I guess you can see….not totally.
Colin fighting the talus and wind
This is the nice view from our first topping out on the ridgeline over to the other side. That is Lakes Peak (13,375) off in the distance. Splendid!
Ridge view! Lakes Peak (13,375')
Ryan is taking it all in as Colin has also reached the ridgeline.
Looking NE back down the ridgeline
I decided to photograph the uncluttered snow on the summit of Eagle Peak before we traipsed all over her.
Virgin snow on Eagle Peak (13,205')
A windblown pattern of rime ice covers one of the summit rocks.
We gained the summit at 11:27am. (That’s about 4 ½ hours at our semi-persistant pace.) I used my little mini-tripod for the delayed timer summit shot. Colin left, me center, Ryan right.
Summit-Colin (L), Britt (C), Ryan (R)
Now, what I wasn’t expecting were these wonderful summit views! About 2 miles to the south-west is Cottonwood Peak A (13,588’) which is across the North Lake Creek drainage. She looks majestic in her winter coat don’t you think?
Cottonwood Peak A (13,588')
I hear this ridge climb over to Thirsty Peak (13,213’) is really an enjoyable hike.
ridge to Thirsty Peak (13,213')
There was actually a summit register on this peak. It lived in it’s own little nalgene bottle somebody obviously donated to the cause. We noticed the last person to sign the register was over 2 months ago, back on October 18, 2010. Colin & Ryan are signing in here.
Signing in to the summit register
I love it when we get the “above the clouds” effect. San Luis Valley was socked in this morning, and I really enjoyed seeing the clouds spill through the low saddles.
San Luis valley cloud flow...
A look to the south, the clouds show the high winds up in the troposphere over Gibbs Peak A (13,553’, left of center), and Electric Peak (13,598’, far right).
Gibbs Peak A (13,553’, L), and Electric Peak (13,598’, R))
We ended up spending just under a half hour on the summit and at 11:53am we began our trek back off the mountain. Once we were off the talus of that false summit, the tundra hike back to treeline is one of the easiest, most gentle grades I’ve ever hiked on a mountain. What a delight!
A nice walk down the tundra
Back at the big carin, we took another short break to eat and drink and get the showshoes back on. It was then easy to follow our trench through the trees all the way back to the road. The ¾ mile road hike flew by, and we were in the car heading home by 2:30pm.
From Hwy 69 at the Fremont/Custer country line, we could see that the wind hadn’t relented any. But that didn’t matter. Today’s temps were quite warm (in the 20’s) especially with the sun out. And so, Eagle Peak turn out to be quite the delight for a calendar winter climb. I highly recommend it!
A delightful Eagle Peak A
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):