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Peak(s):  Venable Pk  -  13,334 feet
Comanche Pk A  -  13,277 feet
Spring Mtn  -  13,244 feet
PT 13,153  -  13,153 feet
Post Date:  05/23/2011
Modified:  08/24/2011
Date Climbed:   05/21/2011
Posted By:  Floyd
Additional Members:   astrobassman, Chicago Transplant

 Change of Seasons in the Sangres   

I picked up Colin in Morrison at 9:30 on Friday night and we pulled in next to Mike's car at the N. Crestone TH around 12:30. After a horrendous night's sleep in the car we woke at 4:30 for our proposed 5:00 am start time.

Saturday; Comanche/Spring/Venable ~11 miles and 6,000 feet. Winter Lingers

The N. Crestone trail was essentially dry until just before the Venable Pass Trail junction at 9,800 feet. There we had an icy log crossing and as we made our way up the trail we gradually found more snow. While it was overcast, we could see a clearing over the La Guaritas.

A band of blue sky gives hope.

Our plan was to camp about 0.5 mile passed the junction where from MyTopo there appeared to be a spur trail linking the Comanche Pass and N. Crestone Trails. We didn't see this small trail, but found a great established site labeled as "Three Forks" on Colin's Sangre map just past a creek crossing. Room for 3 tents, just behind a rock on the north side of the trail and the creek was a few dozen feet south of the trail. We set up camp between 7-7:30, shoveling out the inch or 2 of snow for our tents.

After setting up camp, we looked at Mike's GPS and saw that if we followed the side creek we just crossed on the west side we would meet up with the Comanche Trail. I turned off trail at the first sign of a passable route and a very easy bushwack was on. As we made our way up this route it became apparent that we were actually on our intended spur trail. It isn't marked or maintained, but it is definitely there and probably saved us a mile or more of hiking and about 300 feet of elevation. We met up with the Comanche Pass trail shortly afterward and made our way up the Middle Fork of N. Crestone Creek. We followed the creek to the south when (unbeknowst to us) the trail went north. Thanks again to Mike's GPS, the problem was quickly solved with an easy climb to the grassy ridge. Once on the ridge, our visibility dropped to about 50 feet and we just put our heads down in anticipation of gaining Comanche Pass. Again, not much to report for the summit of Comanche or the hike over to Spring. We kept to the ridgeline and plowed through the weather - strong winds, blowing snow, and no visibility.

Mike/Colin Climbing Comanche

Colin heading up Spring

Me on Spring's summit - Maybe the U2 concert would have been the better decision this weekend?

On the summit of Spring we had a brief flash of blue sky and spirits began to rise. We started the descent over to Venable and the weather had a new surprise. The winds picked up substantially and we hunkered down near the saddle. It did give us some time to snap some photos and look in awe at the Phantom Terrace. That thing would be an adventure. If you aren't familiar with it, there is a great TR on Summitpost under Comanche-Venable Loop, check it out sometime.

Mike descending Spring as clouds began to move out

Notice the Phantom Terrace? (Photo by Mike)

Colin and I descending Spring (Photo by Mike)

Looking towards Adams/Kit Carson (Comanche on far left)

Colin/Mike starting the ascent on Venable

We made the climb of Venable much harder than it should have been. We didn't have our crampons with us since we thought we'd be sticking to a class 2 ridge walk. We decided to go up the west side of the south face to escape the wind. We succeeded there, but the slope was much steeper than it seemed from below and held some icy patches that required a lot of care.

Mike on Venable's summit looking south

13,054 from Venable

Obligatory San Luis Valley shot from a Sangre summit

Adams out of the clouds

Spring/Comanche from Venable, Horn Peak behind

Looking north to Rito Alto/Hermit/etc...

Colin descending Venable through blowing snow, Pikes in background

We took advantage of our familiarity with the south face on the descent and avoided the icy/steep portions. Once down in the valley we picked up the Comanche Pass trail around 11,600 and followed it back to our campsite. Tired and thrilled we survived the rapture, we relaxed until lights out around 8:00.


Sunday: Point 13,153 ~11 miles and 3,700 feet, Spring is here

After another 4:30 alarm, we were back on trail around 5:30. The trail up the basin was pretty easy to follow in the snow and there wasn't ever a need for snowshoes (I left them at camp all weekend). It was mostly about ankle deep and very occasionally I'd sink my whole boot in. Once at the lake, the views of Adams opened up and it was shaping up to be a perfect Spring day after we endured winter the day before.

Mike with Adams in the background

13,054 in morning light

We crossed the frozen N. Crestone Lake at its western tip and tried to climb too early. The slope was way too icy for our comfort level - we were dealing with 3-4 inches of fresh stuff on top of ice covered rock - Nothing for purchase. We descended back to the lake and easier terrain. From there Colin chose to head up the normal path to the saddle, but Mike didn't have crampons and we weren't sure how steep it got at the top. I went with him up some cliff bands/benches to climbers right which ended up being MUCH more difficult than the saddle route. In hindsight, the correct decision would have been for Colin and I to lead the snowfield to the saddle, kicking in steps for Mike with our crampons.

Mike and I gained the ridge ~100 feet above the saddle after a fun little gully (which followed a lot of very dicey terrain that I didn't care much for). Oddly, Colin was right there when we topped out. The 3 of us finished the rest of the climb off without incident. Now, we could really appreciate the views from the top.

Final traverse for summit of 13,153

14er beauty

Lenticulars over Adams (Photo by Mike)

Our 3 from the day before

Another obligatory San Luis shot

Then, the craziest thing happened. I was looking west when some movement caught my eye. Was that a goat coming this way? No, it was actually a person. This was the last place we expected to see a climber. It turned out to be a couple of guys that came up from S. Crestone and they were headed over to 13,546. We chatted for a while and then went our seperate ways.

The descent was uneventful except for a very enjoyable glissade from the saddle. (It turned out to be very mellow/safe and was by far the better ascent choice.) The snow is melting very quickly and the trail should be pretty dry if we get the least bit of a dry spell. Anything that was ankle deep was now muddy slush and I can't remember stepping in anything more than ankle deep on the way out. Our campsite, which we dug out of 2" of snow was now all mud and there wasn't any lingering ice on the log crossings. We got back to camp around 1:00, packed up, and to the trailhead at 2:35.

Colin making the initial descent

Glissage path from the Adams saddle

Colin hiking on N. Crestone Lake (Photo by Mike)

One last shot of Adams from above N. Crestone Lake - Our tracks can be seen across the lake and from the saddle.

13,153 from N. Crestone Trail (photo by Mike)

Waterfall on the hike out

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

Great Weekend     05/24/2011 04:23
I really like your pictures too. We need to get down to the Sangres more. Not too far from Denver and they have so much to offer 12 months out of the year.

Matt Lemke

Very cool!     05/24/2011 13:03
Love the great photos. Going to Adams this weekend


Good report!     05/24/2011 13:06
Looked like a rugged, challenging climb on Sat, but beautiful next day. Awesome pictures on both, displaying what significant changes 24 hours can make. Thanks for posting!


random happening     05/24/2011 13:23
Good to meet you all on the summit of 13153. I doubt there were too many hikers on unnamed summits in the Sangres on Sunday, very odd that we arrived at the same time.


Nice Scot     05/24/2011 14:44
Thats quite a view of the Willow Lake group and dude, hitting obscure peaks in the Sangres in the spring over that no talent ass clown Bono is kind of a no brainer. Lets just get that straight.

Strong effort covering a ton of ground.

Chicago Transplant

Great weekend     05/24/2011 15:07
A fun weekend for sure! Glad that sun started to pop out on Venable, Saturday was starting to wear on us with the lack of visibility. It amazing how much the snow line moved up the trail those two days, another few sunny days and the Sangres will really start to dry out.

Pretty cool running into you Dwight, I was thinking to myself if someone is coming up this peak today, I probably know them.


Phantom Terrace     05/24/2011 15:07
Pictures definitely make the Phantom Terrace look spookier than it actually is. It would definitely be creepy in snow conditions. But I've done the Comanche-Venable Loop many times as a training run (both directions), solo in summer conditions. Never felt creeped out from exposure in the least. Such a beautiful, and peaceful area.


Nice!     05/24/2011 15:29
I'm hoping to hike this route in a few weeks. Thanks!


Thanks for all the replies     05/24/2011 17:18
Colin/Mike, Definitely one for the books. Great weekend.
Dwight, nice meeting you as well. Odd place/timing for sure.
Matt/Bobby, beautiful area. Enjoy your time there.
Brian, I think the ”Congrats to Carl” thread has you a little bitter.
Mtgirl, Terrace definitely looks the part. I'll have to check out someday for myself.
MtnHub, thanks for reading. Interesting weather to say the least.


cool winter & spring outing     05/24/2011 20:45
I like the 14er Beauty shot and the lenticular cloud picture.

Good stuff, and the Phantom Terrace/Comanche-Venable loop is a fun hike.


The lenticular     05/25/2011 02:43
For an hour I sat near the saddle of Humboldt and Obstruction and watched that cloud grow overhead. I was surrounded by beautiful mountain peaks (as your TR so clearly shows) and yet I didn't want to climb up to one. I was entranced. And for once I just wanted to sit and watch.

Great TR Floyd - loved the pics - esp the footprints in snow, the waterfall frozen in time, and, most especially, the 14er beauty. That looks like a great vantage to enjoy a sunset. Did you take the 14er beauty photo from near the summit of 13,153?

Only my third visit to the Sangres but I think I'm in love. This TR shows why.


cont...     05/25/2011 04:22
Darin, thanks for the complements. The Terrace may be a good place to test my wife's tolerance for exposure.

Kimo, that pic was within 100 yards of the summit if not directly on top. Oddly enough, I missed that cloud (I was staring at the 14ers since it had been 3 years since I was last in the range and that trip was fogged out too - see KC trip report.) I didn't know it was there until Mike forwarded his pictures. Anywhere in the Sangres is a perfect place for a sunrise or sunset with the views out either direction. It's a great range. Thanks for the complements.


Nice shots     05/27/2011 13:18
Your photos are pretty cool. You can probably get some nice b&w shots with those striations and ridgelines.

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