Trailhead: Rainbow Trail junction on South Colony Lakes Road
Route: Northeast Ridge
Distance: About 6 miles
Trailhead Elevation: ~9,850
Who: Bob "BobbyFinn," Kate "KatieFinn," and Valerie "IHikeLikeAGirl"
Start: About 5:30 am
End: About 1:15 pm
We met at the 2WD parking lot at 5 am. Wow. That's early! We haven't been ready to hike that early in a while and we're out of practice. A few minutes of Valerie's capable driving later and we were at the Rainbow Trail junction on South Colony Lakes Road. We started hiking soon after. There's room for at least 4 cars right at the junction.
There were a couple of rough areas on the road to the junction. I think it would be difficult to get a non-4WD vehicle to the junction, but I'm sure someone will drive a lowered Corvette up there just to say they did it.
We started up the very good Rainbow Trail until the top of the ridge crest.
Looking back at the Rainbow Trail
The route description we had said that you'd gone too far if you start going down the other side of the ridge. Well, we went too far, at least initially. I don't know if it was the early morning light or what, but we missed the trail. We spent a few minutes looking for a trail or a cairn or anything that would indicate a right turn, but we came up short. So we just started bushwhacking up near the top of the ridge. Valerie had loaded the route into her GPS, but even with that we didn't see anything that looked like a trail.
There was some pink surveyor's tape on some of the trees that we followed for a while and this worked ok. On the way back down, we built a cairn at the trail junction.
The trail junction and the cairn we built.
The Rainbow Trail continues to the left and the "Marble Trail" (or whatever it's called) goes to the right.
Another view of the junction:
Trail junction. Photo - IHikeLikeAGirl
The bushwhack wasn't too bad, but it was definitely slow going and we zigzagged a bit to find an easy path through the forest. Finding the trail would have made for an easier and faster ascent...
Kate and Valerie in the trees. Valerie's jacket made her easy to find.
We did finally find the trail. Do you see it there under the snow? We had to put snowshoes on at about 10,600 ish. Above about 10,800 it was constant snow until a little above treeline.
That's the trail. I think.
A sea of snow.
Snow. Photo - IHikeLikeAGirl
On the ascent, we got sucked down to the left (south) near the point marked 10,725 on the Crestone Peak topo map. You really need to try to stay as close to the top of the ridge as you can. From P10,725 to maybe 10,800 or so, we were able to take our snowshoes off, but they went back on soon enough...
Back on track, we were in snowshoes for much of the rest of the hike. Some of the snow supported our weight, but enough didn't that snowshoes were required.
On snowshoes. Maybe we're on the trail... Photo - IHikeLikeAGirl
Finding a route. Photo - IHikeLikeAGirl
It was a pretty abrupt treeline. You can see the shadows near Kate from the last trees of the forest. Past here there were some stunted pine trees, but was pretty sparse until even those little guys couldn't grow. Here's Valerie leading the way with Kate watching.
The snow still required snowshoes - it was soft and melty.
The view up the final push was deceiving. It looked pretty close, but our GPSs said it was still almost 1,000 feet of elevation gain. It didn't matter, the last bit went by pretty fast. Though the wind here was really blowing hard. I thought that the wind would lessen the higher we went - maybe it was just being funneled out of the South Colony Lakes basin. Nope. It was windy all the way to the summit. There isn't much of a wind break on the summit so we didn't stay long.
Just to the right of the rock band and out of view of the camera was a flat spot that was an amazing "scenic overlook."
Photo - I HikeLikeAGirl
We were hiking on grassy terrain just above the scenic overlook...
Kate's hiking on grass just above the scenic overlook.
... but it got rockier a couple hundred feet below the summit.
Valerie is making her way through high winds and rocks on the way to the summit.
Kate standing on the summit.
It was still class 2, but the wind made it a bit challenging.
Here's a shot of the view on top. It seems that none of us took many pictures while on the summit. The wind was a bit too strong to make for a leisurely summit break.
Summit view. Photo - IHikeLikeAGirl
We reversed our route down the upper part of the mountain and we enjoyed a glissade down the snow slope we snowshoed up.
Valerie on the glissade.
Valerie lead us right onto the trail even though it was buried under several feet of snow. The key was to stay as close to the ridge crest as possible. There were some bare spots and after a while we had to snake our way through the forest to piece together continuous snow to avoid unnecessary gear changes.
Valerie as Moses.
We had a couple of spots where we took off our snowshoes prematurely. I decided to leave mine off and it was tolerable, while the ladies kept putting them on and taking them off. One time when I was breaking trail a few yards ahead of them they asked me how it looked. I said "It looks like more of the same - a lot of snow." With that they decided to put their snowshoes back on. This was while we were in some thick trees so we couldn't see too far ahead. About 36 steps later, we saw this:
No more snowshoes.
The last of the snow. Well, almost, there were a couple of minor drifts after this, but they were easily avoided or just walked-through. I'd bet that most of the snow in the trees will be melted after a couple more weeks.
We were able to follow the trail the rest of the way out. It's definitely not a real distinct trail, but it is there. Parts of the trail are very apparent. Other parts are not. The split off of the Rainbow Trail was visible once we got back to the Rainbow Trail, but going up in the early morning light, I guess it was easy to miss.
Another fun hike with great people.
We hope you liked this report.
Photos were from Bob and Kate except for those IDd as Valerie's.