Humboldt Peak - Southeast Flank Gully
Climbing mountains is dangerous! Please read the Mountaineering Safety Page and make sure you have a map+compass and can use them effectively. A GPS or cell phone can be very helpful with navigation but you should still be able to use a map+compass in case your device stops working.
(WINTER) HOLD ON! If you don't have much high-elevation, winter climbing experience, be careful in your planning and take a partner. Even the "easy" 14ers (Quandary, Sherman, Grays & Torreys) can be deadly in winter.
|Difficulty:||Class 2, Moderate Snow|
Ski: Intermediate, D5 / R3 / III
|Trailhead:||South Colony Lakes|
|Total Gain:||4,200 feet starting at upper 4wd TH (9,950')|
5,400 feet starting at lower 2wd TH (8,800')
|RT Length:||8 miles starting at upper 4wd TH (9,950')|
14 miles starting at lower 2wd TH (8,800')
|USGS Quad.:||Crestone Peak|
|County Sheriff:||Custer: 719-783-2270
|National Forest:||San Isabel|
|Wilderness Area:||Sangre De Cristo|
Take Colorado 69 south from Westcliffe. Drive 4.5 miles and turn right on Colfax Lane. Drive 5.5 miles to the end of Colfax. Turn right and drive 1 mile on a dirt road to a junction. Continue straight up the 120 Road for 0.3 mile to the Lower 2WD Trailhead at 8,800'. To reach the Upper 4WD Trailhead, continue 2.7 miles to parking/camp spots before the first river crossing, near 9,950'. In 2009, the South Colony Lakes road was permanently closed here (gate) and this is the current trailhead. The trail starts next to the trailhead kiosk, in the parking area.
When conditions are right, this is Humboldt's best snow climb if approaching from the South Colony Lakes road and is best done in spring when the gully is full of consolidated snow. Photo #1 is a Google Earth image of the route - looking northwest. Photo #2 is a photo of the route, taken from the east.
Since this is a winter or spring climb, the South Colony Lakes road will probably still have snow. Your options are 1) use a snowmobile, 2) park at the lowest trailhead (8,800') or 3) drive as high as possible. If driving above the lower trailhead, continue a maximum of 2.7 miles to reach the upper trailhead at 9,950'. Along the way, there are a few small pull-offs in case you reach snow prior to the upper trailhead. The most notable parking spot between the two trailheads is at the Rainbow Trail junction, at 9,800'. Topo map #2 shows various points along the road. From your parking spot, hike or skin to the upper trailhead and stream crossing at 9,950'. Cross the stream or continue along the south side for a bit and cross using a newly built footbridge. Once on the other side, get back on the road and continue west for about 1.8 miles - Photo #3.
Near 10,840', turn right, leave the road and hike northwest into the forest - Photo #4. Because there's no trail above this point, a GPS can be helpful to make the most direct line up through the forest. Continue northwest above 11,000' to reach the base of the gully which contains shorter trees (aspens and small pines) - evidence of avalanche run-out. Follow the gully to reach a large cliff band - Photo #5 and Photo #6. It spans the entire width of the gully but can be bypassed on either side with some steep hiking. Once above the cliff (Photo #7), re-enter the gully and continue climbing - Photo #8. If this area is free of snow, it may be easier to hike parallel to the gully, up on the left (west) side.
Near 11,600', the gully opens up and you finally get a view of the remaining route - Photo #9. A couple of hundred feet higher takes you above tree line where the southeast flank (left) and gully become obvious - Photo #10. The summit is visible but it's 2,200' higher! Climb either the gully or the flank to the left, which may be a safer option if the gully is loaded with blown-in snow. Photo #12 looks southwest to Broken Hand Peak (13,573') and Photo #13 looks east above tree line. Continue climbing northwest - Photo #14 and Photo #15. Above 13,700' the summit area becomes more obvious - Photo #16. Stay along the left side or follow the gully as it fades just below the summit - Photo #17 and Photo #18. Taken just below the summit, Photo #19 shows the convergence of the southeast flank and east ridge routes. Photo #20 and Photo #21 are views from a different angle. Gain the summit - Photo #22.
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