Peak(s):  Humboldt Peak  -  14,064 feet
Date Posted:  01/28/2012
Date Climbed:   01/26/2012
Author:  WDavis

 No Easy 14ers  

Humboldt Peak
January 28, 2012
~13 miles round trip

Start time: 5:22am
Treeline: 9:30am
Summit: 12:00pm
Car: 4:15pm
Total: ~11hours

This whole thing started last week when I attempted Humboldt solo. It took me close to 6 hours to break trail to timberline (via East ridge). The snow was the consistency of a slurpee and breaking trail required enormous effort as much of the snow was knee deep or deeper. I got to treeline around 12am and the wind which had been howling all morning was 60+mph. I could only imagine what it was like higher up. Having taken too much time in the trees and lost both of my gloves I decided it was prudent to turn back.

A look at the snow on my first attempt.

S. Colony Road.

I'm not even going to tell you how long it took me to get my car out of this.

This past week I decided to give it another shot. The weather looked good so I called catmandingo and he said he was in. For the record the forecast called for "breezy" conditions with 20-25mph winds gusting to 40mph. That would have been fine with me, but that's not what we got.

We met in Castle Rock at 2:30 and departed for Westcliffe. We arrive at the winter trailhead at 5am and we were hiking at 5:22. Spikes were suitable most of the way up. As we got higher in the trees we switched to snow shoes because the snow was warming up.

Beautiful sunrise.

Image #6 (not yet uploaded)




At treeline catmandingo and I split up.

photo credit: catmandingo

photo credit: catmandingo

We had hiked together thus far but now that the route finding was essentially over, we each went our own pace. I started up the ridge the way the route goes, but for some reason I got impatient and instead of going up and over I decided to go around. I ended up skirting the ridge on the south side (which was much slower because of the angle and because I had to traverse it and couldn't walk straight up). I intersected the summit ridge at it's lowest point and started heading up.

I met a woman coming down who said the winds (it had been calm to this point) had picked up substantially. She wasn't kidding. Hiking along the summit ridge I got knocked around a good bit. At this point I hadn't seen catmandingo in a while. I wondered if he had turned around. I figured he might be ahead of me because my route was so much slower.

As I approached the summit the wind speed increased severely. I had to crawl to get on the summit and once on the summit I could not stand up. I took cover behind the first wind block and just sat for a few minutes and marveled at how strong the wind was. Shortly thereafter I made my way off.


Image #13 (not yet uploaded)

Looking West

Looking South

Looking North

so stinkin windy

I stopped and just sat below the summit taking cover as best as I could and watched catmandingo make his was up the ridge. This was the first time I had seen him since we split at treeline.

Catmandingo coming up the ridge. You can just make him out in the neon vest.

He took a few minutes on the summit and then we egressed rapidly.

catmandingo's self portrait

It was now 12:15pm. In that short window where I had hit to the summit ridge to when I summited the winds went from iffy to dangerous. Having worked at a camp at the base of Longs Peak for several seasons and experienced many 100+mph wind storms my best guess is that we were in the 90-100mph range.

The wind gradually receded the farther we got from the summit. We passed a herd of big horn on the way down the flat part of the ridge ridge before it goes down hill to the trees. I was shocked how pleasant of a route I had missed by being impatient.

Bighorn again on the way down

We made it back to the car by 4:15 and were happy to have safely summitted in high winds. I was happy to have made it up after having to turn back a week prior.

Crazy wind cloud

Image #22 (not yet uploaded)

Side note: On my first attempt I had lost both my gloves on the way up but found one on the way down. This most recent trip I recovered the other glove. On the rainbow trail one of the fallen trees had snagged it. Glad to have my gloves back.

Tree grabbed it.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Well done in the wind
01/29/2012 05:09
Any winter 14er is pretty much worth five in the summer. Love the Big Horns.


crazy wind cloud
01/29/2012 05:17
That's a cool picture!
Also cool you got your gloves back. I wonder if that was Janet you saw coming down? hmm...


01/29/2012 05:29
She did say her name was Janet! She said she was not on though. She was slightly upset because she encountered us and was afraid that her ascent of Humboldt would not count as a solo ascent.


01/29/2012 05:41
I know her from the CMC, and she mentioned on another site that she did it on Thu.
Odd about her concerns though!

She's done Denali semi-solo too (on her summit day she set out by herself, and reached the summit).

James Scott

Nice work
01/30/2012 02:59
I love the story of failure followed by success- not that it was really failure- sounds like you made a wise choice. But great job returning and finishing the job. I love the pictures- esp the sun through the trees and the cloud formation from the deck. Thanks for the write up!


01/31/2012 21:25
Thanks for the comments. Definitely a good feeling to go back a second time and make the summit. Safely.


Solo or not solo
01/31/2012 21:38
By the way Darin, that WAS me on Humbolt. Were my concerns odd? Just thinking of getting some more winter 14ers in solo... not meaning to offend anyone. Janet
Glad you guy got down ok. I think I snuck ahead of the windy conditions.


01/31/2012 22:19
Janet, it was a pleasure to meet you. You did indeed get out before the winds got bad. Nice day overall though. Thanks for the not on the windshield by the way. We were glad you found your snow shoes because we had trouble finding ours!


02/08/2012 19:55
Thanks for sharing. I'm thinking of going within the next month. Were you not able to reach the upper trailhead? How did it look?


02/08/2012 20:35
You will not be able to make it to the upper trailhead. From where the lower trailhead is it will look like you can but there is a lot of snow further down the road in the trees. I would plan on starting at the lower TH where the private property sign is.

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