Peak(s):  San Luis Peak  -  14,014 feet
Colorado Trail Seg 15 - 18 - 12,612 feet
Date Posted:  07/03/2012
Modified:  07/07/2012
Date Climbed:   06/29/2012
Author:  dehrlich101
 Sawatch to the San Juan’s  

Sawatch to the San Juan’s

Colorado Trail – Segments 15 – 18
San Luis Peak 14,014’ – Northeast Ridge via Stewart Creek

Dates: June 26 – 29th, 2012
Elevation Gain: 14,703’
Mileage: 70.1
Company: Rob
Support: Augie
Resources: Colorado Trail Guide, Map, and route description
Total miles on the CT: 193
Miles remaining: 292.8

Continuing with our segment-by-segment tour of the Colorado Trail, Rob and I decided to plan a four-day trip at the end of June. We wanted to get a lot of miles under out belts during the four days, so I asked my Grandpa (Augie) if he’d support us along the trail so that we could go light and fast with only a daypack on. During the month before we hatched a tentative goal to hike Segments 15 – 21, with a side trip to San Luis Peak during Segment 20. In retrospect 104 miles was ambitious, and to have achieved those kind of miles we would have to had to have everything go our way… Which usually doesn’t happen.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Segment 15 (US-50 to Marshall Pass) and Segment 16 (Marshall Pass to Cameron Park)
Start – 10:00 am
End – 9:10 pm
Mileage – 27.2
Elevation Gain- 6,576’
Elevation Loss – 4,013’

After working a graveyard shift Augie and Rob met me at work. We packed all our gear into Augies vehicle and started off to Hwy 50 just outside of Salida. Rob then realized that he had forgot his food at his house, and we had to turn around. After a quick stop we were back on the road again. We arrived at the trailhead at 10:00 am and started segment 15. The beginning of the trail follows Fooses Cr Rd up to Fooses Lake that provides hydroelectric power for the Salida area, and looks to be a local fishing hole. There were several good camping spots once you arrive at the S. Fooses Creek TH, with plenty of water from namesake creek.

3 miles from Hwy 50

Foose Creek Bridge


Beautiful scenery

The trail turns into a single track, and begins the steep climb to the Continental Divide. Until mile 8.2 the trail follows Fooses creek, and if you are running low on water make sure that you filter some at this point because there is no water available until the piped spring on the jeep trail leading into Marshall Pass. (The spring might not be running for much longer either, it is very dry in all these segments right now) We stopped to eat lunch and Rob found that he already had some blisters forming on his heels from some new insoles. Which wouldn’t get any better throughout the next few days. After gaining 3,047 of elevation the CT meets up with the Continental Divide Trail just 5 miles south of Monarch Pass. At this point there are great views in all directions. Looking west down the divide is Peel Point (12,145) and Mount Peck (12,208 ) and to the north is Pahlone Peak(12667).

Continental divide - Pahlone Pk 12,667'

Mount Peck 12,280'

After turning left onto the conjoined CT/CDT you have a great view of UN 13,472 A, Chipita Mountain 12,850, and Mount Ouray (13,971) to the east.

Mount Ouray, Chipita Mountain, and UN 13,472 can all be climbed from the Little Cochetopa Trail that intersects the CT. Mount Ouray was named after the Chief of the Ute Nation, and Chipeta was his wife.

UN 13,472', Chipeta Mountain 12,850', and Mount Ouray 13,971'

Green Creek Shelter

Little Cochetopa Trail to Mount Ouray

Antora Peak is the southernmost point in the Sawatch Range. It can be climbed on a side trip by going east on the Silver Creek Trail from the CT, then cutting southeast up its ridge to the summit.

Antora Peak 13,269'

Like I said earlier the only water source in this area is the spring at mile 13, Poncha Creek is dry. The next water source is Tank Seven Creek, which is 12.7 miles from the spring. It is unbelievable how dry everything is in these parts; make sure you make good use of any water you do find. We met my grandpa at Marshall Pass and we found that our original stopping point for the night FS Rd 243.3E was inaccessible due to downed trees. A ranger we spoke to on the pass said that is was unbelievable how many trees had fallen during the winter and they were working very hard to remove any blocking the roads in the area but it has been a long process. We decided that the only option was to meet him for the night at Cameron Park, which was 13 miles from Marshall Pass. Knowing that we had a spaghetti dinner waiting for us at Cameron Park, we filled our water and hurried down the trail wanting to get the last 13 miles over with. We were starting to feel the mileage at this point with my lack of sleep for the day, and Rob’s blisters were only getting worse even with bandages and moleskin on them. Around 9:00 pm we made our way though the dark into camp, ate a huge portion of Spaghetti and had a few beers. We went to bed around 10:00 pm, and at that point I’d been up for 31 hours straight.

Marshall Pass TH

Mount Ouray from Marshall Pass

Aspen forest

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Segment 16 (Cameron Park to Sargents Mesa) Segment 17 (Sargents Mesa to CO Hwy 114) Segment 18 (CO Hwy 114 to FS Rd 864-28 )
Start – 6:15 am
End – 8:15 pm
Mileage – 29.9
Elevation gain – 4,441’
Elevation loss – 5,344’

The next morning we woke up at 5:00 am, and ate a big bowl of oatmeal. After Rob mole skinned his feet and I applied some anti-chaffing stick to my feet we got back on the trail to finish up segment 16 at Sargents Mesa. It was a great morning, with blue skies and cool temperatures. We knew later on that it was predicted to have rain showers so we enjoyed the good weather while it was around.

Morning on Sergeants Mesa

Blue morning mountains

Segment 17 is also very dry, and the only water source from the beginning of the segment is Baldy Lake which is 1 mile round trip from the CT. It rained on and off throughout the day, as we went up and down along the divide eventually reaching the summit of Middle Baldy Peak 11,517. Rob’s feet were really hurting him at this point, and they had become very swollen. He told me that he would finish up today but he couldn’t go on with the rest of the planned segments. While descending into Lujan Pass we stopped and talked with another hiker. He’d been hiking for 37 days and was planning on completing the whole CDT from Mexico to Canada by the end of September. He asked where the next water was and we told him that it was at least 21 miles to the next water source at Tank Seven Creek. He was running low on water so we replenished his supply, wished him luck with his adventure, and headed into Lujan Pass to eat Lunch with my grandpa. After a huge roast beef and ham sandwich and potato chips we took off down the trail again with the end of the day within reach, only 9 more miles!


Different view


We're on the right path!

After crossing Hwy 114 there was a few coolers full of pop left on the side of the trail for CT and CDT hikers that a local replenishes regularly. Both of us were really feeling the miles on our feet at this point but we kept on going hoping that our feet would eventually go numb until we reached camp at Cochetopa Pass. The trail began going up some switchbacks following an old logging road, and was relatively steep until we reached the saddle. It was mostly down hill the rest of the way to Cochatopa Pass, and we got to NN – 14 just in time for an incredible sunset, which lifted our sprits after the long, cold, wet, and painful day. Augie had already set up camp for us and we dined on ravioli and had a few beers while watching the sunset turn deeper and deeper shades of pink. I had the choice of continuing on solo the next day to finish segment 18 and 19, but decided against it because my feet and body weren’t feeling 100 % either.

Light and darkness

Setset over Cochatopa

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The next day we woke up and broke down camp. The only goal for the day was to find a burger, beer, and relax. We packed up the vehicle and drove to Carnero Pass, then into Del Norte, South Fork and then arrived in Creede around lunchtime.

Blue bird morning

We drove up Main Street looking for a place to eat when I saw Kip's Grill. Several trip reports mentioned Kip’s as a stellar place to eat, and it did not disappoint. I had the green chiliburger with jalapeno poppers, with a few micro brews and it was awesome. I would recommend this place to anyone that is going to be around Creede. After lunch we drove up Spring Creek Pass and Slumgullion Pass to check out the slide and the Alfred Packer massacre sight. Slumgullion Pass has an excellent view of Uncompahgre Peak and Wetterhorn Peak.

Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre from Slumgullion Pass

Even though our hiking the Colorado Trail was over I still wanted to go for San Luis Peak the next day. We drove to the Stewart Creek Trailhead by going over Los Pinos Pass, and the connecting forest service roads. We set up camp down the road from the trailhead, and cooked dinner while watching a lighting storm engulf all the mountains around us. After dinner the storm came our way and we headed into our tents for the night.

Friday, June 29, 2012
San Luis Peak 14,014’
Start – 4:00 am
End – 10:00 am
Mileage – 13.0
Elevation gain – 3,686’
Company - Solo

I woke up at 3:30 the next morning, and got my stuff ready for San Luis Peak. I started at the trailhead at 4:00; everything was really muddy from the storm during the night. It’s always creepy walking alone in the forest while its dark. Several times I could see the glowing eyes of deer in the willows next to the trail when my headlamp shined their way. I had seen a few cars in the parking lot from Colorado Fourteeners Initiative and the Southwest Conservation Corps, so I expected to run into a camp of all the volunteers at some point along the trail. A few miles up the creek I met two people from the Conservation Corps and they said CFI and them were doing some trail work around tree line over the next few days. I hit tree line right around the same time as the sunrise, and finally got a view of Baldy Aldo, Organ Mountain, and the ridge to San Luis.

Morning light


The trail was very easy to follow and I continued up though the willows to the saddle between Organ Mountain and San Luis. I met a few people from Texas on the saddle that got up at 1:30 am to hike up to the top for the sunrise. The northeast ridge trail had been covered in hail from the storm during the night. It was an easy hike up the ridge to the crest below the summit, and at 7:15 I reached the top. After taking a few pictures of the area I started descending back down to camp. I walked the top the ridge to get a better view of Baldy Aldo and Stewart Peak, and then walked down to meet the trail again.

Ridge to the summit

Summit shot #25

Ridge to Baldy Alto and Stewart Peak

Baldy Alto

Until next time La Gardia

The return back to the trailhead was quick, and met another large group of people from Texas. I arrived back at the trailhead at 10:00, and we broke down camp. We drove into Lake City for lunch at Poker Alice. That night we met up with Rob’s Dad and a friend and had dinner at Sportsmans BBQ in the backyard. The restaurant had really good food, and the owner gave us a free round of beer… Now that is customer service. They have country concerts on Tuesday nights and have a great line up for the summer. Check it out if you’re in the area.

All in all, it was a great trip with my grandpa and good friends. Hopefully we’ll be back sometime this summer to complete a few more segments of the Colorado Trail and some of the Lake City 14ers. Hope you enjoyed the pictures, and the story.

- Daniel

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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