Peak(s):  Culebra Peak  -  14,047 feet
Red Mtn A  -  13,908 feet
Date Posted:  06/15/2015
Date Climbed:   06/13/2015
Author:  michaelgrundy
Additional Members:   rohit
 Wag The Snake  

Saturday, June 13, 2015

This is it! Time to start the 2015 season and climb the remaining 7 peaks in my quest to finish the highest 58 mountains in Colorado! My wife and I decided that we were going to make a weekend out of this event so we booked 2 nights at the Lodge Motel in Ft. Garland. Along with hiking Culebra, we wanted to spend some time at the Great Sand Dunes and hang out in the San Luis Valley.

First thing's first, Culebra (meaning snake in Spanish). My buddy Rohit and I met up in the motel parking lot at 5:10 am so that we could drive to the ranch gate before the 6 am opening time. When we got there, there were about 4 other cars there all waiting to do the same thing, climb Culebra.

They take this $h!t seriously...

Road conditions while we were there. (Will be graded soon)

Shortly after we arrived at the gate, a ranch worker pulled up in his pickup, waited a few minutes, and then let us through. We followed him up to the ranch headquarters where we checked in, got some instructions, and started driving up the road to the trail head. The last of the instructions were simple: park at the "4 way" trailhead. They have been getting a lot of rain in the area and the owners were unsure of the conditions of the road above that junction and did not want anyone getting stuck. We drove up the road in Rohit's Honda Pilot and quickly arrived at our designated trailhead at around 6:30 am.

Starting the hike from 'Four Way'.

Within a couple of minutes, everyone that was attempting Culebra that day was hiking their way up the rest of the road. The small gaggle of people were only 100 yards up the road when the same ranch worker pulled up behind us in his pickup and offered to ferry us to the upper trailhead. Needless to say, most of the group pilled in and took the ride to the trailhead.

Upper Trailhead.

The road wasn't in too bad of shape. I firmly believe that we all could have made it without any issue... but better safe than sorry. The worker mentioned that he would be grading the road, so the road will be in much better shape soon.

We all started making our way up the gentle slope in front of us. The herd mentality broke and we were mostly hiking in pairs. The most interesting thing about the hike at the beginning is that there is no trail. This means, no conga line of hikers. No designated path. No switchbacks to cut. Only your own imagination to lead you to where you want to go.

Start of the hike.

Looking back down towards the upper Trailhead.

Some people stayed on the far left side of the gully: electing to hike a longer distance but around all of the snow fields. Others took a more direct approach at the cost of post-holing through a couple of narrow snowfields. Rohit and I chose the second option.

Crossing a snowfield.

Little Bear and Blanca in the distance.

We went along the left side of the main snowfield and then cut towards the south of the gully when we could. It was a more direct line but a little steeper and we had to cross a pair of snow fields that were deep enough to post-hole up to our hips. The snowfields were only 30 feet wide so it was only a small amount of suffering. We just kept trudging along and before we knew it, we were on top of the ridge and able to see Culebra in front of us.

Rohit on top of the ridge.

Looking at the remainder of the ridge.

The flat portion of the ridge did not last long and we began our gentle descent to the saddle. Now, with the false summit in front of us, we put our heads down and decided to make it in one big push.

Approaching the false summit.

Rohit approaching the false summit.

We kept our pace slow but we did not stop a single time. We figured that it was a good way to get in shape! In what seemed like a flash, we crossed the false summit and climbed the last portion of the ridge to the summit - 2 hours and 30 min after leaving the lower trailhead!

Marmot friend on the summit.

Looking at Red Mountain from the summit.

Outstanding views.

Obligatory summit picture.

We took a few pictures, had some food, drank a shot, and decided it was time to head over to Red Mountain. The weather had been pretty mild up until this point. Lots of clouds but the temps were fair and there was barely any wind. Once we started down the ridge, the clouds poured in and we could no longer see either of the two summits (Culebra or Red Mountain). Just then, it started spitting sleet at us. Again, Rohit and I put our heads down and pushed on to the summit without stopping. Slow and steady wins the race they say... After 35 minutes, we walked out onto the summit of Red Mountain and sat down. It was time to take a break.

Me on top of Red Mountain

Views from the summit of Red Mountain.

We had some more food, had some more shots, and took some more pictures while we rested. While we were on the summit, we could hear some thunder in the distance to the south so we knew we should get going.

Instead of climbing all the way back up to Culebra's summit, we decided to traverse around the side to the false summit. This was a little trickier than it should have been due to the recent sleet which has now melted and made everything wet. We took our time and safely made it to the false summit about 45 minutes after we left Red Mountain.

A wildflower along the way.

The weather cleared up on the hike out!

Now, the only thing left to do was follow the ridge down to our descent point and head back down to the Pilot. As we descended, the weather cleared up and became sunny. Pretty much a perfect ending to a nice hike that started our 2015 hiking season. 1 down, 6 more to go! We hiked the 8 miles (upper 4wd trailhead to Culebra, over to Red Mountain, back down to Lower 4wd trailhead) in 7 hours including breaks. The mountain is pretty mellow and the only thing that was an issue was the weather on the way to Red Mountain. I will admit, it was fun being able to hike wherever you wanted and not feel guilty about leaving the trail.

The drive out.

Afterwards, my wife and I wanted to go to Zapata falls but the weather turned ugly for a while. Instead, we drove over to Alamosa to tool around for a while. We took one of the 'back roads' over and you could see the result of all of the heavy rains. (This picture was looking east toward the Blanca Massif)

The result of all of the rain the valley has been getting.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The next day, we took a family trip over to the Sand Dunes and proceeded to wear our dogs out. The weather was great and the sand was cool in the morning.

Sand dunes!

Making our pointer run between us.

Later (around noon) it warmed up so we decided it was best to head out to the creek and then eventually head over to the Alligator farm. This was a great way to start the season and I am glad that I was able to spend the weekend with my family away from home!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions
Exiled Michigander

Nice work, gentlemen.
06/15/2015 16:30
Are you two planning on finishing the 14ers this year?


06/15/2015 16:46
Sure am. Doing the Wilson group at the end of the month and then we will only have a couple left. No idea when yet though.


A well documented TR
06/16/2015 10:05
The first Culebra TR I recall that included pictures of the road. This one is on my list and thank you for doing this report.


From a native Pittsburgher...
06/16/2015 16:42
Go Steelers!


06/17/2015 09:34

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