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Date: July 13
Trailhead: ~11,800' Alamosito Creek
Elevation Gain: 3,687'
Partners: Matt (James13) and Rob (Stratosfearsome)
With the Cielo Vista Ranch changing hands on August 2 of this year, I figured I had better jump at the opportunity to get these peaks before the new owner shows up. Who knows what the access will be like, let alone the fee. So a huge thanks to Rob for starting the discussion and to Matt for taking the lead on getting these trips organized and making all the contacts with the ranch. Matt even went down to the ranch the week before to get a tour of the roads! Huge thanks!
The 3 of us met in San Luis at the gas station and made it to the gate with a few minutes to spare (rough traffic in Denver). From there we took the scenic route up to the trailhead. We stopped near where Furthermore's group started, but decided to go into the drainage to minimize the mileage and uphill at the end of the day. The weather looked iffy, so we wanted to have the best chance of completing our objectives. Don't want to orphan a peak here!
Graupel on Vermejo and Alamosito from scenic road approach
At the road split, Ron and assistant Levi left us to drive until we either found a good camp spot, or ran out of road. Driving on the ranch frequently feels like driving on the grass, since the roads don't get much use. Plus they can be very difficult to follow, as the turns are not always obvious (why I have allowed a rare .gpx download of this trip). The first spot we found, had lots of fresh cow pies, so we continued until we found a better spot. The guys got their tents up before the rain, but soon after it started we all went to sleep.
Rob got started 2 hours before Matt and I, as he wanted to finish the 14er list AND the Centennials with Culebra and Red. For me, this would be the first hike of the season where I'm not wearing ski boots for at least part of the day. I considered that more than enough challenge. Matt and I started off around civil twilight, so we could see easily enough as we made our way up the saddle between Purgatoire and Alamosito. A lone elk watched our progress uphill with rapt attention. We must have walked through their favorite grazing spot they wanted to get back to.
We made the saddle a little bit after sunrise, and then had the really steep ridge up to the summit of Purgatoire. There were a few spots where a trail is visible.
A brief stop to snack, get a few photos from the summit and put on a wind jacket. The wind had started from the moment we hit the ridge, and I held out on the ascent, but no longer. Then back down the steep slope (*without skis* oh the horror), and on to Alamosito.
The summit of Alamosito came quickly. We tried to spot Rob on a ridge line somewhere, but couldn't. At this point we hoped he was somewhere on the return journey. We figured it would be perfect timing if he met us on the next peak, Vermejo.
When we got to the summit of Vermejo, it was a huge relief we had gotten it done before the weather. The light puffy clouds didn't look too bad, yet. So we figured we could take a bit of a longer break this time. About the time the clouds blew up to our east, and we decided we should get going downhill, Rob showed up! Perfect! I immediately congratulated the now 14er and Centennial finisher, and we left the summit after we gave him a little break.
Crazy how fast those clouds grew from little puffies!
We decided to drop all the way off Vermejo and not reascend Alamosito. Along the initial descent, Matt spotted a black bear on the ridge. We then stuck together and made lots of noise, just to be sure the bear was aware of us. It was a good decision to drop low, as fairly soon after, the first rumblings were heard from the sky around 11:15. Down in the valley it started raining and we had some graupel. We were a bit undecided wether we should wait out the storm, or just race up the short saddle to get to the drainage with the trucks. We didn't want the storms to build any further, and the energy seemed to be concentrated in the sky to the east of Alamosito, so we decided to make a run up and over the saddle. A bit of interval training at the end of the day!
The guys collapsed their wet tents and threw them in the back of Matt's truck and after a snack, we were off to Fort Garland for lunch. Not a bad first hike of the season, if a bit wet at the end.
Date: July 14
Trailhead: ~Purgatory campground/ FS 462
Elevation Gain: 5,813'
With the trip next week on the middle Culebra range 13ers, I figured I should go hike the northern ones, since I was in the neighborhood. So I drove to the eastern side of the range, to one of the few National Forest access points near the Purgatory Campground. With a car shuttle, doing this ridge traverse would be super easy (~5.8 miles and 3.5K). But I figured I needed the practice hiking. I camped at the base of the road, so I wouldn't have to go uphill at the end of the day. To compromise, I got up an hour earlier to walk the road in the dark. I got to the end of the road and to tree line near sunrise. Most of the road is easy 4wd, but the upper stretch is rough with lots of loose rocks. This section may be more difficult to regular 4wd, as the road usually goes straight up on this loose rock.
Another Spanish Peaks sunrise
Beyond the end of the road, with a small pull out/turn around, there is a small trail that exits to the left. It soon disappears as you enter the krummholtz. At this point a very strong wind hits me in the face, and remains for the entire uphill portion of the first peak. Not exactly the extra training I was desiring on an already long day! So after making good time on the road, my progressed slowed considerably. The last section of ridge is a bit scrambly, but nothing too difficult.
After the briefest of pauses near the unranked summit, I was off to Cuatro. The clouds had started to come in, and were obscuring the summit and ridge of Cuatro. I wasn't worried about the clouds, as I could see west beyond them to blue sky.
Looking south at Mariquita and De Anza B
Cuatro from Maxwell
Cuatros south ridge looked quite interesting from the side, and I figured the scrambling would continue. Kind of eery to ascend in the misty bottoms of the clouds, but that also made it kind of unique. The route finding wasn't too bad, just go up and scramble what ever you feel comfortable with. There is loose rock too, so scrambling is preferable to the alternative. I went up one short pitch of class 4-ish, but I'm sure you could find an alternative if desired.
I knew that once I made the summit of Cuatro, all the scrambling would be over, and it would just be a simple grassy stroll the rest of the way. So I tried to enjoy the fun while I could.
Approaching the summit of Cuatro (summit cairn visible in clouds)
Once I was descending from Cuatro, I got out of the clouds and could see the rolling ridge over to Leaning South Peak. Easy hiking now!
Looking back on Cuatro north ridge
Once over a small false summit, it was a quick ascent up to Leaning South's summit. There I could see most of the way up Trinchera, since it had been in the clouds since the start, like Cuatro.
The Leaning South/North saddle, I saw a pretty sizable herd of sheep below, including at least one young one.
I didn't particularly want to walk over the unranked summit of Leaning North because of the approaching weather, but I figured it would only waste about 10 minutes. Though once on the unranked summit, the skies opened up, and I could finally see the summit of Trinchera. I figured this was the brief clearing before the storm hit, so I raced up to the final summit as quickly as possible.
Summit cairns of Trinchera
On the final summit of the day, I took the briefest of rests to sign the register and snap a photo or two. The sky to the east over the Spanish Peaks looked nasty, and I couldn't tell anymore to the west. But as soon as I left the summit, it cleared again, and I was in the sun until well after I found the 4x4 road below. I walked down the nice mellow slopes of the drainage, and found a patch of snow that I couldn't resist boot skiing down. Yay, a few feet of sliding downhill!
Boot ski tracks!
Trinchera from the 4x4 road
I followed the road until it met up with the trail that would take me back to the Purgatory campground. I didn't hear the first thunder till 11. Then nothing until an hour later, at 12. Then another couple of booms at 1. It rained off and on, on the hike down the very muddy and marshy trail. Any flat spot, was a muddy mess. But at least all that moisture meant lots of wildflowers!
A meadow trail is in there somewhere
The map I had, showed quite a few stream crossings, but thankfully in reality there is only one. No real way to avoid getting the feet wet on this one, so I put on my sandals and went across. My feet were hurting at this point, so the stream felt wonderful. Putting the boots back on felt like torture! Overall, not bad for my first long day in hiking boots.
Date: July 20
Trailhead: Whiskey Pass road/ Carneros Creek
Elevation Gain: 4,256'
Elevation Loss: 5,484'
Partners: Matt (James13), Vadim (Vadim34), Eddie (Mtnman200), Matt (TravellingMatt), Ben (benners), Kevin (Papillon), Sarah (wooderson), Shawn (Rainier_Wolfcastle), Steve (marmot72)
Not wanting to cut it too close this week, I left Boulder much earlier. I got to the gate almost an hour early, to find Vadim already waiting. The group slowly arrived in the next hour and we eventually worked out the car pool situation and who wanted/could drive their vehicles up the road. This time Ron brought 2 assistants, Levi and Pete. Levi would flag the route and Pete was on his 4 wheeler. We decided to drop off Matt's truck at the pick up point, since it could hold all 10 of us. So Ron led Matt up to that spot, while the rest of us waited at the Salazar gate. I was chatting with Levi, when he got a radio call, and decided to run up ahead to flag the turn. It's too bad he flagged the wrong way... After some more waiting, Pete got the radio call to lead us up the road further. So Pete went ahead and frequently stopped to toss a rock off the side of the road so that Steve's Rav4 could make it. We drove past where Levi made a wrong turn, and continued up the Whiskey Pass road (which is marked on the maps on my GPS quite clearly). We found the correct right turn that Furthermore's group had missed. A lovely little rough stream crossing. A bit of confusion with Pete going off ahead on the 4 wheeler to go after Steve walking up the road (to see if his car could make it). So I decided to just start driving, I was tired of waiting. The sun was going down, and I wanted to get to camp before dark. I had the most capable vehicle of the group, so I just drove. This section of road is all talus, so watching for fallen rocks and sharp rocks is a must, but otherwise the road was pretty easy. Pete seemed surprised that I was driving up and that others were following. Talking with Eddie, we figured to drive as high as possible, but where there was decent camping spots. I figured this was near that first switchback, as after that wouldn't be good road anymore. Passed by swampy cow pie fields and standing muddy water, went through a tree car wash and found a decent enough flat spot for all of us. Turns out a slightly better tent camping spot was a bit further on that switchback, but large rocks would have to be crossed, and I was tired of driving. So keep that in mind if you get up there before dark.
We figured that Ron would have caught up to us well before we made the trailhead, to drop off Matt. The group was chatting till well after dark, and still Matt had not showed up. How were we going to do the traverse with no Matt and his truck? Would Ron show up eventually? Was there truck problems? So many scenarios were running through our collective brains. How to do the traverse without a mini epic. What to do if Matt never showed up. Would Ron take him to the main Culebra campsite and bring him up in the morning. I kept hoping to see headlights coming up the road, that I exclaimed more than once that someones headlamp was headlights. We went to bed with many many questions clouding the mind. About the time I turned off the light in the back of my truck, I saw headlights!!! Ha, no longer the woman who cried headlights! For these were real! Turns out, Ron got lost trying to find the short cut back to the Whiskey Pass road, then had a blown tire past the stream crossing on the sharp talus. So it took them much longer than planned to get up there. Now I felt bad that I hadn't set up Matt's tent for him, but Vadim and I assisted, so that Matt could at least get a bit of rest.
This is why I have allowed .gpx download for this trip. So the next trip up here can have a bit less drama!
The next morning, the group divided into two. Those who wanted bonus peaks, and those who figured the 6 were more than enough for one day. No one in my group wanted those 12ers, even if they looked close on the map. The weather was looking decent for today, and was trending better, but you don't want to orphan a peak when you have to pay for it! The late group got started before it was light enough to see, so when we started walking up the remainder of the road, we took the first switchback to the right, and then missed it when it went back to the left. So we found ourself in a drainage around talus, with giant cliffs blocking our progress back to the center of the whiskey pass area where there was a trail once upon a time. It wasn't the greatest of routes, since it was steep and loose, but we made it. Just in time for a nice sunrise!
Yet another enjoyable Spanish Peaks sunrise
Once on the ridge, everyone in my group was happy. The first summit was a short jaunt away. The hardest grunt of the day was over. Mostly smooth tundra walking now!
We rolled easily and quickly over the first 3 summits of the day. Even saw a wildlife crossing too. On the second peak, I spotted 2 hikers on our first peak. I started wondering when they would catch us. I figured on Miranda. I was having a rough day due to some digestive distress, so I was moving a lot slower than normal. So these speedy bonus peak hikers, had to gain ground on us!
Looking north from Beaubien
Looking back on the mound that is Lomo Lisa
After Lomo Lisa came the one unranked peak, and the toughest ascent of the day. That rock was loose and steep, till you got to the ridge. It may be class 2+ at the easiest, but you will want to search out the solid class 3 sections for your safety! I found a solid rock rib and just followed that until I got to the ridge, where some better (ie more fun) scrambling was had till we go to the unranked summit.
Our group took the longest break of the trek on this unranked peak, since we were all a bit spent after that tough ascent. Before we left the summit, we could see the 2 fast hikers approaching the rough section.
Looking back on Miranda
Ben and Steve caught me as I was making my way up 13,565. I'm not sure if I even managed to take a photo from the summit, my stomach was hurting/distracting me so much. I plopped down on the summit and looked out at the north face of Culebra. I guess I figured the view would be the same from the final peak of the day. Plus the clouds were building, and I just wanted to get to the last peak.
Everyone, minus the last 3 hikers, was lounging on the final summit of the day. Kevin, Sarah and Shawn were not that far behind, so we all just hung out till they arrived. I set up my camera to get some candid shots, since I can control it from my phone. Shawn got everyone to laugh, since he though I was catching him doing something silly.
Shawn getting the group to laugh, as I take candid shots
Culebra's north face - THAT looks infinitely more skiable...
We knew from the previous trip's beta, that we needed to traverse far to the left to avoid the cliffs below. Steve and Vadim ignored this advice and somehow found passage down through these cliffs. The rest of us found an OK grassy gully to descend, while Matt (TravellingMatt) went further left, and found a trail and beat us to the bottom.
Once below the lake, there are cairns that try to point you to the trail that will take you all the way down to the parking area. The trail starts off pretty faint, as you hit tree line, but soon it becomes quite obvious. This trail/atv road seemed to take much much longer than expected. Furthermore's map had the trail ending at 10,400', whereas we kept descending till almost 10,200'. Someone gave a loud Whoop! when they saw Matt's truck, which motivated me to push through the sore feet and move faster.
We had a long bumpy ride back to the campsite, but it was a wonderful day, and it still hadn't clouded up or rained! It was really nice to catch up with people I hadn't seen in years. Some 7 years! Also good to meet those I only recognized as a name on the forum, the lurkers and those just starting their 13er journey. Matt did the math the night before on how many 13ers we had in the group. He counted about 2,900 13ers. After this day, that number is much closer to the 3K of Furthermore's group.
The group, L->R: Vadim, Matt (James13), Kevin, Sarah, Shawn, Steve, Matt (TravellingMatt), Ben, Eddie, Me with Beaubien behind
Some shots from the northern reaches of the Cielo Vista Ranch from the over achiever peak baggers:
A plane crash
Looking south on Culebra and the 13ers
Looking at Mariquita
Side view of Whiskey Pass and Beaubien
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
It took me a while to get through this one, Otina - you have a lot of WONDERFUL pictures in this. Of the peaks you did, I have only done Trinchera and I recall the cairns in the fog that was there the day I was there - they looked like sentinels leading me to the summit. Naturally, seeing all the other peaks you did makes me want to head down there tomorrow.
Sorry for the delay in reply, had to take my Mom to Yellowstone, and there's limited cell.
Trotter - So little beta, there isn't even a TI map for the area!
Mtnman200 - Learned my lesson about what I shouldn't eat before a trip... glad I could be the "slow one", so no one else felt self conscious!
Vadim - These trips always bring out a unique assortment of hikers. Glad we all got along well!
Bill - Gotta have a TR other than Furthermore out there! Random 12ers... uggg no one has time for that in monsoon season!
Jay - I had a lot of good photos from these trips! I figured having all the peaks in one TR might be a faster search for beta, instead of remembering all the peak names (which I'm bad at). Longer, but hopefully more convenient.
for the write up, Otina! It was really cool meeting you. And your pictures, as usual, are magic.
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