Peak(s):  Maxwell, Mt - 13,335 feet
Mariquita Pk - 13,405 feet
De Anza Pk B - 13,333 feet
Date Posted:  09/03/2017
Modified:  09/07/2017
Date Climbed:   09/02/2017
Author:  rajz06
 When the Spanish Lady(bug) Beckons   

Note: Both Mariquita and De Anza B are on privately owned land, a fact that I discovered well after my trip was all said and done. I have chosen to leave my report public for what it's worth; conceivably, both these peaks can be climbed using this approach, with appropriate permission from the owner. However, my gpx file will not be downloadable. Thank you for understanding.

Starting Point: Start of Purgatoire River West Fork on unnamed county road off Highway 12: ~9,600'
Peaks Climbed in order of ascent: Mt. Maxwell (13,335'), Mariquita Peak (13,405'), De Anza B (13,333')
Route: East ridge ascent of Mt. Maxwell, ridge traverse to Mariquita and De Anza Peak B, return via ridge and east ridge descent of Mariquita
RT Distance: ~11.2 miles (from GPX file)
Elevation Gain/Loss: ~5,160 feet (from Google Maps)
Group: Solo

I was rather surprised to find that there were a couple of ranked 13ers in The Sangre de Cristo range that had no trip reports on this site. Nada. Zilch. Perhaps, it was time to publish one. Only caveat to that ambition is that I would have to get off my derriere and climb them first. Easier said than done!

Mariquita (Spanish for "ladybug") Peak sits in a long series of peaks west of the Spanish peaks, extending south to Culebra and beyond. Mariquita lies sandwiched between Mt. Maxwell, an unranked 13er to the north, and De Anza B, a ranked 13er to the south. A recent report by bergsteigen featuring multiple forays into this area provided sufficient beta for the most direct approach via Maxwell's east ridge.

4WD road runs up the ridge north of Purgatoire's West Fork

The 4WD road zig zags its way up the ridge just north of the West Fork of Purgatoire River, flanked on both sides by steep slopes.

Steep slope down to the creek

My day started late as usual and I decided that any attempt at the third peak would be at the mercy of the weather gods, especially since the return route would require a re-ascent of the "ladybug". That was assuming that I could find a viable descent off its lower northeast ridge.

Eyeing the lower northeast ridge off Mariquita

The other option, of course, would be to retrace my path over Maxwell, not as satisfying but by far, the only safe bet of the two. So engrossed I was in studying the ridge on the other side of the canyon, that I unintentionally parted ways with the road before treeline.

Losing the road and scrambling up the hillside

I scrambled up the hillside and continued up the ridge through the forest. Finding my through the trees was a non-issue with the thinning foliage.

Weaving through the trees

Game trails made progress easier still.

Game trails forge a path through the woods

An hour and a half of hiking up the road and weaving my way through the undergrowth and up the ridge brought me to treeline. Directly in my sights was the lower part of Maxwell's east ridge adorned with towers.

At treeline, lining up with Maxwell's east ridge

I aimed directly for the ridge as I navigated through the mix of tundra and rocks.

Aiming for the ridge

Across the canyon, Mariquita's upper east ridge was in full display, and looking more and more like a viable descent route - at least, what I could see of it.

Looking over at Mariquita's east ridge

Back on the ridge, the easiest ascent was bypassing the dyke-like structure on hiker's left.

Bypassing the dyke-like formation to hiker's left

The large rocks were generally quite stable, making for a relatively straightforward traverse through this section. The ridge beyond this point was an interesting mix of slabby rocks, and rock outcroppings.

On Maxwell's ridge proper

I ventured on either side of the ridge but the terrain got loose quickly, so I stayed on the crest where the rock was most solid. The towers were small and easy to climb over, the hardest of them is pictured here, after my downclimb.

Looking back at the largest tower on the ridge

Another short pitch over slabby rock, and all that lay before me and Maxwell's summit was an easy walk on tundra.

Slabby pitch

Grassy terrain to summit

To the north, Cuatro and its interesting south ridge.

Cuatro to the north

I took in the views but didn't linger. My first summit of the day was just the price of entry to the web of the Spanish ladybug. Much work lay further ahead as I surveyed the ridge to Mariquita. De Anza B lay in the back, while Culebra lurked in the distant shadows.

Mariquita and De Anza B

The saddle drops to about 12,900' and my goal was to stay low and skirt round the shoulder of the entire ridge. Studying the route, my concern with this approach was running into looser terrain, but this turned out to be misfounded.

Looking back at the descent off Maxwell

Easiest path stays below the ridge

In fact, I got on a roll and kept skirting well past the summit! It wasn't until I regained the ridge that I realized the summit was behind me.

Skirting past one too many points

Overshooting the summit of Mariquita

I surveyed the route I'd taken from Maxwell. I had decided that I wasn't returning via that route; I wanted a loop which would mean a descent of Mariquita's east ridge and potentially an adventure into the unknown. After all, that's what hiking 13ers is all about, right?

The ridge to the north

What I hadn't decided on was whether I was going to attempt De Anza B. This ridge route would be a good bit longer than the previous traverse and would require a return to my current station before I could embark on the descent.

De Anza B is a good mile away

One thing that held me back was the fact that this wasn't exactly a solo trip for me. My hiking partner, Mark, and I had separated early in the chase, his only goal being to explore the wilderness, possibly summit Maxwell and return via the same route. Per our last exchange, I had a bit over four hours to make it back to base camp so time was of the essence. Figuring that I could always change my mind, I started down the ridge. The drop down from Mariquita was on steep talus and went relatively quickly. Then came the seemingly endless expanse of a saddle.

Dropping a bit too low

I dropped to around 12,800, probably lower than necessary, before angling my way closer to the ridge.

Gaining the ridge

I was expecting scree on the steepest part of the ascent, and was relieved that this fear was also unfounded. The terrain was generally a mix of rocks and vegetation and posed no threats.

Final pitch

From the third summit of the day, I surveyed the traverse. Even as the crow flies, the 1.8 mile span of high ridge between Maxwell and my station seemed quite impressive.

The day's ridge traverse so far

I was running behind schedule, so I cut my high summit reverie short, and started on my return traverse. When I made it to the saddle, I spotted a herd of bighorn sheep lazing at the bottom of the basin, some 1,500 feet below me.

I knew I'd see you - your droppings were everywhere!

I figured I could bypass the summit of Mariquita so I made an ascending traverse, aiming for a point on its east ridge.

Ascending traverse to Mariquita

Skirting the high point

This worked out well and I joined the east ridge almost exactly at the same point I'd reached on my ascent - only, of course, this time it was intentional. The east ridge descent off Mariquita started well and got even better as I found trail segments that made passage through the talus easier.

East ridge starts out gentle

Looking back at the descent

To my delight, I found an old road at around 12,500' that appeared to skirt south (hiker's right) of the ridge. "This return trip is going to be a cake", I thought to myself.

That's a great find!

When things seem too good to be true, they always are. The 4WD road might have been perfect, but it was also private!


Alright! I get the message

I was on private property, but the road was also now traversing across the slope toward the West Fork ravine. Regardless of where it ended, it was clear that it would not take me down to where I was headed. The honeymoon was good while it lasted but I needed to expedite my progress. I took a direct path, literally plummeting my way down the steep hillside, thankful for the moist, soft mud that helped with traction.

Going down the slope

Looking back up the slope

As I descended further, the undergrowth thickened and I decide to veer to hiker's left to make my way to the creek. I found some game trails that aided in this attempt.

Game trail going toward the ravine - note steepness of the hillside

But alas, I was still too high and the slope leading to the creek was impossibly steep.

Whoa! That's a steep drop to the creek

Retracing my way across the hillside to more stable terrain, I fought my way through deadfall while trying to maintain progress.

More woods to navigate

Another failed attempt to find a passage to the ravine only served to make me more anxious. It wasn't until I had descended to about 10,000' feet that I was able to intersect the creek at a level spot. Creek crossings are generally as easy as 1, 2, 3...

1, 2, 3 and splat!

Except, not this one. Steps one and two went like clockwork, but the instant my foot hit rock no. 3, it slid on the wet surface and my momentum carried me into the air and across the creek. Somehow, I flung my hiking pole to free my hands in time and get them in front of me to cushion my landing. "Cushion", is a strong word, because my hands made impact on the bank with a resounding thud while my feet dropped into the creek. My feet were soaking wet and my palm was sore from the impact, but I was otherwise unscathed. Shaken and stirred but still in one piece, I fought my way through the trees to join the road just above where we'd started. Like a wet dog I made my way to camp, grinning from ear to ear. What can I say - that's what mountains do to me!

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

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

Comments or Questions
09/04/2017 06:42
The moment you stepped off Maxwell, you were trespassing. Maybe why you didn't find any trip reports!

Grey vs Green
09/04/2017 12:43
As you can see on the above map: green is Forrest Service/public, grey is private. Some 13ers are tricky like that. Some are allowed, others are not. You may want to 'save as inactive'...

We had a long discussion about it recently

09/04/2017 18:37
Thanks for letting me know. By the time I saw any signs re: private property, it was too late.

09/05/2017 09:33
maybe tell us how this was all hiked "in a dream"
and that you drew the orange line on that map by hand

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