Peak(s):  Electric Pk A  -  13,598 feet
Mount Niedhardt, 12,780
Lakes Pk  -  13,375 feet
Thirsty Pk  -  13,213 feet
PT 13,123 B  -  13,123 feet
Cottonwood Pk A  -  13,588 feet
Date Posted:  05/19/2020
Modified:  05/20/2020
Date Climbed:   05/09/2020
Author:  supranihilest
 Thirsty for More Electric Ridges  

In November Whiley and I had tried Electric Peak and Lakes Peak in the northern Sangre. Fresh snow had slowed us considerably and we turned around near treeline since there was no way we'd get the peaks and be back before nightfall. With last week's success on three peaks just south of Electric and Lakes we figured we could go back and not have much trouble this time, plus add a few or four peaks, because big, ambitious days are the best days.

We met at the Major Creek Trailhead the night before and slept in our vehicles. We woke up at 6am the next day, drove and dropped a car over at the Hot Springs Canyon/Garner Creek Trailhead, and then drove back to Major Creek. There's only a mile or so between the two trailheads but it's all on a dirt road and would add absolutely nothing at the end of the day. At 7am we were on the trail. The Major Creek Trail is very easy to follow and slowly gains about 2,500 feet of elevation in six or so miles. It was a bit chilly in the morning but the sun was shining and soon we were both warm. The glow of nature already told us today was going to be a good day.

20108_01
Haze and morning wonder.
20108_02
Major Creek drainage with Lakes Peak and Electric Peak way back.
20108_03
Fresh bloomed Aspen.

For the first few miles the peaks remained hidden. The trail took is gradually closer and eventually Lakes' massive southwest face popped into view.

20108_04
Here's lookin' at you, Lakes.

A talus field below Lakes Peak marked the end of the trail for a bit. We took a short break and then continued to the right along the edge of the talus field and back into the trees. Our goal was to locate the start of the switchbacks on the Electric Peak side of the Lakes Peak/Electric Peak saddle.

20108_05
An ugly talus field below Lakes Peak.
20108_08
Looking in the direction of Electric Peak where the switchbacks begin.

There was a little bit of rock hard snow in the trees here, and after crossing through a meadow the switchbacks were easy to locate as they made their way up to the saddle. We hopped on and began zig-zagging up, easily reaching the saddle.

20108_09
Good, easy switchbacks up above treeline. Photo: Whiley H.
20108_10
Whiley looking like a ninja.
20108_11
Lakes Peak with the saddle dead ahead. Photo: Whiley H.

We turned hard right and took a short break, then continued up towards Electric Peak and Mount Niedhardt, an unranked 12er near Electric. A large, sharp peak stood above us but wasn't Electric - the point was actually the terminus of a flat ridge, we just couldn't see it yet.

20108_12
More electric looking than Electric actually looks. Photo: Whiley H.

There was a little bit of Class 2+ up to the point, but it could all have been kept at simple Class 2 if desired.

20108_13
A few short steps and some loose rock but nothing difficult. Photo: Whiley H.

We topped out on the point and had a choice: Electric or Niedhardt?

20108_14
Electric Peak.
20108_15
Mount Niedhardt.

I said we should do Niedhardt first, since it's both shorter and unranked, and we wouldn't want to do it after doing Electric. Whiley reluctantly agreed and off we went to Niedhardt. We crossed a short snow gully and then were able to stay on dry ground. The ridge to Niedhardt held a little Class 2+ scrambling and was honestly the most interesting part of the day.

20108_16
Some scrambling but not much. Photo: Whiley H.
20108_17
Looks more dramatic than it is. Photo: Whiley H.
20108_18
Final terrain to the small summit of Niedhardt.
20108_19
Electric Peak's enormous west face.

Niedhardt was a worthwhile addition if for no other reason than it gave us views of all the remaining peaks for the day, whereas Electric did not.

20108_20
From left to right: Cottonwood Peak, Point 13,123, Thirsty Peak, Lakes Peak, and Eagle Peak. The right foreground ridge curves further right to Electric.

We still had all five thirteeners to go so we quickly scooted off Niedhardt and sidehilled around to get underneath Electric, then went straight up the large, stable, Class 2 talus. From Niedhardt Electric was bigger than it looked.

20108_21
Nothin' to it.
20108_22
Summit of Electric.
20108_23
The sea of peaks to the south. Photo: Whiley H.

We took another break on Electric since it was kind of a beast, then began descending back to the Lakes/Electric saddle, which seemed awfully deep, and Lakes awfully large, from high on the Electric side.

20108_24
Lakes with Cottonwood and Eagle on the left and right, respectively.
20108_25
Lakes' steep north ridge.

Lakes consisted at first of steep grass and dirt, and then steep and stable talus. There was a huge amount of elevation gain and we were tired and the wind was highly irritating. Sometimes it would howl and we'd be cold and put on layers. Then it would stop dead and we'd be sweltering within seconds and strip down. This pattern continued all day and helped wear us out.

20108_26
Talus heading up Lakes.

With the summit of Lakes we had done half the peaks and fortunately far more than half the distance and elevation gain, but the remaining route was still no gimme.

20108_28
Looking ahead to Cottonwood, Point 13,123, and Thirsty Peak. Antora Peak and Mount Ouray are the snowy peaks on the left of Cottonwood, and Wulsten Baldy is the short ridge-like peak on the right.
20108_27
Looking back at Electric, with Niedhardt lower on the right.

Thirsty Peak, an unranked 13er, came next. There was a rather steep looking dip near the peak and we weren't sure exactly what we'd find there.

20108_29
Rolling bumpies. Photo: Whiley H.
20108_30
Janky rock coming off of Lakes. Steep but not too lose.

We followed the ridge as it squirmed around under us. There was some snow on the ridge but it was thick and supportive and we just walked right across it. Our mystery dip consisted of nothing but more Class 2 talus, which was pretty much ubiquitous from the ascent of Lakes all the way through the first couple thousand feet off of Cottonwood.

20108_31
Thirsty Peak.
20108_32
Whiley's Thirsty for peaks.
20108_33
Lakes Peak on the left looking far away. It wasn't too bad. Photo: Whiley H.

Whiley and I questioned how Thirsty was unranked and Point 13,123 was ranked, since it seemed that the latter had a very short saddle with Cottonwood. Thirsty is also 100 or so feet taller, and we talked in circles until agreeing that 13,123 must not have a lot of prominence over Thirsty. Ultimately it didn't matter. We were drawn to climb them all.

20108_34
Cottonwood and Point 13,123 from Thirsty's summit.

Another steep drop down talus took us to Point 13,123, by far the least noteworthy peak of the day. Whiley's climbed it a couple of times now and has nicknamed the peak "Thirsty For More," which seemed apt given its small and unassuming stature. She and I were definitely Thirsty For More as we clamored over the itsty bitsy bump.

20108_35
Coming off of Thirsty Peak. Photo: Whiley H.
20108_36
Eagle Peak and Thirsty. Photo: Whiley H.
20108_37
Last two peaks of the day! Photo: Whiley H.
20108_38
Now it makes more sense why we thought Thirsty should be ranked. It's friggin' huge!

Point 13,123 was simple and we took another break on its summit in anticipation of Cottonwood, which Whiley called a "Big Papa." It'd be a push since we were exhausted by this point in the day. We'd been at it for eight hours already!

20108_39
"Big Papa" Cottonwood Peak. Photo: Whiley H.
20108_40
Thirsty in the foreground with Lakes in center. Electric is so far away it's barely visible here.

We steeled ourselves for the last push, then made our way down 13,123 on even more talus. These peaks must have just been giant stacks of the stuff.

20108_41
Talus, talus everywhere. Photo: Whiley H.


20108_42
Graceful ridges as far as the eye can see. Photo: Whiley H.

At the saddle Cottonwood looked big. Time to grin and bear it.

20108_43
On we go.

We trudged with heavy feet, used to the tedium by now. Cottonwood went surprisingly quickly despite its size, and the talus was mercifully stable. Our sixth peak of the day and the uphill was over.

20108_44
Looking back on the whole big day.
20108_45
Eagle Peak's north face.
20108_46
Looking north past Nipple Mountain and into the Hunts/Bushnell area of the Sangre.

There were only a few more miles left but well over 4,000 feet of elevation loss, which would be hard on tired legs. No rest for the wicked, I guess. We had two choices to get back to my car: the Garner Creek Trail or the Hot Springs Canyon Trail. We took the latter, as Whiley said it was shorter. We began descending Cottonwood's west ridge towards the top of the canyon. This ended up being the snowiest part of the day.

20108_47
Plenty of snow on the ridge.

We were able to make quick progress down by skating down the snow. There was plenty of talus hopping too, but the snow sped things up considerably and wasn't all that mushy, even at 4pm. The top of the canyon was very welcome. Despite being steep it was grassy and not as hard on the legs as the obnoxious talus elsewhere.

20108_48
We continued down to the obvious saddle, then left into the trees.
20108_49
Start of Hot Springs Canyon.

We practically fell into the canyon as it funneled us into a narrow, steep-walled channel.

20108_50
About to get some shade for the first time in many, many hours.

There wasn't much of a trail this high up, just a faint line of battered grass leading down through the forest. We bounced back and forth between the walls of the canyon following the trail as it snaked around. The trail was covered in deadfall, and as we lost elevation it eventually became a tricle of water, then a full blown creek. We crisscrossed over the creek a dozen or more times, taking our time and drinking in the beautiful forest.

20108_51
Afterglow. Photo: Whiley H.

The trail took us through another aspen glade and then diverged from the creek before dumping us back into the shrubs and harsh grasses of the San Luis Valley.

20108_52
Back to the San Luis Valley.

The trail here was in great shape and easy to follow, but it was ungodly hot. Whiley was far ahead of me but I'd catch up in time. The trail wandered around seemingly aimlessly in the open space, far longer than it should have been. While I felt slow I knew food and cold drink would be waiting back at the car, which eventually came. Whiley and I fistbumped, stoked on such a big and successful day. We were both whipped physically, but elated. This was a fun route that nabbed a bunch of peaks in a great area. What can I say? I love the Sangre!


Statistics

Climbers: Ben Feinstein (myself), Whiley H.
Trailheads: Major Creek (start), Hot Springs Canyon/Garner Creek (finish)
Total distance: 20.06 miles
Total elevation gain: 8,695 feet
Total time: 11:06:55
Peaks: Four ranked thirteeners, one unranked thirteener, one unranked twelver

  • Mount Niedhardt, 12,780' (unranked)
  • Electric Peak, 13,598'
  • Lakes Peak, 13,375'
  • Thirsty Peak, 13,213' (unranked)
  • Point 13,123
  • Cottonwood Peak, 13,588'

Splits:

Starting Location Ending Location Via Time (h:mm:ss) Cumulative Time (h:mm:ss) Rest Time (m:ss)
Major Creek Trailhead Mount Niedhardt 4:01:34 4:01:34 0:00
Mount Niedhardt Electric Peak 0:50:08 4:51:42 14:26
Electric Peak Lakes Peak 1:18:16 6:24:24 13:51
Lakes Peak Thirsty Peak 0:40:59 7:19:14 0:00
Thirsty Peak Point 13,123 0:34:12 7:53:25 12:25
Point 13,123 Cottonwood Peak 0:45:08 8:50:58 10:20
Cottonwood Peak Hot Springs Canyon/Garner Creek Trailhead 2:05:38 11:06:55 Trip End

Version history:

Date Notes
May 19, 2020 Initial publication.
May 20, 2020 Added missing photo caption.

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 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 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52


 Comments or Questions
ScottLovesRMNP
Great hike!
05/20/2020 17:15
This looks like a beautiful loop! I may want to give it a try in a couple of days! How is the road over to the trailhead(s) ? I only have 2WD Toyota Corolla. Thanks for sharing your adventure and so many cool pics!


supranihilest


Road to trailheads
05/20/2020 20:15
This is a great loop, though I'm afraid you may find the foliage a bit prematurely brown. Things are absurdly dry down there, and only the first half of the approach/deproach is green. Otherwise conditions are great!

As for the roads, 2WD dirt in excellent shape to both trailheads. I drive a Civic and had absolutely no issue getting to either trailhead. Major Creek Trailhead is on Google Maps, Hot Springs/Garner is not; Major is a mile or so south of Garner on Saguache County Road 65.

Edit: I have added the trailheads to the trailhead list here on 14ers.com.
Major Creek: https://www.14ers.com/php14ers/trailheadsview.php?thparm=xx9950526202005201155
Hot Springs Canyon/Garner Creek: https://www.14ers.com/php14ers/trailheadsview.php?thparm=xx9950526202005201159


jasayrevt

Well Done
05/26/2020 12:40
Thanks for posting all this Route Beta. It is very helpful. Sangres are chalked full of good lines. So glad you had an enjoyable trip in the Great Outdoors


supranihilest


Sangre lines
05/26/2020 13:11
@jasayrevt: The Sangre are really wonderful for this kind of thing. Whiley and I have been looking at ways to most efficiently climb all the Sangre 13ers and the sheer number of options is bewildering! Do we do this thing that nabs five peaks, or this way that only does four but by a "more fun" route, or perhaps do we split it and join each end with peaks on either side of those, or this or that? Such a great range, I wish there was more!


Tornadoman

Another big day...
05/26/2020 14:20
I would like to join you all sometime, but I would be a slow third wheel.


supranihilest


Third wheel
05/26/2020 18:01
@Andrew: Haha, I'm sure there's some peaks Whiley and I could find that we could do together! I'd imagine she and I both have plenty of one-offs that we wouldn't mind going slow on!



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