Peak(s):  West Spanish Pk  -  13,626 feet
Date Posted:  06/22/2020
Date Climbed:   06/20/2020
Author:  RJ_Greenhorn24
Additional Members:   BlindWanderer
 Huajatolla, an unexpected treat  

The Spanish Peaks: superbly prominent among the flat horizon where the mountains meet what I call Kansas (anything East of I-25)

Growing up in Rye just a few miles North of the Peaks I've seen them every day and never once thought to climb them. They've always seemed so steep that I didn't consider it was an option, until I saw some trip reports on this website and thought what the heck, go for it.

Before heading up I downloaded the GPX file onto my phone and updated my OnX hunting app to track our time and trip distance. On a Friday evening I picked up BlindWanderer and headed up Cordova Pass. The campground was very nice and well worth the $10 camping fee ($7 for day use) just based on the restroom facilities alone. We shared the campground with only 3 other people so it was a pleasant rest before the alarm went off at 4am.

By 5am we were on the trail, and passing thru the big meadow where the peak comes into view. The trail was very straight forward and well marked but it did not match the GPX file for about the first mile or so, just stick to the trail and you won't even need the GPX.

In the first meadow with West Peak in the background

Many beautiful views and awesome trees grace the route below treeline, which comprises most of the hike.

There are many great outlooks to the North along the first section of the trail
A very good and obvious trail all the way to treeline
Neat trees the whole way up
There are some steeper switchbacks as you near treeline - but not near as steep as the talus slope ahead
The Blanca Massif can be seen from one of the last switchbacks
The nice dirt trail ends at treeline and the talus ridge comes into view
This over-sized cairn marks the spot to re-enter treeline when you come back down.
A very distant view of the Crestones

Once you reach tree line, the approach ridge looks short; you're eyes are tricking you. If you have the GPX track downloaded then this is the spot it comes in handy and will keep you on track. As others have said the "trail" thru the talus is much easier to spot coming down than going up. I doctored as many fallen cairns as possible on the way up, but there were many spots where the trail splits and multiple cairns can be seen. Either way they will all get you to the top and the climb itself, although steep, is pretty simple.

Leaving treeline to start up the South West ridge
Beautiful views of the Sangres the whole way up
A view of the route from just able treeline. You pretty much stay to the right of all the rock outcroppings to reach the top of the ridge

A panorama from about 1/4 of the way up the ridge
The rock outcroppings, skirt to the right around them
Taking it all in
It looks steep, and your legs agree. It is.
More rock out-croppings. Most of these seemed like a blend of the good conglomerate rock from the Crestones mixed with the crap rocks of the Elks.
Once you pass the rock outcroppings the ridge looks close to ending, it's not. You can see a small windbreak near the top just right of center, it's not the end of the ridge as it appears to be.
Looking back down the ridge, here you can see the windbreak i spoke of in the last picture. For being such a short hike this ridge seemed to go on forever. But I'm blaming that mostly on the steepness.
From the windbreak you only have this much further to go lol and it just keeps going, and going.
Once we reached the top of the ridge and the final section came into view, I could have swore the it was Elbert from the Halfmoon route. I'll never forget that ridge line and I never want to see it again (the million false summits on Elbert really pissed me off).
Although I was having dreaded flashbacks of Elbert, everything to the North came into view. And it was BEAUTIFUL!! - The nightmares of Elbert subsided.
From here it's a nice walk over to the summit, and very welcomed after such a steep ascent.
Summit views to the South towards New Mexico
The lava dikes near La Veta are a nice treat
We found a nice spot to sit out of the wind and take in all the views.
As we sat, many people filtered up and down the summit. Odd for a 13er but not too odd considering it's so close to I-25.

The summit was broad and I was surprised by how many people we saw thru the day (granted it was a perfect weather day, no clouds and very little wind). We were the 2nd ones to hit the summit that morning and by the time we left the summit (2 hours later) I could say that at least 20 other people had come and gone. On the way down we passed at least another 20 on their way up, they were really taking advantage of the nice weather.

Note: Banana Bread Beer from Eagle Brewery has proved to be the most enjoyable summit brew to date.
Cheers to you, Sangres!

I anticipated the summit views being pretty bland with "Kansas" to the East, however it was just the opposite. East Peak blocked the view of "Kansas" for the majority of the hike and you were left with the beautiful views of the Sangres, Blanca Massif, Crestones and the small mountains near Gardner behind Greenhorn.

On the descent, BlindWander must question the mountains need to be so steep
Back at treeline, lollygagging down the trail and taking too many pictures
Back where we started. I find one of the best parts of the hike is looking back and thinking "I was just up there, wow!"

Summary: This was a fun hike, the first 3 miles of the trail were very tame. If you have small children who aren't quite ready for the steep talus fields then the hike to treeline would still make for a nice afternoon adventure. The campground was nice, only lacking a water source. The peak itself was steep but it wasn't incredibly loose so the climb for the most part, was enjoyable. The never ending ridge up reminded me of Elbert, and even more-so once i reached the crest and saw the final ridge to the summit.

I dub this mountain "Elbert Jr" due to all it's similarities, and will forever see it in a different light as I drink my morning coffee and stare it down.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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