Peak(s):  Culebra Peak  -  14,047 feet
Date Posted:  07/30/2020
Date Climbed:   07/25/2020
Author:  Chagster1
 Socked on Culebra   

Culebra Peak 25 July 2020

After driving 13 hours on Friday from Central Texas to Alamosa, I was ready for Saturday’s hike up Culebra Peak. I stayed in Alamosa due to wanting a good night’s rest for the hike after driving. I woke up about 4:00 am on Saturday morning, got my few things ready and proceeded to the gate at Cielo Vista Ranch. My hiking crew would be meeting me somewhere between 5:30 and when the gate would open at 6:00 am.

The directions on the 14’ers website were spot on, and I had no trouble finding the ranch even in the dark. I arrived to the gate around 5:30 am and already were cars lined up ready to be checked off and head in. Some had camped on the other side of the gate which was permitted and there was a port-o-john for use. The sky was definitely cloudy and there was a chance for rain and thunderstorms, but this mountain had already been paid and arranged for with the ranch, so I wasn’t going to back out before I even got started. The check in process is fairly simple. The ranch personnel open the gate and one by one we were checked off on the list of reservations. After being checked off, we then drove to the ranch headquarters along the well paved dirt road to meet additional personnel for a safety briefing. At the headquarters is your last chance to use a real restroom and the ranch personnel have no issues with you using it.

Since I was in a 4 door sedan, there was no way my little Chevy Cruze was going to make up the 4 Wheel Drive Trail to the upper trailhead. I hopped in my buddy’s (Matt) Tacoma and we proceeded up to the 4 Way. The rest of the group followed in their trucks. After reaching the 4 Way, we then continued further up the trail to the end of the road to the upper trail head. It’s obvious when you make it there, but there is not a lot of parking, but was plenty for the small reservations that were made.

We took off for Culebra Peak at around 7:15 am. As the route description depicts there are two options for ascending the first portion of the hike which include a direct approach and an indirect approach. The direct approach says to cross the creek and immediately head for the ridge with the big Cairn. The indirect approach says to use an old 4 wheel drive trail just above the small parking area. We decided for the indirect approach as the direct approach just looked rather tough. The old 4 wheel drive trail is somewhat there, but you do have to look for it. Somebody had marked it with some type of obvious stick and we headed out.

I would say the initial hike wasn’t that bad, but as we got higher on the face, it became a bit more-steep. The best way is to simply create your own switchbacks as there is no obvious trail. The objective is to reach the ridge at some point and turn right. For whatever reason, I found myself veering more and more to the left on the approach to the ridge. Although it was not a big mistake, I would recommend keep veering to the right as it will save you some time when you indeed do hit the ridge. We were socked in the clouds the entire morning, so it appeared the ridge would never appear. After about an hour and half, we finally reached it. We were socked rather thick and we began to lose our orientation on the ridge. We knew we needed to locate a large Cairn, but had trouble finding it. At that moment, a woman (never got her name) was coming from the left and informed us that she had gone the wrong direction due to being disoriented in the fog. We then headed to the right on the ridge and soon located the big Cairn that is described in the route description. By us veering to the left on the way up, we definitely created a bit more distance for the hike, but simply couldn’t tell which we way we were going due to the cloud coverage.

Knowing that Culebra was in the “right” direction, we proceeded along the ridge. There are boulders in some spots where you have to be careful. Due to not ever seeing the peak until we got there, it felt like we hit three false summits along the ridge. Wind and clouds made the ridge crossing a bit uncomfortable. It was bad at times and I even considered turning around, but I was hoping for the best. Finally at 10:30 am, I hit the summit holding up the rear with Carmen (another fellow hiker in our group). Due to being cold and simply out of it, I barely could eat anything, but forced myself to intake some quick carbs for energy on the way down. This is a must for any mountain, and I knew it. The sky actually began to clear up for a few minutes for a few hopes of a view, but they were limited. The summit is rather small, but did have enough room for all of us. We contemplated on going over to Red Mountain, but we simply did not trust the weather. We were definitely socked in the clouds, but did manage to get a few good shots. After about 30 minutes, it was time to head down.

The way down was much easier going up due to being able to see just a bit more. It wasn’t long along the ridge before a hiker (Katrina) from another hiking party twisted her ankle on the boulders and got hurt. She was in severe pain and could barely move. It definitely not a spot to get hurt, and we were all concerned. Her father had trouble helping her, so our hiking party gave some first aid, called SAR, and helped her along the ridge the best we could. After a grueling slow hike off the ridge, we hit the big cairn at 1:00 pm. SAR had been called and we could vaguely see what appeared to be rescue for Katrina at the bottom of the face. A few of us headed down the direct approach to meet them. They had come with some type of Polaris looking Scrambler for the rescue. Although the machine was definitely built for terrain such as this, it was still limited on how it could actually go. I went on ahead knowing Katrina was in good hands and literally 10 steps from the parking area, the sky finally decided to lose of its rain and it poured for about 15 minutes intensely heavy rainfall. Thank God it happened there and not along the ridge. Otherwise, outcomes of the day would have been quite different. After another 30 minutes, I noticed the Polaris coming down with Katrina and she was safe. In addition, my remaining hiking party was also down.

It was a great day with great people. I thoroughly enjoy hiking 14’ers, but you have to respect the mountain and take nothing for granted. Just because it’s a Class 2 does not mean you can’t get hurt. I would recommend watching every step on the ridge of Culebra and in addition watching your footing coming down the direct approach. There are multiple grass spots where the terrain is hidden and deep holes are hiding within. Be careful or you could twist an ankle. I almost did multiple times. I would also recommend using the indirect approach going up and carefully using the direct approach coming down. At least it worked for me. Be Safe!

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

Thank u
07/31/2020 17:20
Thank u for the thorough report. Helps as I may try this next year. Great job!

Nice report
08/03/2020 13:01
Good job finding your way thru the most and fog.

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