Peak(s):  Electric Pk A  -  13,598 feet
Lakes Pk  -  13,375 feet
Date Posted:  10/09/2020
Date Climbed:   07/10/2020
Author:  colin j
 Electric and Lakes- But from the East  

Introduction:

I had visited the Sangres prior to this trip mostly for lake hikes and to visit the Great Sand Dunes. I was interested in bagging some 13ers in the Sangres and was looking for an opportunity to do a two-day trip with an overnight camp and these peaks seemed like an ideal way to achieve both of these goals. However, pretty much every trip report I've read approaches these peaks from the west, usually via Major Creek. With a good clearance vehicle the approach from the east is actually slightly shorter and you get to pass by two alpine lakes with ample opportunities to set up a campsite if desired. The main drawback of this approach is that unless you camp at the lakes, there isn't a great way to combine more than Electric and Lakes unlike the west side which can be done as a loop. I hope that those interested in approaching from the east and those who are looking for good backpacking ideas find this report useful.

Getting There:

The forest service lists Duckett Creek trailhead with a connection via the Rainbow trail as the access to the North Brush Trail and the USGS 7.5 minute map shows this as the only marked trailhead in the area. My approach, however, utilizes the Peerless Mine Trailhead (not marked on any maps that I have looked at) from which a connecting trail to the North Brush Trail significantly shortens the approach. To reach this trailhead high-clearance is required.

To get there drive north on route 69 from Westcliffe for about 13 miles or drive south on 69 from the US 50 junction for about 11 miles to Hillside. From Hillside turn onto county road 198, a graded dirt road. After 3.1 miles pass the Lake Creek campground and continue left onto FS 337; you will stay on 337 until the trailhead. 1.1 miles after the campground you will pass Duckett Creek trailhead on the left and reset your trip counter. Proceed on FS 337; at 0.9 miles take a right at the junction and at 1.0 miles stay left at the next junction. At around 1.2 miles cross Spruce Creek; a sedan would struggle to proceed beyond this point and there are few opportunities to turn around. Continue on 337 to a junction at approximately 2.5 miles where you will make a left; reach the Peerless Mine trailhead at 2.6 miles; there is an abandoned shack and space for about 6 to 8 cars.

Approach:

From the trailhead I stopped to fill out the registration sheet and started up the relatively steep connector trail. This trail leads to the crest between the Spruce Creek and Brush Creek drainages where I got a good viewpoint of the drainage and surrounding peaks.

20784_01
The peerless mine connector trail.
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Looking west into Brush Creek drainage.

Shortly after descending into the drainage I reached a signed junction with the North Brush trail. From here I continued west on the North Brush trail and entered the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness.

The trail for the most part follows the creek and had a lot of blowdown in summer 2020. I picked my way somewhat carefully through the blowdown (a stray branch left a bruise on my heel which is still there 3 months later). I continued on the easy to follow trail for a little more than 3 miles where I reached Lower Brush Lake. There are several good campsites along the south and east sides of the lake. I chose a site along the south end of the lake and set up camp around 6:30 pm after leaving the trailhead around 4:30 pm. After setting up and cooking some dinner I enjoyed the sunset and the view at the lower lake. There were two other groups camping on a Thursday night who seemed more interested in fishing; from what I saw when I exited on Friday the lakes are a bit more busy on a weekend.

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Entering the wilderness.
20784_04
The North Brush trail.
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Evening at Lower Brush Lake.

On Friday I left camp and began my ascent at 6:30; start by bushwhacking through the trees to the south; there are several social trails through the trees that lead to the upper lake which has a fantastic view of Lakes Peak. Hike along the southern edge of the lake until you find a faint trail leading up the slope to the south through some willows. The path through the bushes here is good and I passed a cairn upon exiting which was convenient for finding my way back. I continued on the faint trail and passed a small pond to the North. The trail became less well-defined; eventually I proceeded directly to the Lakes-12585 saddle.

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View of Lakes Peak.
20784_05
Trail through the bushes.
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Cairn at exit/entry to bushes.
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Pass this pond on the north side.
20784_07
Slope leading to the Lakes-12585 saddle.
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False summit with Electric in the background.

Route:

From the Lakes-12585 saddle it is obvious that Electric has a false summit which is nice for lowering expectations as you try to gain it. Contour along the southeast slope of Lakes Peak to the Electric-Lakes saddle; there is a climber's trail that you can pick up as you approach the next saddle. From here I worked my way up the grassy class 2 slope to the false summit; it seemed that sticking close to the ridge crest was the most efficient path.

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False summit from Lakes-Electric saddle.
20784_12
Gaining the false summit.

After gaining the false summit I walked along relatively flat tundra and worked my way through some rocks to gain the summit of Electric Peak.

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Summit of Electric 1
20784_19
Summit of Electric 2.

I summited around 9:15 am and took a 20 minute snack and photography break before heading back down to the saddle. As I worked my way down from the false summit the south ridge of Lakes looked quite steep. I reached the saddle around 10:25 and sat down to eat some jerky and did a gut check; overcoming these moments of doubt as I contemplate the next portion of a climb against returning to camp, packing up, and heading to the nearest brewery or ice cream shop (sometimes both) is something that makes climbing worthwhile to me.

20784_08
Lakes looks tough.

After a short break I had rebuilt my confidence and headed north towards the summit of Lakes. As soon as I gained some elevation I came across loose rock.

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My least favorite part.

I despise ascending and descending these slopes where every third or fourth step you take results in talus and rocks shifting around. Regardless, I pushed up the difficult class 2 slope and gained the summit at 11:20.

20784_20
Electric Peak and false summit from Lakes Peak.
20784_21
Brush Lakes from above.

After a brief break to enjoy the summit and take photos I began my descent. It might be easier to return to the Lakes-Electric saddle and follow the climbers trail back to the Lakes-12585 saddle. However, I chose to descend directly to the Lakes-12585 saddle down Lakes' east slopes; I encountered more loose rock which kept my attention; I don't think there's any difference in difficulty between either this or descending to the Lakes-Electric saddle.

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Lakes from its saddle with UN 12585
20784_10
A closer look at the east slope.

From the Lakes-12585 saddle I descended back to the Brush Creek Lakes, reached and packed up my camp around 1 pm, and enjoyed lunch by the lake before heading back to the trailhead followed by some well-earned ice cream in Canon City (it was 100+ there when I arrived late afternoon).




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions
Mtnman200

Nice report & photos
10/10/2020 10:00
Thanks for posting your report. Lower Brush Lake looks like a scenic place to camp.


Jay521

A nice first report!
10/10/2020 13:26
Hope to see more from you - this one is very, very good


9patrickmurphy

Thanks!
10/11/2020 20:24
This looks like a great approach, and much closer than driving all the way to the San Luis valley from Denver. This one'll be on my list for next year!



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