Peak(s):  Culebra Peak  -  14,047 feet
Date Posted:  08/18/2006
Modified:  08/21/2006
Date Climbed:   08/16/2006
Author:  philbucher
 We climbed Culebra ...... I think....  

This is the "private" 14er in south-eastern Colorado. It is on the large Cielo Vista Ranch - which was called the Taylor Ranch until it was sold three years ago. (Some of you from this part of the country may remember that the Taylor Ranch was in eminent domain litigation for a couple of decades, and was frequently the subject of news articles.)

Driving down to the town of San Luis the night before was disappointing. After crossing La Vieta pass in sunshine, it began raining hard and the entire valley was socked in with low clouds - as if we were getting a major, long-term weather system.

We stayed in the San Luis Inn, a decent motel with a "climbers discount - $48." Dinner was next door at a small restaurant. (The only restaurant - and we were the only customers!) This little town is pretty sleepy. We saw almost no people, lots of buildings are boarded up and there is no traffic. (San Luis is also the oldest town in Colorado.)

Up at 5:15 AM. No rain, but still a solid overcast. We drove to the ranch for the mandatory 6 a.m. check-in.

For starters, $100 gets you in. Plus you sign a liability waiver and one person is given (loaned) an emergency radio to carry for the day. Sign out at day-end is mandatory, under the threat of being billed for search and rescue.

The ranch says they limit the usage to 25 people each day. My climbing partner, Maria, and I got "the last two spots" on 8/16. Despite that, there were only about 10 people who showed up to climb.

The road from the Ranch HQ up to the trailhead is steep, but pretty nice. Any 4WD should have no problem. However our small Ford Escape (4 cylinder) was almost under-powered for the steep pitch. Only the lowest gear got us up!

From the trailhead we could see up the broad, wide ridge to the (false) crest. The clouds were sitting at crestline. We followed the "old road" for about 300 yards, then it ended. After that there is no trail. Everyone just picks their own route up the grass and tundra-covered slope to the ridgeline - which is about 2000 ft higher.

But before we got up there, the clouds decended. PEA SOUP! Visibility dropped to about 150 ft. We continued up slope until the ridge crested and we were suddenly standing on the edge of a cliff that dropped into the fog. We turned right. From this point we basically just followed the edge of the cliff, keeping it near enough on our left to use as a navigation reference.

After 2:45 of climbing and following a final, near-horizontal rocky ridge , the small windbreak appeared out of the mist. We were there. The views were fantastic ..... meaning that we could see in every direction ..... for just about 100 ft.


The return decent featured the same wonderful views, and we finally broke out from the bottom of the clouds about a half mile from the cars.

This is a short, east hike. Our total time was less than 5 hours.

I hope you have better views than we did. But at least it didn't rain on us!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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