Peak(s):  San Luis Peak  -  14,014 feet
Date Posted:  09/06/2006
Date Climbed:   09/04/2006
Author:  aubrey
 San Luis Peak - Stewart Creek  

After sleeping a good five hours, the alarm went off at 2:30 a.m. in our Thunder Lodge cabin in Buena Vista. The previous day's climb (Harvard/Columbia combo) was a really tough one, and I was reminded of it as soon as I got up out of bed. My legs were rather stiff and a little sore. I was, however, surprised by the resilience in my feet. I expected them to be blistered and sore.

It took us forever to eat and gather up all our stuff. It was close to 4 a.m. before we finally got on the road. The drive from Buena Vista to the San Luis trailhead (Stewart Creek) took about 2-1/2 hours.

The dirt road that went to the Stewart Creek trailhead (from the north, just east of Gunnison) was pretty good, with excellent drainage management. The last two miles of the road were a little rougher, but still passable in most cars (when dry). By the way, when you‘re driving on these roads, keep a lookout for cows, as it really is an open range.

The parking lot didn't seem very large, but it could hold quite a few cars. Other than some campers on the opposite side of the lot, there weren't any cars when we got there. Curiously, at the trailhead, there's a sign that says 5-1/2 miles (thus, 11 miles round trip) to San Luis Peak. The route on this site says 12.3 miles round trip, which sounds more accurate.

We started hiking up the easy, smooth and relatively flat trail at 6:30 a.m. Our sore legs slowed us down a bit, but because the ascent was easy, we were able to keep a decent pace.

The trail paralleled Stewart Creek, which was choked with beaver dams, log jams and willows. Because of all this creek "debris," we must've passed a thousand stepped ponds as we ascended up the valley. Speaking of the valley, it was quite nice - secluded, quiet and peaceful.


At one point, a curious beaver checked us out from a nearby pond.

Overall, the trail was pretty straightforward and easy to follow. Here's a shot of the first stream crossing:


At the second stream crossing the logs looked rather precarious. I carefully took a step onto one of the logs and my foot shot out from underneath me because the logs were coated with really slick ice. Conveniently, there was some gritty sand nearby, which I sprinkled all over the logs for traction. The tree growing out of the stream came in handy as well.


Further up the valley we saw a big, grey peak with a massive scree slope and thought it was San Luis ... but after checking the route description we learned that it was just the northeast ridge.


Here's a picture looking back down the valley:


After climbing up some steep areas (a little loose here and there, but far from bad) we gained the saddle and continued on along the northeast ridge's south side. It's not really visible in the photo below, but the trail was surprisingly nice - level, with small, packed-in scree that was easy to walk on.


We made it to the summit at 10:20 a.m. The view from the top felt kind of lonely because there aren't any other 14ers nearby, but it was serene.

Jen and I on the summit:


Here's a pic of Organ Mountain, which is just east of San Luis:


And because it was so clear, I felt like I could see every mountain in Colorado. Most of the San Juan 14ers were far to our west, Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre being the most distinctive.


We didn't stay long on the summit because the cold wind was blowing pretty hard (and the shelter on top was facing the wrong way). As we made our way back to the saddle we passed a group of four on their way up - the first people we had seen all day (only passed about 8 people total).

After a long walk back down, we made it to the parking lot at 12:45 p.m.

San Luis wasn't the most interesting mountain, but the solitude was nice. And other than being kind of long, it was a pretty easy climb.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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