Peak(s):  San Luis Peak  -  14,014 feet
Date Posted:  06/17/2008
Modified:  01/10/2009
Date Climbed:   06/15/2008
Author:  KeithK
 And So It Begins...  

San Luis Peak (14,014')
Date: June 14-15, 2008
Route: Northeast Ridge from Stewart Creek
Round Trip: ~13 miles.
Elevation Gain: 3700'.
Expedition: Brian(covfrrider), Keith, Arlo, Cooper.

It was beginning to seem as if winter would never go away; for about nine months I've been asking the question "is it June yet?". Finally, things are starting to look good up high, and the layers can stay in the closet for a couple of months, and my favorite time of year has arrived.

Brian suggested San Luis Peak a couple of weeks ago, as a litmus test for his dogs' hiking abilities. Recent reports were telling us that this was one of the dryer trails, and that this would be a good way to get the summer rolling for me, as I've yet to reach that magical mark above 14,000' this year. We loaded up the truck Saturday morning, and headed for the San Juans!

In case you haven't read elsewhere, San Luis Peak is waaaay out in the middle of nowhere. Surprisingly enough, though, the roads are all in excellent condition, and we arrived at the trailhead somewhere around 2:30 p.m. Only one other vehicle was there to greet us, and we quickly met up with its occupants as they were finishing their hike. All beta pointing towards predominantly dry trail, we continued along the grassy, beaver-pond infested drainage, marvelling at the work of these crazy creatures.

San Luis Peak, six miles THAT way!

The Beaver Lodge - No Vacancy

Making my way up the easy and beautiful trail; the first two miles are very pleasant flat hiking...

Our 14er first timers! First up, Arlo, with all the energy in the world... for now.

Brother Cooper, not so sure that all this effort is really worth too much...

The trail eventually reaches the pine stands about two miles up the drainage, and a few steeper sections make for a little elevation gain, finally. Fallen trees are abundant, and this might be one of the route's toughest challenges!

No easy passage...

The first of two log stream crossings soon presents itself, and this is the most exposed section of the route. Arlo and Cooper were not afraid!

Cooper begins his way across...

Me, trying not to let 30+ pounds of backpack throw me into the creek...

We began looking for a potential campsite as we approached the three mile mark, but flat areas were few and far between. I expected to find at least a couple of good, established areas, but that was not the case. Passing up the only fire ring that we'd seen, we pressed on as the trail ascends more and more into the drainage. At this point, my pack was really starting to weigh on me, and I was quite ready get it off of my back. As we approached treeline, the terrain levels a bit, and San Luis makes a shy appearance to the southwest.

San Luis Peak is up there, really, it is...

Finally I spotted a fire ring, and we had found a nice spot to settle down for some dinner and a gorgeous sunset.

A look at our campsite...

A beautiful moon rising over an unnamed point south of the basin...


Our campsite was nice, but a long way away from the creek, so we settled for melting snow for a nice ramen-beef jerky dinner. Fortunately, there were several snowbanks under the trees, which also served as a great refrigerator for the beer that we'd packed along. Nothing like a cold beer after a long, hot hike! Fire going, spirits warmed, we settled into our tents to attempt sleep.

The night was restless, and fortunately 5 a.m. arrived quickly enough. We took our time, gathered our day hiking gear, and began to head for the trail. It was clear that Cooper was not feeling well, and was running slow this morning. Still, we headed off, ready to tackle a 14er!

Sunrise to the east...

Alpenglow on San Luis...

Reaching the first of several snowfields, we finally felt like we were beginning the true climb.

Suncupped, well consolidated snow prevalent for the next half mile or so...


Hiking across the snow and towards the base of the saddle, we pumped some water and settled for a nice spot to have some oatmeal for breakfast. Shortly before 7 a.m., hikers began to emerge below us, something I'd been expecting as I knew that KirkT and ScottN would be blazing up the trail. member Lamewad (Ryan) and his two friends were also approaching, and we all chatted for a few. At this point, Brian decided that Cooper was not feeling well enough to continue, and had to make the difficult decision to turn back and escort the poor puppy back to the truck. He needed to drink, eat and cool down. Arlo, on the other hand, was raring to go, ready to pull me up the mountain if need be! So, we parted ways, and Arlo and I began the push up the saddle, following the two groups in front of us across a couple of snowfields and onto the small ridge that the trail follows up.

Arlo patiently waits for me to catch up, as we approach the saddle...

San Luis, still looking far off behind the ridge...

Happy to reach the saddle, I paused to take in the beauty of the San Juans. Despite its "boring" reputation, I was finding this hike to be anything but boring, as the most impressive mountain range in Colorado spread out in three directions before me.

The beginning of the traverse to Organ Mountain...

The rugged south face of Baldy Alto...

I began to make my way up the ridge, as the trail became more and more rocky, eventually turning into continuous broken plate scree. I could see KirkT reaching the summit, and stopped to play with the digital zoom on my camera.

KirkT and ScottN on the summit...

The hiking is pleasant, and Arlo and I slowly but steadily made our way onto the traverse across to the summit ridge proper. I could see Ryan and his friend Travis reaching their summit, while Kirk and Scott met me for a brief chat on their way back down. I knew that I was getting close, and reaching the summit pitch, was greeted with a full-on panorama of the San Juans spreading vast and as far as the eye can see. A few more minutes, and I was on the summit! Ironically, another hiker was arriving at the exact same time, coming up from the Willow Creek side. We chatted a bit, and he offered to take my picture.

Arlo's first 14er summit!

Views in all directions...



Northwest at Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre...

North at Stewart Peak...

Organ Mtn.

Summit Marker.

We signed the register as the wind began to cool things down, and it was time to descend. I was thrilled to have my first 14er summit of 2008, but now it was time for the long, hot hike out. Descending back down to the saddle above Stewart Creek was easy work, but the trail became much looser and steeper. Picking our way down, breaking briefly to shed a layer and drink, it took about an hour to descend from the summit to our campsite. The snow crossings held up, and postholing was surprisingly minimal, as it was getting hot! I dug the last beer out of the snow, and enjoyed it immensely as I strapped way too much weight onto my pack for the hike out. Arlo was clearly feeling it, as well.

Dead dog!

Meanwhile, at a trailhead all too far away...

We began hiking in earnest, the mid-day sun beating down relentlessly. I could not believe how hot it was. Arlo couldn't either, as he would go from shady spot to shady spot, plopping down for as long as he could until I began to get too far ahead. As we ran out of water, we finally broke out of the trees along the beaver meadows, and it was just a short while longer to the truck. Relief!

San Luis Peak was a lot of fun; a beautiful area that has a lot to offer those that would like to avoid the more beaten paths. Although disappointed that my brother and his dog couldn't continue up the mountain, I was proud of the decision he made, putting the dog's needs first. It turned out that Cooper was a bit dehydrated, and was back to normal in no time, as he and Arlo slept deeply all the way home. A very LONG drive home, stopping for pizza in Salida to cap off a tiring weekend. Summer is here!

REQUIEM: January 10, 2009
Sadly, our dear family member Arlo passed away unexpectedly on September 20th, 2008. He will be remembered always, and this Trip Report is dedicated to him.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

My vote!
06/18/2008 13:49
Is for Arlo, as thee official dog/mascot and for president!

The shot of him in the pickup bed perfectly expresses the sentiment of a long and satisfying day on a 14er A?!

Vote Arlo


I wonder...
06/18/2008 01:28
if Arlo is the first ever Boston Terrier to summit San Luis? And quite possibly any 14er?


Go Arlo!
06/18/2008 01:51
I used to have a Boston Terrier and I absolutely loved him. I really enjoyed reading your trip report Keith. Too bad Cooper wasn‘t feeling so well. Congrats on your 2008 kickoff 14er!


That DOG...
06/18/2008 02:38
is amazing and amazingly cute! Congrats to all!


You are the reason..
06/18/2008 02:58
that I wrote a very short write-up on our hike. Because I knew you would come through with another incredible report. As usual, awesome writing and epression. Glad we were able to experience a little of this hike with you. By the way, yes I also agree those dogs are incredible!!



that‘s Cooper
06/18/2008 14:07
in the truck bed... he wasn‘t feeling so well, so he only made it to 12,300 before I turned around with him. I think he was a little dehydrated which led to some altitude effects. He‘s better now!


President Arlo...
06/18/2008 14:13
Yeah, Arlo put in quite the effort on this one. He slowed down and stayed right on my heels as we reached the upper part of the route, and I knew that he was gettin‘ tired. Those pointy, sharp rocks can‘t feel good on the paws, either.

Thanks everyone for the comments. Kirk, one of these days I‘ll catch you for a mellow one, if there is such a thing! LOL Sarah, bostons have been in our family for longer than I‘ve been alive, and I don‘t know what it is about them, but it‘s hard to pick another breed for some reason. Thanks for the kind words!


Oh man!
06/18/2008 14:15
Just when you think you know your candidate = you find out they are NOT who you thought! Can‘t there be a political campaign without scandal and mudslinging!

I‘m still voting Arlo since he made the summit and is more likely to keep his promises- Coop can be his running mate

Arlo for Prez 8)

Mel McKinney

Love the ”doggie smile...”
06/18/2008 16:27
...On Cooper in his photo. Looks like they are both troopers!
Congrats Keith!


06/18/2008 20:30
As usual, an awesome trip report by KeithK2!!!!! I am looking to bag that mountain on a San Juan Jihad, and it looks like it is going to take the whole day. Great job, CONGRATS Thanks for another detailed report!


06/19/2008 22:39
Great trip report Keith! Great dog too! Jeter would love to climb with him I bet..


Congrats on the first 14er of the season!
06/24/2008 00:25
Keith, I just got around to reading this - you write really nice trip reports. Just wanted to tell you that! What‘s on your adgenda for this summer?


Thanks again!
06/24/2008 15:05
Thank Mel and Harry and Vince and Caroline!

Caroline, my agenda was pretty straight forward until today. I may have a broken wrist after playing softball last night, which could put a damper on my summer climbing plans. We‘ll see! I‘m hoping to finish the Sawatch this year, as well as hit 4 more in the San Juans next month.


danke danke
06/24/2008 16:25
Think I‘m heading up there tomorrow, thanks for the good info

R Scholz

Good post!
07/14/2009 18:42
Sorry to hear about Arlo but just think of the view he has now when you are climbing!!! Godspeed to our small friends who are with us for way too short of a time.

   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2017®, 14ers Inc.