Peak(s):  Culebra Peak  -  14,047 feet
Date Posted:  07/11/2010
Date Climbed:   07/10/2010
Author:  emcee smith
 How to Make Culebra Hard Without Really Trying  

How to Make Culebra Hard Without Really Trying
Culebra Peak 7/10/2010

The simple answer to making Culebra challenging is to hike in a dense fog and to never consult a map, guidebook, or printed route, all conveniently left in the car because the hike would be "obvious". This is after we had read that there really is no trail to follow. We all felt foolish.

We ended up on the "Roach Route" by accident and route description memory (blue) and came down a shortcut traverse (green) to the correct route (red). I wish we could say we planned it, as it was pleasant and avoided a long sidehill traverse on the ascent, but it was by accident. Once on the ridge, we were on the correct route to the summit.

A group of hiking buddies from Missouri and Oklahoma invited me on their Culebra trip and I quickly said yes. We met up in San Luis on Friday night, had dinner, and then sat in the hallway of the San Luis Inn drinking beer and reading over the information before heading to bed. Side note: The San Luis Inn is much larger and nicer than I ever would have expected.

We woke up Saturday morning and left the hotel at about 5:15am, arriving at the gate at probably 5:40am. We chatted a bit with other hikers, met Otina (bergsteigen) and Darrin (kansas) and waited for 6am for the gate to open. Once inside, we paid our money, waited for the shotgun start and had a great hoody discussion with Otina and Darrin.

Most folks drove up to the upper trailhead, parked and readied for the hike.

We were the first ones out of the gate, and we so confidently walked downhill to the creek and then up the road to the south, that nobody yelled to us that we were not on the right trail. After reaching a small saddle, the road turns left and drops down below tree line. We realized our mistake, and traversed up and to the left to gain a ridge/bump and took that all the way to the upper correct ridge.

Just starting out on the faint ridge before joining the Roach Route

A few other folks had followed us; we hoped we weren't leading them astray

Taking a break, with no clue how much farther up to the ridge

Here the fog lifted a bit and we could see a ways up the slope

Finally we topped out on the ridge, not much to the left (north) of the cairn. It was nice to see that we were back on route.

Looking across the saddle toward the false summit pitch

And heading up

I like this shot looking back on a portion of the narrow ridgeline

We had passed several humps on the way up, and by the time we got here, folks were resting and we thought it was the summit. Again, the route description would have helped. So we are resting/snacking....

...and snapping photos. You can see the dark mass forming behind (and ABOVE) Andrew. Just after snapping this, I informed everyone we were not on the summit.

So we all packed up and made good time to the true summit.

The early summit crew. Those tall thin rocks around the summit looked in the fog like people from the false summit. We were first up, but it looked like everyone was waiting on us.

As the clouds blew off, we started back down. It was interesting to see how curvy the ridge is. It is hard to appreciate when wandering in the fog

Catching up to Darrin and Otina

The way back to the false summit had some really easy walking

Nice view of the valley

And working our way down the rocky/grassy sections

Not quite victory yet

This shot shows our ascent in blue, descent in green, and the approximate standard route.

And back at the cars, we could see our route up (blue) and down (green). The standard route would be off to the left.

It took us a little over 4 hours round trip from the upper parking area, including about 20 minutes at the false summit and 20 minutes at the real summit. It was a very easy hike up to the ridge and following the ridge line around was very fun. Hiking in the fog added to the excitement, and made some of the photos a little better, some a little worse.

My thought is that the $100, in the overall amount of money spent on gear, gas, hotels, etc for the 14er quest is a small amount. It was a good time, with good friends and I was glad to be there.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
Doctor No

Wish I could have been there!
07/11/2010 21:57
Always enjoy reading quality Culebra reports (it‘s a very underrepresented mountain in the trip report section).


what a difference a day makes...
07/12/2010 01:11
I headed up there today (wanted to go yesterday w/ Darrin and Otina but it was fully booked...)

Today it was partly coudy skies, and only 8 hikers. It really is a cool place, barely a trail to follow!


Fun times in the clouds!
07/12/2010 02:18
Hey, great trip report! We didn‘t know whether we were exactly on route either, so thanks for leading the way! (We were the ones right behind you - great pic, thanks for including my friend and I in the one of the ”few other folks who followed us up.”)

It was fun to have the added challenge of the fog, and great to meet some people from my fellow hometown of Broken Arrow, OK...small world!


07/13/2010 14:46
I doubt it but are dogs allowed? are they a hundo too?


You hiked too fast!
07/12/2010 20:00
Great to meet you and your crew on Saturday! Too bad I still had to put my boots on, or else we would have hiked with you. You missed some glorious sunny weather by hiking too fast. It was clear by the time we returned from Red Mountain.

emcee smith

07/13/2010 14:51
I think I read in the rules no dogs, no guns. The thing that was interesting is that I think that kids under 18 were $50 versus $100. So if you have a teen that is interested, get them out there quick.


07/13/2010 20:01
I think the way you came down is the way we used both ways last year - but we didn‘t have the adventure of hiking in fog. So you started higher up than Four-Way?

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