Peak(s):  San Luis Peak  -  14,014 feet
Date Posted:  07/22/2010
Date Climbed:   07/20/2010
Author:  Mooney Pilot

 Sleepless on San Luis  

When I arrived at the Stewart Creek trailhead late on a Monday afternoon, there was not a smooth and level place to pitch my tent, so I decided that come nightfall I would sleep in the car. A view of the trailhead shortly before sunset:


After having a nice picnic dinner I turned in, or at least tried to. Unfortunately, I found the rent car, a PT Cruiser, impossible to get comfortable in. After several hours of tossing and turning, I decided, what the hell, this is a Class 1 hike, I've got a headlamp, I'll hike in the dark and have breakfast on the mountaintop.

The first several miles of my nighttime hike went well. I made the first stream crossing without incident, and was proud of myself for that. On the second stream crossing I misjudged the depth of the water over the rocks that I was stepping on and got my feet a little wet, but kept on hiking. Then, somewhere past treeline, my headlamp quit on me.

Here was my dilemma. I couldn't walk, because I couldn't see where I was walking. If I didn't walk, without the warmth generated by walking I would start getting cold. I had no choice but to put my jacket on, put on some dry socks, and hunker down until daybreak, which was an hour away. So I sat and shivered for about an hour until it was light enough to walk again.

The view ahead, shortly after daybreak:


San Luis Peak was not yet visible, and does not become visible until around 13,000 ft. I nicknamed this peak "Pile of rocks that is not San Luis".

The view looking back:


An interesting rock formation on the hike up:


The route takes you to the left of the pile of rocks that is not San Luis:


Sunflowers on the pile of rocks that is not San Luis:


The lack of sleep and the energy expended by shivering started to take their toll on me. I needed a nap. The fact that my previously dry socks had now soaked up the moisture in my boots didn't help matters any. At around 13,500 ft., I literally hit the wall. Only 500 vertical feet from the summit, but I was worn out and couldn't go any further.

A look at my unfulfilled destination:


Once I got back below treeline on the hike down, despite my fatigue the hike was quite enjoyable. The portion of the hike between trailhead and treeline is the prettiest that I have seen on a 14er.

Ironically, of the nine 14ers that I have climbed, seven are ranked as more difficult than San Luis, yet I wimped out on San Luis.

My quest for 14er number ten will have to wait. But San Luis Peak isn't going anywhere. I'll be back, next time with a sleepable vehicle and a working headlamp.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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