Peak(s):  Humboldt Peak  -  14,064 feet
Date Posted:  09/19/2010
Modified:  09/04/2012
Date Climbed:   09/18/2010
Author:  huffy13
Additional Members:   RJ_Denver
 Hot, Cold, Hot Again on Humboldt's West Ridge!  

Having only made one trip this year to Colorado to hike Mt. Sherman and Huron Peak with the kids back in June, I was really getting the itch to get one more summit under my belt before I called it good for the year. After a little bit of research and visiting with RJ_Denver, we decided on Humboldt Peak. He had yet to summit a peak in the Sangre de Cristo range and I have always admired Humboldt from afar every time I drove up highway 69 towards Westcliffe on my way to other hikes further north.
A pic of Humboldt/Crestones from last year.

We set a date that would work for both of us, Sept. 18th. My original plan was to head out super early on Friday morning and bag another peak solo, I had considered Mt. Ouray, West Spanish Peak, San Luis Peak or Pikes Peak, but due to several kid and wife related activities, I ended up scratching those plans and left just before lunch to meet RJ_Denver in Westcliffe and then heading down to the S. Colony Lakes TH. It took approximately 30 minutes to get from the highways 69 & 96 junction in Westcliffe to the TH. We found a great campsite just about 100 yards shy of the parking area....the parking area was already full but it seemed like most of the people had hiked in for the night. We had a quick black and blue burger, some Boulder Canyon sea salt and black pepper chips, a 90 Schilling and then we hit the sack about 9 pm for an early start.
Our great campsite

NOTE: For those that are ever planning to hike Humboldt or the Crestone group and are planning on driving up to the TH at 9950'.....This road is very rough and a low clearance vehicle would probably not do too well. My stock 2WD Chevy Silverado Short-wide did make it but there was several times that the wheels spun going up some steep parts. If I hadn't had pretty new tires with good tread I probably wouldn't have made it. Lots of large-ish rocks and some high bumps could cause some undercarriage damage issues.

We got up at 3 am, after a quick breakfast of a banana, clif bar and juice, we hit the trail at 3:30. We signed in on the register and then crossed a great bridge over the river and then onto the old road that has now been gated off to traffic. The next several pics are of the road on the way was too dark when we started to get any good shots.

Sign at the TH

More signs at the TH

The closed road looked a lot rougher most of the time

Part of the closed road that we hiked

Aspen turning along the trail.

The stars were amazing, reminded me of a pic JA_son27 took on his Capitol Peak TR of the stars over Capitol. The road is pretty rocky and rough, I can understand why they would close the road where they did. I can see there being a lot of tow truck trips up there due to overconfidence in one's vehicle. The road ends at another gate that you must squeeze through and this where the trail actually becomes a trail. We spent just over an hour and a half from the TH until we came to the sign that directs you the Crestone Needle standard route (No thanks, maybe someday, but not just yet!) and that is just about the time that we were able to start seeing the other peaks around us. We also saw a few headlamps heading up what I assume was Broken Hand Pass, for an attempt at the Needle or Crestone Peak. Hope all those we saw that morning had safe and fun journeys!
First shot of the morning that actually turned out!

Alpenglow on the Crestone Group

Early morning on Broken Hand Peak

The trail is very well defined and even though it was dark for the first half of our ascent, we had no trouble staying on-trail. The next few pics are of different spots on the trail around the Colony Lakes.
Wading through the willows for a bit

Most of the hike had a great trail.

Looking down off the north side of the trail on Humboldt's west ridge

Views from the trail were great!

Typical trail conditions. On the slope up to Humboldt's west ridge.

Right around 7 am we finally reached the rocky west ridge, lots of boulder hopping and scrambling for about 600-700 ft of elevation gain at my best estimate. This section of the hike, besides the long round trip length, and maybe a little bit of mild exposure, is what really keeps this from being a class 1 hike.
Finally on the rocky, but fun, west ridge

NOTE:Look for the cairns and stay close to them. There are several places where it is easy to get off-trail if you miss a cairn. I missed one and ended up going along some pretty exposed places on the north side of the summit ridge and ended up backtracking for a while to get back to where I needed to be. I may have gotten off on a goat or sheep trail because it looked like it was used quite a bit but ended up getting cliffed out. Just be careful.
Looking down off the north side of the trail on Humboldt's west ridge

After about an hour and a half of boulder hopping and scrambling, I finally got to a point where the real summit was in sight!
Finally! The true summit is in view!

Finally! At 8:30 am, I finally made the summit.
Gotta get a summit shot w/ The Crestones!

The views were awesome despite a prescribed burn that was going on just NE of Gardner at the base of Greenhorn Mountain.
Pikes Peak from Humboldt's summit

Looking down toward Gardner & Walsenburg through hazy skies

Image do not do them justice

Looking towards Kit Carson/Challenger...oops, my bad, Obstruction Peak in front

Spanish Peaks and Blanca Massif off in the distance

Looking down at of my favorite CO towns!

A scheduled burn was going on this weekend just northeast of Gardner

A closer look and Blanca and her buddies!

The winds were fairly strong and very cold, so we hunkered down in the rock windbreak, had a snack and rehydrated for about 20 minutes and decided it was time to head back to camp.
Time to head down!

View of the Crestone Group from the Colony Lakes

It took us right 5 hours up and then it took us just over 3.5 hours to make it back to camp for a grand total of just over 8.5 hours for the 12.5 mile roundtrip. Not too bad for me...I am slow, but I felt really good this whole hike. Time to head home Here is a parting shot on the way out before I head back to Borger, TX, elevation 3000 feet above sea level.
Looking back at Humboldt from the Colfax Lane/CR120 junction

Just a few thoughts and observations about this hike....Get off early! The weather was perfect for us but I cannot count the number of times that I have seen storms building up over the Sangres when it seemed like it was going to be a clear day. It is a long hike and you do spend a lot of time above treeline. Take lots of water too. It was cold on the summit but once we got out of the wind, and especially once below treeline, it was hot. I ran out of fluids right before we got back to the TH...much longer and I would have been miserable. Like I mentioned before, keep an eye on those cairns,....they will keep you on course. If you do get off trail, just backtrack and you should be able to find where you got off. It takes just at 30 mins. to get from Westcliffe to the TH and the route description on this site is on the money, so use it as your reference. There are several places where the trail splits off around the Colony Lakes, so be aware of that...if you do get on a different trail if you just try to stay by the river, it should lead you back to where you need to be. One last thing, it may be wise to park at the lower TH if you have a car or 2WD and just get a ride in a 4WD vehicle to the upper TH, the road is very rough. Other than that, it is a great hike, the Crestones are ever present during this hike and Humboldt Peak is an awesome challenge!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

09/22/2010 14:16
Love the alpenglow on the Needle shot! Congrats on your 2nd(edit) Sangre hike! The needle looks a lot harder than it really is, your next Sangre climb.


Actually, it's my 2nd Sangre....
09/20/2010 02:12
But it was Ryan's first. The Needle looks so amazing and intimidating the whole time. Maybe in the future I'll gain enough experience to give it a shot. Thanks for the comment!


09/20/2010 13:16
Great Hike, Great pics glad you knocked this one off.


Well done
09/20/2010 16:30
I did Humboldt the previous day, camping at the lake. Minor correction: you cannot see Challenger Point from Humboldt. Kit Carson blocks it. The broad peak in front of KC in your photo is Obstruction Point, and you can see part of Columbia Point behind it.


campsites at South Colony
09/20/2010 16:33
Nice TR, dude.

As I understand it (and I think I have it on pretty good authority) the road above what now counts as the ”upper” trailhead was closed not to protect peoples' cars, but to protect the area around the campsites at South Colony Lakes (Primarily, I'm given to understand that latrines were the big problem).

Anyway, were the campsites still looking to be in (very) good shape? They were last year.... Were there many people camping there?


Thanks !
09/20/2010 23:09
Appreciate the comments....Yeah Flood, it was a great hike and a good one to cap off the season with. Thanks, TravelingMatt, I guess Obstruction Peak is appropriately named? I wasn't sure if Challenger was visible, I learn something new everyday! That is a heck of a hike in to camp, but I bet it was worth it. And yes, whoopi_cat, I am sure you have it on better authority than me on the facts surrounding the road closure. I can see where protecting those lakes would be a great concern....lots of people camping from about 1/2 mile before the main TH all the way to the lakes. We only saw 12 other people on Humboldt, but several times during the day we could see people up on the Needle and Crestone.

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