Humboldt Peak - East Ridge
Climbing mountains is dangerous! Please read the Mountaineering Safety Page and make sure you have a map+compass and can use them effectively. A GPS or cell phone can be very helpful with navigation but you should still be able to use a map+compass in case your device stops working.
(WINTER) HOLD ON! If you don't have much high-elevation, winter climbing experience, be careful in your planning and take a partner. Even the "easy" 14ers (Quandary, Sherman, Grays & Torreys) can be deadly in winter.
|Difficulty:|| Class 2 |
|Total Gain:||5,650 feet from winter closure|
4,300 feet from Rainbow Trail
|RT Length:||13 miles from winter closure|
8 miles from Rainbow Trail
|USGS Quad.:||Crestone Peak|
|County Sheriff:||Custer: 719-783-2270
|National Forest:||San Isabel|
|Wilderness Area:||Sangre De Cristo|
Take Colorado 69 south from Westcliffe. Drive 4.5 miles and turn right on Colfax Lane. Drive 5.5 miles to the end of Colfax. Turn right and drive 1 mile to a junction. This is usually the location of the winter closure. Continue straight up the 120 Road for 0.3 mile to the Lower 2WD trailhead. In summer, good-clearance 4WD vehicles can continue an additional 2.5 miles to the Rainbow Trail Junction (signed). This is the "trailhead."
This is a popular winter route because it provides the safest and shortest winter ascent of Humboldt. In summer, the route does not have a trail and plenty of route-finding is required. The standard, west ridge route is recommended in summer.
Starting low on the South Colony Lakes road, it follows Humboldt's broad east ridge which can be seen from the Wet Mountain Valley as you drive to the trailhead - Photo #1. The remainder of this description will describe the climb when snow-covered. First, drive to the South Colony Lakes road where you'll probably encounter the winter closure at the intersection between 1.0 and 1.3 miles up the dirt road after you turn right off of Colfax Lane. Depending on the road closure, drive or hike 2.5 miles up the road to reach the Rainbow Trail junction near 9,800' - Photo #2.
Just after the sign, turn right (Photo #3) and follow the Rainbow Trail down to South Colony Creek and cross the creek on a small bridge - Photo #4. The trail may be difficult to follow with snow cover so it may be helpful to know that your upcoming goal is to simply gain the small ridge located 0.2 miles northwest of the creek crossing. Follow the trail northwest and north for less than 0.2 miles and turn left (Photo #5) off the trail and ascend 150' to reach the ridge - Photo #6. As shown on the topo map, you can also stay on the Rainbow Trail and reach the east ridge via a longer route to the north but that variation doesn't really make the hike any easier, just a bit longer.
Once on the ridge, turn left and hike southwest through the trees, staying on the crest of the narrow ridge. A portion of the upper route is briefly visible - Photo #7. Continue along the ridge and begin to turn west near 10,400' to avoid steeper terrain down to your left - Photo #8. Near 10,600' the trees get a bit thicker (Photo #9) and the terrain becomes steeper as you climb west and then slightly northwest up the gentle ridge. Above 11,100' the pitch eases and route-finding may become in issue. Just continue west-northwest and you'll encounter shorter, more open trees. Hike west to exit the trees near 11,800' - Photo #10. From here, it's less than 2 miles to the summit.
Route-finding is much easier from this point. Walk across a large flat area near 12,000' (Photo #11 and Photo #12) and begin to hike up a long stretch of ridge that will take you above 13,200' - Photo #13. As you ascend, keep the north (right) edge of the ridge in sight (Photo #14) to avoid hiking too far to the west (left). Photo #15 looks down on this portion of the route.
Above 13,200' the summit finally comes into view (Photo #16), but it's still a mile away. Walk west along the ridge and the route becomes a bit more clear - Photo #17. Ascend a 13,500-foot bump (Photo #18 and Photo #19) to reach more dramatic terrain; the ridge narrows and there are drop-offs to your right. Carefully continue along the ridge (Photo #20) to reach the final, 400-foot pitch - Photo #21. Because you're looking at the pitch head-on, it appears steeper than it really is. Follow the edge of the ridge (Photo #22) toward the summit. If you're lucky, the gaps between the upper rocks will be filled in with firm snow. Angle left through some rocks near the top to reach the summit. Photo #23 looks down on the final pitch.
While it is possible to ski the east ridge route, it's not a very good ski. Much of the terrain along the ridge gets wind-scoured and then there's a substantial amount of thick tree skiing. The gullies on the south side of the peak offer better ski opportunities.
This is the "easiest" (and shortest) route on Humboldt in winter. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Sangre De Cristo Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the Wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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