Monday, June 18, 2018

Humboldt Peak - June, 2018

Crestone Needle and Peak from Humboldt 14ers Colorado

The past few weeks have been very warm and dry throughout the state.  A huge fire near Durango had closed the San Juan National Forest.  This weekend the mountains received a fair amount of needed moisture, which has helped to calm the fire.  We also received a fair amount of moisture this weekend making for a cold, wet trip to the Sangre De Cristo mountains.

James, Lindsey, Cami and I backpacked into South Colony Lakes Basin on Friday afternoon.




I woke early to catch the sunrise on Crestone Needle.

sunrise over south colony lake with Colorado 14er Crestone Needle and Broken Hand Peak fine art photography prints
Sunrise on Crestone Needle - Prints available

Once we all reached the lower South Colony Lake, James and Lindsey decided to hang a hammock here and relax while Cami and I continued up Humboldt.  The cloudy sky held steady until we neared the summit of the peak around 10 AM.  Then the wind and clouds came in rapidly and covered us and the peaks in white.  This was my second time hiking this 14er and both times have been covered in clouds with no views up high.  Rain and hail soon followed and we descended quickly.  The temperature went from hot to cold so fast!





From the saddle




Last shot before the clouds covered everything

While up there, I was able to confirm a long debated theory about the existence of an elusive creature called Sasquatch (A.K.A. Bigfoot).  On our descent, Molly started barking at a huge apelike creature that came up out of the mist.  He waved at us just as I whipped out my camera to take his picture, then ran back down the mountain and disappeared.

Proof of Bigfoot

Back at camp it poured for a few hours.  We built a fire to dry out our clothes and make some delicious dinner.  We talked about personality types and had a great time with good friends.  We all turned in before it was dark.  In the middle of the night it started pouring again.  We were all awakened by a loud rock-slide on Marble Mountain south of us.  It sounded like we might be crushed in our tents, but we survived.

The next morning Lindsey joined me on a hike back up to the lake to catch the sunrise again.  The peaks were covered this time, but there was bright color to the east.

sunrise in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness of southern Colorado in South Colony Lakes
Sangre De Cristo Sunrise - Prints available


Humboldt from Camp




On our way out, we realized none of us had ever seen Bishop's Castle that was down in that area.  There's an interesting story about this unique attraction if you google it.  The castle is quite impressive.  Much larger than I thought in real life.  James and Lindsey went up in it to explore.  Cami and I were tired of stairs.

Bishop's Castle

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Sunset from Mt. Orton - June, 2017



Mt. Orton is not really a mountain, but a pile of rocks on the ridge of Chiefs Head Peak in the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park.  It's a worthy goal and still requires about 3,000 ft. of elevation gain and 11 miles round trip from the Sandbeach Lake trail.  The views from the top of the surrounding peaks of RMNP are nothing short of spectacular.

Cami and I arrived at the trailhead at 4:00 in the afternoon on a sunny forecast day.  We found that the fees have just gone up to get into the national parks, so we were glad we'd already purchased our year pass.  The hike to Sandbeach Lake is pretty dull.  No views in the trees and a straight trail that doesn't change much except for a couple river crossings.  Sandbeach Lake was interesting.  It's just as its name suggests, a sandy beach in the middle of the mountains.  Where else can you hike in the mountains and then relax on a beach?  I would definitely like to come back here sometime just to camp and hang out. 

Sandbeach Lake

From here, we started bushwhacking west to gain the open ridge.  Cami is supper fond of bushwhacking through the mountains.  Kidding.  She slows down significantly when there is no trail.  Add in some post-holing in the snowfields and scrambling up loose rocky sections, and you have a recipe for a time consuming adventure.  I was getting impatient and frustrated as we were kind of on a time crunch to make it for sunset.  She wasn't too happy with my lack of hiding my impatience.  It wasn't pretty, but we finally made it above the trees onto easier terrain.


Cami with Sandbeach Lake below

Glacier Lilies



Once on the ridge the views of Longs Peak, Meeker, and Pagoda are just awesome.  It's a unique view of these high peaks.  I thought the sunset light would hit the west side of the peaks a bit more, but the sun set a little farther north than I anticipated.  Still a great view.  From the top, you can see the southern peaks of RMNP and a good portion of the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Mt. Orton
Indian Peaks Wilderness

Copeland
Sunburst over Mt. Alice - Prints available
Longs reflected in an alpine pool - Prints available
Audubon and Paiute Peak I think

Walking back in the dark with Cami was fun.  We don't always get to just be together and talk and enjoy ourselves without the kids.  Even though our bodies were exhausted from the hike, it was refreshing to be together and rejuvenate.  


Sunday, May 13, 2018

West Spanish Peak - May, 2018

The Spanish Peaks in the sangre de Cristo Mountains near Walsenburg at sunrise
Spanish Peaks at sunrise - Prints available


For years, my brother and I have been hiking (or attempting to hike) West Spanish Peak from the wrong trailhead.  I was 17 years old when we first attempted to summit this mountain.  We were camping out at my parent's lot down in the area and decided it would be fun to climb to the top of the Spanish Peaks.  So, we just drove toward the mountains from I-25 until we found a good spot to hike.  Jason and I started at 4:00 in the afternoon with no food, jackets, flashlights, knowledge, or wisdom.  We just thought it would be cool.  The route we took was from the east side and the trail ended in a bowl a little above treeline.  From there, we cat crawled up steep, loose talus/scree trying to reach the ridge line until we were exhausted.  The clouds rolled in below us at sunset, and we knew we'd been defeated.  Walking back in the pitch dark without a light was an experience.  

We would later attempt this same route multiple times until we finally made the summit with our friend Dustin a couple years later.  Little did we know that there is a nice standard route to the summit from Cordova Pass.

Dustin, Jason and I in 2004


Fast forward 17 years and West Spanish Peak makes for a nice warm up for the summer hiking season.   The gain is less than 3000 feet, but is fairly steep and makes for a good workout.  It's been well over a year since I've been above 13k and it felt like it.  I remember how difficult and tiring mountain hiking is.  Though I've been working out and doing cardio at home, it doesn't fully prepare you for the altitude.



Meadow near the start of the route with West Spanish Peak


The Culebra Range

Large cairn near treeline

The Blanca group to the north.  These peaks are super dry for this time of year!





Some of the rock looks like Crestone Conglomerate

Only one false summit.

Summit View looking north.  You can see the magmatic dikes below.

East Spanish Peak

West Spanish Peak with the stars