|Tomcat headed up, just above tree line on Humboldt Peak's East Ridge, 6/23/15|
I remember reading in Lou Dawson's 14er guide that it's best to take an attitude of exploration rather than list-checking in Colorado's mountains. I think that's a sensible and appealing idea, and I've tried to let it guide me. Over a few days last week I did some exploring in my new neighborhood, the Sangre De Cristo range.
Scoping Out the Mountain
Last winter my friend Tomcat got me interested in the less-used East Ridge of Humboldt Peak as both a winter route and an escape from the long 4x4 road walk into South Colony Lakes by the standard West Ridge. Living in Salida, though, the Sawatch Range still had most of my attention through the snowy months and the Humboldt idea kept getting pushed back. When we moved to the Sangre De Cristo area in May, scouting the off-trail track to treeline on the East ridge from the Rainbow trail was high on my list. On June 1st I went up there and found it partially cairned & flagged from the Rainbow Trail up a narrow wooded ridge to the shoulder of the mountain. I hadn't expected to find much of anything, so on the hike out it felt really encouraging to have seen an actual "route" up there. Then, to get a bigger picture of the whole mountain, on the 13th I walked into S. Colony Lakes on the rough 4x4 road. It was amazing just to see the legendary Needle up so close. Now that I'd seen both sides of Humboldt Peak, traversing from East Ridge to West was starting to seem like a really good idea, especially as a way to get out of the alpine faster if lightning threatened. I got in touch with Tomcat, and we made plans to go up the East Ridge early on Tues. June 23rd.
Previewing from the Summit
I decided to go up & down the standard route before our traverse. The now familiar 5-mile commute to the Lakes went by quickly when I headed to the top that way on Sat. June 20th.
|Crestone Needle and some lower snowfields|
I left the lower parking at about 8,800' at 6:54 a.m. before the sun got too high. It would be in the mid-90's when I came back here in the afternoon. Once on the actual trail above 11,000' there was still intermittent snow, even in the woods, and LOTS of water flowing in the footway from rampant snowmelt. As the Crestone Needle came in view there were a few snowfields to cross before the grassy switchbacks to the saddle. The up close views of the Crestones were stunning.
|Ellingwood Arete on Crestone Needle, Upper S. Colony Lake still frozen. Two days later we found it totally thawed.|
It was a hot and almost windless day, and I streamlined up with just a belt pack, shirtless, and a ball cap. About a dozen people were on the route, scoring a perfect day in the alpine. First time on this summit for me, in crazy mild conditions.
|Grassy going reaching the saddle|
|Rocky Class 2 up the ridge|
|Last stretch to the summit, 14,064'|
|This marmot walked right over the cliff when I approached|
|Crestone Needle and Crestone Peak from Humboldt|
|Folks coming off the superb summit of Humboldt Peak|
|The Crestones and Kit Carson, with Bear's Playground (R).|
|Needle & Peak|
|Kit Carson behind Humboldt Peak summit|
|Mt. Adams- High, Hard, & Handsome (HHH)|
|Looking down the East Ridge, Tuesday's project|
| S. Colony Lakes & Broken Hand Pass from the switchbacks|
|Back to treeline|
The parking lot was almost in sight when Dan & Co. came running by me- whippersnappers- , but no worries, I was right behind them! About 7 hours hiking roundtrip, and 20 minutes more in the back of a pickup!
The Main Event- Humboldt Peak Traverse
|Very walkable ridge|
|Slightly rougher but ideal ridge hiking|
|Really classic, must be outrageous in Winter!|
|Looking down into North Colony Lakes|
|Upper East Ridge|
|View down the East Ridge|
On the upper cone there was more scrambling to the summit, not hard, just fun.
|Tomcat had been chillin' on top for almost half an hour|
|Blanca group to the South|
|Kit Carson and peaks North-NW|
Horn Peak (13,450')
Horn Peak (13,450') from our cabin
After hiking so much on and around Humboldt, it was pure fun to hike Horn Peak, a local 13er we can see from our house. There's good trail access to timberline, and the wildflowers in early summer were outstanding.
|Mountain Golden Banner on the Horn Peak trail|
|Crestone Needle peeking out|
|The false summit and the real thing|
|A family from Montana on the false summit|
Out of the trees it was just a grassy slope to the false summit, about 12,700', where a family was taking in some Rocky Mountain High.
|The Upper Reaches of Horn|
They're both mountains, just a 9,300' elevation difference.
|Little scraps of "trail" here & there|
I was totally digging Horn Peak. A nice little 13er, only 4.25 miles to the top, nice open ridge, half hour drive to the trailhead...
|Down ridge to the false summit|
|Ummm. Alpine Community?|
|The ridge from Horn to Fluted Peak, Mt. Adams & Kit Carson on left|
Horn has a compact summit that reminded me a little of Mt. Princeton. The ridge continued over to Fluted Peak and beyond, but it could wait. I was definitely coming back.
|Down range to Humboldt & the Crestones, sure looks familiar.|
|Didn't start 'til 9 a.m., shortly after noon it started building|
|Neat perspective on 14er Kit Carson Mountain|
|Crestone Needle and Peak stand out as usual|
|Had the top to myself- the family turned back- for about a half hour|
|Like I told Tomcat, who climbed Mt. Adams via Horn & Fluted Peaks, Adams looks like the Matterhorn from here.|
|The Wet Mountain Valley|
|Last look around the summit|
|Pasque Flower, closed up!|
A nice, relaxed, 5hr.55 min. roundtrip, lots of wildflowers, solitude, and inspiration for more hikes up this way, wow, it was a great Friday on the mountain. When I got home, before I could wonder what to climb next, my friend Bill got in touch saying he was climbing Mt. Shavano on Sunday, did I want to join in?